Wednesday 6 September 2023

The P&B Family Album

Patons & Baldwins became very good at advertising their wares by the 1930s.  They were publishing about 100 'Helps to Knitters' pattern leaflets every year, intended of course to sell their wools, and advertised the patterns widely.  They also published a series of free booklets, each showing many of the patterns currently available.  An imaginative example of  these booklets is the Family Album, published in 1936. 

It shows a fictional family of Mother, Father and four children.  The eldest, Priscilla, is engaged to be married; another girl, Sue, is old enough to drive a car.  Then Timothy, aged about 11, and Bill, who is a toddler.  They all wear woollies made, naturally, in Patons & Baldwins wools.  Priscilla and Sue knit their own, while Mother knits for the others.  

The six characters, plus the fiancé (David), are shown in scenes of everyday life, wearing their woollies. Here are Sue and two of her friends at the country club.  

Jumpers with collars seem to have been in fashion for women in 1936.  Here is the pattern for one of the jumpers.  

P&B 2998

Elsewhere in the album, Sue is wearing another jumper in Beehive Wool Cord:

P&B 2104

Wool cord was a thicker version of Beehive Wool String, described as 'pure wool looking just like string' - perhaps very tightly spun?  In the two jumper patterns here for Wool Cord, it's knitted on size 6 (5mm.) needles, so probably at least as thick as modern double knitting.  

Priscilla and David don't go out much, because they are saving to get married, so instead they stay at home and make a rug together.  Patons & Baldwins sold rug wool, as well as rug patterns, and many of their brochures feature rugs as well as knitwear.  

Like the other men (and Timothy) in the Album, David's knitwear isn't very interesting - they all wear V-neck sleeveless pullovers, though Timothy in one scene is shown wearing a V-neck jumper with long sleeves.  (The V neck is to show the tie, which was apparently compulsory, even for casual wear.) 

Meanwhile, Mother is shown having a morning cup of tea in bed.

How does she manage that - there's a toddler in the house!  And I imagine that Father has gone off to manage his bank - he might possibly have made the cup of tea first, but I can't imagine that he is looking after 'Bill the Baby' while Mother relaxes in bed.  But my reading of Agatha Christie and other 1930s fiction tells me that a bank manager was a well-respected member of the community, and could probably afford a maid, and possibly a nursemaid for Bill, too.   

Mother is wearing a Dressing Jacket that she (of course) made herself.  It's crocheted, with flowers embroidered around the bottom edge of each sleeve.  

P&B 2991

Here's Bill in his nursery (they obviously live in a spacious 1930s villa.)

As well as the photos of the 1930s family, there are little sketches of the imagined ancestral knitters (in the maternal line, I assume), going back to Great-great-grandmother, born in 1785, "the year James Baldwin set up in Halifax".  Great-great-grandmother used Baldwin's wools, and her descendants used 'best wools' - implicitly, the precursors of P&B 1930s wools, though in fact John Paton & Son of Alloa and J. & J. Baldwin of Halifax were separate companies until 1920. 

The main point of the Album is to show some of the P&B Helps to Knitters pattern leaflets current in 1936, and about 65 of them are illustrated, including those that various members of the family are wearing.  Members of the Knitting & Crochet Guild can download the Album from the Guild website here.  Nearly all the leaflets are in the Guild collection and members can request copies from


  1. I can solve the mystery of 'wool string' as I have an old pattern with a handy little photo showing the 'actual appearance' of the stitch pattern in the nominated wool. It is spun with a crepe construction (I think in the US this may also be called 'cabled' yarn)

  2. And if you find a copy of Stitchcraft January 1937, the cover jumper is made of 'wool cord'. On p 17 there is a sample of the cable stitch pattern which is clearly knitted in a crepe wool.

    1. Thanks for the comments about wool cord. We have the January 1937 Stitchcraft in the Guild collection, so I shall take a look at that.
      We have most of the 1930s P&B pattern leaflets too - there's just not enough time to read everything!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...