Sunday, 28 September 2014

More Reversible Cables

Quite a while ago, I saw Norah Gaughan's Here and There Cables design on Ravelry.  It's a lovely textured scarf, covered on both sides with cables which wander about, split and rejoin.  It's reversible, so the cables do the same thing on both sides, and I've been trying to figure out, with absolutely no success, how they are done.  But following the reversible cables workshop last week, I had another look.  Still couldn't work it out.  So I decided I needed to get the pattern - I really wanted to understand it, and I wasn't going to do it any other way.

 Here's a swatch:

And the stitch pattern is the same on the other side!

Now that I have seen the instructions, it's actually a very easy pattern to remember, and quite easy to knit.   I feel there's going to be a cabled scarf on my needles very soon....

One downside of finally understanding how the Here and There Cables work is that  trying to work it out in my head was an infallible way of getting back to sleep, if I woke up in the middle of the night.  Perhaps I'll have to try designing some variations instead.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Rug Wool Gauge

Friends came to stay last weekend and brought me a knitting-related gift - a Patons Turkey Rug Wool Gauge.   It's a piece of wood, 8½ inches (21.5 cm) long.

The instructions are printed on it: "Wrap wool with even tension round gauge and cut along groove"- the groove is on the under side.

Add caption
The gauge was intended to be used when cutting thick rug wool into short pieces for making a hooked rug - the pieces are 2¾ inches long, or just over 7 cm.  (I've tried it.)  Rug making was evidently popular in the 1930s - there is a Patons & Baldwins catalogue from 1935 in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection that has several pages on making rugs.  

From Patons & Baldwins catalogue, 1935.
The woman seems to be working with large skeins of wool, so she must be cutting off short lengths of wool before hooking them into the canvas.  Presumably she is using a wool gauge, though it's not shown in the sketch.

The KCG collection also has several booklets of rug designs, from the Patons archive.  The earliest, I think, is a Rugcraft booklet. There seem to have been several editions of Rugcraft; this one is later than the one illustrated in the 1935 catalogue, but still shows vaguely Art Deco designs, so possibly dates from the late 1940s.  

My mother used to make rugs, up to the 1970s.  (My mother-in-law too.)  But I don't remember my mother having a rug wool gauge -  she bought Readicut kits, with a printed canvas, and bundles of  wool already cut to the right length.  So no need for a gauge.  

Monday, 22 September 2014

Reversible Cables

Last Thursday (the third Thursday of the month), the Huddersfield branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild had its monthly meeting - a workshop on reversible cables, led by Marie.  It was a new technique for most of us, in fact most of us had not even heard of reversible cables before, so it was a really useful workshop.  And a lot of fun - everyone was intrigued by the idea and it was the best attended meeting to date.

Marie had knitted several swatches of cable patterns to show us how to make cables reversible,  i.e. the same on both sides.  Ordinary cable patterns have a definite right side and wrong side - on Aran sweaters, for instance, all the texture is on the outside, and the inside is completely different and much flatter. But that isn't ideal if you're knitting something like a scarf - you would want both sides to be interesting, and preferably the same.  If you want a scarf with a cable pattern, then reversible cables are a solution.

I have knitted one of Marie's swatches (though I didn't get it finished on Thursday).  It's a complicated one, involving two different cable patterns, and gives a good idea of the kind of result you can get with the methods that Marie showed us.  You could make a really nice scarf based on this swatch.

And the other side looks exactly the same! It's amazing.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Change of Title

I changed the design of this blog a month or so ago, in preparation for launching my First World War blog, and at the time I warned readers that I would change the title shortly.  Now I've done it.   I got bored with the old title - I've been writing this blog for more than four years and I wanted a change.

(More than four years - isn't that amazing?  I'm amazed, anyway.  I didn't start writing with any kind of time limit in mind, but I don't think that I expected that I would still have things to write about after so long.  But then I got involved with the Knitting & Crochet Guild and started sorting out all the publications and got interested in the history of knitting and crochet....  And here we are.)

I chose "Knitting Now and Then" because it fits what I write about - it's about knitting history ("Knitting Then")  and about what I'm knitting (Knitting Now"),  and it also expresses the fact that sometimes it seems that I'm spending so much time with knitting history that I don't actually get very much time for my own knitting (so I'm only knitting "Now and Then").    

And apart from the change of title, it's business as usual.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Knitting for Tommy

Apologies for the long gap since the last post - been busy.

One of the things I have been doing is reading a new book on knitting in the First World War - Knitting for Tommy by Lucinda Gosling.  I  have been waiting for it for several months, because  I supplied some of the images, from the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, and also saw a draft version of the text.  And a couple of weeks ago, Luci sent me a copy of the finished book (which was actually published on 4th August, for the centenary).  It's lovely to see it all come together, with lots of other images from the Mary Evans Picture Library.  And here and there I recognise the ones from the collection - a couple of ads for spinners, promoting their khaki yarn, and several pages from Woman's Own magazine with knitting patterns for comforts for the troops.

Luci has done a lot of research in publications of the time - there are no other books on First World War knitting that I know of, so hers had to be based on original sources.  The Mary Evans Picture Library has runs of several magazines of the period, including The Queen, Punch, The Tatler, that she has been able to use.   The Queen had a needlecraft column and during the First World War, it published several patterns for knitted comforts designed by Henrietta Warleigh - as Luci points out, an unusual instance at that time of a named designer.  

 The Library also has a collection of First World War postcards, including several with knitting subjects -- usually sketches or cartoons, sometimes featuring winsome little girls. Some of these illustrate Luci's chapter on Knitting Fun, along with cartoons from Punch.

The book reproduces several knitting patterns that are readable, although perhaps not as easy to follow as we would expect these days.  So it would be possible, with a bit of interpretation and perhaps some experimentation in adapting them to modern yarns, to knit a wide variety of comforts from this book.  There are socks, body belts, waistcoats, mufflers, and cardigans.  There are several caps and helmets, and an amazing variety of gloves and mittens, with and without fingers, including the rifle glove that has an open thumb and first finger, and a mitten part to cover the other fingers. And as well as garments intended for serving soldiers, there are specialised garments for the wounded, to cater for a range of injuries.

For anyone who is interested in the topic, this is an indispensable book.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Purple Silk

I've realised that I haven't written anything about my own knitting for a long time, though I have been working on several things, and just finished a very nice cardigan which I will write about shortly.  And I started and finished a quick project back in June that I have never mentioned.  I should, if only because it illustrates how useful Ravelry is.

Several years ago (in 2009, I think) I went to a free event at the Oxfam bookshop in Huddersfield.  Two of the Rowan designers came to talk about the history of Rowan, the process of putting together a collection of designs for the biannual magazine, etc. There were about 12 of us in the audience, and none of us had brought any knitting with us. (I hadn't been knitting again for very long, and wasn't used to knitting in public - now, I would definitely take along some knitting to a talk about knitting.)   But the Rowan people were prepared - they had brought along pairs of knitting needles and a large basket of odd balls of yarn, so that we could all knit a swatch while we were listening.

At the end of the talk, they retrieved the knitting needles, but said we could keep the yarn - and we could help ourselves to anything else in the basket, too.   So I came home with several balls of yarn, mostly purples and greens.  I used one, a ball of Rowan Felted Tweed DK in green, in a Louisa Harding design, Old Moor, which called for one ball of a contrasting colour.  But I haven't yet found a use for the others.

The most delectable was a ball of pure silk DK in a rich purple, by Jaeger.  (Jaeger Handknitting was owned by Coats, as is Rowan.)  It had a gorgeous feel, very soft and smooth - in fact, very silky indeed.  But I couldn't think what to do with - after all, what can you do with one ball of silk yarn?

But then, in June, we were going to London to visit friends, and I needed a small portable project to knit on the train.  I thought again of the Jaeger pure silk,  and this time posed the question more positively:   what can you do with one ball of DK yarn, 125m. long?   And this is exactly the sort of question that you can ask in Ravelry, through the advanced pattern search facility.

I asked for knitting patterns for clothing or accessories, for an adult woman, using up to 150 yards of DK yarn.  That came up with 889 patterns. Then I specified that it had to be available via a website (not 'purchase in print'),  which cut it down a bit.

I was getting a lot of hats and mitts suggested, and decided that they wouldn't be suitable, so specialised from 'All accessories' to 'All neck/torso', which left just 119 designs, for cowls, short lacy scarves, collars, and several buttoned 'snugglers' or neckwarmers.  I looked through the first page of the remaining suggestions (they are ordered by the number of projects for each design that have been posted in Ravelry, most popular first), focussing by this time on the ones with buttons, rather than the cowls, and found the one I finally chose, the Rios Locos neck snuggler by Amy Klimt.  It was free too!  (Another advantage of Ravelry is that it has lots of  free patterns - you can restrict your search to free patterns, if you want to.)    

So that's what I found to do with one ball of silk DK yarn.  I'm really pleased with the result, though I haven't worn it yet - it's not a summer item, even in Britain.  I think it will be very useful in the cooler weather, and very comforting to wear.   I think it might need more buttons, rather than just the four along one end, so that the end of the underneath layer lies flat, but I'll try it in wear first.

Now for the other odd balls of Rowan yarn....  What do you do with one ball of Aran weight?

Friday, 22 August 2014

The Knitter article on the Guild

I've just been reading the latest issue of The Knitter magazine (no 75) - it has an article on the Knitting & Crochet Guild.  The writer, Juliet Bernard, visited the Guild's collection at Lee Mills a few months ago, and I showed her around.  It is fascinating to see in the article how the collection appeared to someone who had never seen it before.

Juliet was especially interested in the patterns that we have from the First World War, and the article focusses on those.  She has also written a shorter piece (here) for the Huffington Post, based on her visit.

During Juliet's visit, she asked what my favourite items in the collection are - a tall order to choose from the 50,000 pattern leaflets, as well as magazines, books, knitted and crocheted items, and everything else.  But as we were talking about the First World War, I picked a leaflet of coats and hats for little girls, Patons 'Helps to Knitters' X.  As Juliet describes, a pattern from the leaflet has been recreated for the Tell Them of Us film -  a gallery of photos of the costumes that have been knitted for the film can be found on the film's website here, under 'WW1 gallery'.  

There are lots of good things elsewhere in this issue of The Knitter, too - some very enticing patterns, including the sweater by Emma Vining that appears on the cover.  I met Emma at the Knitting & Stitching show last November, and admired a Japanese-style jacket she had designed that appeared on the UK Hand Knitting Association stall.  I've been waiting since then for the pattern to be published, and she tells me that an updated version will appear in The Knitter shortly - I'm really looking forward to seeing it.

Emma Vining's Kagome cardigan