Thursday, 30 July 2015

Willow Pattern and Others

This week, we were sorting more patterns leaflets in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection - this time a batch of Sirdar patterns from the early 1980s.  Several of them caught my eye, for one reason or another.  The first was a sweater with a Willow Pattern scene on the front - picture sweaters were very popular at the time.  (I love the knitting needles stuck at random into the model's hair, to give an Oriental effect.  Although the big hairpins are a Japanese Geisha thing, and the Willow Pattern is supposedly Chinese, but actually an English invention, according to Wikipedia....  Never mind.)    

Sirdar 6225
I noticed this one particularly, because we have a sweater with the same design in the collection.  The sweater is machine knitted, though it is not a machine knitting pattern.

,    
 And now that we can see the leaflet and the sweater side by side, it's evident that the design has been reflected - presumably that happened in the process of translating it for machine knitting.  (I know nothing about machine knitting, so I don't know how that would be done.)

It's always very gratifying when we match up an item in the collection with a published pattern - it fills in a bit of the history of the item that we didn't previously know.  

Another picture sweater was very noticeable - the design has a tree with sweethearts' names on it. The sweater on the cover has 'Charles' and 'Diana' on it, although the leaflet helpfully says "Adaptable to your own romance".

Sirdar 6226

Part of knitting folklore is that if you knit your boyfriend a sweater, it will lead to a break up.  (See the article about the Sweater Curse in Wikipedia.)  I think that if you knitted yourself a sweater with your boyfriend's name on the front, the relationship would be equally doomed.  However, the sweater might be retrievable - the names are done in Swiss darning, so you could in theory change his name for another one.  Thus leading to an unending series of doomed romances?  Hmmm.

A more traditional design also appears to date from the time of Charles and Diana's marriage -  a Fair Isle style, with some bands imitating traditional patterns, and then one with hearts and initials 'C' and 'D', and another with crowns.  Again, I think you would want to do the initials in Swiss darning, in this case to avoid knitting with three colours in one row and some very long floats across the back of the work, though the leaflet does not suggest that.

Sirdar 6851
And finally, there was a lacy top that I recognised as a re-issue of a design originally published in 1952 - I wrote about the 1952 leaflet here.  It had evidently been a very popular design, and featured in a British Pathe film showing Sirdar designs from 1952.   In the 1970s, it was updated for slightly thicker yarn (4-ply rather than 3-ply) and published as Sirdar leaflet 5193. And the same design reappeared in the early 1980s batch we were sorting this week.    I have never seen any version knitted up, but I imagine it could still work well. 


Sirdar 6036

Sirdar 5193

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Granny Squares

I was at the hairdressers last week and (as you do) read the latest Vogue, the August issue.  It showed a crochet jacket designed by Rosetta Getty, worked in granny squares, which caught my eye because it's not the sort of thing you see in glossy magazines usually.  Vogue only showed a small photo, so I looked for the jacket online later, and found it in Rosetta Getty's Fall 2015 collection.

From Rosetta Getty's Fall 2015 collection

It's described in a review of the collection on Style.com as "a subdued tapestry floral, hippie-ish hand-crocheted knit".  Hand-crocheted is certainly correct, and I'd agree with hippie-ish.  Not sure about subduedtapestry, floral, or knit, although the jacket does appear to have knitted cuffs, and button bands down the front that may be either knit or crochet - can't tell from the photo.  Anyway, it's very appealing.  I like the way that the black edge to each square, and the black cuffs and front bands, unify the whole design.  The other colours are good, too - rich, and not too many of them.  Granny squares are sometimes seen as a way of using up lots of oddments of wool, and it's hard to make the result look designed.

Are granny squares becoming fashionable?  Apart from the jacket, this week I saw a young woman wearing a sweater in granny squares, in fine yarn, so that the overall effect was quite drapey, and a bit hippie-ish, again.  And a few months ago, a  Knitting & Crochet Guild member asked me for a copy of a 1970s Emu pattern for a waistcoat in granny squares.  I was a bit surprised, but she was evidently more in tune with the times than I am.



So I'm trying to be convinced that granny squares are something that could be worn now without looking like a throwback to the 1970s.  I did make a long sleeveless jacket in granny squares back then.  (Though I don't think they were called granny squares - not by me, anyway.)   It was in camel and cream, and I wore it with a kilt in camel and cream plaid - it was smart in those days to wear everything matching, as I explained here.  And I crocheted a large granny square to make a cushion cover.  

Should I take up my crochet hook again?   I'm wondering....

Monday, 20 July 2015

Roses, Pansies and Butterflies

Last Thursday evening, we had the monthly meeting of the Huddersfield branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild. I had been scheduled to show some of the doileys in the KCG collection - I'm not sure how I had been persuaded to do that, because I am really not a fan of doileys.  Some of them are undoubtedly very pretty, though, and I picked a selection of those for Thursday's meeting.

Roses are a popular motif in doileys, and they often have several layers of petals, as in Irish crochet.   (Not very practical for a mat, whose main function is to be flat, but practicality is really not much of a concern in making doileys, it seems to me.)



Other Irish crochet motifs also appear in doileys - I particularly like one which has pink daisies round the edge, a ring of leaf motifs and a rose in the middle.



It's possible to crochet quite an accurate pansy shape, and after someone figured that out, pansies became a popular element in doileys, too.  



And, as advertised, there was also a doiley with butterflies.


A doiley that I spent a lot of time on before the meeting was one with a ring of daffodils around the edge.  It had been stored with other doileys on top of it, so the daffodils had been squashed flat.  I washed it and then tweaked and primped it while it was still damp, to make the petals lie flat, and to open out the trumpets and make them stand up.
 


Most of the people who go to the Huddersfield KCG meetings are knitters, and don't do much crochet, so I also took a selection of knitted doileys.  I found some beautiful and delicate examples in the collection.  








The 3-dimensional crochet doileys, like the ones with daffodils and butterflies, are tricky to store and transport - any weight on top will flatten them.   Angharad had a brainwave and came up with a solution - pizza boxes.  So I went to a local pizza take-away, where they evidently didn't see anything out of the ordinary in selling empty pizza boxes, and now the daffodil and butterfly doileys are nestled in tissue paper, each in their own box  (with a picture of the Grand Canal in Venice on the top).

Monday, 13 July 2015

My Mary Quant Sweater

I finished sewing up a sweater just before the Knitting & Crochet Guild Convention, a couple of weeks ago.  In fact, I started it more than two years ago, in 2013.  I got most of it knitted that summer, and then put it away for the winter, because it's a summer sweater.  I didn't get it out again until this year, and then it sat for a while waiting to be sewn up.  But now it's done, and I've worn it, and it's turned out very well.



It's from a pattern leaflet designed by Mary Quant in 1965, in a collection of about 27 designs that she did for Courtelle knitting yarns (though I knitted it in cotton -  DMC Natura, which is 4-ply/fingering weight).   It appealed to me because it's a neat little sweater in an interesting stitch pattern (it's knitted in a twisted rib), and I like the neckline.

Lee Target 6565
The rest of this post is technical stuff about the details of the original design and the changes I made.  So if you're not a knitter (and assuming that you've got this far), you might not want to read any further.

The stitch pattern is a knit 3, purl 2 rib, but on right side rows you knit into the back of the knit stitches so that they are twisted. The twisting tightens up the knit stitches, though overall the fabric is still very stretchy. The hem and cuffs are done in the same stitch, but on smaller needles. I think it's a really nice effect - the twisting gives it a lively texture.

   

The neckband is knitted in twisted garter stitch, which I had never met before.  Unlike the twisted rib, the twisted stitches aren't evident, on either side of the work, but they give a much tighter fabric than plain garter stitch, and so a firmer neckband.

I made a few changes to the pattern:  I made both sleeves and body longer. In the original pattern, the sweater was intended to finish more or less on the waist.  The only shaping came from some increases at the sides after the first 6 inches of knitting the body.  I wanted my sweater to be longer, so I needed it to be hip-width around the hem.   So I started with more stitches than in the pattern, and then decreased for the waist.  But rather than putting the decreases at the side seams, I concealed them in the rib: I put the extra stitches in the purl ribs and then gradually removed them.  It's a very neat way of increasing and decreasing when you're knitting a rib stitch. The decreases are hardly visible on the right side, even if you know where to look, though they are more obvious on the wrong side.    

Waist shaping on wrong side

I didn't do any increases above the waist - I decided that the stretchiness of the fabric would be  enough.  And it is.

It looks good, it's nice to wear.  I like the fact that it 's a cool and trendy Mary Quant design (only 50 years late).  Now for my other unfinished projects....    


Monday, 6 July 2015

Sociable Knitting

I have just been away at the Knitting & Crochet Guild annual convention, held this year in Sheffield.  We were staying at Endcliffe village, in University of Sheffield student accommodation.  It was very quiet (most of the students had gone), and the grounds are very green, with mature trees around the modern buildings.



It was a very good weekend - interesting talks and workshops, catching up with people met at previous conventions, seeing new faces.  Seeing some of the beautiful things that have been made in the past year.  Talking (a lot).  Knitting (a lot).

I went to two workshops over the weekend, one by Louise Walker of Sincerely Louise,who also gave a talk on Faux Taxidermy the subject of her forthcoming book. If you want to knit a tiger-skin rug, or a knitted triceratops head on your wall, Louise is your woman.  Her workshop was on Photographing your Knits - lots of useful information about the importance of lighting, and making best use of the facilities of your camera.  As a result, I've discovered several options on my camera that I didn't know were there, and I an definitely going to buy a proper photographic background.  Hopefully, future images in this blog will be better as a result.

The other workshop, by Judy Jones, was Knitting & Crochet for More than Two Hands, aka Sociable Knitting (or Sociable Crochet).  We worked in groups of four, each group working on a square blanket, either crocheted or knitted.  Judy had brought along two part-knitted blankets, one of which had been worked sociably several times before.  The other, which I was working on, started off as just a plain square, about 12 inches on each side, that Judy had made for us.   Each knitter has their own ball of yarn, and two knitters opposite each other do two increases at each corner, while the other two just knit. So when everyone has knitted one round, four rounds have been knitted altogether, and there are 16 more stitches on the needles.


Our little square was quite tricky to work on at first - we  were working very close together and there wasn't a lot of room for four pairs of hands. but by the end of the workshop, it was quite a bit bigger and easier to work.  


 It's a very sociable activity, and very satisfying because, of course, the square grows four times as fast as if you were working on your own.


The sociable crochet piece looked equally interesting - a sort of giant granny square.

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 It would be a great activity for Knit in Public Day - other Guild members were fascinated to see what we were doing, so it would attract a lot of attention.

Monday, 29 June 2015

1920s Knitwear


Among the postcards in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection is a group of four promotional cards, posted in 1926 and 1927. They were sent by Hawke Bros. and Gibson, Ltd., of Trinity Works, Newquay, to a customer (or potential customer), Messrs. Harmers, of The Parade in Redditch.   Hawke Bros. and Gibson made a range of knitwear for women, 'Trin-Knit-Ana'  (awful name), and the cards illustrate current models.


The earliest  has a photo captioned "We are waiting...." and shows a model sitting against a painted background (including the fence that she is apparently sitting on), with a dog (probably stuffed).  The printed message reads:
Dear Sir or Madame,
"We are waiting" for the favour of your instructions to forward the swatch of this new Cape Model (Jumper 28/6,  Skirt 22/6,  Cape 22/6).  It is made in our Mollaine quality (best fine gauge botany) of which we run 32 colours.  The cape lining and jumper collar are made in a toning shade. ... We are exhibiting as usual at the Fashions Exhibition, Holland Park. May we send you a ticket later?
(28/6 is a price: 28 shillings and sixpence.  If you want to know more, this note might help.  According to a historic inflation calculator, the present day equivalent would be  £77.35.  I assume this is the wholesale price.)


The second postcard shows a Jacquard Cardigan, price 39/6, in two colours of Art Silk (rayon) combined with two colours of wool - you would need to see the swatch in this case to get any real idea of what the fabric looked like.

The last two cards show outfits in an art silk/ wool blend: cardigans and skirts, with a matching sleeveless top in card no. 8.   This one also names the model, Miss Norah Baker.  Was she famous?   I haven't been able to find out.






These outfits are not high fashion, though they do show the influence of Chanel's cardigan suits reaching as far as Cornwall.   I guess they were what the averagely well-dressed woman might have worn.  And they look so much freer and more comfortable to wear than the rigid and constrained fashions of only 15 years before, in the last years before the First World War.  The change must have been welcomed with a sigh of relief.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Howard's Way

When I'm sorting knitting pattern leaflets in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, sometimes I see a design that appeals to me (even among the worst excesses of the 1970s and 1980s you can find the occasional design that still looks good), or an interesting stitch pattern.  Or sometimes I notice a pattern because I recognise the model (e.g. here).   And sometimes a leaflet refers to things that were happening outside the world on knitting, as in three Emu leaflets I saw this week.

Emu 4986 modelled by Glyn Owen (Jack Rolfe)

Emu 4988 modelled by Maurice Colbourne (Tom Howard)
  
Emu 4990 modelled by Stephen Yardley (Ken Masters)
 Remember Howard's Way?   Actually, I never watched it, though I do remember that it was a much talked about TV series in the late 1980s.  It was something like a BBC version of Dallas and Dynasty (so not in fact very like either).  It centred on a boatyard on the south coast of England, hence the slightly nautical air to the three Emu designs, especially Tom Howard's blue sort-of gansey.  I think the three designs still look good as casual chunky knits for men.  I don't personally like dropped shoulders, which seem very 1980s to me, but there have been lots of dropped shoulders around recently (for instance in Rowan Magazine) so clearly I am not one to judge.  

Here's Wikipedia's summary of the main characters in Howard's Way, including the three characters shown on the Emu leaflets:
The protagonists in the early episodes are the titular Howard family—Tom (Maurice Colbourne), wife Jan (Jan Harvey) and grown-up children Leo (Edward Highmore) and Lynne (Tracey Childs). Tom is made redundant from his job as an aircraft designer after twenty years and is unwilling to re-enter the rat race. A sailing enthusiast, Tom decides to pursue his dream of designing and building boats, putting his redundancy pay-out into the ailing Mermaid boatyard, run by Jack Rolfe (Glyn Owen), a gruff traditionalist, and his daughter Avril (Susan Gilmore). Tom immediately finds himself in conflict with Jack, whose reliance on the bottle and resentment of Tom's new design ideas threaten the business, but has an ally in Avril, who turns out to be the real driving force behind the yard with her cool, businesslike brain. Jan, who has spent the last twenty years raising the children and building the family home, is less than impressed with her husband's risky new venture and finds herself pursuing her own life outside the family through establishing a new marine boutique whilst working for flash "medallion man" Ken Masters (Stephen Yardley).
There are probably some leaflets in the Howard's Way Collection that we don't have (leaflets 4987 and 4989, for instance) and perhaps those were modelled by Jan Harvey, Susan Gilmore and some of the other women in the series.  It would be interesting to see what those designs look like - I suspect that designs for women will look a lot more dated.

For anyone who wants to take a nostalgic look at Howard's Way, or see what it was all about, you can find clips on YouTube.  Here's the first part of the first episode: