Tuesday, 19 July 2016

A Feather in your Cap

In yesterday's post, I said that although most of the patterns in the collection just donated are from the 1970s or later, there are a few much older ones.  The oldest is a Patons & Baldwins leaflet from the 1930s for three knitted hats and a scarf, in very good condition.  The designs are called Nina, Norma and Nesta - P&B liked to stick to the same initials for the designs in a leaflet.
Patons & Baldwins Helps to Knitters 3157

The hats are all very simple knits, on two needles.  The 'Nina' beret, which has the most complicated shaping, is in garter stitch, 'Norma' (on the cover) is in fisherman's rib, or something like that, and 'Nesta' is in moss stitch.  (The scarf in the 'Nesta' design is in a loose lacy stitch.)  The most complicated part is folding the Norma and Nesta hats so that they look like the illustrations, and the leaflet gives instructions for that, and for placing the feather in all three.   Evidently, P&B wanted to show, or to claim at least, that even in a simple woolly hat you could look smart and fashionable if you were sufficiently well-groomed and made up, and wore your hat with panache.  (I had a vague feeling that "with panache" literally means something like "with a feather". And I was right, so there you are.  Just stick a feather in your hat, pluck your eyebrows severely, and you too might look like a 1930s lady.)

Monday, 18 July 2016

New Acquisition

On Friday I took delivery of 4 boxes of knitting publications - the collection of a woman who has recently died.  They were donated to the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection by her husband, and delivered by a friend of his who lives locally.  There are magazines and pattern booklets, as well as  pattern leaflets - the leaflets alone make a stack about 20cm high. They are mostly in very good condition; she can't have knitted them all, and perhaps she just liked collecting knitting patterns.

Most of them are from the 1970s and later, but a few are older. There are a couple from the 1930s, and a few from the 1950s.  Quite a few are baby patterns: I like these two sitting in their baby Lloyd Loom chairs, looking a bit bemused.

Bairnswear 1653

And there are a lot of Aran patterns.  Some are quite traditional, some use recognisably Aran motifs, but not on a standard sweater or cardigan.

Garryowen FF.41
Sirdar 6474

And then there are the Aran ponchos, which are just never a good idea, if you ask me.

Bellmans 1296

 So, more pattern leaflets to sort out.  They are in such nice condition that  it will be a pleasure to add them into the collection.

PS I felt a bit guilty that I hadn't written more about the Guild convention earlier this month in Sheffield.  But Emma Vining has written a very comprehensive post here about the Convention, and the open day at Lee Mills beforehand, so now I can just re-direct you there for more details.  Thanks, Emma! 

Saturday, 16 July 2016

At the Fashion Museum

A bit late, but still...  Last Saturday, I did a trunk show for the Bath branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild, which meets at the Fashion Museum in Bath.  John came with me, and we spent a few days in Somerset, staying near Bath and visiting Wells, Frome, several lovely little villages, an exciting cemetery in Bristol (Arnos Vale), as well as Bath itself.

A trunk show is an excuse to get out some of my favourite things from the Guild collection.  Here is a one that I have only recently linked up with its pattern - a beautiful crochet blouse designed in the early 1950s.  The original blouse won a first prize in the 1951 Daily Mail Knitting Contest, and the pattern was published in a supplement presenting the winners in the various categories.   I am really not a crocheter, but when I see such fine work as this, I want  to try it myself.  I'm sure it would end in tears, though.

And here is Rosemary, Fashion Museum manager, helping to display the 1950s waistcoat I wrote about in an earlier post.

Since I wrote that post, we know a little more about the waistcoat. The knitter made it for her husband-to-be in 1953.  He wore it at work, over a coloured shirt - very unusual for the 1950s.

On Saturday afternoon, after the trunk show, we visited the current exhibition at the Fashion Museum, A History of Fashion in 100 Objects.  As well as showing the developments of fashions through time, the exhibition showed some wonderful garments. I was on the look-out, too, for  knitting and crochet, and there were three examples on show.  One was a white crochet blouse, made in the 1950s to a Coats pattern.

Coats 365

The model is Patricia Squires, looking even more elegant than she usually did.

The only knitting that I saw was a jumper in red, white and navy, that I also recognised - partly because it was knitted in the same colours as in the pattern.

SC11 Fair Isles for All
It's  a striking design, though a very long way from traditional Fair Isles.

Finally, there was a crocheted beach outfit from the late 1960s.

The label said that the original outfit had been shown in Nova magazine, and was copied from the photo for the woman who wore it (and eventually gave it to the museum) by a woman in Athens.  Hopefully, it was worn over a bikini top, though then the outfit might have been too hot for a Greek beach in summer. (See-through tops weren't new in the 1960s, in fact - as you can see from the Coats crochet blouse pattern.)

We had a very good short break in Somerset - but no more knitting or crochet was involved after the Fashion Museum, and I shan't report on all the not-knitting we did.  

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

At the Guild Convention

I'm just catching up after last weekend away at the Knitting & Crochet Guild's annual Convention.  As last year, we were in Sheffield at Endcliffe Village.  This week is also busy, so I don't have time for a very detailed account, but I must mention a couple of the highlights.  On Friday evening, Susan Crawford gave the after-dinner talk, about The Vintage Shetland Project, her new book (due mid August).  She has recreated hand-knitted pieces in the Shetland Museum collection, and the patterns will be published in the book.  On Friday, she brought several of the recreated knits, and they are wonderful.  All in fine yarn - mostly wool, but there is also a pullover in fine silk which is especially beautiful.   I am so looking forward to seeing the finished book.

We had two workshop sessions during the weekend, led by Guild members.  On Saturday afternoon, I went to one on Victorian knitting patterns, led by Lesley O'Connell Edwards.  She had brought copies of several patterns that she had knitted herself, including a very pretty bag in many different shades of green and red/orange/yellow/cream.  (The colour in the photo is not very accurate, I'm afraid.)  

The pattern is "Shell Knitting for  Bag, in German Wool", from Exercises in Knitting by Cornelia Mee (1847).  Lesley went through the pattern with us, to show that Victorian knitting patterns have to be used with caution, because they are often wrong.   In this case, the  number of stitches to cast on is wrong - not easy to correct, because the instructions for the first round are also wrong, so it's hard to figure out how many stitches there are in each pattern repeat and she doesn't say how many pattern repeat there are.   And the number of stitches in a pattern repeat changes in every round, for the five rows of the pattern.  And to make it still more difficult, there is no illustration to go with the pattern, so you have can't go by what it's meant to look like.  So I'm amazed that Lesley managed to work out what Cornelia Mee meant to say, and knit a very pretty little bag.  (It's in very fine wool, on tiny needles.)  

Lesley also brought a pence jug and a rather strange fingerless mitten, knitted on two needles, sideways.

She provided us with three colours of fine wool, and we had brought 2mm needles, so that we could try one of the patterns.

I chose Cornelia Mee's (corrected) shell pattern, but only did three pattern repeats instead of the eight needed for the bag.  And one of the other workshop participants gave me one of her skeins of Appletons crewel wool, because she was knitting the pence jug and so only needed two of hers.  Now I have a very pretty little wristlet in four colours.

Really, it's a swatch knitted in the round, but I'm knitting a lot of wristlets lately, and it fits my wrist, so I'm thinking of it as a wristlet.

It was fascinating to see how the patterns turned out in practice.  We did wonder how ladies in 1847 managed to understand Cornelia Mee's pattern and correct her mistakes.  Perhaps they got together in knit-and-natter groups to pool their ideas?

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Dressing Shetland Shawls

I have just bought a copy of Kate Davies' The Book of Haps, a luscious book.  It has essays on the history of Shetland haps, and new shawl patterns from 13 designers (if I can count).  I'll write more about it later - not this week, as we have a handling day at Lee Mills on Friday, for Guild members attending the annual Convention in Sheffield, and then I'll be at the Convention myself.  But for now,  I'll write about the image of women dressing Shetland shawls, stretching them out on the special frames.  It's used in the book to head Roslyn Chapman's Documenting Haps and the image credit says that it's from a postcard.

We have a similar postcard in the Guild collection, which was sent from Lerwick on 10th May 1911. It was sent to Mr David Thomson, West High Street, Buckhaven, Fifeshire, and the message is also signed D. Thomson, so it might have been from a son to his father.  The message is in pencil, and not very easy to read, but says something like:
Just a PC to let you know that we have not been off yet and i don't think we will be off this week.... (2 words illegible)  Buyers are hanging back the herrings are only 4/- the (to?) 7/- per cran so it does not pay to catch them  we might shift from here at any time for 2 or 3 weeks but we don't (know?) where. the most of the boats are all lying here waiting for the month off June the herring they have been getting ... (3 words illegible) herring so they are no good for curing  You might send the (illegible)  From D Thomson.   
I knew that 'cran' is a quantity of herring from the line "With a hundred cran of the silver darlings" from Ewan McColl's song Shoals of Herring, though I had to look up what it means exactly: "A measure of fresh herrings, equivalent to 37½ gallons".  A lot of fish.  4/- means 4 shillings, and there were 20 shillings to a pound:  it doesn't sound much for such a quantity of fish, and evidently wasn't enough, from the postcard.

D Thomson, the sender of the postcard must have been a fisherman, presumably based in Buckhaven, but temporarily waiting in Lerwick for fishing conditions to improve.  His postcard home is a wonderful piece of history, linking fishing and knitting - traditional ways of earning money in Shetland.      

Monday, 27 June 2016

Mistake Rib

I just discovered mistake rib!  It's obviously not new, as it already has a name, but it's new to me.

The discovery came about because I've ordered a copy of Sequence Knitting by Cecelia Campochiaro.  I've been hearing about the book since it was published, e.g. in Tom of Holland's blog, here.  It's not easy to buy it in the U.K., so I have finally ordered a copy from the U.S., and it is now making its way slowly over the Atlantic (I hope).   After I ordered it, I started thinking about the kind of sequences that I think she's talking about.  One idea is to choose a sequence of knit and purl stitches and repeat them over and over on every row, so every row starts at the beginning of the sequence.  You get different stitch patterns depending on the number of stitches you have.  So for instance, the simplest sequence would be K1, P1.  If you have an even number of stitches, you get single rib, and an odd number of stitches gives moss stitch.  It's fascinating that two stitch patterns which look and behave so differently should be so closely related.

Then I started thinking about the sequence K2, P2.  If the number of stitches is a multiple of 4, you get double rib, and if it's a multiple of 4, plus 2, you get what's sometimes called double moss stitch.  And if it's a multiple of 4, plus 1 or 3, I discovered that you get an interesting stitch pattern that's a mixture of single rib and moss stitch.

Looking at the swatch, there is a column of the knit stitches of single rib, then a column of moss stitch, then a column of the purl stitches of single rib, and another column of moss stitch, and that sequence repeats.  Here's a chart, which might make it clearer.  A blank square means knit on odd rows, purl on even rows; ● means purl on odd  rows, knit on even rows.  (It's reversible, so there aren't 'right' and 'wrong' sides.)

The resulting fabric is deeply corrugated and quite stretchy, but doesn't pull in like double rib.

I thought that such a simple but good-looking stitch pattern must be already known, and not a new invention.  And a few days later, in the way that coincidences happen, I found a knitting pattern that uses it.

Penelope 1084
It's a smart jacket, from about 1940, and would be very warm, I think.  The leaflet doesn't give a name to the stitch pattern, but it prompted me to look in Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns.  And there I found it, called Mistake Stitch Ribbing.  She says 'This handsome ribbing may very well have been discovered by an accident. The "mistake" consists of working Knit-Two Purl-Two ribbing on one less stitch than required.'   It doesn't seem very plausible to me that it should have been the result of a mistake - as she also says, it would have been obvious very quickly that it wasn't double rib.  I think any knitter intending to knit double rib would have corrected the mistake before realising that it is a worthwhile stitch pattern in its own right.   But the rather unfortunate name seems to be firmly attached.

It would be nice to knit something more than a swatch in mistake rib.  It would make a nice scarf, and there are lots of examples in Ravelry.  (It is reversible of course - every row is the same.)   But I have plenty of scarves - something different would be good.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

EU Referendum

This blog is mostly about knitting.  But the referendum is so important that I have to write something about it.  Hearing the result yesterday morning was shocking and deeply depressing.  It seems that we are irrevocably committed to a disaster that will unfold over the next months and years.  I imagine that the other voters in the 48% who wanted to stay in the EU feel much the same way.  It's dreadful.
That's it.  Back to knitting.