Saturday, 18 February 2017


It's been an exciting week at the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  I had accepted two donations of publications and they arrived though the post.  One is a wonderful collection of booklets and leaflets, published around 1920 - most of them I have never seen before.  Here is a selection:

We already have copies of that edition of Woolcraft, but not in such good condition - the other booklets are entirely new.  But this donation deserves a post to itself (later).

The other donation consisted mainly of collections of crochet samples, bound into notebooks.  I will perhaps write more about those in another post as well  (although crochet is not my thing, especially fine cotton crochet of the kind in the notebooks.)  An unexpected bonus with this donation were some very old magazines, including copies of Fancy Needlework Illustrated and Weldon's Practical Needlework.

Fancy Needlework Illustrated is awkward to scan - the printed area is larger than A4.  So the ilustration below is just part of the front cover.  Evidently it was also an awkward size for readers, too - this copy has been kept folded across the middle for a long time. Issue No. 64 is from the early 1920s, I guess.  (They aren't dated.)  Knitted or crocheted dresses often featured in the needlecraft magazines of that time - like the one on the left, with the model soulfully examining a rose. The dresses are so shapeless and droopy - not at all attractive to my mind.  It's amazing that only ten years previously, women were tightly corseted into the very structured Edwardian gowns - now they appear not to be wearing any corsets at all (although I'm sure they must have been).  

Fancy Needlework lllustrated No. 64 (detail of cover)

We think of 20s fashion as a very straight slim silhouette - but I think that's more typical of the later 20s.  At the time of this magazine, dresses seem to have been quite roomy on the hips (it looks as though the models might have been wearing quite bulky petticoats).   I don't think it works - if you're going to have no bust and no waist, you have to have slim hips too.

But as well as dresses, there were jumpers, and these are more successful, I think - they often have a belt, for one thing.  Here are two from the same magazine.

The "Clovelly" Jumper in Knitting and Crochet
The "Wingrove" Knitted and Crocheted Jumper

The Clovelly jumper is a T-shape,  in stocking stitch with panels of filet crochet.  The Wingrove jumper also has knitted sections, in stocking stitch with a regular pattern of eyelets.  The crochet pieces are done in a sort of large-scale Irish crochet, in a design of leaves and bunches of grapes.  The drawstring waist was very common in jumpers of that time - and at least it did give you a waist.

In the same parcel was an issue of Weldon's Practical Crochet - no. 77 in the Practical Needlework series.  Our copy has several ads for knitting comforts for the troops, and so must have been printed during the First World War, but Weldon's kept these magazines in print for a long time, and I think it may have been originally published earlier than that.  (A note on the first page of the magazine says "Over 360 Numbers now ready, and always in print.")

Weldon's Practical Crochet, 15th Series, No. 77 in the Practical Needlework series.
   It is subtitled "How to Crochet Useful Garments and Articles for Ladies and Children."  It has patterns for babies' and children's clothes, including 'bootikins'  (which made me smile, because that's Mary Beard's translation of Caligula).  There are a couple of household items - antimacassars and coverlets - but no women's clothes except underclothes. And there are patterns for toys, including the very charming elephant on the front cover.

And a toy lamb, too - though I don't think that's as successful.  Perhaps better in reality, in white wool, than in the engraving.

Some of the clothes for babies and children seem needlessly complicated.  Here's a child's dress in tricot (Tunisian crochet?) and crochet.  Not a garment to encourage active play - more suitable to sitting quietly to read an improving book.  

This dress and other patterns in the magazine make me think it's much earlier than the First World War.  The Practical Needlework series started in 1888, it was published monthly, and No. 77 is part of Volume 7, so I think it might have been first published in 1895 or thereabouts.  (Which is very inconsiderate to someone like me who is trying to assign a date to a publication and might be seriously misled by the ads.)

More later on the other publications that arrived this week.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Mitts in Twined Knitting

I said last month that I was knitting a pair of fingerless mitts in twined knitting - all inspired originally by somehow volunteering to do a workshop in twined knitting for the Huddersfield Knitting & Crochet Guild.  (I think I might have been hypnotised.)  I finished those mitts, which I intended to be for me, but then someone asked me to write the pattern, and I decided that if I was going to do that, I'd like to change it a bit.  So I gave the first pair to my daughter, and made another pair for me.

The wristlets I designed as the workshop project were knitted in two colours - you switch colours for (almost) every stitch, twisting the yarns each time.  For the mitts, I used two strands of the same colour, again alternating the strands for each stitch.  (That's the original use of twined knitting, I believe - it's called two-end knitting in Swedish, and  you can use both ends of one ball of yarn.)    

Here are my second pair of twined knitting mitts:

I'm calling the design Aspen, because the diamonds on the back of the hand and the cuff reminded me of the diamond shapes on the bark of aspen trees at Harlow Carr garden in the autumn - and aspen trees grow in Sweden, where twined knitting also comes from.  

Twined knitting gives a very nice texture.  Apart from the areas of pattern, it looks similar to stocking stitch on the right side, but actually it feels slightly ridged.  (Taking one strand across the back as you knit a stitch with the other strand pulls the fabric in a bit and makes the right side of each stitch tighter than the left.  At least that's what happens when I do it.)  

And the wrong side looks very different to stocking stitch:

Susie's mitts are only slightly different to mine:

They have chevrons on the cuff, and the border to the thumb gussets is a bit different.  I've taken the elements of the designs from the book by Birgitta Dandanell and Ulla Danielsson, Twined Knitting - A Swedish Folkcraft Technique, which is full of photos of original garments of all kindsThe English translation was published by Interweave Press in 1989, and is out of print, but I've been able to borrow a copy from a friend.  

The yarn for both pairs of mitts is Debbie Bliss Rialto Heathers, which is a beautifully soft merino DK. The colour is Pebble - a lovely silver-grey, very like aspen bark. (There's also a little bit of black for the cast-on, and the plaited braid.)  Twined knitting in DK yarn gives a very thick fabric - these mitts are very warm and cosy.

I've now knitted two pairs of mitts and two and a half pairs of wristlets in twined knitting.  (I wrote about the 'half pair' here.)   I made one pair of wristlets for the workshop - a refinement of a previous pair, which I haven't shown.  Here it is:

 I have a cardigan in the same dark teal colour, so I've worn these wristlets quite a lot - they really help to keep you warm.  For the workshop pair, I dropped the third colour for the cast-on edge, and the plait - I wanted to keep casting on as simple as possible.  

I think I've done enough twined knitting for now.   I like the effect very much, but it's slow to do (because you have to keep stopping to untwist the yarn) and you don't always want your knitting to be thick and wind-proof.  I'm doing the workshop for the Birmingham branch in April, so that might inspire me to take it up again, but at least until then, that's it for twined knitting.  

Sunday, 5 February 2017


We have recently received a donation to the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection of a set of doll's clothes, and the doll they were made for.  She is not very pretty, to be honest, but at least she's very well-dressed.

I think that originally there might have been another doll, with dark hair, because she is one of the Rosebud twin dolls that featured in many issues of Woman's Weekly in the 1950s - the magazine published knitting patterns for outfits for the twins.  And many of the outfits that came with our doll are in pairs, in two different colourways - there is another pair of dungarees and a jumper to go under them, for instance.

The pattern for the dungarees and jumper outfit was published in March 1951, and the dolls are featured on the cover.

Woman's Weekly, March 3rd 1951
"Oh, what a lovely bouquet! Is it really for us?"
The illustrations to the patterns show the twins in various poses, intended I suppose to make them look a bit more life-like.  The magazine gave details of the dolls and how you could buy them by post.  They were 6½ inches high (16.5 cm.) and each doll cost 2s 6d - that's 12½p, directly translated.  And of course: "please state whether a blonde or brunette doll is required when sending your order."

Here are some more of our doll's outfits - a very pretty blouse and skirt, a vest and knickers, and a siren suit.

I am sure that they were knitted from Woman's Weekly patterns too, but we don't have a complete set of the 1950s issues.  (Probably just as well, as we would need to store more than 500 issues.) We do have several more patterns for the twins' outfits, including a very comprehensive outfit from 1957: underwear, dress, socks, shoes, mittens, hat and coat.

My grandma read Woman's Weekly every week and knitted clothes for my doll from it, and I thought that she used the patterns for the Rosebud twins.  But I think I was wrong - Dolly was bigger.  And more lovable, too - apart from being not very pretty, a 6½ inch doll is too small to be cuddly.  Woman's Weekly had patterns for other sizes of doll occasionally, so perhaps one day I will see one that I recognise.  (Sadly, Dolly and her clothes have not survived - she succumbed to a nasty plastic disease long ago.)

Me with Dolly, and my Grandad and sister

Saturday, 28 January 2017


A friend has been sorting out her mother's things, and found a stocking mending kit and other sewing bits and pieces that she has offered to the Knitting & Crochet Guild.

Roz's mother had a collection of stocking mending threads, in a very nice little basket.  I was impressed by the number of different shades of light brown, as well as a pale blue and a pink.  (The photo doesn't show the entire contents of the basket, by the way - there were several other spools of thread in it.)

Roz thought that the basket might have belonged to her grandmother originally.  It has certainly been a long time since stocking-mending was an important part of looking after your appearance - and silk stockings haven't been everyday wear for women since before the Second World War.

The strange object that was in the basket along with the mending threads is called a 'Speedweve'.

We couldn't guess what it was for, but Tom of Holland has one that came with the original instructions, and has very helpfully written a blog post on how to use it.  It's a very clever gadget!

Roz also found a Stocking Ladder Darner - a tiny latchet hook, still in its packaging.  (Critchley Bros. made Wimberdar brand knitting needles and needle gauges, too.)

And a few things that are nothing to do with mending stockings, including a 'War Time Pack' of snap fasteners.


The message on the back of one strip reads: 'These Snap Fasteners are of pre-war quality.  The card ONLY is "austerity" in size and style.'

And I especially liked a box of Cash's Woven Initials:

Cash's Woven Name Tapes and Initials have been made for a very long time: I had a set of name tapes when I went to secondary school and every item of clothing was supposed to have a name tape on it.  (They were inspected at the start of every academic year.)  My sister had a set too, and so did my daughter, and you can still get them.  The roll of  'M.W.' tape that Roz's mother had seems unused  - and Roz couldn't think of any family member with those initials, so it's a bit of a mystery.

Other sides of the box advertise more Cash's products:

And I suppose now you could use Cash's name tapes to label your hand-knits.  There's even a knitting-needles-and-ball-of-wool motif  that you can choose on Cash's Designer Labels page. Tempting - except that mostly I knit things for myself, and I already know I knitted them.    

Thursday, 26 January 2017

A Stole of Many Colours

I associate granny squares with the 1970s, when crochet was popular, and so were granny squares.  I'm not really a crocheter, but in 1972 or thereabouts I made a long waistcoat of granny squares in camel and cream - it was a favourite garment.  

 But making things out of crocheted squares evidently goes back further than the 1970s.   There is a very nice example in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection - a stole with fringed ends.

We didn't have a date for it, but then just last week we identified it in Vogue Knitting No. 47, published in Autumn 1955.   The magazine give this description: "Tile motif in bright hues brings crochet up-to-date for a heavenly stole-of-many-colours."  Garments made from granny squares often have a folksy, hippy look, but this one is very elegant.

The pattern specifies 3-ply wool, so that it's quite delicate - the squares are only 1¾ inches wide (about 4.5  cm.)   You might expect a Vogue Knitting pattern to suggest the colours to use, but it just lists 8 oz. (225g.) of a background colour and about 9 oz. (255g.) of  'various colours for the medallions'.  As you can see from the detail,  our example is very well-made - the squares are joined together very neatly.  And it has a long plaited fringe, following the pattern instructions.  (The fringe takes 7 oz. (200g.) of wool by itself.)

 It's very satisfying when we can match up a piece in the collection and a pattern - even more so when the pattern is from Vogue Knitting, and gives us a slightly unexpected date for the piece.

One other question:  I'm sure that we didn't call them granny squares in the 1970s, at least not in this country.  When did we start using that name?  And where did it come from?

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A Pink Tie Event

Patons 9887
Yesterday I was going through a parcel of pattern leaflets donated to the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, when this one caught my eye.  As it would - it is very eye-catching.  The description says "This modern dress with 'kipper' tie is right up to the minute!", the minute in question being 1967, or possibly 1966.  

The dress has some nice features, if you can get yourself into a 1960s mindset - shirt-style collar and cuffs to go with the tie, and the wide point of the tie standing out against the paler pink.  And notice that it's worn with white tights, which had a moment back then.

It shows the influence of Mary Quant on 1960s fashions.  Here, for instance, is a pattern of hers issued by Patons in 1966:

Patons 9701
I browsed through other Patons patterns published about the same time, to see of there were other 'trendy' designs.  There weren't many - as always, many of the patterns were for babies and children.  And there were a lot of Aran designs - Aran jumpers were popular in the late 1960s.  And also this was a young fashion - most older women wouldn't have dreamed of wearing a minidress in 1967.    But I did find a few examples.

Patons 9943
"Twisted rib and lace patterning make this dress a winner."  I like the three different stitch patterns used in bands so that the fabric gets less dense moving from the hem to the neck.  The plain round neck is another influence from Mary Quant, I think.  (I also think that that hair isn't all her own...)

Patons 9928
You could also crochet yourself a dress - "This attractive yet easy-to-crochet dress has a lace patterned skirt and a contrasting yoke."

And you should wear your minidress with a beret.

Patons 9808
I think this dress is very nice (although again you've got a warm dress with short sleeves).  There is no waist shaping - it's just done by the change from stocking stitch to a wide rib.  Patons Bracken was a flecked wool, giving the oatmeal-y effect, which I think is really attractive.  

And to top off the outfit, you could knit the beret.  To emphasise that this was a young fashion, the pattern says that the largest size is for a girl of up to 16 years, though in fact a beret that fits a 16 year old should also fit an adult.

My sister, who was a fashion-conscious teenager at the time, had a pink angora dress (short, but with long sleeves) and a matching pink beret, both knitted by our mother.  It was very warm and cosy, I'm sure, though it probably shed fibres everywhere.  The dress is long gone, but I think I may still have the beret.   I shall look.

Friday, 13 January 2017


The first post on this blog appeared on Wednesday 13th January 2010.  Seven years ago.  Isn't that amazing?  I'm amazed, anyway.  I never expected to be still writing blog posts.  The original idea was just to find out something about blogs and blogging by trying it for myself - I'm sure I didn't imagine that I would carry on blogging for so long.

In that first post, I showed this photo of a Fair Isle pullover I knitted for John in the early 80s, before I stopped knitting for a long long time. Since 2010, the pullover has had an exciting time - I lent it to Lydia who used to own Spun in Huddersfield (still open, but with a new owner).  She started to sell Jamieson's Shetland, and wanted some examples of Fair Isle knitting to inspire customers.  I lent her John's pullover, and a sweater from the same book by Sarah Don that I had knitted for myself, and they were on display in the shop for most of a year.  Lydia said that many customers admired them, and several wanted to buy the pullover.  Now we have them both back at home, I think perhaps we ought to start wearing them again....

Back to my anniversary.  Now that I've been writing this blog for seven years, I can see that I have managed to write about 70 posts a year.  It's been quite consistent - the minimum is 66, the maximum 76.  This is despite my best intentions to write more often.  Must try harder, and I'll see how I've done this time next year.