Monday, 19 September 2016

London's Baking

We were in London over the weekend of the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire, and happened to go to the London Metropolitan Archive, where they had an exhibition to commemorate it. (Although actually the exhibition runs until February next year.)   It's called London's Baking - Bakers, Cakes, Bread and Puddings from 1666, up to the 20th century.  (The connection with the Great Fire being that it started in a bakery, allegedly in Pudding Lane, although the exhibition suggests that is wrong.)   The exhibition featured photographs from the LMA collection featuring various baked goods (making them or eating them), and recipes from 1666 onwards, with comments from people who had tried them with modern tools and ingredients.  (The exhibition said, I'm sure, that the recipes would be available to download from the LMA web site, but I can't find them so perhaps I was wrong.)

Knitting interest: one of the photos on display showed boys eating buns in 1924, all wearing woolly jumpers.  Here's a detail:

It's from Collage, the London Picture Archive, image no. 301891.   It was taken in Hastings in 1924, and the description in the archive says "children sitting in a park scream as they hold cakes in their hands".  I think it's more likely that the photographer asked them to pretend that they were about to take an enormous bite out of the bun in their hand.

They are all wearing jumpers with collars, and the boy on the left, with a stripe on his collar, is wearing matching knitted shorts.  (They may all be wearing knitted shorts to match their jumpers, in fact, but it's hard to tell from the photo.)  The boy on the right looks as though his jumper is a hand-me-down - it looks a bit felted, and the sleeves are too long for him.  The boy in the middle, on the other hand,  has been dressed rather smartly, with knee-socks to match his jumper and shorts, all in an impractical light colour, and a tie.  He's also the only one whose socks haven't fallen down around his ankles, 'Just William' style.  

We have lots of patterns for similar boys' knitwear from the 1920s, with illustrations carefully posed and photographed to show off the outfit.  I think this is a nice image of what the outfits looked like on real boys, having fun on a day out.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Multi-coloured Argyll

A couple of months ago, I was recording the Argyll leaflets in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, and noticed a small batch of very appealing leaflets.  In this context, Argyll has nothing to do with Argyle-pattern socks: it was a brand of knitting wool, made by a Bradford spinner, Arthur Mortimer & Co. We have several hundred Argyll pattern leaflets in the collection, ranging in date from the 1950s to the 1980s.

The 1950s Argyll leaflets are mostly in black-and-white, and small (about A5 size).  But the three earliest leaflets that we have are larger, and in colour.  They were issued in about 1950, as near as I can tell.

Argyll leaflet 104

Leaflet 103 is a twin-set in stranded knitting - the design on the cardigan is almost an Argyle pattern.  I wonder if that was deliberate?

Argyll leaflet 104

Leaflet 104 is a girl's twin set, with rather odd-looking squirrels holding green acorns.  I think it would be easier to knit the design using intarsia rather than stranded knitting, but the leaflet doesn't give any guidance about how to do the colour-work  It just gives row-by-row details of what colour to use for each stitch, as in "14th row. -- 38R., 8 B., 1 R., 9 B., 2 R., 2 G., 40R."   Why didn't they give a chart?  So much easier to follow.    

Finally, leaflet 108 is in some ways the most interesting.

Argyll leaflet 108

It is a cardigan knitted in plain yellow wool and Argyll Multi-tone - evidently a random-dyed yarn.  I found an ad in a 1951 newspaper for a yarn shop selling Multi-tone. The shop sold three colourways:  natural/rust/green (illustrated in leaflet 108), blue/white/pink and blue/yellow white - price 1s. 6d. an ounce (7½p).

The front of the cardigan has what the leaflet calls 'bobbles' of the multi-tone wool.  It is basically stripes of two rows of yellow and 6 rows of multi-tone, but the instructions for the first row of the 2nd yellow stripe read: "Knit 1, * drop the next stitch down 6 rows to the yellow stitch and knit through the yellow stitch and the loops of multi-tone wool, knit 5, * repeat from * to * to the last 2 stitches, drop 1, knit 1".   (The last 'drop 1' must mean to drop it down 6 rows, as just described, rather than just dropping it altogether.)  So the yellow stitch that you pick up from 6 rows below is stretched over those 6 rows, while the multi-tone stitches form the bobble in between, in a kind of seersucker effect.

You do the same thing on the 4th, 6th, 8th, ... yellow stripe.  Then on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, ...  yellow stripe, the instructions are the same, except that you start the row by knitting 4 stitches instead of 1, so that the dropped stitches are 3 stitches further on than they were before.

This is what it looks like, from the leaflet.

I had not met a stitch pattern like this until I saw this leaflet, but then PixieMum commented on my post last month on knitting sampler squares, "Any idea what Gladys meant by "B1 Thus = . wool back  drop next st. 4 rows down, then knit Dropped st. and 4 horizontal loops above tog. as one stitch. Have you come across this before?"   And so I was able to say that yes I had, and that presumably the intention was to create a bobbly effect.
I think that Argyll did not produce many of these colour leaflets  - I suspect that the first pattern leaflet they produced was number 100 (several spinners started counting at 100).  The next leaflet number in the collection is 138, which is smaller and black-and-white, so I think there were at most 37 of them and probably far fewer.  But the three we have are so attractive that it would be nice to have some of the missing ones.

In the 1980s and 1990s, when many British manufacturers of hand-knitting yarns were in difficulties, the Argyll brand was struggling, and the business was acquired by Thomas B Ramsden & Co.  (See here.)   We have permission from Thomas B Ramsden to copy their vintage patterns for the personal use of Guild members, so if any member would like to knit one of these (in 2-ply!) please ask, via  

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Missoni Exhibition

We were in London for a few days over last weekend, and on Saturday I went to the Missoni Art Colour exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey.  (If you haven't seen it, you've missed it - it finished on Sunday.)

In the main space, there was a bank of mannequins (over 40, I reckon) wearing Missoni outfits - a wonderfully varied array.  

Elsewhere, there were art works that had inspired the Missonis, their own sketches for fabric designs, and swatches of fabric.

I especially liked the very complex multicolour knit fabrics.

    Some of the mannequins were wearing similar fabrics, too.

A very satisfying small exhibition.  And Bermondsey is interesting - most of the buildings in the street are I think 19th century, when it was a working class area. The buildings have mostly been renovated in recent years, and now The Shard at London Bridge towers over them.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Swatching for a Scarf

I have been trying out stitch patterns for a scarf I'm planning to knit for my sister.   I bought the yarn at Ribbon Circus in Hebden Bridge, at the Crafternoon Tea at the beginning off this month.  And I knitted a swatch of a possible pattern, Different Breezesome time ago - the first thing I knitted when I was able to hold knitting needles again after breaking my wrists.  But although it's a very pretty lace pattern, there are no easy rows - you need to concentrate on every one.  It's going  to be a long scarf,  and so I'd like some rows in every pattern repeat where I can knit without thinking.

For other possibilities, I've swatched a couple of stitch patterns from Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns.  The first is Lace Rib.  It meets my criterion - every other row is a repeat of p3, k2, so doesn't need much thought.

Lace Rib

So that was a strong candidate.  But being based on rib, it naturally concertinas inward - the swatch has been pressed to flatten it out, and even then it is perhaps not as drapy as I would like.

I have also knitted a swatch of Dewdrop Pattern.  It's an 8 row pattern with 6 rows of k3, p3.  The lacy increases and decreases all happen on the 4th and 8th rows.  So it will be quite fast to knit, I think.  

Dewdrop Pattern

(By the way, if you look at Dewdrop Pattern in A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, you'll see that my swatch doesn't look very like Barbara Walker's.  Hers seems a bit more stretched out, vertically.)  

On the 4th and 8th rows of the pattern, you do a three-into-one decrease, which according to the instructions should be done as slip one, knit 2 together, pass slipped stitch over.  But I found that the slipped stitch gets quite stretched when is passed over, and that stitch becomes a prominent part of the pattern, so that it isn't symmetrical.  You might be able to see that in the bottom half of the swatch. (Again, Barbara Walker's doesn't seem to look like that.)

So I tried a different 3-into-1 decrease, where the centre stitch is on top.  That's also easy to do.  First, slip the first two stitches together, knitwise,   That puts them on the right needle in reverse order.  Then knit the 3rd stitch, and pass the first two stitches over it, either one at a time or both together.  The result is that the 2nd stitch, i.e. the middle one of the three, ends up on top, with the other two tucked underneath it.   I've done that in the top half of the swatch.

So I think dewdrop stitch will be my choice for the scarf.   It's easy to knit, it lies flat, it drapes nicely, it's pretty.  And another plus: although the pattern isn't reversible, and the wrong side looks completely different to the right side, it's quite presentable.

Dewdrop Pattern, reverse

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Knitting Sampler Squares

I wrote here in January about a hugely long sampler that we have in the Guild collection, made by a knitter called Gladys.  There are about 940 stitch patterns in it.  Gladys intended to reach 1,000 but had to give it up because of arthritis in her hands - she never cast it off, though, and when it was given to the Guild after she died, it was still on the needles, so perhaps she had hoped to finish it.

The London branch of the Guild has been studying the sampler and is planning a couple  of projects based around it.  One is to add another 60 or so stitch patterns, to reach Gladys' target.  Another, which is under way, is to re-knit some of the most interesting stitch patterns and maybe publish them.  I volunteered to knit two of the patterns, and have just finished and posted them.  We were asked to knit 20cm. squares, with a garter stitch border. They are all in the same wool - 4-ply merino in cream.

My first square, pattern no. 491, is a very pretty pattern of cables separated by open-work panels.

The other (pattern 370) is not as successful, I think.  It has bands of reverse stocking stitch, knitted on size 10 (3.25mm.) needles, separated by two rows of a more open stitch knitted on size 7 (4.5mm.)  needles. But the two fancy rows don't show up as much as I think they should, partly because of the tendency of the stocking stitch to curl - even after I stretched the swatch quite a lot.  All you get is a general impression of horizontal channels between the bands of reverse stocking stitch, punctuated by little holes.  It seems to have looked better in Gladys's original, so perhaps it doesn't work well in this yarn.  

Imagine knitting swatches of over 900 different stitches! Would you be able to remember them all, even if you could find that many in the first place?

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Bra Recycling

The local Women's Institute (Marsh, Huddersfield - aka Cupcakes & Cocktails)  have been making planting 'braskets' out of bras.  They have made a display of the results alongside the main road through Marsh, outside the Junction pub - very eye-catching.

It's all to encourage recycling of old clothes, allegedly.  Though this particular approach works best with larger sizes - the less well-endowed will have to find some other use for old bras.


Tuesday, 9 August 2016


Today I was sorting some magazines in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection and separating out surplus copies.  One of them was a Woolworth Knitting Magazine from 1976, and I was idly looking through it to see if there was anything of interest in it.  At that time, Woolworth's sold knitting yarns under their Winfield brand, as well as pattern leaflets, an annual knitting magazine, and  knitting needles, crochet hooks, buttons and other haberdashery.

The patterns in this magazine weren't very exciting, but an ad about metrication of knitting needles caught my eye.  Evidently, the old imperial sizes were just changing over to metric sizes at the time.

It essentially gives a conversion chart, with the old imperial sizes alongside the new metric sizes.  I doubt that the reassurance that "Tensions won't be affected, so you won't have to learn to knit again" was really necessary - changing needle sizes was very straightforward compared to the conversion of weights and measures that was happening at the same time.

Knitting yarn was already being sold in metric quantities, and I had forgotten that balls of yarn used to be much smaller than they are now.  From the quantities given in the patterns, Winfield yarns were sold in 20g and 25g balls, except for Aran wool, which was in 50g balls.  So a short-sleeved smock top took 22 balls of DK for the 36 in./91 cm. bust size.  I suppose that meant that you should have less than 25g left over when you had finished knitting, whereas I'm often left with most of a 100g. ball when I've finished a project.  But think of dealing with all those ends!