Thursday, 11 February 2016

A Popular Pattern

There are tens of thousands of pattern leaflets in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, but I sometimes wonder whether some of them were ever actually made.  I don't just mean the horrors like knitted patchwork trousers - some of the designs that look quite stylish now might not have actually appealed to knitters at the time.  In most cases, all we know is that the leaflet was published - we don't know how many copies were sold.  Sometimes, we can tell that a copy in the collection has been used, and maybe the knitter has written on it (e.g. these), so we know that at least one copy of that leaflet was sold.  But occasionally we know that a pattern did catch on, and sold very well.

Stitchcraft, March 1954

One pattern that we know sold well was first published in Stitchcraft magazine, not as a leaflet - it was the cover design in March 1954.  Then in May 1954, Stitchcraft carried an ad saying:
Knitted blazers with the "Bulky  Look" are all the rage,  When this P & B design was featured on the front cover of March Stitchcraft it was so popular that all the copies sold out in two days.  For this reason you may have been unable to obtain the pattern.  So many women have asked for it that we have rushed out a special colour booklet (C-786) covering this blazer.
The blazer is not what we would call bulky now - it is knitted in DK yarn, on sizes 9 and 11 needles  (3.75mm. and 3mm.)  The stitch is quite textured, though, which would make it thicker than stocking stitch.

And twenty years later, the pattern was issued again, in Patons' All Time Greats booklet - I assume because it had been such a good seller first time round.

From All Time Greats
It's a smart blazer, but I can't say I want to knit it - especially not in white, such an impractical colour.  But maybe its time will come again.

And while looking through the issues of Stitchcraft from 1954, I found another of the originals of the All Time Greats designs - the cover design was taken from the February 1954 Stitchcraft.  I guess that it had also been a popular pattern in 1954.  It's very elegant - and I like the way that the stylist has found a pavement of pink, grey and white tiles to pose the model against.  But it's a lot of plain stocking stitch in fine yarn - not so popular these days as it was in the 1950s.    

Stitchcraft, February 1954

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

On the Other hand

We are in the first week of the On the other Hand Mystery Knit Along fingerless mitts, so we are knitting the cuffs.  There is a choice of a corrugated rib cuff, or a corrugated rib  and lice cuff (which at least one person taking part thought was a typo, perhaps for corrugated rib and lace - but no, in Norwegian designs, lice are individual stitches of a contrast colour.)  One of the choices was designed by Ann Kingstone and the other by Sarah Alderson, but we don't know which is which.  (Guessing is allowed, though.)  

I chose the corrugated rib cuff,  I haven't knitted a corrugated rib before, as far as I remember, so that seemed quite adventurous enough for now.    Here's the first cuff:


I've just bought some more needles, so that I can knit the second cuff this week too.

The yarn is Wendy Merino 4-ply, in Pacific (a dark blue-green - the main colour) and Rose (a soft red).  I watched Ann's Periscope broadcast, now uploaded to YouTube, on Shade contrast in stranded colourwork knitting, where she says that it's not enough to choose different colours - you also need them to be sufficiently different in shade, otherwise at a distance they won't be distinguishable.  I thought that the green and red I had chosen might not be a good shade contrast, so I followed her suggestion of photographing the balls of yarn and converting the photo to grayscale, so see how different they were.  And in fact the red showed up as much lighter than the green, so I think they will be OK.

I also watched Sarah and Ann's Periscope broadcast introducing the Knit Along.  They talk about our Huddersfield knit-and-natter group, where they came up with the original idea of having a joint knit-along.  The group is called Bitter and Twisted - we named it when we started meeting in a pub, where  there was the possibility that some of us might drink bitter, though I think that in fact none of us do.  (Twisted obviously refers to yarn.)  I remember them discussing various ideas for possible projects - I think that gloves were suggested at one point, but I'm pleased that it's simpler than that.

I intend to have finished both cuffs by Friday, when the next part of the pattern is due to be released.  I expect that both Ann and Sarah's choices will involve stranded colour-work, but that leaves a lot of scope.  It might be difficult to choose....      

Monday, 8 February 2016

Ribbon Circus

Ribbon Circus is a yarn shop in Hebden Bridge, on the main road which runs along the valley, through the town.  That means it's not far from the river.  On Boxing Day (December 26th) there were severe floods along the valley - the river Calder filled the valley bottom and flowed along that main road, as well as in its proper channel.  The shops and houses along both sides of the road, including Ribbon Circus, were flooded - I was told that the water on the ground floor reached chest height.  Like many other businesses that were affected, the shop has not yet re-opened, but it has had a lot of support from spinners and the knitting community generally, and on Saturday they held a fund-raiser.  

Ribbon Circus following the flood

I went along to support the event.  I hadn't been in Calderdale since before Christmas, and it was shocking to see the aftermath of the floods.  There are still clusters of sandbags everywhere - not much use against water that's several feet deep.   Everywhere there are signs of repair work going on, and stacks of ruined materials outside buildings.

The fund-raiser was mainly a yarn sale - several spinners had donated yarn, and local knitters had cleared out their stashes.  A lot had already been sold by the time I got there, but there was plenty left.

The Hebden Bridge W.I. had baked cakes, and were offering tea, coffee and cake all day.  (The cakes all looked delicious, and I can confirm that the two I sampled definitely were.)  Several of the W.I. members visited Lee Mills last November to see some of the collection (I wrote about the visit here) , so it was great to see them again and meet Helen and Caroline of Ribbon Circus.   I'm told that the day raised £2000 towards the cost of repairing the flood damage.

I walked around the town, and saw that businesses are gradually re-opening.   A rather damp experience, as it rained all day - a completely unnecessary reminder of the reason for the fund-raiser.  The Hebden Beck, which flows through the town and into the Calder, was looking very full again.

Hebden Beck
It's hoped that the shop can re-open before the end of February.   I'll keep an eye on the website, and re-visit Hebden Bridge then - preferably when it's not raining.    

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Vintage Shetland

I don't know how other bloggers manage to write about things on the day they happen.  I can't write posts fast enough, and they  always seem to lag behind events.  So here I am writing this, and I want to write about something that happened today, but I haven't written about yesterday yet.  So today will have to wait until tomorrow....

Yesterday.  Susan Crawford visited the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection with her husband Gavin to do some final research for The Vintage Shetland Project.   (I pre-ordered a copy of the book before Christmas, and she tells me that I should get it in April.)   She hadn't visited the collection before - it was wonderful to show it to someone so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about knitting history.   We showed her some of the Shetland lace, and I got out some lace patterns from the 1940s and 1950s - here are a few of them.

Bestway 2548
Bestway 2548 claims to be 'designed in the Shetland Isles', but is in pineapple stitch, which I have not heard of before.  It looks a pretty stitch - I might knit a swatch to try it.

Bestway 2559
On the other hand Bestway 2559 does not claim any link with the Shetlands at all, although it uses feather-and-fan,  a very well-known Shetland lace stitch.  (And we have a Shetland scarf in the collection similar to the one shown in the pattern.)

These two Bestway patterns date from the early 1950s.   We looked at two Copley's patterns from the 1940s that use Shetland lace stitches, or very similar ones.  Lacy knitwear was popular in the 1940s when clothes rationing meant that women wanted to knit jumpers using a minimal amount of yarn.  Copley's 1440 uses only 3 ounces of wool (although it is so see-through that you would definitely need to wear a vest under it, I think).

Copley's 1440

Although it doesn't mention any Shetland inspiration for the design, at least Copley's 1440 uses Shetland wool.  The jumpers in Copley's 1271 are knitted in cotton bouclé (4 ounces, or approx. 100g., for each), so quite remote from any Shetland original.

Copley's 1271
(The woman on the bottom left is wearing a completely ridiculous hat.   She looks like she's got a flue brush on her head.   I don't know why that's the comparison that comes to mind, or how I know what a flue brush looks like, but I feel strongly that that is what my mother would have said, and she would have used one back then in the 1940s.  To brush flues, of course.)      

So we had a great afternoon with Susan and Gavin showing them things from the collection.  And talking a lot.  I'm sure Susan would have been quite happy for us to leave her locked in with the collection overnight, but eventually she had to go home.  They have a farm to run and animals to feed.  And she has a book to finish!  (I am so looking forward to getting my copy in April.)  

Friday, 5 February 2016

Yesterday at Spun

Yesterday being Thursday, I went to my local yarn shop, Spun, for the regular knit-and-natter session.  Lydia has a display of winter knits in the window, including two sweaters from the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection.  I showed both of them in December at the Guild branch meeting on picture knits (see here).

They work well in the display, because the backs of both are interesting as well as the fronts - the bird tracks across the back of the robin sweater, and 'ICY' on the polar bear one.

(Though I don't really understand why anyone should want to have 'ICY' written across their back.)

Several people at Spun had already signed up to the Mystery Knit ALong that's being run by Sarah Alderson and Ann Kingstone, and were choosing two colours of 4-ply yarn for it in the shop.

The Knit Along is a pair of fingerless mitts - you'll find it on Ravelry if you search for a pattern called On the Other Hand.  There will be three stages, with two choices at each stage, one designed by Ann and one by Sarah, so there are 8 different combinations altogether.  (Or 16 if you make the thumb cuff and the hand cuff different, though personally I wouldn't.  Or 16 x 16 if you knit each mitt independently, though personally I think that would be daft.)

The description of the pattern on Ravelry includes the tags:  cables, corrugated ribbing, slipped stitches, stranded, twisted stitches  -  none of which are an essential part of a fingerless mitts pattern.  So it's going to be complicated.

I signed up for the Knit Along when I got home.  I'm already knitting a scarf in 4-ply in a dark teal colour, and will have some left over, so that's one of my colours.  Not entirely sure yet about the other.  The first instalment of the pattern was due to be released at 11 this morning - haven't looked yet.  Very exciting!

Monday, 1 February 2016


Last week we were staying at Auchinleck House in Ayrshire, a historic country house restored by the Landmark Trust.  I suppose it's quite small by stately home standards, but it housed 13 of us (+ dog) very comfortably.

We deliberately chose last week because Monday was Burns Night - 25th January - so we had our Burns Night supper in grand Scottish surroundings.

As is traditional, we had haggis, tatties, neeps and whisky sauce, followed by cranachan.  The haggis was piped in (though with an accordion rather than bagpipes) and Burns' poem Address to a Haggis was read while one of the party ceremoniously cut the haggis open.   Between courses, we recited Tam O' Shanter, taking turns to read a few verses each - not easy for the English, like me, who need a translation for lines like:
...ilka carlin swat and reekit,
And coost her duddies to the wark,
And linket at it in her sark!
After dinner we had more poems - William McGonagall as well as Burns.  And a certain amount of whisky was drunk.

The weather was fairly miserable the whole week - wet and windy, with occasional short sunny spells when the wind blew the clouds away.  But it was quite mild, so could have been much worse.  We went to Ayr and to Alloway, Burns' birthplace.  There you can visit the 'Robert Burns Birthplace Museum'; the Brig o' Doon; the old ruined church of Alloway, which features in Tam O' Shanter; the monument erected in memory of Burns; and the cottage where he was born.  (And for people who like that sort of thing, e.g. John, there are two exciting mort-safes inside the old church - used to protect newly-buried bodies from the anatomists.)

Until we went to Alloway, I hadn't known that Burns was so revered so early - he died in 1796, and the tradition of Burns suppers to remember him started only five years later.  The huge Burns monument in Alloway dates from 1820, and just below the monument is a collection of life-size stone sculptures of characters from the poem Tam O' Shanter, which were created in 1828.


Tam O' Shanter is, of course, wearing the 'guid blue bonnet' mentioned in the poem - and a pair of knitted leggings, too.  I wondered when tam o' shanter became applied to a particular style of head-gear. Again, it was surprisingly early: in the 1830s, Tam O' Shanter bonnets were advertised in Scottish newspapers as a type of headgear - specifically for men at that time.

Back to Auchinleck.  Because of the weather, and the fact that it was getting dark by 4 in the afternoon, we spent a lot of time in the house. That was no hardship - it allowed us to enjoy the house and the company of friends.  The house was built for the father of James Boswell, the friend and biographer of Samuel Johnson.  The Landmark Trust has put a collection of books relating to Johnson and Boswell in the library - another grand but very comfortable room, with open fires at each end, and a pleasant place to sit and read (or knit).  

I don't think I have ever looked at a copy of Johnson's Dictionary before, so I decided  to see what he says about knitting.   He defines 'to knit' as 'to weave without a loom', so I don't think he was a knitter.  But the entry for 'knitting needle' is interesting - Johnson's was the first English dictionary to use quotations to illustrate the use of words.  For knitting needle, he gives: "He gave her a cuff on the ear, she would prick him with her knitting needle."  It makes you wonder what the rest of this scene of domestic discord involved.  The Oxford English Dictionary (which adopted the idea of using quotations) uses the same quote, and dates it to 1712.  

And I did some knitting, by the fire in the library or at the dining table after dinner.  I mentioned in my last post that I need to practise Swedish twined knitting for a workshop in a few months' time.  Last week I had a go, and knitted a little sampler of different stitches.

It's turned out very well, I think.  Amazingly, it's very like the illustrations in the book!  I was using two strands of the putty-coloured yarn (apart from the casting on where I used a bit of another colour).  The inside is also very neat - you can see how the two strands of yarn are twisted over each other. .    

I do need to practise some more, but I'm really pleased that I've managed to produce something that looks like it's supposed to.

It was a very good week altogether - awful weather, but a beautiful and comfortable place to stay, and good company.


Saturday, 23 January 2016

Twisted Stitches

On Thursday, we had the first Huddersfield KCG branch meeting of 2016.  The plan for the year is to tour the world in knitting, and we began the tour with a workshop on Bavarian Twisted Stitch patterns.  Marie had devised several small projects for us to try, from fairly simple to quite complicated - the end result of each is a phone case.

I had already knitted something using Bavarian Twisted Stitches, it turned out - the Baht 'At mittens from Ann Kingstone's Born and Bred book.   So I decided I should try the most complicated project - which was a bit daft.  I should know by now that in a workshop I'm not usually at my best - I'm not as careful as I should be, I make mistakes.  I should choose something simple. But I've done some more work since the workshop (corrected a couple of mistakes) and now I'm making better progress.

I did at least make the sensible decision not to attempt Judy's magic cast on - I've done it before, but I can't remember how to do it, and it would have taken most of the evening by itself.  So the bottom of the case is open, and I'll need to sew it up to finish it.

My stitches aren't as neat as they should be (having to correct mistakes doesn't help), but they are getting better, and twisting the stitches does have a remarkably neatening effect anyway.   Many of the Bavarian Twisted Stitch motifs have evocative names like "Clover Leaf" or "Ear of Wheat", but this one is apparently called "Large Chain with Twisted Bands".  So far I've done one pattern repeat, and I think it's looking good.

Next month's meeting is on British Ganseys, and further ahead I am doing a workshop on Swedish twined knitting.  At the time this was planned, I knew almost nothing about Swedish twined knitting, but some progress has been made - a friend has lent me a book on it, and I'm going to start practising.