Monday, 28 May 2012

Turkish Tour

We have been on holiday (again!),  this time a quick tour of ancient sites in Turkey (Ephesus, Troy and Pergamon), the Gallipoli peninsula and some of the cemeteries and memorials from the Gallipoli campaign of World War I, and finally a couple of days in Istanbul.  We had a great time, and plan to go back to Istanbul.    Here is a tiny and fairly random selection of some of the hundreds of photos that John took while we were there.

Relief of Nike (Victory) at Ephesus

Storks nesting on a minaret, seen from the Church of St John at Ephesus

The theatre at Pergamon and site of the Pergamon altar, now in Berlin, marked by trees

Inside the dome of Hagia Sophia
The Blue Mosque from a window of Hagia Sophia
The Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

The Baghdad Pavilion at the Topkapi Palace

In Istanbul, we saw two of the world's great buildings, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, and at Ephesus, we saw the remains of one of the seven Wonders of the (ancient) World.  When I was a child we had a circular jigsaw of the 7 Wonders of the World, and I did it several times, so I know them by heart.  Ephesus is the first of the seven sites that I have visited, though since there is only one (reconstructed) column left standing of the Temple of Diana, it is not very wonderful these days.  (But it did have storks nesting on top, which made it more interesting.)   

I didn't take any knitting with me - there wasn't time for it in the tour schedule.  It wasn't a restful holiday at all, in fact, but a great experience even so.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Sanquhar Museum

While we were in Galloway we went to Sanquhar, which is a small village north of Dumfries.  The Tolbooth museum is a typical local museum with a disparate collection of objects from the local area.  What I was particularly interested in, of course, was the display on Sanquhar gloves.  

(Dumfries and Galloway Museums Service have set up a wonderful on-line display of the Sanquhar knitting in their various collections here  - well worth looking at if you are interested in the Sanquhar designs.)

Since I spend so much of my time working on patterns, magazines, and other publications for the Knitting and Crochet Guild, one thing that particularly interested me at the museum was that the Sanquhar patterns were not published until the 1950s, when People's Friend magazine issued two supplements featuring Sanquhar patterns.  One (which we don't have in the Guild collection) was specifically on Sanquhar knitting - details here.  The other was on Scottish knitting in general, but included a scarf pattern that used one of the traditional Sanquhar designs.   People's Friend is published in Scotland  (part of the D C Thomson empire, based in Dundee)  - presumably at that time, the Sanquhar patterns were more or less unknown outside Scotland.

The museum also showed a Patons & Baldwins pattern leaflet, likewise from the 1950s, for Sanquhar gloves.  The P&B leaflet and one of the People's Friend supplements have the same model on the front cover (at least it looks that way to me), so I surmise that the production of the leaflet and the supplement were somehow linked, but the museum display did not comment on that.
So what happened next?  When and how did Sanquhar gloves get more widely known outside Scotland?  How did they get to be so popular in Japan?       

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Horrockses Fashions

We have been on holiday in Galloway once again, as last year at this time.   Our walking group went for a long weekend,  and we stayed for a full week.  We had a busy week, but I'm going to write about just a few of the things we did.

The Scottish National Museum of Costume is in Galloway, at Shambellie House near the village of New Abbey.  We went there to see the current exhibition, of women's clothes from the 1940s and 1950s by Horrockses Fashions.  Horrockses' made printed cotton, and made it up into a range of upmarket fashionable clothes for women.

Some of the prints were designed by well-known artists such as Graham Sutherland. Many of the prints in the exhibition were designed by  Pat Albeck, who was employed by Horrockses straight from college.  I remember her name from the 1960s and 1970s when amongst many other things, she designed Daisy Chain,  a very popular John Lewis furnishing fabric - we had a plastic-coated  tablecloth in Daisy Chain for many years.

Back to Horrockses:  Most of the items in the exhibition were dresses, with small waists and full skirts.   I especially liked the sundresses with little jackets or boleros to wear over the top.  It was fascinating - many of the prints were very attractive, and the construction of the clothes often used the print  very cleverly (as in dress on the exhibition flyer).  Although my mother never had a Horrockses dress as far as I know (they would be too expensive) the dresses in the exhibition did remind me of the ones she wore in the 1950s.

As it happens, my sister gave me a book on Horrockses Fashions a while ago by Christine Boydell, who subsequently curated the exhibition  - so for once I had the book before seeing the exhibition.

After visiting Shambellie House, we went to the walled garden in the grounds. It originally produced vegetables for the house but is now run separately as an ornamental garden and nursery.  We visited three years ago, when it still appeared not quite finished, but now it looks very established.  When we were there, there were clumps of a  double wood anemone, pure white, in full bloom all over the garden.  It was flourishing both in the shady areas, as you would expect, and in full sun, alongside paths.  I coveted it extremely.  There were none for sale, but the knowledgeable and helpful woman who owns the nursery told me where I can buy corms.  I bought a dark purple Geranium phaeum instead.

New Abbey itself is also worth a visit - the ruins of Sweetheart Abbey are impressive.  (You can look up the story of the name, which is either touching or a bit gruesome depending on your point of view.)   And there is a very nice cafe next to the Abbey.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Complete Knitting Book

I wrote in a previous post about a booklet of patterns designed by Marjory Tillotson during World War I.  At that time she was employed as a designer of knitting patterns by Baldwin's, a spinning company in Halifax, which merged with Patons (of Alloa in Scotland) in 1920. Marjory Tillotson married at about the time of the merger.  As was common in those days, she was not allowed to carry on with her job after she married.   However, she continued to  design knitting patterns for many years, as a freelance designer.  (1)     

She also wrote books on knitting, and I bought a copy of one recently.  The Complete Knitting Book was first published in 1934.  It must have been very popular - there were 5 editions by 1948. Mine is the 4th edition, published in 1940.

She says in the introduction that knitting should be a creative craft, by which she means that knitters should not "rely upon stereotyped directions and designs, and copy slavishly those printed directions."  This must have been a very unusual approach at that time (still is, for that matter).   So the book starts with general principles of knitting, and then follows a long section on different stitch patterns.  The section on "The Knitting of Garments" gives layouts for standard types of garment, so that in theory you can choose a stitch pattern and a yarn, decide on the measurements for the garment you want to produce,  measure your tension and then knit a garment that you have more or less designed yourself. 
Measurement Diagram for Woman's Jumper

The diagram shown is for a woman's V-neck jumper.  The letters indicate the points where the knitter should take their own measurements, e.g. CD is the required length of the neck opening, GG is the circumference of the wrist and so on.  The numbers shown are examples for a particular size and tension - plain numbers indicate the number of stitches, those in circles show the number of rows.  Numbers in brackets occur where you have to decrease over a number of rows - e.g. for the V-neck, the diagram indicates that for the given size and tension you should decrease 12 stitches over 63 rows - the [5] shows that you should decrease on every 5th row.   (It requires quite a lot of arithmetic to work everything out, but evidently many knitters were prepared to do it.)   She does give outline knitting instructions, but really, the instructions are all in the diagram.  e.g "Back:  Commencing at hem, cast on AA measurement of stitches.  Rib CA length, then introduce required pattern design, either plain, open-work or coloured, and shape according to diagram."

One problem that she couldn't completely solve, it seems to me, was how to estimate the amount of yarn required.  For the woman's jumper, she says that the materials required are "4 to 5 oz. 2-ply, 8oz. 3-ply or 10oz. 4-ply fingering wool and size 8 needles."     It's a bit odd, for one thing, that size 8 needles are recommended for such a wide range of yarns - if you used finer needles for the finer yarn, the estimate would be off.  But also, if you used any kind of novelty or non-standard yarn, the yardage per ounce might be very different  (although you wouldn't know until you had knitted with it - it's only quite recently that spinners have stated the yardage on balls of yarn).

Incidentally, I spoke to someone recently who worked for Bestway in the early 1960s.  Bestway published knitting patterns for yarns from many different spinners, but sometimes they wanted to suggest alternative yarns, and needed to give accurate quantities.  When she first worked there, as the most junior employee, she was given the task of measuring the length of different balls of yarn,  so that the number of balls required could be estimated, based on the total yardage.  What a tedious job!  Whoever decided to print the yardage on the ball-band did us all a great favour. 

1. Cally Blackman, Handknitting in Britain from 1908-39: the work of Marjory Tillotson, Textile History, vol. 29, pp. 177-200, 1998. (2)
2. I think it adds a touch of class to have footnotes in a blog post.