Sunday, 30 November 2014

"Centenary Stitches" exhibition in Lincoln



Yesterday I went to Lincoln, to see the 'Centenary Stitches' exhibition, of clothes that were knitted for the "Tell Them Of Us" film.  I have written previously (here and here) about providing copies of patterns from the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection to be passed on to the huge team of volunteer knitters that were working on the project.  So I have been wanting to go to see the exhibition ever since it opened on November 8th - and as it closes on December 6th, I nearly ran out of time.  But it's been a very busy month.  (And if you want to go to see the exhibition and haven't been yet - be warned that the Lincoln Christmas Market starts on Thursday and it will be packed.)    

The display is amazing - the middle of the room is filled with suspended rails, with coats, jackets, sweaters (anything with armholes, really) hanging off them, so that you can walk in between them and examine everything.  At the back of the room is a similar display of shawls.



 And there's a shelf of disembodied heads with hats on (that I unaccountably forgot to take a photo of).  A few special garments for the main characters in the film are on stands at the sides, including two that were reversed engineered from photos - a impressive feat.

I recognized one of the garments from the patterns that I provided - the blue coat and hat for a little girl is from a Patons pattern leaflet, Helps to Knitters X.

    
And I am sure that a man's sports coat in the exhibition, in white with navy trim, is from Paton's Helps to Knitters XIX.  (It's called a 'coat sweater' in the leaflet - now we'd call it a cardigan.)

Paton's Helps to Knitters XIX
There are several more garments in the exhibition, I understand, that were knitted to the patterns from the Guild collection, but I haven't identified them all.  (There is a book of patterns, Centenary Stitches, to accompany the exhibition, and I'm assured that none of the patterns in the book are based on those from the collection.)

I was disappointed that there was no mention anywhere in the exhibition of the Knitting & Crochet Guild and our support for the project.  I thought it was a pity, too, that the garments' labels did not give any information about the original source of the pattern.  Sometimes the label said something like "a gansey in a 1916 book", but often there was no information at all, and surely there are other people as well as me who would like to know which 1916 book.

Lincoln Cathedral

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Mystery Crochet

A new idea the Knitting & Stitching Show this year was a 'Stitch by Stitch' feature - a series of free demonstrations put on by the various stall holders.  The Knitting & Crochet Guild members on the Guild's stall did a Stitch by Stitch demonstration every day of the show, and I did the Saturday one.

The main KCG stall had a display of knitted and crocheted lace, and we used the Stitch by Stitch demonstration to show more lace from the Guild's collection.  



One of the items we showed is a beautifully crafted crochet piece, but otherwise a bit of a mystery.  It was bought for the collection in a charity shop, so we have no other provenance for it - we have no idea who made it, or when, and no way to find out.  It is crocheted in very fine yarn, which I thought at first was cotton, but now we think it might be a mixture of cotton and some sort of synthetic yarn.  It might be a tennis shirt.  It is hard to assign a date:  it could be 1930s, though 1930s tops tended to be much shorter.  It could be 1950s, though I would expect more shaping around the waist.  It could be later, though crocheted garments in such fine yarn would be unusual by then.

If we could identify a pattern for it, that would give us a lot more information.  Even finding similar patterns would help.  It's a long shot, but if any reader does recognise it, do please let me know.

We showed about 20 items in the Stitch by Stitch demonstration, and knew more about most of the other items than our mystery shirt.  (Though in some cases it was only that the style allowed us to date them more confidently.) The items that the audience found most interesting were three Irish crochet pieces - we don't know anything about the individual pieces, but they were almost certainly made commercially in Ireland before the First World War, and bought in this country.  The final piece that we showed was the best - an Irish crochet jacket.  It featured in the article on Irish crochet in Rowan magazine 55, and the photo was taken for that article.  It must have taken an immense amount of work, and the women who made it were probably paid very little.  But it is magnificent.




Sunday, 23 November 2014

Harrogate Knitting & Stitching Show

I went to Harrogate yesterday for the Knitting & Stitching Show.  I was based at the Knitting & Crochet Guild's stall for most of the day, but had time to look around the rest of the show when it got quieter towards the end of the day.  (Didn't buy anything though.  Not a thing.  I really don't need any more yarn, but I don't always manage to remember that.)  

I spent a lot of time looking at the finalists' entries for the 2014 Knitted Textile Awards - a UK Hand Knitting Association scheme.   Here are a few of the entries I particularly liked (and managed to get a decent photo of, too).  

I liked Camille Hardwick's Oxymoron piece - she won first prize, I later discovered. 

Camille Hardwick

Becca Tansley's jacket was inspired by the rusting steel and rivets of a Victorian railway bridge.

Becca Tansley

And Claire Sams knitted pigeon, scavenging discarded food, is fun.

Claire Sams

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Knitting History Forum

I was in London on Saturday for the Knitting History Forum conference - I've been busy ever since, so this post about it is later than I intended.

The conference was at the London College of Fashion, off Oxford Street.  There was a diverse programme of talks, beginning with Angharad Thomas talking about her researches into the history of two-colour patterned gloves, leading up to the Sanquhar and Yorkshire Dales gloves that she is particularly interested in - see her most recent blog post about Sanquhar gloves, Glove Heaven.  Tom van Deijnen (aka Tom of Holland) talked about his Visible Mending Programme and showed the cardigan in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection that he mended for us a few months ago - I wrote about that here.

I had not met Amy Twigger Holroyd before, though I had seen some of her work the previous day at the Fashion & Textile Museum's Knitwear exhibition - more on that later, possibly.  She talked about her Keep and Share programme  and brought along some of the things that she has made, or re-made, in that programme.  (And she was wearing a very nice cardigan that I recognised later in her on-line store.)   She passed around some of the pieces that she has worked on - commercial knits that she has re-worked into something special, including some 'stitch-hacked' pieces where a plain piece of stocking stitch has been converted into an embossed design in reverse stocking stitch on a stocking stitch background. As every stitch in the area she is working on has to be redone by hand individually, it is painstaking, slow work, but the results are amazing. She passed around a fine-knit vest that she has stitch-hacked - the images are from here.

Amy Twigger Holroyd's stitch-hacked vest.

Detail of  stitch-hacked vest.
The last two talks were on  war-time knitting - I gave a repeat of my talk "Useful Work for Anxious Fingers', on Knitting & Crochet in the First World War 1, that I gave at the Knitting & Crochet Guild convention in July.  This time, I showed the crochet handbag that I made to a Woman's Weekly pattern from 1917.   


And finally Joyce Meader of The Historic Knit showed a selection of garments for soldiers and sailors that she has knitted, following original knitting patterns from the Crimean War onwards.  She had brought some of the pattern booklets, and passed them around.   There were several different versions of a Balaclava helmet, socks, pullovers, sweaters, and so on.  Some odd ones, like knitted puttees, which I think may have been intended as leg-warmers to wear on chilly nights when the days were hot, e.g. in Mesopotamia.   
   
Some of Joyce Meader's WW1 patterns - image from The Historic Knit 

An enlightening and enlivening afternoon.  (Although battling afterwards along a thronged Oxford Street in the rain was not much fun.)

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