No Mortal Loom
I haven’t blogged much in the last month or so: the book project is soaking up my time and energy, but I’m still here and much plotting is going on in the background, plus the next instalment of A-Z of pattern adaptation and more vintage pattern highlights are coming soon!
Even when your nose is to the grindstone you can still find inspiration which you mentally file to follow up at a later date, and I tend to take my inspiration where I can find it in these busy days … it’s great when something unexpected finds you.
I came across the book ‘Sam Pig Goes to the Seaside’ (written by Alison Uttley) the other day which I’ve kept since I was an introverted kid. I have to admit I’ve never made it through ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ but that doesn’t stop me happily flinging about the phrase ‘Proustian rush’. As a rule I try not to give in to nostalgia but the stories, A.E. Kennedy’s illustrations and even the smell of the paper triggered something off and swallowed me whole. I must have spent a lot of time poring over these pages when I was my son’s age, lost in Sam Pig’s world and filling in the empty spaces at the edges of the pictures with an imaginary bucolic world.
A-Z of Pattern Adaptation: Charts
C is for … Charts.
Planning out your pattern adaptation is a system of logical steps. Often when we’re faced with a series of unknown quantities, the instinct is to panic or flee, or at least write it off as beyond our experience, but that’s one of the delights of knitting patterns: everything is solvable if you commit what you know to paper and connect the dots. Even those who tell themselves they’re rubbish at maths will be surprised how logical and straightforward a bit of simple arithmetic can be – see it as a way of creating a definitive map for your garment to guide you around the contours and stitch territory.
The theory surrounding knitting as therapy crops up from time to time, and has hit the headlines again in recent years as we enjoy another golden craft heyday.
So I was fascinated to see this advert for Penelope (a W.M.Briggs brand) tucked away in the back of a wartime era Needlework Illustrated (No.172). The text reads as follows:
“News from a Hospital somewhere in England.
By means of handicraft requiring varying degrees of attention and skill, occupation helps the patients to improved physical health. The one shown in our photograph escapes from the boredom of inactivity and from depression by embroidering Trace Art Needlework designed by Penelope.”
Even more interesting to see sewing being promoted as a male pastime, although it does beg the question: is it only acceptable for men to take up these traditionally female crafts during traumatic times when they need to escape ‘the boredom of inactivity and depression’? Is there a clue in that phrase as to why fibre hobby crafts are so closely linked to female social history?
Bestway ‘Tea-Time Jumper’ Pattern
I’m getting some lovely feedback from ‘Knit Back In Time’ which, I’ll admit, is happy news to my ears! Now you too can create your own adaptation of the Bestway ‘Tea-Time Jumper’ (leaflet No.605) featured in the first half of the book by going to the ‘Free Vintage Knitting Patterns’ page.
I’m picking up on ‘wishlist’ items for the book which is something I can address here: there are no actual patterns in the book and I’ll admit that’s something it would have been nice to have included, so I’ve spoken to the current Bestway copyright-holders who have agreed to me publishing the pattern on this website – hurrah! This is particularly good news as the pattern doesn’t seem to crop up regularly on the usual vintage pattern outlets, so I’ve saved you the bother of searching. (more…)
A-Z of Pattern Adaptation: Armholes
True to my word, I’m introducing another feature … the Knitting Pattern Adaptation A-Z will take you through many issues you’ll need to consider when you’re adapting a knitting pattern (vintage or otherwise). I know what you’re thinking and no, I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do when I get to ‘X’ either, but I’ll knit that stitch when I come to it.
So here we go. A is for … Armholes (including Sleeves). No don’t shudder like that! This issue is one which is likely to put many people off adapting vintage patterns – vintage torsos were smaller than our own, and knitwear used negative ease (more of this in a future article), so you’ll find that the bust and shoulder measurements are too small for your own modern figure, or the armhole depth means a tighter sleeve than you’re used to. While you don’t want to stray too far from the vintage silhouette, you might find some adjustments necessary, so … you’ve widened the bust measurements successfully using your tension/gauge swatch as a key, but that means that the shoulder measurements are now just that bit too wide. Or you’ve calculated the depth of the armhole and it’s half an inch too tight … what to do? (more…)
Create Your Own Knitter’s Graph Paper
There are a few resources which anyone approaching pattern adaptation will find essential – patience and a vat of Red Bull are just two (other energy drinks are available). Another one is knitter’s graph paper.
This is a fantastic resource for working out the shaping and sizing of your original pattern: you can translate the pattern instructions row by row onto your graph paper and create an actual size version of the pattern. Similarly, you can re-create your modified version by pinpointing your own measurements onto the paper and working out the shaping increases and decreases. As well as being useful for plotting fair isles and colourwork, knitter’s graph paper is particularly helpful when it comes to armhole and sleeve cap shaping, a sanity check to make sure that your sleeve will actually fit into your armhole (always useful).
Normal graph paper just won’t cut it when it comes to knitting – each square is supposed to represent a stitch, but a stitch is generally wider than it is high so you’ll need to work out the correct dimensions. There are many tutorials out there for how to create your own, but there’s no harm in a bit of repetition where this is concerned … as ever, it all begins with the tension/gauge swatch …
Mad Men ‘Peggy’ Sweater
I have developed the habit of rushing for the remote to pause the TV whenever I see an interesting piece of clothing or knitting and taking a picture of the screen: technology, my family thanks you. Usually the first thing to hand is my phone so the pictures aren’t great and that’s usually where they stay, languishing in the digital vaults of an HTC Desire.
Somehow this one not only made it out but made it onto my needles. And I actually finished it. And here it is … the ‘Peggy’ Sweater. The last season of Mad Men saw the ’60s really starting to kick in and, for me, Peggy’s wardrobe stood out spectacularly, coloured with mod touches, collars and cravats. Early on in the series she wore this great black dress, just above the knee, with bold black and white accents … just crying out to be made into a sweater, I thought. So I did.
On The Pins
So the call of a new project made itself heard loud and strong last week and I, a weak mortal, was powerless to obey. I didn’t even hang about to ponder too long on what I should choose, I just needed to knit something new and fast. Cardigans, that’s it, I definitely need cardigans.
I’m about to start on a new work project which means that I wanted something incredibly quick and straightforward, so when I went through my pattern stash I shunned the lure of my usual fine knit sirens in favour of something quicker … and this 1950s jacket peeked coyly from the bottom of the pile – ‘Knitting time – 6 hours!’ it whispered temptingly. How could I resist that challenge? Not the most attractive of cardigans but still … 6 hours! I decided to go for it, just to check its claims. But then I decided I wanted something a bit more attractive but still speedy. In red. So I chose this simple P&B DK number – I like the way the unfussy border looks like an enlarged, pixelated lace pattern in the DK.
We’re not exactly blessed with a great choice of yarn outlets in this area, but I couldn’t wait for all that delivery palava so I headed for a largeish emporium in the center of Brighton – not a great selection but it sometimes does the trick. I didn’t want to splash out too much on the ’6-hour’ number and ended up going for Patons Superwash Wool Blend DK – got to admit it’s not one that’s on my radar, but was impressed with its 63% wool content and the fact that it smelt and felt sheepy, but most of all because it was £3.95 for 100 grams. I spent £16 on a guesstimated 800 grams. I took a bit more care over the red yarn and plumped for a Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK – soft, smooth, good stitch definition for the eyelet stitch. Not the cheapest but it balanced out nicely against the other cardi, so Friday night found me clearing my hectic social calendar (ahem) and merrily casting on. The bodice is knitted all in one and it’s flying off the needles – not quite the 6 hours of its humbler companion, but I’m determined to fly through it as fast as I can.
Hmm, these two are going to go so quickly I might need to start looking for another project …
Meet Irene Baxter
This week I had the amazingly good fortune to meet up and chat with Irene Baxter. Meeting Irene was a dream come true for me as she was one of the original mid-20th century knitting experts, working on many women’s publications and magazines in their knitting departments during her long career. So, with the wind howling around her seafront apartment (and accompanied by many varieties of delicious cake), I spent a lovely afternoon finding out about her experiences over the years.
Irene grew up around Blackheath and started work on Woman’s Weekly in 1938 as their resident knitting expert, continuing to work with them throughout the Second World War. After marrying and a brief sojourn in India where she and her husband started their family together, she returned to the UK South Coast, family in tow, and returned to work as Knitting Editor for Woman’s Realm in 1958. What started out as a 2-year contract extended into a 22 year career, during which she also headed up the Crafts Department. Her tenure there spanned enormous changes in the approach to hand knitting, yarn innovations, and peaks and troughs in handknit popularity.
I’ve condensed our chat, making it briefer to cut out some of our tangents, but you can also download a full transcript of our conversation. (more…)