Category Archive: Inspire: Get that creative mojo working

Thrill of the Chasse

Managed to take some time off last week, and found ourselves hurtling under the Channel in a nostalgic search for flick-knives and Pelforth in Paris (actually more like a waistband-popping visit to Stohrer topped off by a fine Brouilly nowadays). I wasn’t consciously looking for anything particularly yarn-related (apart from a couple of sneaky visits to La Droguerie and Cat’Laine) … but it found me anyway, nestling amongst a bunch of dead animals. Of course.

Perhaps strangely for an animal lover and ex-vegetarian of 15 years, Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature is one of my favourite museums – apart from the fact that it’s an ideal place to take a tired 7-yr-old with a keen eye for taxidermy, it’s housed in the elegant 17th century Hôtel de Guénégaud, a traditionally Parisian backdrop against which to successfully blend both abstract pagan and rather more modern concepts. Even if the subject matter and room after room of glassy-eyed stuffed animals isn’t your thing, it’s hard not to get carried away by the theatricality of the exhibits and thoughtful display methods (although Jnr was justifiably freaked by the ceiling in the owl room). One of the chief delights is seeking out the wooden curiosity cabinets – which are works of art in themselves – devoted to various wild beasties:  look through a pair of ‘binoculars’ and you’ll get a badger’s view of the forest; open a door and you’ll discover a child’s picture of a wolf accompanied by music; tug on a handle and slide out a 17th century engraving of a stag; pull out a heavy drawer and you’ll find an imprint of the animal’s faeces set into bronze. Hares, foxes, deer, wild boars … the essence of each is captured in these exquisite animal spirit repositories. (more…)

Elle Knitting: Galliano’s ‘Plum Line’

Do you remember when Elle Magazine used to include amazing, fashionable and stylish handknit patterns like this one, ‘Plum Line’ from Galliano? In case you didn’t get that, that’s JOHN GALLIANO, a high-end fashion designer at his peak providing an incredibly stylish handknit pattern in a fashion magazine.

I was lucky enough to hold a one-to-one lesson yesterday with the lovely Emma who dug out this pattern which she’d stashed away for years but had never forgotten (and who can blame her?). I’m helping her go through the pattern to choose yarn and identify any tricky techniques, but we were both struck by how fashionable and stylish the garment is, and how it doesn’t shy away from using involved techniques – no dumbing down here, this is a tailored-looking piece of knitwear with fitted sleeves and an unusual cable cross technique as a main design feature. A quick Ravelry search reveals it was from 1986 but it’s only in 3 queues – does anyone else remember or own it? (more…)

Swinging Vogue

I’m in the middle of a house move and starting to shift things around into piles, which inevitably has led to a ridiculous amount of time-wasting tangents. I came across my Vogue Knitting collection and fell in love all over again.

Although vintage Vogue Knitting magazines aren’t exactly hard to come by, their value has shot up in recent years with early issues from the  1930s sometimes tipping into three figures. I often talk about the fact that my Mum’s 1950s VKs started a lifelong passion in me – it’s easy to wax lyrical about the superb ’30s and ’40s designs (and wax lyrical I do), but the later issues from the ’60s don’t often get a look-in which is a shame, because in many ways they are equal to their earlier forbears.

Admittedly there was a patchy period in the early ’60s where their designs can be a little humdrum (save those still elegant patterns which showed a nostalgic reluctance to let go of the ’50s). These were the final years of the Condé Naste reign. Ironically the design pace started picking up in the mid-60s  towards the end of its publication … it was re-launched in 1967 but finally threw in the towel in 1969 due to declining readership.

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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.

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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.

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Charting Fair Isle Patterns

Our love affair with the vintage fair isle look continues, and while knitting from the original instructions may seem straightforward, I sometimes get questions from concerned fair isle pattern buyers about whether the instructions are written or charted – this blogpost is intended to encourage those nervous souls to dive in and chart your own! It’s pretty common for vintage fair isle patterns to be written with no chart representation and being a lazy moo myself I always appreciate the appeal of charted patterns for ease and speed, but there’s also something rather satisfying about deciphering the written instructions, like revealing a secret code, so here are some tips for how to do it.

I’ll use this 1940s jumper with fair isle yoke that I’m working on at the moment as an example – as you can see you’ll obviously have a visual clue from the pattern picture so you’re not exactly working in the dark. It’s also fairly common for patterns from this era to suggest which colours you should use, although don’t feel you have to stick to their suggestions. This particular pattern suggests natural, black, blue and red which I’ve decided to stick to. (more…)

Vintage Winter Warmers

Vintage Winter Jumpers

Heavens it’s parky, winter is well and truly here – who said you can’t keep warm and look stylish? With that in mind I’ve put together a small selection of my favourite vintage winter knitting patterns. No-one could accuse me of being a sporty type and I prefer the apres to the ski, so there are some cosy jumpers from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s which I can see looking very chic in that little cabin in Gstaad someone’s bound to invite me to one day (I can wait).

My favourites are the ribbed La Laine Lady’s Sweater complete with frolicking reindeer and the cheeky Reveille Snow Girls designs. The Viyella Skating Outfit’s pretty spectacular too, although I’d have to knit myself some kind of complementary fair isle rear padding – I’ve only sported skates the once and still bear the scars.

Looks like we’re in for a cold few months, so wander over to the Vintage Winter Knitwear section and help yourself to some winter style, vintage style.

Lee Target Cardigan Revisited

Claudia's Cardigan

Claudia's Cardigan

A lovely lady got in touch recently to let me know she’d successfully knit up one of the free patterns offered by Skiff – and what a great result!

Sounds like it all went smoothly: using Patons Merino she found she didn’t find the need to adapt the pattern in any way. Says Claudia “I think the tension squares are key when doing vintage patterns, and this wool and needle combo seemed to work.” Here here.

With vintage buttons from her gran’s sewing box to finish off, the finished article looks stunning, and I love that shade of red (my fave colour).

claudiacardigan2Fancy giving it a go yourself? You can find the pattern over on the Free Vintage Knitting Patterns page – please send in more pictures of any items you finish using a Skiff pattern (bought or free), I love seeing the fledglings hatch …

Land Girls Invade Knitting Magazine

Knitting Mag February

Knitting Mag February

A pretty impressive ‘Knitting’ magazine this month (February’s edition) it’s gone all vintage, using the land girls as its inspiration and including an article by vintage knitting champion Susan Crawford (one of her lovely patterns also features).

Patterns include a great 40s-inspired fair isle tank top, a gents military-style cardigan (which Mr Skiff has got his eye on) and cool satchel-style bag.  Must admit, not many knitting magazines inspire me to pick up my needles but this one’s making my fingers itch …

Skiff Vintage Knitting Club: Susan Crawford

club_logoCrikey it’s opening night down at the old Skiff Vintage Knitting Club … the martinis are flowing, the piano player’s in full flow and your investigative reporter (that’s me) is grabbing the moment and chatting to any happy souls who happen to pass through and spend a few moments reclining on the red velvet chaise. I’m fascinated by what drives other vintage knitters on, and I’ll be inviting inspirational ladies (and gents) to join me in Skiff’s exclusive basement club … the company’s scintillating, the answers are fascinating and every Q&A will tell a personal story, not just about vintage knitting, but what makes knitters tick in general.

First to join me is the lovely (and prolific) Susan Crawford,  knitwear designer, lecturer, co-author of A Stitch in Time, Vintage Knitting and Crochet Patterns 1921-1949′ and the editor of Knit On The Net … did I mention she was prolific? Step inside and help yourself to some canapés …

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Pattern Sales

Unfortunately I haven't been able to spend so much time on pattern sales recently and the site has suffered as a result, so sadly I've decided not to continue with selling vintage knitting patterns. read more ...

About Me

I've been knitting and crocheting since the age of seven, taught by my mum and nans who instilled in me a love of the patterns they knitted from originally. Over the years I developed a style of my own, adapting these wonderful designs for a modern fit and yarn choice. read more ...

Vintage Tips

If you're new to the vintage knitting pattern game, have a look at these useful tips first - they'll help you decide which wool to use and if the pattern needs adapting ...

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