Three Months in the Life of Skiff
Well hello there Skiff blog, sorry I’ve been a stranger round these parts … it’s not you it’s me. I’m very aware that I haven’t posted here for a few months (save to add to the ‘A-Z of Pattern Deconstruction’ at the weekend … I’m up to ‘D’ now, still plenty of time to think about the subject matter for ‘Z’). I haven’t lost the love, I’ve just been wildly spinning plates and unfortunately the blog plate dropped. So what have I been up to that’s so earth-shatteringly important?
Well we’ve moved house for one and as stressful as it was, boy was it worth it. We’ve not gone far, but have swapped town for country for the first time since a disastrous lifestyle choice in rural France ten years ago (another story, another time), and you’ll now find us looking slightly astonished in a third of a gothic-style early Victorian mansion. Our surprised expression is down to the fact that it’s not where we pictured ourselves ending up when we first talked about moving, but something about its faded glory and gothic grandeur whispered to us to take it on and we fell for its charms. We’re surrounded by woodland and fields and their many feathered and furry inhabitants, which is keeping Jnr, Boots the Dog and Blacksox the Cat in various states of excitement, curiosity and occupation, sadly not always to the benefit of the unfortunate wildlife. The most exciting discovery so far has been a grass snake in the pond which rested on a lily pad for a while and then gently sashayed across the water into the reeds, never to be seen since. (more…)
Meet Some Friends …
The making of a book is a funny old process and along the way so much of yourself goes into it – in my case that included friends, pets and nearby locations! I’d like to give you a peak under the bonnet of the book so to speak.
Please allow me to introduce the cast of thousands … well, four. Step forward Faith – fashion student, part-time model … and, I’m sure she won’t mind my telling you, our ex-babysitter! She’s so gorgeous and has such a great sense of fashion that I desperately wanted her to be part of the book. You can find her occasionally helping out behind the counter in the Brighton branch of Beyond Retro, where she also gets first dibs on some great vintage fashion.
In this picture she’s wearing a ‘jumper-cardigan’ knitted from a 1940s pattern by Anne Finch who runs the High Street Retro Centre in Hastings. She also sells her garments in the shop along with other great 20th century finds, so well worth a visit if you’re in those parts. Incidentally that front door behind her is mine, and the bike is my (t)rusty old Peugeot!
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…)
Past, Present, Future Tension – Remembering Knitting Wholesale
I had lunch with an old friend yesterday – we talked about our younger days as you do, but we managed to avoid murky nostalgia in favour of a clearer path, instead discussing ways to reflect on the past and incorporate it into the present. Having worked intensively on a vintage knit project for the last six months or so, I’ve been thinking along similar lines about knitting recently. I’ve completely immersed myself in the world of vintage patterns, which as habitats go is a pretty marvellous place to be, but along the way I confirmed a theory I’ve been batting around. At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, here it is (in usual lengthy verbose form).
You might have noticed that I’m an avid collector of vintage patterns, yarn and related paraphernalia (there’s no fooling you). I’m a staunch fan of the importance of re-visiting and curating the past, studying the original historical artifacts, reminding ourselves of the outstanding elements and learning from them, but I have my reservations … if we’re slavish to our history we run the risk of leaving it exactly where we found it. The temptation to remember knitted designs wholesale means locking them in a time-capsule, forever intrinsically linked to the era which produced them.
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and ‘Target Ovarian Cancer’ have organised a great ’50s Challenge’ campaign. My very small contribution to the cause is to donate 10% of all Skiff proceeds, plus this free vintage turban knitting pattern. I’ve adapted it from a classic late 1940s/early 1950s pattern – very good for bad hair days I find.
Download the Vintage Turban Knitting Pattern
Cancer affects so many that I know I’m not alone in saying it’s a cause close to my heart. Having lost a mother and sister to cancer before old age had its way with them, then another sister and nephew contracting it recently, it’s been a hard one to ignore. I’m also not alone in finding knitting a consistent fallback for me in life, so it makes sense to use it to help a cause which strives to get rid of the reason why I’ve often needed that strength!
One in fifty women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime, so Target Ovarian Cancer are also asking you to inform fifty women of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and to raise at least £50. Check out their website for more details.