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.
Robson & Mason's basket of needles
Browsing through the wonderful Made in England site on a recommendation from Mr W (being geeky and admiring the animated icon) and came across a link to a great haberdashery site I’d forgotten about – Robson & Mason. Great site, easy to use, lovely trimmings missus.
Check out the vintage basket needles & threader.
The last Craft magazine
So goodbye then, Craft magazine, I shall miss you plopping onto my doormat every quarter. True you’ll continue through articles in the associate magazine Made, but Made always seems to focus on the mechanical, time-consuming and ‘need a bit of know-how’ projects. Your great website Craftzine will continue, but it’s not the same as having a good old flick and dog-earing the pages of an interesting article while you’re in the bath (something about laptops and water …)
I’m not quite sure why we can’t do a good old modern craft magazine in this country – they’re either of the Woman’s Own knitting variety or bordering on the high-brow like the Craft Council’s Crafts magazine (which, incidentally, is very good but does articles about the high-end crafts exhibition community rather than making you feel a part of an exciting at-home movement which is doing it for themselves). I’ve always felt there’s still a snobbery about craft in this country which hasn’t caught up with the current wave – it’s perceived either as strange warty women smelling of cat wee and crocheting tasteless tat, or cutting edge new-wave Hoxton dwellers incorporating a bit of ironic craft into their highly priced art pieces.
Anyway, I digress as ever. My point was originally going to be something about web vs. print – I remember when I first started out as a web designer and my graphic design friends were so snotty about it as the virtual web couldn’t convey the sensory experience, the texture, colour and depth (or even smell) of an actual piece. I felt dashed about it at the time and thought they were being snobs, but I find myself agreeing now … although all things webwise have levelled out and it certainly holds an important place in our lives, you can’t do without a good old piece of print. Your world can’t exist in a 1024 x 768 pixel format, nothing beats the joy of discovering an old craft book in a second-hand shop and smelling that damp paper smell and gloating over the vintage fonts and adverts, or discovering a well crafted, well thought-out publication.
So it’s sad, you’ll be missed here at least, but at least you went out on a bang – Amy Sedaris’ piece was hysterical. Oh well, still got Selvedge to look forward to.
Okay I was wrong … craftivism is alive and well in the UK too, in the form of the GlittyKnittyKitty girls! Their credo is “We, the Knitted Terrorists, are committed to knittivism through the systematic and systemic use of knitted accessories, short rows and felt.”
They’ve also made me feel better (well, a bit anyway) about my crap handmade gifts … “by making, giving and receiving hand made things, you can say No to mass production. You can embrace individualism, and you can create something imbued with love.” Cheers comrades, I’ll send you some handmade soap!
I knew there was a connection between web & craft! The New York Times recently published an article called ‘Handmade 2.0′ about the new-wave DIY culture, taking the snobbery and commerciality out of design and putting it back into the hands of individual crafters. They start by quoting the statement of intent from buyhandmade.org website, saying that it echoes “the idealistic language of a tree-hugger activist group” but then goes onto say that its most prominent member is the virtual craft fair Etsy – a very much for-profit organisation.
The full article’s a bit lengthy so you can read a precis of it on Mike Press’ blog. Mike sums it up: “The article argues that the new handmade movement is an explicitly ideological movement that has profound implications for consumerism, and seeks to develop sustainable economies based on craft production.”
The Denver Post published a shorter, less analytical article last year called ‘Crafting Political Messages‘. Hey, there must be something in the air!
I saw a programme about John Ruskin the other night and bells started ringing here … I haven’t read too much of his theory, but he was writing at the time of the industrial revolution, when the creativity was being taken out of the hands of the craftsman and given to the corporations commissioning the art/architecture. His solution (along with other Victorian neo-gothic supporters such as William Morris, George Edmund Street, Pugin etc) was go to take elements of medieval architecture and give the power back to the individual craftsman.
The world has recently undergone another revolution, technical and commercial, and individuals are once again fighting the corporates to get control of the environment they live in, clothes they wear, gifts they give, furniture they sit on etc. This is a pretty stealthy revolution, but it feels like it’s gaining momentum. It doesn’t have the dire threat and warnings of the green movement but it comes from the heart.
For a couple of good examples of politicised craftspeople, try Lisa Anne Auerbach’s site StealThisSweater.com, Craftivism and Microrevolt.
Long live the craft revolution!
Oh blimey, got carried away and lost in interweb tangents when I should have been doing other things … there’s so much great new wave craft stuff happening out there, I have problems sleeping at night thinking of all the things I could be making and doing, and trying to work out how I’m going to fit them all in.
Most of the stuff seems to be happening in America but I could be wrong here – maybe they’re just getting better press, or write about it more, or maybe us Brits just take one look at the plethora of cool and inspiring sites and think “why bother?” Whatever, they’re great, they’re needed and they’re fun.
Feel completely inspired by the Knitta group based in Houston – they call themselves a graffiti knitting crew and tag things like street lamps, public statues, handrails, gates etc with impractical hand-knit cozies. I love it – cooler than Banksy and less pious. They use street name aliases like PolyCotN, LoopDogg and The Knotorious N.I.T. (my personal fave). Wondering whether to start up an East Sussex chapter – will anyone else be interested? Should it matter? Might give it a go … get inspired here
I haven’t crocheted for some time … it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve heard that it’s back in fashion, I think I still view it as a bit of an old-fashioned art and I’m reminded of too many nasty old 70s waistcoat patterns and dodgy tea cosies to entertain it seriously (what a snob).
But I do love the Crochet Me site and its spirit and I particularly love this ‘Lucid’ hat pattern (complete with embarrassed look alongside the Lunatic football fan) so I might just give it a go … better re-learn how to crochet first …
Patchwork quilting is a craft I’ve never really attempted but I keep coming back to have another look at it to see if there’s something there for me … I’m not so keen on the traditional American patchwork patterns and if I’m honest the patience/time factor has always put me off (I want everything finished NOW!). Then I stumbled across Betsey Telford’s Rocky Mountain quilts (bear with me) on Google the other day. She’s a quilter based in Maine, US – don’t be put off by the trad title and picture of lady (presumably Betsey herself) with suitably soppy dog. Her ‘Christmas’ designs are pretty inspiring with some lovely details and bold designs and have set me off thinking about a long-term project that I could keep buzzing along in the background when I get bored with my quick fixes.
I love this kiddy’s quilt – deceptively simple but bold and effective.
Check out the prices too – worth every penny I’m sure with the amount of time and care that goes into them, but it’s another element that makes me think it’s worth taking on the challenge …