Saturday, 12 April 2014

Knitting legacies

Yesterday my friend and partner is woolly endeavours, Nic and I met up to make some really exciting plans for some summer activities which we will be telling you all about very soon.

As a reward for being serious and focussed for several hours we treated ourselves to a bit of a tour of our favourite charity shops.As we both need to be disciplined about the amount of 'treasure' we bring home with us, vintage china was admired and carefully put back, handbags were acknowledged as bargains and left on the hooks but as any charity shop treasure hunter will tell you, finding an innocent looking plastic bag on a bottom shelf can be fatal, especially when you're both textile artists and  it's full of hundreds of vintage knitting patterns.... As if that wasn't enough, the lady behind the counter noticed our interest and produced another four large files from under her desk like rabbits out of a hat. We really could have spent hours going through them and certainly plan a return trip but here is a sample of a few that I couldn't walk away from.

I like looking at old knitting patterns for many reasons, particularly as they offer a window into the day to day lives of people in the relatively recent past. This boy, whose jumper is described as a windjammer. looks like he has come straight out of an Enid Blyton book with his short trousers, shirt and tie under his casual woolly and keen interest in aviation. Mercifully Robin Nylona Multiply turns out to be a very fine wool, nylon blend knit at 30 stitches to the four inches. It's a sign of the times that in an era when new, man made fibres were coming onto the market that Robin marketed their wool highlighting the nylon content rather than as we do now, concentrating on the natural fibre.

I really like the colour photography of the earlier patterns. However, this child seems a little swamped in blue wool. A lot of the patterns of this era seemed to dress children head to toe in very warm woollen garments. I think we sometimes forget that houses at the time were not as well heated as they are now but I also remember that my mum would dress my sister and I up warmly and leave the pram out in the garden, just to make sure we got plenty of fresh air. Despite this rather overwhelming outfit I am quite smitten with the hat and can see mysself adapting it for future baby knitting.

I rather like this next pattern. The artwork has the feel of a cinemascope movie and, If I can instill a little more discipline in my waistline I would happily wear this little cross over top.

This next pattern brings things a little more up to date as by the late 50's and early 60's it was being acknowledged that younger adults had style and tastes of their own and this pattern is attempting to meet their needs. I have a feeling that the couple on the moped aren't actually going anywhere but I love the fact that she is pulling on his scarf to give a sensation of speed. I can't help remembering the one and only time my dad took my mum on the back of his moped. As he leaned into corners, she leaned out. Mum took the bus home.

Both the colour palette and the styling of this pattern move it firmly into the 1960s with its rather groovy mother and daughter headgear sets. Some may have stood the test of time better than others. The caps are rather chic. Helmets? Not so much.

Finally, I have one pattern which came home with me because it has no particular merit other than making me laugh out loud.

Caption anyone?

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Reasons to be Cheerful

Now I'm a pretty optimistic sort of person but the last few days of winter can make spring seem an awful long way away. That's why I was delighted when, a few weeks ago my friend Rachel released her latest sock pattern, Reasons to be Cheerful. She showed me these socks last summer and had made them in a glorious shade of yellow, Brassica by Uncommon Thread. 

Somewhere hidden in my memory the lyrics of Ian Dury's song, Reasons to be Cheerful, part 3 came to mind. 'Did you know'.... I said in the style of the pop music nerd....'That Ian Dury mentioned yellow socks as one of his reasons to be cheerful?'

You can imagine how delighted I was when the gift of this pattern arrived in my inbox and I read what she had called them!

Of course, with a big smile on my face I had to dig out one of my favourite skeins of yellow yarn and cast on immediately. It's Smoothy Sock by Artist's Palette which I have been saving for the right project. By a happy coincidence these socks involve a garter stitch short row toe and heel which is one of those that I teach in my toe up sock class. Last time I taught I discovered to my embarrassment that I had no pairs of unworn socks in this particular style to use as an example. Even though my socks are thoroughly clean I prefer not to display the evidence of the miles I have walked to the whole class!

The stitch pattern is easily memorised and as a disguised, asymmetric rib gives a very good fit. It's not a quick knit as it is mostly ribbing but it is great for knitting on the go.

All in all I can thoroughly recommend the pattern. It's well written, easy to follow and invites you to grab the skein of yarn that makes you happiest and cast on. Now that spring has finally arrived it's very tempting to put them on immediately but then I would have to cast on another pair for teaching wouldn't I?

This knitting game is such hard work....

I'll leave the last words to someone who helped write the soundtrack to my youth:

Eighteen-wheeler Scammels, Domineker camels
All other mammals plus equal votes
Seeing Piccadilly, Fanny Smith and Willy
Being rather silly and porridge oats

A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it
You're welcome, we can spare it, yellow socks

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3
Ian Dury 1942 - 2000