Wednesday, 7 February 2018

More Knitting Needles

As part of the Big Clear Up at Lee Mills last week, we did a lot of work sorting out knitting needles. They were left over from Hook and Needle Week in 2014, when we did a lot of sorting out of not just crochet hooks and knitting needles, but all kinds of tools and gadgets, such as yarn holders.

We must have had thousands of knitting needles at Lee Mills before Hook and Needle week, donated over the years.  Many weren't paired up, so a lot of the work in 2014 was putting pairs together and identifying the odd ones.  Quite a lot of different makes of knitting needles were extracted for he collection at that stage.   At the end of Hook and Needle Week, I think everyone was tired of sorting knitting needles, and so the rest got put aside.

Last week, we returned to them and sorted through a crate of mostly grey needles - mostly enamelled metal, some plastic.  A lot were the very common Aero and Milward needles, but occasionally there were other brands in the crate, so we were picking those out.  We are disposing of all the duplicates, but we found several dozen pairs that should go in the collection.

Some of them were branded with the names of spinners that I know from pattern leaflets - Copley, Vyella, Don Maid, Jester, Cronit.  They are mostly represented by just one pair of needles, but a couple are more common:  Robin (and Robinoid),  and Beehive Brand (Patons & Baldwins). 

Robin knitting needles
 
There are a lot more brands that I never heard of before - and to be honest, they are are pretty similar grey enamelled metal needles, with only the brand name to distinguish them: Bienna, Ibex, Fearnside, Poppy, Pixilite, Bouquet, ....

Poppy knitting needles 

One name I knew already is Stratnoid: in the 1920s, Stratnoid needles were made of duralumin, an aluminium/manganese alloy.  They are very nice to knit with - light and strong.  And shiny, a pleasant change from grey. But last week, I found needles of a much later Stratnoid design, which are the usual grey enamel, sadly.

Stratnoid knitting needles

But at least this design is different from most of the others because I can approximately date it, from an ad in 1968.



We have now worked through all the assorted metal needles.  A lot (the duplicates) will be re-homed, and we have expanded the knitting needle collection with the rest. 

All week, I was hoping to find a knitting needle brand not listed in Susan Webster's mammoth list of knitting needle brands, that you'll find here.  But whenever I looked in her list for some strange name I had never heard of, I found that Susan was there before me.  With just two possible exceptions: AKE and Vulcan. But I quite expect to find that they are just variations of brands that she already knows.... 

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Patons Lucelle

Whatever happened to January?  It doesn't feel like we've had 31 days since the New Year, and yet here we are, past the end of January and galloping through February. Anyhow....

Last week we were busy at Lee Mills having a big clear up (or Big Clear Up) - things that had been sorted once but not quite finished, things that had got into a bit of a mess,...  Mostly I spent the week sorting out knitting needles (more later).  And in a drawer that probably hasn't been opened for years, we found a long-forgotten cache of 1950s knitting wool.

It's Patons Lucelle Fine Ply, and as you can see I found some Lucelle pattern leaflets elsewhere in the Guild collection.


Each ball has a ticket buried in the middle:

It is very fine - we should probably call it lace weight now, I think.  The earliest leaflet I found (from 1954) is for a 'Shetland-pattern jumper' and is knitted on 16s and 17s.  I can't find a knitting needle conversion chart that goes below a 14 (2mm), but from a British wire gauge conversion chart, it seems that a 16 is 1.6mm, and a 17 is 1.4mm.  Or to put it another way, the tension specified in the pattern, for stocking stitch on size 16 needles is 54 stitches and 78 rows to 4 inches/10cm.  Here's the illustration, should you feel inspired to have a go.  (It only takes 4oz. (about 100 g.) of yarn, so at least it should be a thrifty knit.)

Vintage 1950s knitting pattern

It has three vertical panels of a lacy pattern on the front, but unfortunately the leaflet illustration doesn't show the lace clearly - you would have to knit a swatch to see what it looks like.

As the ticket with each ball says, Lucelle was a blend of wool, angora and nylon.  It was intended as a luxury yarn, in imitation of cashmere.  It seems to have been introduced in the early 1950s: I found an ad from November 1952, for "PATONS LUCELLE WOOL -- The New Cashmere Wool".  It was priced at 2/6 per ball.  2/6  is directly equivalent to 12½p, so now that seems remarkably cheap, but the same ad gave the prices for 'Purple Heather Wool', 3-ply and 4-ply as 1/5 per ounce (7p) and  'Patons Super Fingering, 2-ply and 3-ply, as 2/- per ounce (10p).  Since Lucelle was sold in ½ ounce balls, it cost 2½ times as much as Super Fingering, weight for weight.

Later Lucelle patterns, like Patons 114, were knitted to a looser tension, on 13s and/or 14s.

Vintage 1950s knitting pattern


And even men were allowed the luxury of Lucelle:  you could knit the pullover or long-sleeved  sweater in Patons 124 below either in 3-ply or in one strand of 2-ply and one strand of Lucelle.  The leaflet says "Lucelle and 2-ply knitted together make a fabric of the utmost affluence -- but there's also a down-to-earth version in 3-ply."  (Though a hand-knitted long-sleeved sweater in 3-ply seems very luxurious to me, and not at all 'down-to-earth'.) 

Vintage 1950s knitting pattern


James Norbury, who was the chief designer for Patons throughout the 1950s, used Lucelle in The Penguin Knitting Book (published 1957) for two evening jumpers.  Here's the nicer one.

Lady's Evening Jumper in Lucelle, from The Penguin Knitting Book, by James Norbury

It has a chevron band around the low neckline, with a small cluster of pearls and sequins on each point - very elegant.  I am sure that James Norbury had a team of knitters at his disposal, so he would have had no qualms about designing a jumper that requires a tension of 42 stitches and 52 rows to 4inches/10cm. on size 13 needles.

The latest Lucelle leaflets I have found so far are from 1960.  Patons leaflet 1054 is for 'Two Lucelle Lovelies':


 I think that by 1960, there were fewer knitters with the patience to knit sweaters with very fine yarns - a new generation of knitters had not had the experience of clothes rationing, when you had to make a very little wool go a long way.  So even 3-ply knitting was beginning to seem like hard work, and I suspect that Lucelle disappeared not long after 1960.  Now we would knit lacy scarves and shawls with such a fine yarn, on much larger needles -- much less work per square inch.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Quiz

On Thursday, we had the January meeting of the Huddersfield Knitting & Crochet Guild branch.  As last January, we had a quiz set by Marie and Sarah - all the questions were on knitting & crochet, of course.  It was a lot of fun - especially as my team won this time.  (It was a lot of fun for me last year, too, even though my team came 3rd out of four, so it's not just enjoyable for the winners.) 


Here's my prize, in a tiny carrier bag made by Marie - a set of heart-shaped buttons from Sarah, a set of stitch markers, a 10g. ball of Opal sock wool, and a bracelet that you can use for counting rows.  The bracelet has nine beads in each of two colours, that you can slide from one end to the other through a loop in the middle, and so count up to 99.

Ann Kingstone was in my team, which helped a lot.  One set of picture questions was about some of the very popular patterns in Ravelry - patterns that have generated thousands of projects.  We had to give the name of the pattern and the name of the designer.  I did recognise the Hitchhiker shawl/scarf (over 28,000 projects), because I looked at it when I was choosing a pattern for a similar scarf in Louisa Harding's Amitola, but couldn't remember the name Hitchhiker, and had no idea of the designer.  And I recognised the Color Affection shawl (15,750 projects) because I have knitted that one myself, and knew that the designer is Finnish and her name begins with 'V', but  couldn't remember 'Veera Välimäki'.  So I would have done very badly on that section - but Ann knew most of the answers there.  I did much better on dating designs from different decades.  And as Ann said, if I didn't know where Beehive yarn was first produced, I ought to lose my job. (Halifax, by J. & J.Baldwin & Partners).  (And as someone else said, I haven't actually got a job as such - I'm a volunteer.)  There were other sections where the other members of the team stepped in - one on references to sheep, knitting, needles, etc. in popular culture, including Game of Thrones and Zootopia.  I was annoyed that I couldn't remember the author of The Friday Night Knitting Club, even though I have read it (Kate Jacobs) - I am very bad at remembering authors of books.  And Ann and I were hopeless at remembering the early branch meetings, even though we were both there.  We couldn't even remember the topic of the first workshop that we had, so it was a bit shaming to find out that it was on feather-and-fan - taught by Ann herself, and I wrote about it here

It was a really good sociable evening - thanks very much to Marie and Sarah for compiling the questions and providing the prizes.


Monday, 15 January 2018

A New Yarn Shop in 1919

I was browsing some online newspapers today, looking for something else, when I found an account from May 1919 of someone opening a wool shop. The woman concerned had been in uniform during the war, and wanted to carry on being financially independent.  Employment for women was scarce, with all the men returning from the war, so setting up her own business was a way round that.

It seems from the article below that wool shops had not been flourishing before the war, though the huge effort in knitting comforts for the troops must have helped the trade.  In 1919 a new 'knitting craze' was foreseen - correctly, as it turned out, with knitwear becoming very fashionable in the 1920s. So it must have seemed an auspicious time to start a wool shop.

I was particularly interested in this account, because the Wakefield Greenwood company started out in  just the same way:  in June 1919, Clara Greenwood and Harold Wakefield (who were engaged to be married at the time) set up a shop in Huddersfield, selling knitting and crochet yarns, and all kinds of needlework supplies.  This could almost have been their story too:


MY WOOL SHOP. 

A BIT OUT OF CRANFORD SUCCESSFULLY REVISED. 

Somehow talking about wool shops seems to suggest "Cranford" and Jane Austen, and those early Victorian days of terrible gentility when one of the few things that a poor woman could do for a living was to keep a shop for the sale of Berlin wools and crewel silks. Those times have changed, however.  At the outbreak of war period it required some searching to find a shop where such commodities were the principal feature.  Wool and fancy workshops "went out" at the beginning of the century, but the war has helped to bring them back again.
At least, they are on the way.  There is, I think, a decided opening for them in many parts of the country.  I happen to know, because I have just received the experience of a woman who has established one.  Her home is in a little country market town not very far from London, a fairly busy place and popular with holiday makers.
 The Business Rest Cure. 
"When I came out of khaki,"  she told me, "my doctor advised me to stay at home and take things quietly for a while, and in answer to my protests at enforced idleness, he said jokingly: 'You'd better take that empty shop in the High-street and turn it into a wool repository, like it used to be when I was a boy!  The papers say that there is a wool craze ahead, and that women will soon be knitting all their own clothes, so you ought to do well!'
"It was meant as a joke, but it seemed to supply just what I had been trying  to find—an idea for 'something different' from my pre-war work, something that would give me some independence and which would not demand a terrifically large initial outlay.  So I did it.
"The empty shop which had been a Berlin wool shop in my grandmother's young days became mine for a moderate rental: it was painted and cleaned and made to look pretty, and one bright morning it was opened with some wools and fancy work goods arranged artistically in the window and myself behind the counter.  Since then it has been opened continually, and now there are two 'young ladies' in the shop as well as myself, and things are more promising and prosperous than I ever dreamed.

On the Wave  of Fashion. 
"No doubt the recent and present craze for woollen garments and trimmings has had something to do with it; all sorts of wools can be bought at my shop.  Embroidery silks, too, either for working cushions or frocks, besides all sorts of fringes, bead trimmings, braided work, and various made-up passementeries, for which there is a greater demand now than there has been for a quarter of a century or so.  Lately I have added some pillow and various English cottage laces to my stock, also lace-making equipment, and the results already have been very encouraging.
"One of my assistants is a good embroideress, and I have some 'outside workers,' who will do work to order, so that it is possible for me to take orders for work to be done—in particular, I find many women are glad to give orders for special dress trimmings of an everyday order, also for hat bands, children's clothes, and such like.
Lessons in Knitting. 
"To a lesser extent, too, unfinished work is completed; some orders are taken for knitted garments in special colourings, etc.; while the demand for lessons in knitting, lace-making, and embroidery of all sorts, is far greater than the outsider would imagine. It is so great. indeed, that I am seriously thinking of taking a clever friend into my business who will confine herself to teaching.
"It is an old idea which was dead and has been resuscitated, but it is worth reviving.  My wool shop is a flourishing concern: so is one on exactly similar lines which is run by another woman friend in a London suburb. And one hears people who drop in saying: 'How I wish someone would open a shop like this where I live.' "
The popularity of hand knitting lasted until after World War 2, and beyond.  When I learned to knit as a child, there seemed to be little wool shops everywhere.  In Huddersfield, Greenwoods closed long ago, when Miss Greenwood (aka Mrs Wakefield) retired in the 1960s - until then it flourished and expanded into the wholesale yarn business, run by Mr Wakefield.  It would be good to think that the woman in the article did well with her shop, too. 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

1978

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and Guild members are being encouraged to make something to recall 1978 - maybe something from a 1978 pattern, or adapting a 1970s trend. And to wear the result at the Guild's Convention in July.  (I still have a sweater that I knitted in the late 1970s - my Cream of the Crop sweater from a book of Patricia Roberts knitting patterns published in 1975.  So in theory, that's me sorted - though as it's very warm, it won't be wearable in July.)

By 1978, Patons pattern leaflets had copyright dates, and we have permission to copy them for Guild members, so I have made a catalogue of the Patons leaflets published that year. (Available to Guild members from the KCG website.) 

Quite a few of the designs are not distinctively 1970s - basic sweaters, cardigans, scarves and so on. But some features recur several times that wouldn't be so usual now.  There are a number of big, loose tops in simple T shapes - described as oversweaters or overtops.  They typically have wide sleeves, dropped shoulders and slash necks. 

Vintage 1970s knitting patterns
Patons 1536

Most of Patons 1978 designs are knitted, but there are crochet patterns too.

Vintage 1970s crochet patterns
Patons 1518

And many are designed for all the family. (The slanting pockets in Patons 1575 are another recurring feature.)

Vintage 1970s knitting patterns
Patons 1575

Patons 1505 has the loose, dropped-shoulder, over-sweater style translated into a jacket.  The combination of colours in the sample doesn't work well, it seems to me, but with a different choice it could look good.

Vintage 1970s knitting patterns
Patons 1505

There are some lighter styles too - like this lacy sweater with a big frilly collar.  (Note the draw-string hem, also a feature of Patons 1518 and several others.)

Vintage 1970s knitting patterns
Patons 1617

There are a couple of waistcoat patterns which would be practical for a cool July day (and most July days in England seem to be cool).

Vintage 1970s knitting patterns
Patons 1581

There's one pattern that stands out, though - Patons 1595, for a unisex 'Fair Isle' waistcoat and pullover.  I think it was a very popular design at the time - we have two waistcoats and a pullover knitted from it in the KCG collection (see this post for a photo), and two more pullovers appeared in the Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood exhibition in 2015.  And it's proving very popular now - since I put the catalogue on the KCG website, it's been asked for more than any of the others.

Vintage 1970s knitting patterns
Patons 1595


It would be easy to make something quite wearable from one of the Patons 1978 patterns - there are none of the worst 1970s horrors.  No knitted trousers (no knitted patchwork trousers, even worse), no knitted shorts, no leg warmers....    (We do have such patterns in the collection, if anyone feels tempted.) 

So if you're a Guild member - happy knitting!  I look forward to seeing the results in July.



Saturday, 30 December 2017

Christmas Presents

I don't usually knit Christmas presents - I know from past experience that it's just creating an extra source of stress in getting them finished in time.  And I have not been much of a sock knitter, either, though for Christmas 2011 I did knit 3 pairs (of which 2 and a half were finished in time).   But this year, I needed a small portable project and decided to try sock knitting again, and to knit a pair for my daughter for Christmas - knitting one pair of socks seemed perfectly manageable.   I bought a skein of lovely Lichen and Lace sock yarn from my friend Sarah Alderson, and her sock pattern, The Chain.   (Sarah designed the thrummed slippers pattern that featured in my previous post.) 


The socks were finished well before Christmas.  They have turned out very well, and the yarn is beautifully soft. 

But meanwhile, my daughter said that what she really needed was a replacement for a scarf that she had lost i.e. she wanted me to knit a plum-coloured infinity scarf, as soon as possible. So I decided that the scarf would have to be for Christmas, too.

It took a while to find some wool of the right colour - King Cole Merino Blend 4-ply in Damson. By this time it was well into December, and we decided that the scarf had to be about 46 in. (117 cm.) in circumference, and quite deep.   I did get it done - I finished it at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve (knitted, ends sewn in, and pressed).  Cutting it a bit fine, I know, but on Christmas Day it was all wrapped up, under the Christmas tree. 



It's designed to loop around the neck twice.   I don't have a photo of my daughter wearing it, but here it is on our newel post. 

I knitted it in the round, with a chevron pattern of eyelets and decreases in the middle and garter stitch borders top and bottom. Basically, a very wide, short tube.



It turned out that she hadn't lost the original scarf after all, but as it's cotton jersey, a hand-knitted wool scarf is much nicer, and much warmer for the winter.  She's very pleased with both the socks and the scarf.  And I'm going to knit more socks - this time for me.  And maybe a Moebius scarf too.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Fluffier on the inside

On Thursday evening, we had the December meeting of the Huddersfield Knitting & Crochet Guild branch.  Our theme for 2017 has been Yarn, in all sorts of forms.  To finish the year we had a workshop from one of our members, Sarah Alderson of Aldersign Designs.  The workshop was on thrumming - a traditional technique from Canada for making very warm mittens and such like by knitting extra bits of unspun wool into them to make a fleecy lining.  (Search for 'thrummed mittens' to find some YouTube videos and articles - here's one by the Yarn Harlot.)

Sarah provided us with undyed wool tops to make the thrums - short lengths of roving folded into figure-of-eight loops.  And she had designed a pattern for thrummed slippers / bootees - the design is called 'Fluffier on the Inside'.   The sole of the slipper is thrummed, and there is another band of thrumming around the ankle.  Sarah's prototype was in dark blue, and looks a little bit like Doctor Who's Tardis (which of course is bigger on the inside).

We started with a slipper sole, and I finished mine on Thursday evening.  The photos show the outside, with a neat pattern like the lice in Norwegian knitting:


and the inside, which looks like an explosion in a wool warehouse:


Sarah says that after the slippers have been worn for a while, the thrums felt together into an even, very warm layer.

The next step in making the slippers is to pick up stitches around the edge of the sole to knit the upper (which isn't thrummed).   Before doing that, I think I should knit the sole again - the size needs some adjustment.  And before that,  I need to finish off some Christmas knitting - there's not much time left, but it may just be done by Christmas morning.  But I shall definitely finish the slippers - they will be so cosy.
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