In the early 1930s swimming and therefore swimsuits were hugely fashionable and many yarn companies seized the opportunity to manufacture knitting wools such as Miss England and Ocean Wave specifically for knitting swimsuits. The yarn appears to have always been pure wool - usually shetland. Swimsuits took many guises, designed as one pieces with skirts, shorts, jackets and hats to match and as early as 1935 a two piece costume appeared in The Pictorial Guide to Home Knitting (Odhams Press). I found it hard to believe that all these swimsuits were universally unfit for purpose and so began to carry out experiments with my own hand knitted swimsuits, recording how they behaved when immersed in water, exposed to sunlight, hung on a washing line etc. One of the first costumes I tested was The Call of the Sea from A Stitch in Time Volume 1. You can read more about this here and I have since gone to recreate more swimsuits from vintage patterns to see how they behave. From this I have established what properties a swimsuit needs to have to do its job properly. And these are:
- Negative Ease
- Appropriate Material
I willgo into this in more depth on the Knitted Swimsuit Project page on the website. As I read people's stories and looked closer at hand knitted swimsuit construction I realised that there were often external factors which prevented a swimsuit from doing its job which include:
- The wearer wearing the wrong sized swimsuit
- The stitch tension wrong on the knitting
- Incomplete or poorly written pattern instructions
- Wrong yarn used
- Re-used yarn used
- Poorly or wrongly washed
- Hand-me-down, pre-worn swimsuits being worn
The Knitted Swimsuit Project has two parts to it. First of all is the collection of data. I am still actively collecting stories and images about people's swimsuits and would love to hear from anyone with such a story or even just a photo that they would be willing to share. You can email me via swimsuitproject (at) susancrawfordvintage (dot) com if you do.
The second part is the really fun bit. I would love to hear from people who have knitted their own swimsuit and what their wearing experience was like. To help this along I am releasing a three pattern PDF booklet containing The Call of the Sea, the 1935 Two-Piece, and to keep things fair, a fabulous pair of men's trunks. The booklet also explains what feedback I am particularly looking for and how best to test your swimsuit. The PDF booklet will be available from next week for only £4 for all three patterns but in the meantime here is a selection of images of the three patterns:
THE CALL OF THE SEA
|As photographed for A Stitch in Time Volume 1|
|Modelled by the fabulous Fleur de Guerre out and in the water!|
1930s TWO PIECE SWIMSUIT
1930s MENS TRUNKS
And here are some 'action' shots of the two piece and the trunks. I also need to say thank you to my daughter, Charlie Moon, and her very sporting chap, Denis, for agreeing to model the swimsuits so enthusiastically. They too will be providing feedback on the website very soon.
So why not join in the fun and getting knitting a swimsuit and if possible send your thoughts and photos to swimsuitproject (at) susancrawfordvintage (dot) com. You can find out more about my research in the coming weeks on the website and do call back next week to purchase your download pattern.