Vintage Knitting, Retro Dressmaking, Make do and Mend, Original and Vintage Inspired Knitting Patterns, Vintage Inspired books

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Exciting news and how to help A Stitch in Time Vol1 stay on the book shelves!

Five years ago Gavin and I took the decision to self publish A Stitch in Time, Volume 1.  This knitting treasury and vintage pattern archive with 59 patterns and over 300 pages is not a book that a traditional publisher would take on. Self publishing always takes a lot of hard work, dedication, endurance and funds. With a book of the scale of A Stitch in Time it takes even more of all of these things. This is a book that hasn’t been constrained by a publisher's need for high profits, but is a collection that has been created with passion and sincerity, to be treasured and loved. The two Favourite Things blog posts have reminded me just how incredible the designs are in the book and how much A Stitch in Time means to me. 

What makes A Stitch in Time so special?

Contains 59 original patterns from 1920-1949 reproduced, digitally enhanced & saved 
Rewritten and updated versions of every pattern 
Sympathetically multi-sized to retain the true vintage look
Beautifully photographed with authentic vintage styling
Up-dated yarn requirements for each pattern
Includes sizes from 30 to 60 inches
Chronologically arranged 
A wealth of information about the changing styles
Top tips for vintage knitting

A Stitch in Time Volume 1 is now completely out of stock, however I'm delighted to announce the availability of an e-book version of this modern classic. The e-book is available for only £20 and full details of how to purchase it are available below. 

Whilst the print version is unavailable to purchase, work is already in progress to make the following improvements and enhancements: 

Extended size ranges on some of the most popular patterns
Up-dated yarn requirements including newly available yarns
Pattern errata corrected throughout
Improved garment schematics 
Additional charted instructions
Extensive re-editing
Improved layout
Additional technical know how pages
Bonus Pattern

If you buy the e-book now you will automatically receive the updated e-book on its completion. 

I have continued to self publish and self fund this book along with A Stitch in Time Volume 2 and two other knitting books for the last four years but now find that the harsh realities of the economy at present are making it particularly difficult to re-print Volume 1 for what would be its fourth print run. To make the print book affordable to potential purchasers it is necessary to print a sizeable quantity of books at once. Print on demand providers such as Createspace do not unfortunately work for a book of this size. 

I have also decided to no longer supply Amazon with our books due to the heavy discounts that they demand. Although this decision helps independent retailers by stabilizing the book’s price, it does have implications for me as a business. But with your assistance I can break away from this restrictive business model.

In order to get the book back into print I need to be sure of enough sales before I can commit to a print run. I need to reach a target of 500 pre-orders, in order to arrange for an updated edition of the book to be printed. In addition to the improvements already mentioned, the new version of the book will have a hard back cover, as requested by many of you (and by me!). Also included in the print version of the book will be a thank you page listing the names of all pre-order customers of the print book.

So how can you help?

After months of discussions, sleepless nights and days hunched over a calculator, I have put together three purchasing options available for Volume 1, which are: 

1: E-book only

You can now purchase the e-book version of Volume 1. Complete with live links and a new yarn substitution guide the e-book contains all 59 patterns and historical information that is included in the current version of the print book. You will also receive the updated version of the e-book as soon as it becomes available.

You can receive the e-book immediately for only £20

Buy now

This link will take you directly to my ravelry page to make your purchase. You do not need to be a member of ravelry to do so. You will receive your download link immediately after your purchase and your work is done. This is a very large e-book and is divided into three separate files of approximately 45MB each. 

2: Print Pre-order plus e-book discounted package

However, to ensure A Stitch in Time Volume 1 is back on book shelves where it belongs you can instead opt for the print pre-order and e-book package. 

In addition to the e-book purchase as described above you will also receive a signed and numbered copy of the revised and updated printed edition once our pre-order target has been met (see terms and conditions below). Most exciting of all, the book will have a hardback cover, making it the perfect companion to Volume 2. You will also receive the updated version of the e-book as soon as it becomes available.

You can purchase the print pre-order plus e-book package for only £40 (+ postage & packing).*

Please note that you will receive a download link to the current e-book within 24 hours.

3: Print Book only 

If you prefer, you can also pre-order the hardback copy of the revised version of A Stitch in Time Volume 1 without the digital package for only £30 (+ postage & packing).* 

Your book will also be signed and numbered but please note that it is not possible to upgrade to the print and e-book package at a later date. 

If you a retailer interested in pre-ordering A Stitch in Time Volume 1 for your store please contact me at for details.

Finally there are some terms and conditions listed below to help make the purchasing process as transparent as possible:

You will receive an order confirmation of your purchase. It is important to keep this in a safe place as your order number is required for any potential query.

It is your responsibility to advise us of any address or email changes by contacting us on 

* Full details of our postage costs can be seen on our website - see

If pre-order sales have not reached our target by 1st March 2014 you will receive a refund of the print book part of your order + postage and packing costs (For print and e-book combination print book cost is £20). Please note this is our target date for receiving sufficient orders to go to print. This is not the anticipated publication date. This could be either earlier or later than this date depending on sales progress. You will be kept up to date of developments as and when they occur.

The enhanced and updated e-book version will be released on completion regardless of print pre-order progress.

I hope the options are all clear. Its been a pretty lengthy process trying to sort out the best way to explain the choices available but hopefully it all makes sense! I know many of you love volume 1 as much as I do and I hope that this slightly unusual approach to re-publication will ensure that it stays on our bookshelves for years to come.

for now 
Ruby xx

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Favourite Things - part 2

Well its taken me a little longer than expected to get back to the favourite things short list but here we are. Today I'm going to run through the most popular garments from A Stitch in Time Volume 1. Interestingly although these are the most popular from Volume 1, none of the ones I'm going to share today actually make it into the top four garments. One of them though is number 5 on your all time favourite patterns chart countdown!

For me there aren't many surprises in this next group of patterns. Most of those in this selection are also my favourite patterns from Volume one too. So off we go:

First of all we have the Blackberry Stitch Cardigan. So widely knit that  when I went to Vintage at Goodwood a couple of years ago, it was literally everywhere. It is the cardigan no self respecting vintage girl should be without. The Rowan yarn it was originally knit in is unfortunately discontinued but fortunately I will be updating the yarn requirements so that it can be knitted in Excelana. It does have a lot of bobbles but looks so good on its worth the sore hands, I promise!

When I first said that I wanted to include Concentrate on the Sleeves in the book, I got some funny looks, but it has proven to be a real favourite with knitters and always attracts attention at events. My claim to fame on this one is that Paloma Faith said it was amazing! She certainly would look fantastic in it. Knitted in a DK weight wool this one is also suitable for Excelana especially as there should be a dark green on its way this autumn.

One of my all time favourite jumpers, Such Flattering Puff Sleeves is one of those jumpers that is worth owning in every colour imaginable. Knitted in Jamieson and Smith pure Shetland wool which gives those puff sleeves body and definition. I'm delighted to announce that I will very shortly be selling the Jamieson and Smith wools from my website alongside Excelana, gradually getting all your vintage yarn needs in one place!

Enchanting in Black & White is a stunning garment and yet so so simple at the same time. The stark background of the lower body acting as a perfect contrast to the delicate and intricate looking lace yoke and sleeves worked in a wide feather and fan stitch. A truly beautiful garment.

Knitters Delight uses negative ease to really create a figure hugging and pattern emphasising silhouette. The beads being held in Miranda's hands were actually my great grand-mother's and as a child I used to dress up in them as they spoke of elegance an femininity to me even then. I have two pairs of ear rings to go with them - the ones in the photo, which like the necklace are polished jet; and another pair, slightly newer, which are a plastic version made to look the same. Nowhere near as sparkly but much much lighter on the earlobes.

Have you made a Jumper yet? has a very special place in my heart. This photo was used as a full page spread in The Independent on Sunday magazine supplement. It was the first time one of my photos had been used in print by the national media and its something I'll never forget. It was also my first 'proper' interview with a journalist and was really the moment when I realised that someone might actually be interested in what I was doing. Have you made a Jumper yet? combines knitting and crochet which was extremely common in the early 20th century. Patterns assumed that the knitter would also be able to crochet which is much less likely these days.  I think the two really support each other. Crochet in particular is great for finishing techniques and for decorative touches. This jumper though really celebrates the crochet and it is actually the knitting that forms the back drop to enable the filet crochet to shine.

Light and Lovely is another pattern that has proved extremely popular from its first appearance. Requiring quite a lot of construction doesn't appear to have discouraged people from knitting it either. It really sums up 1940s knitwear in one garment, with its very fitted waistband and high neck along with superb box head sleeves and a back neck opening fastened with buttons. It even has the archetypal elbow length sleeves and crochet edgings! I knitted this one in 4 ply cotton which seems to lend itself nicely to the design and also make it more wearable in the summer time but it can also be knitted in wool for a more wintery garment.

Frilly Jumper is a deceptively simple garment with minimal shaping and a delicate all-over pattern. The sleeve and neck frills are actually knitted separately and sewn on afterwards. I used stainless steel yarn from Habu Textiles for the edging so that it could be gently shaped. There have been some beautiful versions of this garment on ravelry using different yarns to excellent effect.

In fourth place is the cover jumper, The Rose Jumper, this feminine garment is again incredibly flattering. Its also a very simple lace pattern combined with some nifty and very contemporary construction ideas. The lower sleeves are shaped into points before stitching up and are designed to be worn with the cuffs pushed up beyond the elbow to create a support for the sleeve points. The neckline is incredibly sexy and stops the garment being too warm. The flowers are again crocheted but under them is a little touch of genius - the front edging is gently gathered and sewn in place to give extra bust room but prevents the neckline from being excessively wide. A truly exceptional design.

This jumper is without doubt one of my all time favourite patterns. Sadly it has a completely uninspiring name,  The Fair Isle Yoke jumper but that hasn't stopped it being extremely popular. It is the perfect design for anyone attempting Fair Isle for the first time as the Fair Isle pattern is only worked on the front yoke and is only commenced after any shaping at the armholes is completed. It has also been the spring board for other 'inspired by' jumpers using its basic construction and then knitters adding different Fair Isle motifs for their own original garment. This garment is knitted in Jamieson and Smith Shetland wool and is also suitable to be knitted in Excelana 4 ply.

At joint second with the Fair Isle Yoke jumper is Sun Ray Ribbing which I think has the most projects knitted of any garment in Volume 1. It is glamorous, flattering, sexy yet refined. The little sun rays around the neck band framing the face are a perfect example of a design technique employed in the 1930s of a detail used to frame the face and direct the observer's eye upwards to the face of the wearer. The pattern uses decreasing widths of ribbing to further draw the eye upwards and very effectively slims the wearer. The back neck opening with co-ordinating buttons adds a final layer of attention to detail. The original yarn is no longer available put the pattern can be knit in Excelana - and guess what will hopefully be another new colour way for this autumn?

And the favourite pattern from A Stitch in Time Volume 1 placing it fifth overall? It Cannot Fail to Please. This pattern has proved a bit like a loved but troublesome child. Of all the patterns in Volume 1 this one just happened to have seriously typographical errors in the first print run of the book. And of course, because it was so popular, it got pointed out to me very quickly and very often! The pattern is now correct and many many people have knitted this jumper. Initially I have to admit to being surprised by its popularity mainly because the photos for this one were taken at the end of a very long three day photo shoot. It was getting dark, the lights were malfunctioning and poor Theo was exhausted. All I could think was that the photos wouldn't be good enough and that we wouldn't be able to include the pattern in the book after all. Somehow there were enough good pictures to use and the rest is history!
So congratulations to It Cannot Fail to Please.

And so we will leave it there for today. Next time we'll look at A Stitch in Time Volume 2 before the final run down of your favourites of the favourites.

for now
Ruby xxx 

Saturday, February 09, 2013

A 'Chat' on Good Grooming

Searching through my library of vintage craft books earlier today I came across an intriguing essay published as part of The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft (Odhams Press - 1938).

Entitled A Chat On Good Grooming it explains how you should plan your wardrobe to ensure you will always be well groomed, without resorting to the additional cost of new clothes!

Far more dictatorial than chatty in style it provides the reader with some basic rules to follow to achieve this goal:

The text goes like this:

How can the busy housewife or business girl be well groomed? How can it be done without additional expense for clothes?
One of the first essentials is to dress to your "type." Consider whether you are tall or short, slim or plump, angular or not, fair or dark, or just between. A few simple rules will help, but they must not be followed slavishly because there are always some people who are exceptions and you may be one of these.
1. Dark complexions and dark hair need warm colours, reds, oranges, yellows and warm browns. Warm complexions need warm colours; cold colours would throw up and intensify a warm complexion to a ruddy glow.
2. Dark hair and pale skin can wear cooler colours than the dark-complexioned type.
3. Fair hair and fair skin, the English type, can find a shade in any colour range to suit; silhouette will really be the deciding factor here. The short, plump figure should choose the darker shades, while the taller slim one may wear the lighter, bright hues.
4. A well-balanced garment never has a line cutting it in half horizontally; a line of any kind, either the hem of a costume coat or a seam, running round the figure halfway between shoulder and hem will have the unpleasant effect of dividing the garment into two equal portions. Either the bodice or the skirt must be the more important.
5. Find out what style suits you and keep to it, adapting it to prevailing fashion; not wearing it to the exclusion of the fashion in vogue.
6. As to colour schemes, never have more than two main colours and one of these must predominate. Do not have every accessory in the same contrasting colour. One accessory must be more important than the rest. Thus, as a guide, a navy suit would look well with:
(a) Navy hat with small trimming of cerise, navy shoes, navy blue gloves with cerise stitching and a navy suede hand-bag.
(b) small red hat, gloves to match the hat, blue shoes and bag.
(c) Red hand-bag and all other accessories in navy with red trimmings, or a red scarf.
These are only hints but they apply to any colour scheme. Here are some more generally known hints:
Vertical lines add height, or rather, give an illusion of more height. Horizontal lines or stripes give width. So if you wish to avoid extra height or width do not wear stripes that bring about such an effect.
Only the slimmest figure can wear gowns with the clinging "cut on the cross"line.
There is always just the right hem length; any deviation from it will upset the balance of the garment.
Do not mix sports clothes with dressy clothes; makes sure, too, that accessories are consistent with the rest of the outfit. Smooth textured cloth needs accessories of smooth texture too. The outfit should have one special feature or focusing point, such as a touch of contrasting colour, a carefully chosen trimming, or buttonhole, or dress ornament.
One other point which is very important, keep all clothes including footwear in good repair. This is not an extravagance but an economy, it is essential to those who wish to look well turned out.
Is the arrangement of your wardrobe well planned? Have your dresses plenty of hanging room? A wardrobe should be high enough to allow the longest evening gown to hang full length. If it does not, then a hanging corner wardrobe, having a wood top and side curtains will be better.

It all ends a bit abruptly really, as you rush out to find hammer and nails to put your hanging corner wardrobe together! I'm really not sure how this article really explains how to do things without any additional expense and it brings up some strange suggestions which I haven't heard before, such as only  wearing smooth accessories with smoothly textured clothes; its not something I have ever or am ever likely to give very much thought to!

And I have to say that as a red head with a rosy complexion I take great exception to not even being included in the list of complexion types which are all apparently inferior to the English type! With the benefit of over 80 years hind-sight it certainly seems an odd thing to say.

And yet, I have never felt comfortable wearing a mid-length coat with a longer skirt so that just a few inches of the skirt shows below and I've never really thought about why. But as a combination it certainly does lack balance so maybe I really do need to start matching the textures of my accessories to my clothes!

for now,
Ruby xx

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Favourite Things - part 1

Over on my ravelry group we have just had a little competition where participants named their favourite Susan Crawford or A Stitch in Time design and why. I have really enjoyed reading all the comments and getting an idea what some of you have liked most from a rather large collection of patterns. I added up the patterns just from the four books the other day and it came to 169 patterns! Add to this single patterns, commissioned designs etc and its around 200 designs to choose from. Because there are so many it can be quite easy to forget some of them so this has been a great way to be reminded of some of the best. So I thought I would take the opportunity to do a bit of a retrospective here on the blog.

I thought I would begin with the oldest patterns which are those from A Stitch in Time, Vol 1. We first published this book back in November 2008.

Unsure of what interest there would be for the title we actually produced the first 500 of these books ourselves - when I say ourselves, I of course mean Gavin. On an entry level commercial digital press a maximum of 30 books a day would be printed out and then each evening Gavin would go down into the cellar and bind each of these books on a professional book binder we had bought. We really didn't anticipate the response the book would receive and it soon became clear that we would not be able to keep up with demand. We took the decision to have the book printed by a book printer and the rest as they, is history.

Probably due to the fact that the book has been available for over 4 years, a wide variety of patterns have been chosen as favourites. In fact, 25 of the 59 designs in the book have been picked out as at least one person's absolute favourite of all my patterns.

This first group of designs all scored one vote each and here they are:

Young and Pretty modelled by the glamorous and beautiful Fleure de Guerre, who among many other things writes the highly successful blog, Diary of a Vintage Girl.  This is a late 1940s jumper knitted in
ribbing and worn with negative ease to get that figure hugging look. The sleeves are gathered up at the top
to create these fabulous puff sleeves. A fairly simple garment to knit, it just requires a little patience at the sewing up stage when the frill is being attached. Fleur and I will be appearing on TV screens together later in the year but more on that another time!

The new cowl neckline is from 1932 and is knitted in very fine yarn on a large needle to create a very light and airy
effect. I used Kusaki Zome silk from Habu Textiles to achieve this effect. This garment has been a real favourite with knitters in warmer climes. It features the ever-elegant Theodora Burrow as the model looking every inch the 1930s film star on a trans-atlantic cruise! Theodora is of course, a member of the amazing Shellac Sisters.

This One for Parties from 1935 was a tricky one to find the right yarn for as it was originally knitted with quite a 'stringy' yarn called "Knopsyl" described as an artificial silk composed of twisted strands of uneven thickness. It also had a very open tension of 4 sts to the inch worked on large needles. Unusually though it had extensive making up instructions.

Such a Debonair Little Jumper is from 1938 and is knitted in standard 4 ply yarn. A beautiful lace pattern topped with a slimming ribbed yoke this garment seems to look amazing on everyone who wears it.  This one was  not straight forward to multi size as it has a stitch repeat of 28 sts which is approximately 2.75 inches wide.  To create bigger sizes by adding pattern repeats would have meant huge leaps between sizes so different needle sizes are used for the different sizes. Tension (always important) is particularly important on this type of pattern as the fit of the garment can be radically changed simply by not getting your tension absolutely spot on.

This glamorous garment is from 1946 and showed early signs of the approaching 1950s shape with its cap sleeves knitted in one piece with the main body of the garment. The sewn on sequins added some much needed glamour to post war evening wear yet the garment still only uses a maximum of 250 grams of 4 ply Shetland wool. Not particularly noticeable on this photo is a decrease row worked a couple of inches down from the front shoulders. Decreases are worked along the row creating very slight gathers giving a very attractive fit over the bust line.  

This is Made so Quickly from 1936 and one of my personal favourites. I have made this particular top three times to date. I wear it predominantly in warmer weather and it is one of the most comfy and easy garments to wear. It always seems to look both vintage and contemporary at the same time so working with any aesthetic. The version for the book was knitted in Rowan Organic Cotton to make it a little more functional as a summer garment as the yarn used is a double knit weight. Although I am planning to make myself an autumn version in Excelana DK and add long sleeve instructions to the pattern as in the 1936 version. 

Here is another garment from 1936. This one is called Frilly Sleeves (no prizes for guessing why) and is knitted in a 4 ply weight pure silk. The original garment from 1936 was knitted in artificial 'Suede' yarn which also had weight and drape. The sleeves are truly enormous and fabulous and are created by dropping stitches from the needle very much like Cryscelle from volume 2. The key hole neck line is particularly flattering and the moss stitch colour is so neat. This garment really reflects the use of knits for evening wear in the 1930s. 

This Dashing Little Swim-suit from 1938 is one of three swimsuits in the book all modelled by a now famous lingerie model and burlesque artist, Miss Miranda. The 1938 original of this swimsuit was knitted in Golden Eagle "Seawul" a 4ply weight pure wool designed specifically for swimwear. The swimsuit consists of an all in one costume with a daring halter neck revealing a bare back and built in shorts. The skirt is knitted separately and is worn over the costume supported by a purchased belt. 
You can see the incredibly daring back of the garment in this image. The top of the costume is very well constructed giving a contoured shape. This swimsuit will be getting a re-visit when I get back to work on the Swimsuit Project in the summer.

The Jersey with a soft bow is from 1946 and can be knitted with either long or short sleeves. Believe it or not, in 2006 when I started on this book, fine yarns were really difficult to get hold of in the UK and this particular garment was one of the most difficult to find the right yarn for.  It had to be approximately a lace weight yarn that had plenty of structure. Now in 2013 it would be so easy to find an appropriate yarn to knit this garment with but I had no end of trouble trying to find something back then. I finally sourced a 100% silk yarn that would knit to the 10 sts to the inch tension required and we were able to reproduce this gorgeous jumper. It is one of those garments that because of the fineness of the knitting would easily pass as machine made - in the right way! 

These Lacy Gloves deserve something of a fanfare. This pair were knitted back in 2007 by my mother in law and they are still going strong. I wear them constantly throughout the winter months. I had them on today to go to the shops. No darning has yet been required and the pattern is elegant, attractive, simple to knit, professional and neat - the name Lacy Gloves really doesn't do them justice. They are knitted flat and seamed, but can very easily be knitted in the round on double pointed needles instead. They are knitted in Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper weight yarn (ie. 4 ply weight Shetland wool) and I think every lady should have at least one pair of these gloves in her handbag at all times.

Accessory for your Spring Suit is another mid 1930s  effortlessly refined and stylish garments that look great no matter what. Its also beautifully warm and surprisingly easy to knit as much of it is knitted in garter stitch. The collar and bow are knitted in one piece and then sewn on to the neckline of the main garment. Again knitted in 4 ply wool this pattern needs a yarn that is both soft and yet has good definition. This one would be a perfect candidate for Excelana!

Finally for today is the Tea Garden Dress. This pattern is from a 1943 Australian knitting magazine. Still knitted in pure wool, the model in the magazine is shown lounging in bright sunshine in her 100% woollen outfit. The skirt trim around the bottom of the skirt is not included in the original pattern, but the skirt proved too short for Theodora so we added an optional trim depending on the length needed. It features all manner of tailoring details; a hidden pocket, concealed fastenings, plackets, shoulder pads and a double layered collar with decorative top stitching. Definitely not one for the sewing-averse!
And so for today that is the end of my visit down memory lane. Tomorrow we will look at the next group of short listed designs. You may well also know that after three re-prints and thousands of books later, A Stitch in Time, vol 1 is currently out of print. So why torment you with all these beautiful garments from a book you can't get? Well at the end of the week I shall have some exciting news about the future of A Stitch in Time, Volume 1 so do keep tuning in!

for now
Ruby xx