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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

And the Winner is ...

Comments on Jean’s interview have now been closed, and a randomly selected winner has been chosen in the giveaway to receive a copy of Sweet Shawlettes. And the winner is....... (tense silence)....
Maxine - Le Styleophile who chose Mantilla as her favourite design in the book for its colour, lace detail and styling - and also coining the fabulous phrase 'retro-glam perfection'! I may be borrowing that. Many congratulations.  I have sent you an email so that you can let me know your contact details which I will then pass on to the publisher. Thank you everyone who took the time to enter.

I have received some fantastic swimsuit stories and images and will be compiling a blog post of some of them for later this week.

for now
Ruby xx

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hampsfell Hospice

For many years Gavin and I have been visiting the Cumbrian seaside town of Grange over Sands. But on this particular day we travelled to Grange to follow the path to Hampsfell Hospice.

Built in 1846 by the vicar of Cartmel, it has served as a shelter for travellers since this time. The stone structure is built high on a hill overlooking south Cumbria. Inside are 3 stone seats, 3 windows and a fire place.

A perfect place for a weary traveller to rest for the night, protected from the high winds and other inclement weather conditions rushing up from the Irish Sea or down from the North Lakes and the Scottish Borders. Inside the building are messages to travellers on each of the four walls.

This first notice politely asks visitors to respect the property but actually states that it is not expected that people will do so - and this in 1846.

I coudn't get a good shot of the next sign in the confined space but it basically describes and explains the purpose of the hospice:

"This Hospice as an open door,
A like to welcome rich and poor;
a roomy seat for young and old,
where they may screen them from the cold.

Three windows that command a view
to North, to West and Southward too;
a flight of steps requireth care,
the roof will show a prospect rare.

Mountain and vale you thence survey
the winding streams and noble Bay,
the sun at noon the shadow hides,
along the East and Western sides.

A lengthened chain holds guard around,
to keep the cattle from the ground;
kind reader freely take your pleasure,
but do no mischief to my Treasure."

 There are no longer any cattle on the hill, but the chain remains keeping the plentiful sheep from wandering in. The building itself is in remarkably good health with no apparent malicious damage having befallen it.

If it wasn't for the Hospice this would be a very barren, lonely place to find yourself on a cold, wet night. What trees there are grow at a very strange angle, permanently bent from the fierce winds.

During the day though the view is spectacular. The clever vicar had precarious steps built up the outside of the Hospice and a viewing platform added to the top of the building.

On the viewing platform is a huge compass with various degrees marked around its circumference.

 These degrees match up with a board detailing a list of places which can be seen from the platform.

This affords panoramic views from Snowdonia, across the Irish Sea to Lancashire and the Pennines, then mountainous North Cumbria then to the coastal areas around Barrow. It is a truly amazing sight.

click the image for a full size version

 for now
Ruby xx

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jean Moss and me

The title of this blog post may come as a bit of a surprise, particularly to the legendary Jean Moss herself, but when I was asked to take part in the blog tour for Jean’s latest book, "Sweet Shawlettes", I knew I wanted to write a little about the Jean Moss who has influenced me so much.

In 1991 as a young wannabe knitwear designer I purchased Jean’s first book “Designer Knits Collection”. I was sold! With its beautiful photography and Jean’s obvious love of vintage fashion I couldn’t have asked for more.

Two particularly gorgeous designs ‘Berlin’ and ‘Vienna’ really helped cement my love of 1930s knitwear and styling.

Jean also began designing for Rowan who were young, vibrant and offered cutting edge design. One of Jean’s designs ‘Monotone long sleeve sweater’ featured in one of my favourite Rowan books of all time - number six, and I knew I wanted to be like Jean one day.

Later into the 90s, as a struggling newbie at Rowan, I got the chance to assist Jean in a workshop. I was completely awe struck and as a result probably completely useless, but I loved every minute of it. I particularly remember learning double knitting on that day - as well as a number of knitting related folk songs - and thinking about that really helps explain the breadth of Jean’s skills and talents. At that time patterns in the UK didn’t really feature advanced skills such as double knitting, patterns didn’t always have schematics or full colour charts, but Jean’s did. I feel Jean really helped drive knitting and pattern writing into a new era whilst at the same time still producing stunningly creative designs, which brings me neatly to "Sweet Shawlettes". The book itself is beautifully produced with exactly the sort of top quality photographs and styling that one would expect in a book from Jean. The concept of the book, which is a collection of cowls, capelets, shawls, scarves etc., gives Jean free reign to incorporate unusual and interesting techniques and also celebrate her love for colour. The range of patterns also ensures there is something for everyone.

The book is divided into chapters, such as Folk and Country and very pleasingly, Vintage.
Not surprisingly most of my favourite designs in the book feature in the Vintage chapter. The first of these ‘Fizz Capelet’ is beaded and shaped using short rows and is so very very pretty. The art deco shade of blue also appeals to me immensely.

My absolute favourite though is ‘Treasure Jabot’. I thought I was the only person left using the word jabot, so I instantly felt so much better seeing it in Jean’s book. This delicate frill is worked in DK weight pure silk and would be equally lovely in alpaca or cashmere for christmas gifting. What I really love about it though is the very clever way the jabot is knitted and makes use of lots of the ‘re-found’ techniques which Jean has always known about.

There are many, many more beautiful designs such as the ‘Mantilla Shawlette’ and the ‘Arabesque Scarf’ which really makes this a timeless book. A book which I could happily keep returning to for years and years .

If you would like to own a copy of “Sweet Shawlettes” Taunton Press and Jean Moss are kindly offering one of my readers the chance to win a copy. Just go to the projects gallery  on Jean’s website before returning to my blog to leave a comment, letting me know your favourite design and why you chose it.  You must include your email address so that I can let you know you’ve won. I’ll choose a name at random next Monday - 26th March 2012.

If you want to find out more about Jean’s designs, workshops etc. you can find out more on her website.

The tour is nearly over but you can take a look back at what these other fabulous people also think of “Sweet Shawlettes”

Wed 7 March: Jen Arnall-Culliford
Thurs 8 March: Needled (Kate Davies)
Fri 9 March: Rock and Purl (Ruth Garcia-Alcantud)
Sat 10 March: Woolly Wormhead
Mon 12 March: Yarnscape (Alison Barker)
Tues 13 Mar Confessions of a Yarn Addict Anniken Allis
Wed 14 March: Joli House (Amanda France)
Thurs 15 March: This Is Knit
Fri 16 March: The Knitting Institute (Knitting Magazine)
Sat 17 March: Life’n Knitting (Carla Meijsen)
Sun 18 March: ConnieLene (ConnieLene Johnston)
Mon 19 March: Just Call Me Ruby (Susan Crawford)

The tour then continues with a final three dates which are:
Tues 20 March: Tiny Owl Knits (Stephanie Dosen)
Wed 21 March: Ulla-Bella (Anita Tørmoen)
Thurs 22 March Heike Knits (Heike Gittins)

You can also purchase the book directly from Amazon if you can’t wait to find out if you’ve won a copy.

Jean has had some very sad news this week and I would just like to take this opportunity to say my thoughts are with Jean and her family.

for now
Ruby x

Photos courtesy of Alexandra Grablewski/Taunton Press, Reed International Press and Rowan Yarns

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Knitted Swimsuits

I have a bit of a liking for hand knitted swimsuits - and in particular hand knitted swimsuit patterns so imagine how delighted I was when the wonderfully talented Kate Davies asked me to write about knitted swimsuits for the next issue of Textisles (issue 2).

If you don't know about Textisles, it is a digital magazine, containing original designs and writing, all produced and edited by Kate. The magazine contains no adverts and is carefully produced around a theme - on this occasion, knitted swimsuits and designs and stories with a nautical air. As part of each magazine Kate creates at least one pattern inspired by and related to the theme alongside four extensive fashion and textile related articles. Being in the lucky position of having seen a draft copy of this issue I can say that I found Kate's article about the Swimsuit Revolution fascinating and the pictorial essay of swimsuit parades through the ages an absolute visual, vintage treat. Three are some amazing outfits in the photos Kate has gathered from 1917 to 1927.

My own feature begins with a familiar image from A Stitch in Time, Vol 1:

I share some of my favourites, look at construction, fabric content, fashions, the popularity and decline - in short, the rise (and fall) of the hand knitted swimsuit.

If you wish to purchase this beautiful publication you can do so only from Kate. The entire digital magazine, including patterns, costs only £3.95 and the magazine will be available from early next week. If you can't wait Issue 1 is still available to purchase right now

To celebrate the publication of the issue next week,  I'm planning a whole knitted swimsuit related blog post, so if anyone in the meantime has any photos of themselves or family wearing a knitted swimsuit that they wouldn't mind me sharing on the blog I would love it if you could email me the images and some information to susan (at) susancrawfordvintage [dot] com.

Thanking you in anticipation!!

Ruby xx

all images copyright Kate Davies ©2012 except for final image, copyright Susan Crawford ©2008

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Featured Designer

I picked up a copy of the excellent new knitting magazine Knit Now yesterday. It is published right here in the North - Manchester to be precise - and focuses on small projects to knit, accessories, baby wear etc. It seems to have really successfully found its niche and has some great patterns within.

Here's the cover for the latest issue

The other thing it has is great features! You can just see up on the right hand side "Vintage Made Easy" with designer and stylist Susan Crawford - that's Me! After a trunk show at Purl City Yarns I met with the magazine's editor and had a really great chat which resulted in the interview contained within. We talked for quite a long time and I believe a significant amount of editing was needed.

You can also just spot the lovely Charlie in the Town and City Tufted Cape, the pattern for which is also included in the magazine.

You may know the cape from Vintage Gifts to Knit. This little cape is quick to knit and is great to give as a present as the sizing is so forgiving.  My apologies for the strange line across the top of the second photo. My blogger has been misbehaving dreadfully and isn't importing images correctly!

The Tufted Cape is knitted in a DK weight yarn and as such is suitable for using Excelana DK which will be available very, very shortly. We have added the yarn to the shop and orders can now be taken for despatch when the yarn is in stock. The yarn requirements are as follows:

5 (5, 6) balls shade Nile Green (MC) Excelana DK
1 ball shade Persian Grey (CC) Excelana DK

It had originally been planned for there to be a special offer available to readers for both Vintage Gifts to Knit and for advance purchases of Excelana DK but unfortunately they were missed off the final article. So as the discount codes are all set up I thought it would be a shame not to use them so am offering the discounts to all my blog readers:





for now

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Before Knitting there were Books!

A working visit to the British Library yesterday reminded me of a very strong, almost obsessive connection that I have always had with printed matter and particularly, books. I have always been completely obsessed with them. As a very small child, books were the centre of my universe. I have read voraciously all my life, and collected books with even more enthusiasm than knitting patterns or wool. But then of course, knitting patterns come in the form of booklets, pamphlets and full scale books and this two pronged obsession has, I have recently realised, produced my own ever growing archive about knitting, sewing, craft and yesteryear in general. I have hundreds of books and thousands of patterns and at some point I am going to need to make sense of it all, to start creating a proper archiving system - that's how big it is getting! However on this dark and dismal March morning, when Spring has declined to join us, I thought I would share some of the 'Collection' (sounds rather grand, but I guess that's what it is).

 These first two books focus on craft in general in Elizabeth Craig's book and specifically on dressmaking in Home Dressmaking - interestingly, this book is devoted to hand sewing only - no sewing machines in sight!

Elizabeth Craig's book has some beautiful images of techniques, such as these elaborate drawings of working buttonholes, but I particularly like Home Dressmaking's section on 'New from Old' which explains how to fashion something new out of old clothes and gives a three page list of possibilities:
These next three books are from my Flora Klickmann titles. Flora was the Editor of 'The Girl's Own Paper' and 'Woman's Magazine'.
 Another of my favourites is the John Paton Knitting and Crochet Book. This is the third edition with it sumptuous woodblock cover, which was printed in 1903.
 It has a vast array of knitting recipes within its covers. This is the contents list for the Chapters within and is compiled by M Elliot Scrivenor who was the needlework correspondent to the 'Queen' newspaper and late manageress of the Technical Institute of Needlework, London.
 This next image is a tiny sample of some of the woman's magazines and pamphlets I have, including Woman's Weeky, Woman's Own and the Lady.
 This model crops up almost every week in Woman's Weekly and I would love to know who she was.

 I now have a sub-collection of both Munrospun and Lux books.
 I adore the Lux books and the idea that you got the books through purchasing packets of Lux washing powder. I can't imagine a major washing powder manufacturer going to such lengths these days.
 This next book goes off on a slightly different tangent, but I love Mending and Repair books of all kinds. This one looks at all sorts of home repairs including
 wallpapering the ceiling - the chap photographed here appears throughout the book - always with the same amount of solemnity as he shows here -
 to how to press a suit. I love books that show domestic tasks beyond those we would probably think of as needing written instruction and that such care was taken with possessions.

 On that subject, this is probably my favourite of the mending books that I have. The Art and Practice of Mending was a Pitman publication from 1933.
 The front cover alone makes the book worth owning but the illustrations are absolutely beautiful.

 Here is a selection of some of my Odhams books - I have many more!
 and the Encyclopaedia of Knitting by none other than James Norbury also published by Odhams
 This one is a US publication which is very similar to the Odhams books but is written by Alice Carroll who was the Consultant on the American Red Cross Knitting Manual. Her Complete Guide to Modern Knitting and Crochet was published in 1947.
 The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft is another Odhams publication - I have two versions of this book, one published in 1938 and the reprint from 1946.
 The 1946 reprint has this marvellous plate added at the front of the book, marking its chronological identity perfectly, and with the caption:

'With the right tools, a little patience, and a good knowledge of the basic principles of needlecraft, dressmaking for yourself and the family will prove as easy as ABC, and you will be able to take pride in saying "I made it myself"." With the timing of this republication maybe it suggests that there were many women who had not had time to learn these skills during the war years and were in need of instruction.

No collection would be complete without Mary Thomas's books. I also have her Embroidery book.

 A couple of contemporary books looking backwards are No Idle Hands which looks at the history of American knitting and also Knitting by the Fireside and on the Hillside which is not an easy book to get your hands on, which looks specifically at knitting on the Shetland Isles with an economic slant.
 These three books are amongst my most treasured. The Encyclopedia of Needlework is quite an easy book to find, especially as several million copies of this title were printed worldwide but it has some stunning plates and intriguing stitches to try.
 This tiny book though has some great gems in it
 such as this pattern for Siberian Cuffs. This little treasure is from 1847 and as was usually the case at this time, has no illustrations.
 The last of these three books and my absolute favourite is The Lady's Knitting Book from 1880. Again without illustrations, but I turn to this book again and again for inspiration.
 I also love the fact that the book is signed and dated - January 30th 81 (I am assuming 1881 by the style of writing, ink used etc) and love the idea that this was probably a christmas present based on the date. And again a lot contained within - 216 receipts.
It is also interesting that during roughly the same period the 'patterns' are sometimes called recipes and then other times called receipts. So close in spelling, did one come from the other I wonder?

So these are just a tiny part of my collection. The magazines and single patterns are too numerous to photograph individually but I'll try and share a few more at a later date.

for now
Ruby xx

All images copyright Susan Crawford © 2012 and must not be used with express permission being granted by the copyright holder.