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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Classic Woolly Toppers Book Tour

“Why do you wear a hat?” What you really should be asking is “why are you not?” *

I have always worn hats even in the dark days of the 1980s, when as a teenager I was laughed at for doing so. When my daughter was born in 1992 I engulfed her wardrobe with hats, both for play and dressing up and for ‘real-time’ use. Throughout her teens, hats have been once more, a fashionable item, and she has been able to wear her many, many hats without being ridiculed. To quote my hero, Stephen Jones, “Hats are the important accessory. ..when worn with verve, they are often the raison d’etre of many an outfit”. I believe hats complete an outfit and create a frame to a face, adding something that isn’t there without it. Imagine Marlene Dietrich here in ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ (1957) without her trademark beret.

Or Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in ‘My Fair Lady’ going to the races without one of the most famous hats in fashion history.

If I was asked to name three of my favourite hat designers, I would undoubtedly choose Stephen Jones, Cecil Beaton (because of My Fair Lady) and Woolly Wormhead. Woolly is without doubt a milliner in the truest sense of the word using knit fabric as her medium of choice to represent her constant stream of ideas. Like Stephen Jones, Woolly has been inspired heavily by natural forms and architecture but for her latest collection, Classic Woolly Toppers, has delved into classic hat shapes and styles, re-interpreting them in her own inimitable way and updating them for the ‘modern’ knitter. I am truly inspired by the way Woolly has looked at established hat styles and found a way of putting her own unique stamp on these and creating a contemporary, forward-looking collection. 

Classic Woolly Toppers contains 10 fabulous hat designs perfect for all different face shapes and hair lengths. In fact, Woolly provides some very useful advice on picking the right hat. The patterns are clear and as always with Woolly, well written and carefully thought out. And to top all of that, my daughter the hat-wearer is on the front cover!

Copyright Woolly Wormhead

In this photo she is wearing the Camden Cap which shows how effectively Woolly has interpreted well-beloved hat shapes.

My favourite of the ten designs however is Ravine. 

Copyright Woolly Wormhead
Closely reflecting the cloche hats of the 1920s, this hat sculpts itself to the crown of the head and frames the eyes and mouth of the wearer. It instantly made me think of the helmets worn in Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ 

and also of these crocheted cloches from a ‘Woman and Home’ magazine from 1930. 

I really wanted to see how Woolly’s hat would look with a bit of vintage styling (and I wanted an excuse to make myself Ravine!) so I decided to knit the hat for myself. I used two balls of Excelana DK in Saharan Sand to go with my classic tweed coat and worked the hat exactly as specified for the fifth size in the pattern, which is for a 22 inch head circumference. I probably should have reduced the depth of the hat by about 4 rows to get an absolutely perfect fit but I wanted to see how my head shape compared with the pattern so I would know how to adjust in the future. If I had reduced the length by 4 rows I would actually have got the hat out of just ONE ball of Excelana DK. And here you have it. Ravine by Woolly Wormhead worn by yours truly! I'm still not used to seeing myself in photographs but I am really trying hard not to hate every single photo just because I'm it. However  I love my hat!

copyright Gavin Crawford
Copyright Gavin Crawford
It fits snuggly and naturally on the head. It frames the eyes exactly as it should. It feels and looks extremely stylish and is very, very warm. So does everything that a good hat should. Fabulous! And I added a brooch for a little vintage flourish.

So what better way to round off the blog tour than to offer a prize! For a chance to win a digital copy of Classic Woolly Toppers courtesy of Woolly Wormhead and two balls of Excelana DK in your colour of choice from Alabaster, Persian Grey, Cornflower Blue, French Rose, Ruby Red, Saharan Sand, Powdered Egg or Nile Green, just leave a comment telling me who is your favourite iconic hat wearer and why. They can be ‘real’ as in Marlene for example, or a character such as Holly Golightly. I’ll choose a winner at random on the 7th November. Please leave me an email address so that I can get in touch.

If you can’t wait to hear if you’ve won, you can purchase the book from Woolly’s website. The print edition is $16.99 and the digital edition is £9.

Good luck!

for now
Ruby xx 

* (from Hats an anthology, by Stephen Jones, Published by V&A Publishing)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Travels - Part Two

Only 24 hours after returning from Bournemouth I set off on my next journey. This time all the way to Shetland for Shetland Wool Week. it has been several years since I have travelled alone. Gavin and I, with working together, tend to travel together, so this long journey was a big and important one, proving to myself I was still able to travel alone. And of course I did, and enjoyed the journey very very much. I arrived in Shetland on Sunday 7th October and the action packed week that it was went by in a flash. So here are just a few images to remind me of the great time I had at Shetland Wool Week:

Jen Arnall Culliford teaching pattern writing using my Bubble Stitch Yoke

discussing my cardigan!

Working hard

learning to knit a hap with the lovely Gudrun

A tiny tiny hap in progress

Ella and Sandra, the lovely ladies of Jamieson and Smith

Native and natural organic Shetland wool

Beautiful Cockleshell scarf using organic Shetland wool

Kate Davies capturing this incredible black lace shawl by Sue Arthur on display at the Textile Museum

How to pick a prize winning fleece

A very handsome native Shetland white ram lamb
for now
Ruby xx

P.S. I'm afraid blogger has been very tempremental this evening so I've been brief as I have to admit to running out of patience with it!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Travels - Part One

Just over two weeks ago I journeyed down to Bournemouth on the South coast of England to conduct a hand knitted swimsuit experiment which was to be filmed by the BBC as part of a documentary they are making tentatively called Handmade Britain.

The experiment was to be conducted at Boscombe beach which is a truly beautiful typically british beach with a pier, crashing waves, white sand and beach huts. Perfect.


Boscombe Pier

Beach Huts at Boscombe
To be able to conduct the experiment on the hand knitted swimsuit, I needed a kindly participant who would not only wear a handknit swimsuit but would be prepared to go for a dip in the chilly autumnal sea off Boscombe beach.

Amazingly, the wonderful Fleur, who some may remember, modelled for the first volume of A Stitch in Time, very kindly agreed to take part.

Fleur in Sun ray ribbing from A Stitch in Time Vol 1
I met up with Fleur at a cafe on Boscombe beach while we waited for the BBC. 

I wore my Princess Twinset and Crowning Glory beret all from Coronation Knits along with a vintage 1950s skirt and my Rocket Original  sandals in navy blue - all very nautical!

Later that afternoon the BBC arrived. The crew consisted of the Producer, the camera man, and Thea, the researcher, runner and production assistant.

And so, filming began. I was interviewed about hand knitted swimsuits of the 1930s and the purposes of my experiments.

I did feel a little rushed as I didn't get the opportunity to answer questions put to me more than once, but the crew were happy with my responses so I guess we shall see in the final edit!

I handed the swimsuit to Fleur and off she went to get changed ready for her dip in the sea. I'll go into the details of the experiment in a separate post as this also formed the basis of my lecture at Shetland Museum a few days later, but I wanted to see if in the right circumstances, with the right construction and fit, if a hand knitted swimsuit would actually behave itself. And on this occasion it did! Here are a few more photos of the day:

Fleur before going into the water

Off she goes!

being incredibly brave

getting wet!

speaks for itself!

Fleur and swimsuit still looking amazing
even the camera man got wet!

filming the filming

me trying to look serious
What the camera saw
 The swimsuit Fleur wore is "The Call of the Sea" also from A Stitch in Time Vol 1 and it performed marvellously. But more about the results and progress of the Swimsuit Experiment in the next couple of weeks.

The programme is apparently scheduled to be aired this coming Spring but when I know more I will of course let you know.

so for now,
Ruby xx

All images copyright Gavin Crawford 2012 except for A Stitch in Time image, copyright Susan Crawford 2008

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nicky Epstein's Book Winner

Phew, I've been rushing from one end of the British Isles to the other over the last couple of weeks and have lots and lots to share on the blog, but first of all, without further ado, the winner of Nicky Epstein's Knitted Circles book is Taloferia. Congratulations! I used a random number generator which picked comment number 8 as the winner. Taloferia had this to say about which era she feels is the golden age of knitting:

"Wow, the cover of that book is so beautiful!
Like others, my immediate answer, even before reading Nicky's, was 'now'. I could make an argument for other eras as well (particularly ones in which knitting was taught in school). But we have such access to materials, patterns, and tutorials now that I have to say this present time is a really great one to be a knitter."

It was fascinating to read all your responses to the question asked. I think we are very lucky to live in an age when not only has knitting found its way back out of the doldrums it found itself in not so very long ago but also that with the help of the internet we now have access to such a wealth of material, designs, inspiration, history and resources alongside a truly global community. Long may it continue!

Taloferia, I will check if you have left an email to be contacted on, and be in touch for your name and address so that the book can be despatched. If you didn't leave your email, could you email me at susan (at) susancrawfordvintage [dot] com with your details.

 I will be back very very soon,

but for now
Ruby xx