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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Vat Changes from 1st January 2015

Many of you will already know about the fiasco that is the Digital product VAT directive which comes into effect tomorrow. If you haven't I would suggest you google 'vatmess', pour yourself a long drink and be prepared to be bewildered by the nonsense the various EU vat authorities have dreamt up. A very thorough analysis of the situation was also written by Woolly Wormhead recently. (Please note there have been some updates to the situation since this post was written).

I won't bore you with too many of the details here but the bare facts are that digital downloads and ebooks to EU member states will have to be sold with vat added based on the country that the purchase is being made from. This along with complex audit requirements make the act of processing a sale extremely complicated. I have looked at potential options for my business and over the next few weeks you may see changes and potentially, glitches, on the website as Gavin and I rebuild our shop on a new platform that can better deal with these new vat requirements.

We don't know exactly how things will work in the first instance, but we will remain open for business throughout the switch-over and as the customer you will hopefully not be affected other than ultimately we hope to have a better, more streamlined website, shop and blog.

Due to additional processing costs incurred as a direct result of the new VAT rules I will have to increase prices on digital patterns and ebooks very slightly. These will be introduced over the next few weeks. I will keep these increases to an absolute minimum but the new system imposed creates a substantially increased administrative and processing burden on my business, that I just can't afford to absorb completely.

My patterns and e-books will also still be available on ravelry as before but again slight changes will be seen when you checkout and VAT may be applied dependent on where you, the customer, is based.

I will also be introducing 'hard copy' versions of a number of patterns to purchase via the website for those of you who would prefer this to a pdf download.

My apologies in advance for any complications during the switch over but as I said previously, we remain very much open for business! Its not the best way to be starting a New Year, but I'm determined - as always - to carry on.

With very best wishes for 2015

Susan xx

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Phew, what a busy few weeks building up to Christmas have been. I'm sure you all feel exactly the same so I just want to wish every one a relaxing, peaceful and happy Christmas with lots and lots of opportunity to knit!

I'll be back in a few days time with the story behind my 'appearance' in the Daily Mail but in the meantime the shop will remain open and despatch of orders will recommence on Monday 29th December.

But for now,

Peace and Goodwill,
Susan xx

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The 1930s: The Decade Between

When I posted The Bright Young Things, I always thought I'd want to write about what came after the Roaring Twenties. We humans like to think of decades as clearly defining cultural or political phenomena, but real life is rarely that clear-cut.

The Roaring Twenties really ended in 1929 with the infamous Wall Street crash. From a cultural point of view, the reaction to the economic downturn is really interesting. People demanded escapism and the result was the rise of glitzy Hollywood musicals (made possible with the invention of "the talkie" in 1927). This Busby Berkeley number from 1933 is incredible: economic woes, American values, risky outfits, imaginative choreography, and an adorable Ginger Rodgers.

I love the contrast between the glitz of Busby Berkeley musicals and the British equivalent. The Gracie Fields musical, Sing as We Go, was written by novelist J.B. Priestley and was the story of a young girl laid off from her work in a mill who decides to go to Blackpool in pursuit of her dreams. Pay attention to Gracie's wonderful jumper in this excerpt!

The two clips make for good companion pieces because they tell the same stories in two different settings. the world was a darker, more uncertain place and people faced real hardship as they were trying to 'make it'.

Fashion was more grown-up as well. The boyish silhouette of the 1920s gave way to a feminine, more fitted look with a high waist and puff sleeves. The young, carefree girl had grown into a hard-working, smart woman and fashion trends reflected that. Tailored ensembles, mid-calf skirts, and form-fitted blouses with detailed neck-lines were all staple wardrobe items. The 1930s also became one of the most exciting ages in which to be a knitter. Jumpers were hugely fashionable and knitting became a way of making fashionable clothes for yourself on a small budget. You can read more about 1930s knitted jumpers in A Stitch in Time, vol. 1! Some of the most cutting edge designs in the book are indeed from the 1930s. Just look at The Rose Jumper with its dramatic neckline and beautiful sleeves coming to points immediately above the cuff.

The most dramatic piece of all has to be Concentrate on the Sleeves with its 'sharks fin' pleats at the top of each, already dramatic, leg o' mutton sleeves.

One of the things I love most about the 1930s is the music. As per usual Hollywood took advantage of new technology and as a result they made many splendid musicals while radio and gramophones made stars of touring "dance band" orchestras. Many "standards" started life as big popular hits in the 1930s: I Got Rhythm (written by George & Ira Gershwin), Cheek to Cheek (written by Irving Berlin), and Begin the Beguine (written by Cole Porter) among others. You also saw the rise of crooners like Bing Crosby (Pennies from Heaven) and a very young Frank Sinatra (Night & Day).

What about literature though? Writers like John Steinbeck, George Orwell, and Ernest Hemingway wrote angry, realist pieces about every-day life, but again you see a lot of escapism. The 1930s were the Golden Age of detective novels with writers like Agatha Christie (whose Miss Marple series started in 1930), Dorothy L. Sayers, and Ngaio Marsh. All wrote genteel mysteries featuring nice and definitely not so nice, middle-class and upper-class people. What better way to assuage the trials of toils of every-day life than curl up a good mystery where the villains eventually are brought to justice? Likewise, it is no coincidence that science-fiction and fantasy began to take off (J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone, and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World were all published in the 1930s) nor that the biggest literary success of the decade was Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind!

Nowadays I think we tend to forget the 1930s a little bit because it was the decade between the Roaring Twenties and the devastation of World War Two. I think it is a fascinating period of time filled with strong women, interesting books, and the start of mass pop culture.

Did I forget your favourite piece of 1930s culture?

for now,
Susan xx

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cecilia's Stranded Knitting Adventure

Last weekend I went on a lovely trip to see my good friend Cecilia, who lives high in the Cumbrian countryside. Cecilia is a spinner and hand dyer of the highest level and she has very kindly (or foolishly) been teaching me to spin. In return, she asked if I would help her improve her stranded knitting skills.

As well as both living on farms and being obsessed with wool and knitting, Cecilia and I have another thing in common. We were both supporters of our mutual friend,  Felicity Ford's 'Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook'.

Helping Cecilia to improve her stranded knitting skills seemed the perfect moment for us also to explore Felix's book and launch Cecilia into a project.

Before I arrived I had set Cecilia some homework based on Felix's book. She was to study her surroundings and choose something around her as the inspiration for her piece of stranded knitting. She was then also to extract the colours from this and create a colour palette from which she would knit.

As a hand dyer inspired by her environment on a daily basis, Cecilia decided to turn things on their heads somewhat and chose a skein of her beautiful hand dyed yarn as her inspiration. This in turn had been inspired by a view by the near by lake early this year. You can read more about Cecilia's processes in this interview on the Wovember blog in 2013.

 She then chose a selection of Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper weight Shetland wool that reflected the colours to be found in the skein.

Felix's book helps you to see the range of colours and patterns in everything around you and then shows you how to take those colours and patterns and turn them into beautiful samples of stranded knitting. I would recommend you looking at Felix's website at just some of the truly amazing images of completed works that people have sent to her.

Felix has herself been using a photo I had taken of my farm, Monkley Ghyll to create the most stunningly, rich swatch. Here it is in progress.

Here is the photo which Felix has used to create this incredible swatch.

And so, once colours had been identified, Cecilia took up her needles and set about learning to create stranded knitting. Sitting at her kitchen table we talked and drank tea oblivious to the day darkening outside; the only sound disturbing us that of Cecilia's two new Old England goats who have been relentlessly trying to escape since coming to live with her.

Initially awkward, the rhythm of working stranded knitting with a colour held in each hand began to make sense and Cecilia's speed and accuracy improved dramatically.  At the end of the day a small but perfectly formed swatch had begun to appear on her needles. Cecilia is going to continue with this and at our next meeting I will hopefully be able to share with you her completed project.

Felix's book is inspirational in the true sense of the word and yet also manages to be fabulously instructional as well, releasing often un-noticed patterns and colour combinations for us to use and admire.

If you haven't already got yourself a copy of the Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook I would highly recommend you do so. Take a walk, look at the everyday things around you and begin to create your own works of knitted art.

Felix's book can be purchased via her website here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Alconleigh - from the Knits for a Cold Climate collection

Folowing on from her incredibly popular design, Clemmie, Tess Young has created Alconleigh for the Knits for a Cold Climate collection. Following on the heels of Nancy, Asthall and Noblesse Oblige the collection is really coming together and there are still more exciting new designs in the works.

Image Copyright Susan Crawford 2014
 Alconleigh is a stylish ensemble of hat and gauntlets heavily influenced by 1920s design. Again knitted in Fenella and with the pattern providing the instructions for both hat and gauntlets. I'll now pass you over to Tess who will tell us more about her design inspirations for this fabulous set:

"When discussing Knits for a Cold Climate with Susan I knew I wanted to design a hat. After all during the 1920s and 30s it would have been considered vulgar by most women, across classes, to leave the house without a hat.

Whilst cloches are often thought synonymous with the 20s, they had already been popular before this point and were far from the only style of hat worn during this period. Many designers produced popular more flamboyant and exotic hats drawing on oriental influences, popular since the opening of Tutankamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922, and Russian embroidery and styles brought to western Europe by those fleeing the 1917 Revolution.

What was more consistent in the 1920s was the way in which hats were worn; deep or low over the head to frame the face, itself a canvas for the new trend in striking make-up.  However, the trend for fuller more glamorous hairdos, demi-waves and perms in the 1930s saw hats softening, pushed back a little, and brims broadening.

And of course, along with hats went matching gloves.  Day dresses tended to be worn with short gloves and evening dresses with long gloves.

In terms of colour, Paul Poiret set the trend reintroducing vivid colours in his collections in the 1920s and these stronger colours replaced Edwardian pastels. Colour was also used in bold blocks reflecting the influence of the cubists and fauvists on textile design and fashion during the 1920s.

Drawing on these influences the Alconleigh hat uses deep stripes or blocks of myristica and myrtle separated by accents of Jonquil, a favourite of Poirets. It has a deep hemmed brim, and gentle folds achieved by changing needle size between the colourwork and plain sections. This is topped off by a striking colourwork crown which can be worn to the back or at a jaunty angle to the side. Alconleigh frames the face just as I hoped it would and this makes it a very flattering hat to wear.

Image Copyright Susan Crawford 2014
 The gloves similarly have a hemmed cuff and folds along the forearm and can be worked pulled up of with gentle ruches. The colourwork on the hands reflect that on the crown of the hat.

Image Copyright Susan Crawford 2014
Image Copyright Susan Crawford 2014

Alconleigh is named for the setting of much of Mitford’s 1945 novel, The Pursuit of Love , the first of the trilogy that includes Love in a Cold Climate and The Blessing. The novel begins with its narrator Fanny recalling childhood Christmases at Alconleigh. The fictional Alconleigh is largely based on Asthall Manor (link to Susan’s post) home of the Mitfords in the early 1920s. It does not receive the most sympathetic treatment in the novel, the house reflecting the character of its inhabitants, or perhaps its Lord, Uncle Matthew or Lord Alconleigh, a loud, crass, bullying, blood sports enthusiast. It would be tempting to suggest that he is a parody of a particular element of the aristocracy of the time, but actually he seems to be a rather close representation of Mitford’s own father and there are parallels with the Mitford family biography throughout the novel. Alconleigh is described as both metaphorically and literally cold and a warm hat and gauntlets would be equally suitable for wear in both the house and across the estate!"

Image Copyright Susan Crawford 2014

Pattern details:

You can buy the PDF  pattern from the Susan Crawford shop here


You can buy the pattern from Ravelry here. (You do not need to be a member of ravelry to make a purchase from the site.)

The PDF pattern costs £4

You can also purchase or take a look at all the possible colour combinations of Fenella on the shop here and a kit will also be available from my shop here. Check

Materials Required:

Hat Only (in 4 sizes to fit 46, 51, 56, 61cm, 18, 20, 22, 24 in.)
1 (1, 2, 2) skeins of shade Myristica
1 (1, 1, 2) skein of shade Myrtle
1 (1, 1, 1) skein of shade Jonquil

Gauntlets Only (in 2 sizes, medium & large ladies hand)
2 (2) skeins of shade Myristica
1 (2) skein of shade Myrtle
1 (1) skein of shade Jonquil

Hat and Gauntlets
3 skeins of shade Myristica
2 (2, 2, 3) skeins of shade Myrtle
1 skein of shade Jonquil

Needles and Notions Needed:

Set of 2.75mm (US 2) double pointed needles or 40cm (16in) circular needle
Set of 3.25mm (US 3) double pointed needles (gauntlets only)
Set of  of 3.75mm (US 5) double pointed needles or 40cm (16in) circular needle (hat only)
2 Stitch markers
for now,
Susan xx

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Noblesse Oblige - and a little something about Language

Noblesse Oblige is the latest pattern in the 'Knits for A Cold Climatecollection.

And I am extremely excited to announce that it is designed by my good friend and collaborator, the extremely talented designer, Karie Westermann. Karie is not only a marvel at designing but has an incredible knowledge about the English language. When we decided on the name for this design it seemed to make perfect sense that its name would therefore be Noblesse Oblige.

I would now like to pass you over to Karie to tell you a little more about her fabulous design:

"When I was given the design brief by Susan, I knew I wanted to use the wonderful colour range in Fenella. Inspired by my recent forays into knitting archives, I began sketching Fair Isle bands but it was not until I uncovered a photo of a 1930s knitting pattern that I decided upon the colour scheme. The jumper is charming, but I fell in love with the red/green/yellow motif. Could I use these colours in a more traditional setting?

After several attempts, I hit upon a 1930s inspired hat and scarf using that red/green/yellow combination, but also tempered by a soft porcelain blue and a delightful creamy white. The jaunty beret features two Fair Isle bands that counteract each other to create a sense of dynamism.

The scarf comes in three sizes - you can make it a neckerchief, a small scarf or a full-sized shawl. To optimise knitting pleasure, the scarf does not use Fair Isle bands but features narrow stripes in a colour sequence that calls back to the beret. After much discussion, Susan and I agreed that small, felted pompoms would add a delightful finishing touch.

Naming the pattern was harder. I wanted to use one of Nancy Mitford's book titles, but neither Christmas Pudding nor Pigeon Pie seemed appropriate! Finally, Noblesse Oblige seemed to suggest itself - it is a collection of essays and I rather enjoyed Nancy Mitford's essay on the English language. So, Noblesse Oblige. A lovely hat and scarf set. I hope you will enjoy knitting it.

But let's talk about Nancy Mitford's essay briefly.

Found in Noblesse Oblige, "The English Aristocracy" is her most famous essay. Nancy Mitford had recently read an academic article by a British linguist and was inspired to write her own examination of how the British upper class ("U") and the middle class ("non-U") spoke. The essay is very much of its time - apparently only non-U people would speak of telephones! - but that is also part of its appeal. It is a snapshot of a world in transition where old notions of class and importance are slowly eroding. It is particularly interesting to compare Mitford's essay to Grayson Perry's TV documentaries about Class in Britain. The economic barriers between the classes may have eroded, but cultural markers such as language and taste have not.

"The English Aristocracy" is an early example of what we know today as sociolinguistics. A "sociolect" is a type of language associated with one socioeconomic class, age group or gender. The British 1990s sit-com Keeping Up Appearances uses Mitford's little U vs non-U markers and sociolects to great comic effect. The main protagonist, Hyacinth Bucket, insists her surname is pronounced Bouquet, and she keeps grasping at big, fancy words in her attempt to sound more refined (something Mitford notes is the true mark of a social climber - why use the word "lavatory" when "loo" is perfectly adequate?). The underlying class anxiety so evident in Mitford's 1950s essay is very much visible even forty and fifty years on.

If you have half an hour to spare, I suggest you read Mitford's little essay in Noblesse Oblige - I assure you that you will notice amusing little things about how you and the people around you speak."

Thank you so much Karie for sharing the thought processes behind your design with us.

Now for the important pattern details:

You can buy the PDF  pattern from the Susan Crawford shop here


You can buy the pattern from Ravelry here. (You do not need to be a member of ravelry to make a purchase from the site.)

The PDF pattern costs £4

You can also purchase or take a look at all the possible colour combinations of Fenella on the shop
here  and a kit will also be available from my shop here.

Materials Required:

Beret Only (both sizes)
1 skein each of shades Myrtle, Atomic Red, Chalk, Jonquil, Porcellana
Neckerchief/Scarflette/Shawl Only
1 (2, 3) skeins of shade Myrtle 1 skein each of shades Atomic Red, Chalk, Jonquil and Porcellana
Beret plus Neckerchief/Scarflette/Shawl
2 (3, 4) skeins of shade Myrtle 

1 skein each of shades Atomic Red, Chalk, Jonquil and Porcellana

Needles and Notions Needed
Set of 2.25mm (US 1) double pointed needles 

Set of 3mm (US 2) double pointed needles 

1 pair of 3mm (US 2) needles or 3mm circular needle 

Stitch markers 
Pom pom maker or small piece of cardboard

I hope you'll agree with me that this is a truly beautiful ensemble. Later this week I will share my blocking tips for the beret and also how I made the felted pom poms.

for now,
Susan xx