Saturday, February 02, 2013

I Say, Have You Done Something Jolly With Your Yarn?

Having a frustrating time of it, kids.

I have been knitting and writing and drawing myself into a froth, but most of it is for clients–which means no show and tell until the clients do the showing, at which point I can do the telling.

I can show you yarn, though. I've started a Tumblr feed called Yarn Shaming. I love yarn, you love yarn, but yarn does not always love us back, does it? The feed is a place where the occasionally ugly truth can be aired.

Speaking of ugly truths, I reached a point in my workroom where the options were either to clean the place out or to brick up the doorway and pretend it was never there. City real estate prices being what they are, I settled upon the former.

After two months of digging, tossing, and organizing I can see the top of the desk and the bottom of the Orphaned Yarns bin. I also slotted upwards of 100 million loose knitting patterns into binders.

For somebody who uses patterns as little as I do, I've acquired more than my fair share of them–mostly old, and mostly (thanks to a very, very generous reader in England) British.

The English Bequest (which how I like to think of it, even though the donor is only sweet and not deceased) now has its own set of binders.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I'm a museum-quality Anglomaniac and even the scent of these leaflets–a bewitching combination of damp, printer's ink, and coal smoke–was enough to make my heart beat out the bass line of "Jerusalem."

They're all mid-1960s or earlier (I don't collect anything newer than that).

Some of them I love for their very mid-century English take on boudoir allure, like this glamourpuss in handknit lingerie made from Lavenda, a fine wool produced by Lister & Co. of Bradford.

lavenda-vest

Lister's promise at the time was "Distinctive and Charming Results." If you ask me, they nailed it.

On the masculine side, you have rugged numbers like this:

femina-mens-cardi

Butchy McPipesmoker's cardigan was made from Femina Botany by Bairns-Wear Yarns of Nottingham. The company placed a marvelously reassuring message on the back of the pattern:

bairns-difficulty

There's something about the blue ink and the upright typeface that says, "We're sure to beat Hitler, madam, so certainly we can help you to figure out your sleeve cap."

But my favorite pattern covers are those that display quintessentially English people doing terribly, terribly English things, like sitting on the hearthrug toasting crumpets in the fireplace.

sirdar-crumpets

Patons and Baldwins, Ltd. produced my favorite works in this genre. I am unable to so much as glance at them without beginning to spin elaborate Blightycentric fantasies.

These small leaflets ought properly to be viewed while Vera Lynn sings "There'll Always Be an England," so chuck this on the Victrola before you scroll down.

Mrs. Armstrong and her daughter, Judy, put together a jigsaw puzzle because this is not America, Judy darling, and we won't be able to afford a television until the mid-sixties. Judy will be arrested for setting fire to a crocheted effigy of Margaret Thatcher during a Poll Tax riot in 1990.

puzzle-sweaters


After an exhausting day at St. Winifred's Comprehensive School in Thwack, Enid Ormerod and brother Christopher Robin play at skittles on the green. (See "no television," above.)

kids-skittles


Meanwhile, at No. 16 Canterbury Close, Surbiton, young Susan White-Hamilton and her Aunt Gwladys catch a glimpse of their neighbor, Colonel Anstruther, through that gap in the hedge. The Colonel's rather eccentric routine of morning exercises–a practice he acquired while stationed in Cyprus–are a subject of much neighborhood interest.

garden-sweaters

 

Lifelong friends Gertrude Antrobus and Edith Moffatt, of Windy Cottage, Muckleford, Hants., rejoice at the successful performance of their champion Setter bitch, Vita's Furry Delight, at the county dog show.

paddock-ladies

 

Modern technology unites, rather than divides, the generations.  Jane Pilkington of Royal Tunbridge Wells uses her portable wireless to revel in the song stylings of Mr Jagger and his Rolling Stones; while mother Constance listens in to "Mrs Dale's Diary" and learns that Mrs Dale has been worried about Jim lately.


radio-ladies
 

And down at the Fox and Grapes, Alf and Reg exchange the latest village news along with subtle, but meaningful, brushes of arm and thigh.

pub-sweaters

Oh, Britannia. You rule.

90 comments:

Tiggywinkleknits said...

I'm first? Really? That NEVER happens!

I love the old patterns, too; I have a bunch from grandmothers and great-grandmothers. But my true gems are the old needles and notions. Stitch counters, darning eggs, yarn holders; those are what draws me in the flea markets.

Dorothy Neville said...

I have 17 skeins of Lavenda and can't figure out what to do with it. I would love some tips of the suggested gauges and needle size from the booklet. It is an unusual yarn.

Wendy Parkinson said...

Brilliant. Love the commentary on the old patterns.

I was fascinated to find out that there used to be a knitting wool manufacturer here in Nottingham, so I did a quick search. Thought you might be interested in this - http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/Sidney-Shepherd-war-hero-turned-business-leader/story-16096224-detail/story.html. Looks like you were right - he sounds like a guy who wasn't going to be phased by a wonky sleeve cap.

Franklin said...

Dorothy, that's marvelous. The cami-knickers pattern calls for 7 ozs (for the knickers) and 5 ozs (for the vest) of Lavenda, at a gauge of 7 sts and 9 rows to the inch in stockinette. Fits a 34-36 inch bust. Feel like knitting yourself some lacy nothings?

Shira said...

HILARIOUS! Thank you!!

m1k1 said...

Wendy, I enjoyed the Nottingham article immensely. I could definitely hear the appropriate Newsreel music playing in my head as I read it.
Franklin... you're brilliant, in case that needed affirming.

KTE said...

Crumpets and Jerusalem. Suddenly it feels like Christmas around here - all I need is a glass of sherry and the Queen beginning her address with 'my husband and I...'
One of my fave pub names was the Slug and Lettuce.
Thanks Franklin. Another wonderful read. Pip-pip.

annie said...

Yes indeed...brilliant! I think Gertrude and Edith are possibly related to Miss Marple (Margaret Rutherford depiction abeit neater). I want to see more patterns and stories!

Sarah said...

Wonderful! Is it just me or does it seem that Gertrude and Edith easily dispatched with any Nazis that may have wandered into their village? They seem like butt-kickers to me.

Marisa said...

Is your pattern patron(ess) from Ripon? THE Ripon?? I noticed two of the patterns are stamped with what looks like that town's name. Or was that implied with the post title? :)

Brenda said...

A pattern for hand knit camiknickers! I almost want to knit them, but I think wool lingerie in California might be a bit too toasty.

birch7 said...

I do own two beautiful old books from around 1934 with patterns for both men and womens knitted underwear and also for children. One book was given to me by my Mum the other I can't remember where I bought it from BUT to me they are priceless

FiberQat said...

Little did people know but that Mrs Armstrong was the long lost twin sister of Susan White-Hamilton, divided at infancy during the Great White Sale at Mark & Spencers when Honoria was snatched from her pram by a war widow who lost her child to a doodlebug.

Sara said...

Hilarious! You made me CHOKE on my midnight snack - a scone, of course!

Tig said...

If you ask me they should have knitted something to cover that poor child Enid's knock knees!

I still have the old Patons & Baldwins booklet from which my grandmother knitted wool vests for my brother (with buttons) and me (with a little drawstring) until I struck c. 1966. I did forgive her. But I didn't do it to my daughter.

TracyC611 said...

More more more - please!

maltese parakeet said...

you could make a tumblr out of this stuff, too. brilliant!

knit one, knit two said...

Enid and Christopher look like Kate Hudson and Toby Maguire. Hilarious post!

Pretty Knitty said...

OMGosh! Beyween Downton Abbey and these vintage knits, now I simply must journey to jolly old England! Which one are you going to knit first, Franklin?

jamesdotca said...

If you ever decide to start a knitwear blog of the... adult persuasion, you should definitely call it "Vita's Furry Delights." You nearly had me choking on my oatmeal with that one!

Kate said...

Franklin,
Not sure which is the best but I think lifelong friends might be.

One of your best.
Following your tumblr too

Isabella

Gwyn said...

Oh...my..goodness. Thank you, you've sent me off to work with a smile. And possibly a smirk.

mlb said...

Thank you for helping me start my Sunday with a big smile!

Lizardknits said...

The sizes are listed in inches - not centimeters? What gives?

Daisy said...

Is that a tissue Gertrude is surreptitiously tucking in her pocket or a betting slip?

C.M. said...

I don't even knit, but now I envy you your collection of patterns. This was brilliant.

petoskystone said...

This post gave me a lovely boost of energy, which is sorely needed thanks to tending to a sicky 2yrold grandchild. Thank you :) Now that your patterns are in orderly binders, have you posted a warning threatening disembowlment if any rearrange them?

Lizz said...

You've just made me realize why I can never find sweater patterns that I like for my boyfriend and I...I'm looking in the wrong time period. We were both born about 40 years later than we ought to have been. Thanks for bringing that back to my attention.

Miss Sandra Gordon said...

Is it me or does Butchy McPipesmoker look like a very young Patrick Macnee?

famousthecat said...

What lovely pattern booklet covers! That first lady - MEOW! And her nightie reminds me of a pattern I have in my Ravelry queue. :)

I have a bunch of hand-me-down pattern booklets from my 80-year-old grandmother, who used to knit. You've inspired me to pull them out a take a gander.

Gail said...

ah, the Poll Tax Riots. I was in London when those occurred ...

and in a far nicer light - the archivist where I work presented me with a small notebook, in which someone wrote knitting patterns along with the dates ... have to begin translating. The dates are all 1895-1920 ish. I smell the next exhibition ....

Anonymous said...

Your title alone would reel me in, but the photos and your captions are priceless. I love Gertrude and Edith!
-- stashdragon (who did something jolly with her hair just two days ago)

Sally said...

Please, sir, can we have another? (Or ten?)

drMolly, the BeanQueen said...

Oh & I agree with Sally - MORE please.

Mmmmmmmm I love this. I have some old patterns, too although they are from the states. One of them has similar lovely undergarments.

Thanks Franklin!

Dorothy Neville said...

Thanks for the gauge information. Evidently there are several Lavendas. When I stashed this on ravelry there was nothing from Lister there. Mine is double crepe and that gauge seems about right (there's no yardage or gauge info on label). It's a fascinating crepe construction and I think it would make great camisole.

Also, the other night I saw a local improv group perform "Austen Translation" which you would have adored. Except all the shawls were woven. Not one performer was wearing a knit. Hmpph.

Emily said...

Oh, I live for your posts...and I'm old enough to remember this type of pattern. Just finished Connie Willis's two novels set in England during the war, so I'm there, I'm there.

NeedleDancer said...

The patterns are delightful, to be sure. And the music (in an American accent, how odd), certainly adds something, but your captions...
your captions are priceless!

(and, when you're next casting about for a pattern to write, I'd vote for updating that lingerie. It's the first knitted lingerie design I've seen that I think I'd actually knit!)

jengolightly said...

Franklin, we had a fabulous day together but since you came to Loop and taught us how to decipher antique patterns I now have a serious obsession with collecting vintage bedjacket leaflets. Never been happier!

jenann said...

ERROR!!!!
Young Enid and her brother, Christopher Robin would be most unlikely to attend St. Winnifred's Comprehensive School! In the 60s we were entered for our first public exams in the year that we would reach 11 years old - called the 11+ examination, it decided your fate from the age of 11 onwards. Those who 'passed,' went to grammar schools and those who 'failed' (about 80%of the child population) went to secondary modern schools and most left at the age of 15 to begin working.
Almost all schools for over 11 year olds were single sex, so CR would have been at a wonderful all male establishment with lots of sport followed by cold, communal showers and lots of woodwork, metal work and the occasional English or maths class. Unless, of course, he was in the highest 20% of ability when he would have swatted away at those wonderful, useful subjects such as religious education, Latin, pure mathematics, astronomy etc. with a daily dose of sport followed by communal cold showers.
His sister would have been taught 'how to run a home on a very tight budget and save up for a television,' drawing vases of flowers and not much else of any use, unless she was considered bright, in which case she would have followed a similar grammar school curriculum to her brother, but with the odd round (very odd, in the case of my grammar school) of lessons in how awful men are, lampshade making, and baby clothing embroidery. She, being destined to marry well, would be taught how to wire a plug in case the television her husband would buy for her blew a fuse whilst he happened to be running the world. She would learn this in something called General Studies which I studied but never quite worked out what it was for or even what it was about.....
This was how the class divide was maintained. 80% 'failed' at age 11 and went into factories or worked in Woolworth when they reach 15. 20% put up with enforced academia - even if they hated it because - well, because we could - who cares what children want to do? There reward came as adults who worked in the civil service, clergy or military if male. Girls could look forward to organizing dinner parties and having babies.
The age differential was kept alive by means of retouched knitting pattern photos. Women under 40 must be slim, as in some of your pictures, women over 40 must immediately pile on the pounds.
To be sure a man was a true adult male, rather than a spotty teenager masquerading as a man, he must wear knitted cardigans on the days when he wasn't wearing a three piece suit, and smoke a pipe. (My father wore a tweed suit when on the beach, this was his day-off-from-the -office-but-not-at-home clothing, I never saw him in his shirt sleeves and he would have been suicidal at the idea of a t-shirt).
We Brits are a little eccentric, to say the least, and were much more so 50 years ago. Ah, this happy breed..!

Liz said...

While I'm catching my breath from a bout of laughter, I'll let you in on the existence of my own private stash of vintage knitting patterns, inherited from my grandmother and covering the period from WW1 (the Red Cross knitters' book) through to the end of the 50s. I don't think Granny knitted anything after about 1960. This being Canada, Patons was available everywhere (back then the quality of the wool was excellent), and we lived in a sort of cultural halfway house between Brittania and America. We still do, even if the original Patons has long since disappeared. Tea rules over coffee.

biographiadomestica said...

Gertrude and Edith are marvellous! I imagine their cupboards are full of cruet sets and copies of Mrs Beeton.

SecondStory Loft said...

That first outfit is really cute, even by today's standards.

sheepr4knitting said...

Didn't the header read something different when this post initially came out..."Merrie Olde England ... Knitting Patterns" or some such? Or should I start my Aricept regimen early??
Hilarious.

Donice said...

Loved this post! And loved "Aunt Gwladys" since I am a Wodehouse fan. I've been reading your blog for a long time, but think this is my first comment.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you for finding this lovely photograph of my great aunt Enid Ormerod and her brother Christopher Robin- from deepest Lancashire!
Seriously,this post made my day. I have deeply ingrained memories of the old knitting books that were lying around my house growing up- I do regret letting my mother to get rid of them.
I recently acquired 3 ounces of "antique" Beehive Botany Wool String in a lovely deep red. Anyone have any idea what one would do with it? (My only inspiration is some sort of string bag for going to the market in the High Street only there isn't one where I live)

=Tamar said...

Knit the red string bag anyway, and use it to hold onions. Or yarn. I like the green sweater in the #3 pattern, but there's something odd about the bust shading.

Julia Thom said...

HA HA HA HA HA HA.....
YOU nailed it!!

knitmearchive said...

Oh, ha! ha! as some bluff fellow might say. Actually, little-known fact: that is NOT Constance Pilkington with her wireless, it is Margaret Thatcher when she had a better hairdresser.

Meg said...

Brilliant! The only thing better than the British is Franklin Habit's observation of them. I was particularly taken with your vignette of Judy, who will grow up to burn a crocheted effigy of Margaret Thatcher in a poll tax riot in 1990.

When I'm lucky enough to get my hands on a vintage pattern, the first thing I look for is a stamp from the shop that sold it, visible in one of your cover shots. I wonder what's there now?

Thank you!

Carie said...

Love the stereotyping; I think I may have worn several incarnations of Enid's cardigan in my younger days all lovingly knitted by my great aunt.

JoAnn said...

Yet another gift to us all. What a treasure you are. I linked over to YouTube for the songs but found myself all choked up for Winston Churchill's funeral when the cranes dipped in salute (just like in 1965).

karen alho said...

Wrong Franklin! It's "Franklin Rules". Laughing out loud!

BTW, I'm too, too delighted1351 that Vista won at the dog show.

Ven said...

Thanks to you I've been seriously contemplating making knitted underwear and other vintage items of clothing and have spent the last hour finding patterns. If you don't know the site you should have a look at www.vintageknittinglady.co.uk for some more beauties, including a wonderful Coats pattern for cotton string vests, marketed as 'Health Vests'.

Ven said...

Sorry, that was supposed to be www.thevintageknittinglady.co.uk

Sue Smith said...

Thank you for the lunchtime laughs! I loved the patterns covers and your running commentary. I have several older patterns (dating to the 1940s) from my husband's Aunt Ida Dell Smith (I love that - Ida Dell). Every now and then I toy with making one - perhaps I shall, now. Thanks again, Franklin!

lincannon said...

Loved the fun comments on the pictures. I am glad to see someone else has "flights of fancy." They were all so "appropo."
Someone pinned your Yarn Shaming on Pinterest ad of course I had to repin. Loved loved it.

Jade Falcon said...

Oh my. Your captions are brilliant!

Jade Falcon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

SO funny! Love this!

Nancy said...

Is it wrong that I heard Jim Dale reading every single one of those in my head?

localandbespoke.com said...

Laughing AND speechless!

I found a 1950s Paton's leaflet recently with a pattern for bathing trunks, advertising their superior qualities... presumably until water is applied.

I say, it's a little chilly to swim in England, isn't it?

But then I'm from the antipodes, AKA the colonies.

Tracy said...

Brilliant. My mum has just given me all her patterns which date from the early 60's onwards and I absolutely love them :)

Anonymous said...

Very, very funny! - especially with the recommended musical accompaniment.

Helen said...

Franklin, you should move to England.

I heard all the captions read in a 1950's BBC Announcer Voice - all clipped and over-elocuted :-)

Amy S. said...

Franklin, these are wonderful. And the thing is, the patterns are so classic, they'd really be knittable today. I love that v-neck pullover. . .

MerryBrown said...

You sir, deserve a special award for this post! I have come back to it several times and really can't stop laughing!

Sharon Rose said...

I love your brain, oh so much!

Martha0051 said...

Gwladys, indeed. Running, not walking, to the Wodehouse bookshelf.
Thanks!

Barbara said...

I would love to have heard you singing Jerusalem... I love the old knitting patterns from the 1950s and earlier. (And I have been sorting the huge collection belonging to the Knitting & Crochet Guild - 22,000 different leaflets recorded so far. So I have had plenty of opportunity to enjoy them.) The little scenes are great - toasting crumpets by the fire on a toasting fork take me back to my childhood.

Patti said...

I LOVE the yarn shaming. Its about time bad yarn was exposed for what it really is!

Anonymous said...

Have you read the Georgette Heyer Regencies? I picked up my first one because the cover compared her to Jane Austin. Jane is more tongue-in-cheek; Georgette more LOL--but both convert readers into anglophiles.

www.huggiedoeshomespun.wordpress.com said...

Is it me, or is there something about those skittles that is all a bit ...... ahem...s&x toy-esque

deemallon said...

you are hilARious! I love the covers, and even more, your imagined scenarious ('The Fox and Grapes' indeed!)... I share the horrible mess thing (with fabric - only two bins of yarn) and really (sigh) have to get back to it. Just this summer I curblisted (FREE FABRIC) on Craigslist EIGHT huge garbage barrel sized bags of cloth (all of it taken before garbage day, I'm happy to report), but it needs doing again. Do you think fiber propagates when we're not looking?!

woolwinding said...

They are a true joy.

Thank you so much for sharing, from this Brit (I have my own quite delicious collection, but have never, ever managed to find one with anybody toasting crumpets, though I do have a frankly worrying one of men in balaclavas - but you rule)...

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant! Love the patterns, and your descriptions are spot on!8400

Blue Dragon Arts said...

I love your sense of humor (wink wink nudge nudge)...not to mention getting to see some very cool retro patterns!

Fiber Ninja said...

You're killing me with the snappy and clever commentary that accompanies the booklet photos. Just not comfortable to laugh and have a cracked rib.

Jayne said...

so glad to see your words on the page-could not stop laughing at the commentary, pictures really do speak a thousand words don't they! thanks so much for the giggles

Anonymous said...

Oh Franklin, You, dear chap, rule....

Anonymous said...

Oh Franklin, dear chap, You rule!

bethan said...

I love the retro patterns. I am addicted to buying them at the moment, us Brits clearly have always been very stylish ;-)

sowandsew said...

Those are splendid! And the captions even more so. They remind me of a series of greetings cards based on vintage patterns. I had this one on my knitting folder:
http://www.cathtatecards.com/cards/retro_humour/wild_life_tinged_with_anarchy/

but this one is probably my favourite:

http://www.cathtatecards.com/cards/retro_humour/manhood/

Anonymous said...

If you like the idea of knitted knickers, or should I say panties, check out the film 'Sightseers', it was released last summer in the UK and I'm not sure that it would have had a theatrical release in the USA but I'm sure you could find it on DVD or the web, you'll never be able to think of hand knit undergarments again without laughing/cringing.
Best wishes from London and thanks for the giggle
Sx

Linda said...

I am so sorry it took me two weeks to get to this. I could have been laughing for all 14 days - much as I will be for the next 14. These are my relatives you are describing, including Alf and Reg, so perfectly. Geeze Louise, that is funny.

Unknown said...

Your title is Perfect!

Jules said...

My first visit to this blog. I shall be back for more! Brilliant.

idiosyncratic eye said...

Brilliant! What worries me though is that patterns haven't changed much. Although we now have television. :)

Phoebe said...

I hope, hope, hope you know about the Mapp and Lucia novels by E.F. Benson. Out of print but look around on Abebooks. Endless and joyous hours of British nuttiness await.

honeybee said...

Enid Ormerod looks a bit knock-kneed to me...maybe I'm wrong. I hope!

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