Sunday, 26 February 2012

Vintage knitting patterns - 'Bedjacket'

Deep in the horde of knitting patterns I 'inherited' on Friday, was a little pattern booklet from what looks like the late 1950's, perhaps the early 1960's. The patterns are for two bed-jackets - basically, loose, lacey cardigans that could be worn in the evening or before going to bed. I love these types of patterns, because the shapes are fairly neutral and the patterns themselves often employ nicer lace and more complex shaping than the cardigans of the time.

Anyway, I've decided to try and knit one of these two patterns as a cardigan for spring and summer. 

Here's a picture of the one I've chosen

She appears to be preparing to swallow a whole humbug with a finger of scotch. Great days, the 1950's.
Minus the ribbon that's a nice little cardigan! It's knitted sideways for the lower section, then the yoke is picked up from the side of the body. Sleeves are knitted seperately, cuff-up, and sewn on after. The bottom of the main peice, both fronts and the neck are edged in picot, which is picked up and knittd from the edge of the body.

The pattern calls for 4-ply yarn, in both a fuzzy and a smooth type. I'm considerng my options, but I may go for King Cole Haze, allegedly a DK but feeling much finer, in 'Pewter', which is a pale warm grey. 

The main issue, as always with vintage patterns, is the size. This pattern is one size for a 35" bust, but the open front helps, as does my choice of DK yarn. Of course, the pattern's knit sideways so there's lots of room for adjustment by including extra repeats across the front and body. it's designed to be long on the body, so the depth is not a problem - around 21" from shoulder-seam to hem seemed fine on me. 

I've made notes on the pattern, translated the odd terms, and created a new chart for the lace - I hate knitting written directions for lace, espeically when they use obsolete terms. You can download a copy here, if you're so inclined;


Vintage knitting patterns - part 1

I had a wonderful present brought over by my mother-in-law on Friday night; a huge box of buttons, a bag of fabric, lots and lots of reels of cotton and, the best part, around fifty vintage knitting patterns.

All of these came from the house of a relative of Mr Mongoose's who passed away rather suddenly towards the end of last year. From what I know she had been a knitter for her family, like many women of her generation, and a serious hoarder. As I picked through her wonderful collection of buttons, I could see she really did save anything she thought might be useful - pins, thumb-tacks, hooks and eyes and buckles, as well as all those beautiful buttons. There were no knitting-needles or equipment, sadly, perhaps she had already handed them on to her daughter or a friend when she'd not been comfortable knitting any more.

I sewed myself some project bags and needle-holders using the beautful sewing-cotton she'd saved, neatly stored in 1950's or 60's flat plastic organisers, ordered by colour. She may have saved things, but she was also neat and orderly and everything was carefully reeled and the threads tucked in so nothing became tangled over time. Looking at her patterns, she may have started knitting properly in the late 1940's, so perhaps her experiance of post-war Britain left her with the abiding feeling that nothing must ever be wasted, just in case.

On to the wonderful knitting patterns!

Most of them are pattern booklets, with two or three patterns in each, like the one I'm going to share with you. There are some clipped from magazines and some bigger collections, such as the 'Woolcraft' guide (price 9d!).

This gem includes patterns for most objects a knitter might make at that time - a babies layette, mens socks, gloves, tank-top and jersey, jerseys and gloves for children, and women's cardigans. Most inruiging are the multiple sock types in the big pattern book - five differant heels, and lots of sizes. I had the impression sock-knitting was a dying art in the second half of the 20th century; perhaps this booklet dates to the years just after the second world war, when hand-knitted socks were a necessity. It's got a declaration on the back page that it is produced 'in complete conformity with the Authorised Economy Standards', so it may have been when rationing was still in place. Here's some pictures pages, below.

In the post above you can find another vintage pattern from this hoard; a pattern for a late 1950's / early 1960's bed-jacket that I hope I can knit up to a nice light cardigan. I've included a modern chart for the lace, and 'translated' some of the directions.

Pictures from 'Woolcraft' booklet - c 1946

Sunday, 19 February 2012


I've been having fun over the last few weeks learning to dye yarn using Kool-Aid, which is great fun, but the, they can lack subtlety! So today, I experimented with dyeing using onion-skins, which we have quite a lot of at the moment. Here's what happened, and the result.

I peeled the outer skin off the onions (the papery part)  and ended up with about this much;

I used my largest pan to boil them in about 4 pints of tap water - they were at a high rolling boil for just over half-an-hour, and the water turned a lovely - and misleading! - shade of red;

Dye ready to use

I let the pan simmer and then cool a little for another 15 minutes. I then divided the dye into two pans, to one of which I added about 1/4 of a cup of vinegar. Vinegar - or any acid - in the dyebath is supposed to move the possible colour towards red, which sounded interesting.

My yarn was unmordanted 2-ply sport weight merino, which I'd soaked for about 40 minutes and then squeezed most of the water out - it was damp, but not dripping.

I added one skein to the big pan, the unmordanted mixture, first, then a second skein to the mordanted mix. I left then for ten minutes at a brisk simmer, then added another skein to the big pan. Surprisingly, after fifteen minutes the mortanted dye had completely exhausted! I drained and rinsed the skein in water, and hung it in the bathroom.

Vinegar mordanted yarn after only 15 minutes!

After another twenty minutes bubbling away, I took out the two unmordanted skeins from the big plan. Surprise again; this dyebath had not exhausted! So I drained and rinsed the skeins, and added another skein to the big unmordanted bath to see if I could exhaust it. It's been simmering for 30 minutes now, and although the yarn is now golden, the dyebath is still not clear!

Anyway, here are the results - the colours are very soft and rather gently varied, because of the variable heat in different parts of the pan, I assume.

From left to right; skein one, in the bath the longest; skein two, same bath, five minutes later; skein three, vinegar in the bath.

The colours IRL are a soft golden-yellow, much nicer than the picture, fading to a fawn and a dark golden brown in places. The vinegar mordant has had little effect, just a slight cast to peach, although I'm sure it will be more detectable in daylight.It's also hard to show the variation in each skein in false light like this, but it's really nice. Going to be awesome to knit with!

The fourth skein isn't show here because it's still rinsing out - it's a butter-colour, quite like the middle skein.

After that little experiment, I've ordered myself a paperback copy of Jenny Dean's 'Wild Colour' to see what else is possible.

And you know what the very best thing is?  My kitchen doesn't smell of Kool-Aid.

Here I am!

Well, everything got derailed this winter, thanks to a new job and a whole slew of horrible health problems. But I'm back now, for the moment at least ; )

Azalea is still bubbling along - I'm on the first test-knit of the new pattern now, along with some tweaking of the sizings to allow for a wider range of people, and a new button-band.

Unfortunately the pattern book I have been planning has been put on hold until I'm feeling more 'with it', although the majority of the small patterns are done. I may decide to just post these as patterns on Rav and let people have them for free or nearly-free, so that they can at least see the light of day!