Sunday, 20 March 2016

Irish crochet

Irish crochet collar
On Thursday I spent a lovely evening visiting the Huddersfield branch of the Knitting and Crochet Guild for their monthly meeting. This month the topic was Irish crochet, something that I knew very little about. I was looking forward to learning more about it and excited to see some samples of work.

Some of the photos are a little shadowy, I was taking them with my phone camera, standing around a table with several others, casting our shadows all over the place. All the pieces are very delicate and have to be handled wearing cotton gloves so you can't mess about with them too much just to get a perfect photo!


Irish crochet developed in the early 1800s in rural Ireland which, at this time, was poverty stricken. The crochet was done in people's homes and sold as a way to make an income. This was especially true during the Potato Famine. The Ursuline nuns taught women and girls the skills they needed as they recognised that women needed a way to make an income.

These are the tools of the trade, very fine cotton or linen thread and crochet hooks with a hook so tiny that it is very difficult to see.


This is the first piece of work that was shown to us. It is an open coat/gown and we all thought it was very fine, until we saw the next few pieces which showed what really fine work actually looked like!

Irish crochet consists of motifs, like the bunch of grapes which you can see at the bottom centre of the above picture, which are then connected together by a mesh or net to form lace. The motifs may be made by many different people, collated and then joined together to form a garment.

Apparently, families kept close guard of their motif patterns, making sure that any crochet work was out of sight when visitors called!

Irish crochet differs from traditional crochet which is usually formed of rows or rounds.


This is an old and delicate pattern book. The front section explains how to make the motifs and gives some patterns for them. The back consists of patterns which fold out, showing how to put the motifs together to make the collar, cuffs, jabot, trims etc that are desired.


This is a photograph from inside the book of a cuff and collar set.


This is the pattern layout for the set, showing the motifs that is is made up of. The motifs would be stitched to the pattern and the spaces in-between filled with very fine crochet mesh. The finished item is then removed from the paper.


This is it in close up so that the intricate detail is clear.


This is the cuff pattern. You can see that it is simpler but is made of the same motifs as the collar.


This is probably a cuff, not the same as the pattern above. This is such a fine piece of work, look at the tiny bunches of grapes.


I enjoyed looking through this delicate French pattern book as it had lots of amazing motifs in it.


This pretty butterfly.


These lovely cyclamen.


Fabulous tennis rackets with tennis balls. I can see this on a 1920's or '30's tennis dress or cardigan.


Perfect for Spring daffodils.


There was also the pattern for this little chap, he is on a very pretty blouse. 


This piece is made up of floral motifs.


Some more examples.


This is a very fine bag with a drawstring top. You can see a central rose, a rose is a very traditional motif, surrounded by a floral design. Leaves, flowers and shamrocks are other traditional motifs.


This is a child's dress which has both inserts and trims of Irish crochet. The work is so incredibly fine.


The insert features the rose motif. Spot the lizard again!


This is a close up of the trim. When you stop to think of the conditions under which this work was created it becomes even more special and incredible. The makers of this work were poor, hungry, cold, worked in bad light and in unsatisfactory conditions.


Another child's dress with a deep edging of Irish crochet.


The cuffs and hem all end in this gorgeous bobble edging.


Bobbles and roses.


You can see how fine the mesh is between the motifs.


This is another view of the blouse that has the lizard on. It was felt that the lizard was a later addition to the original crochet fabric of the blouse.

I ended the evening being really amazed at the level of work and skill in these garments. In the 1900's   the Irish crochet industry declined as it could not compete with the speed and cost of machine made lace.

You can read more about Irish crochet, see more examples and find instructions to have a go at it yourself herehere and here. I think I would like to have a go and see if I can just make one, very very simple motif!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Currently knitting - Sirdar Lady's Jumper

I have decided to try and do some regular posts which will look at what is currently on my knitting needles. At the moment I can not knit as much as I normally do and I need a way of seeing that some knitting is still happening and that progress is indeed being made. Otherwise, I focus on how much I haven't knitted, that I could have knitted by now if only my neck and shoulder were up to it. Obviously, that is not a very positive way of looking at things so I need to fix that!

 I am seeing a brilliant and understanding Physio who is getting my neck and shoulder working again, there are great improvements already and I will spare you the details of the excruciating armpit massages that have helped to make that happen!


I started this pretty 1950's feather and fan pattern jumper on the first of January. I keep a little notebook in my knitting bag to keep track of these things, including row counts, changes or clarifications, number of balls of yarn used, sizing etc. When I finish a project I transfer that info plus a picture of the pattern into my knitting journal/scrapbook which I really should do a post on at some point.


I very much liked the original colour scheme but knew that it wasn't really me and that I wanted something with more of an autumnal palette. The original pattern was knitted in 3-ply but I figured a thin 4-ply should do just as well. This is where I admit that whilst I do tension squares and check sizing if I am knitting for others I don't do it as much if I am knitting for myself as I just want to get started. So if this turns out massive or too small I have only myself to blame!

I am in the unfortunate position of being a knitter who loves using real wool but who can not tolerate it against my skin. I go like a crazed itchy thing and need to rip off whatever I am wearing. I have found that a wool/silk blend can be ok as long as I wear long sleeves and a scarf round my neck (handily looking like I have styled in an accessory but actually just anti itch protection)!

When I went to Yarndale last September I was looking specifically for yarn to knit this jumper and another as yet unstarted jacket. I fell for the beautiful colours of this lovely yarn from Eden Cottage Yarns. It is Askham 4-ply in Walnut, Crocosmia, Air and Yarrow. It is a blend of baby alpaca (70%) and silk (30%) and it feels very soft indeed.


This is how it looked when I had got all the colours knitted in so it was the first chance to check that I did like them all knitted up together. Which I do. Phew!


This is less of a close up and I've spread the stitches out a bit so that it is possible to see the pattern a little better.


Here you can see that I have done the armhole shaping and the back of the jumper is on it's way to being complete. I tend to share my knitting progress, amongst other things, on Instagram so do come along and say hello on there.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Patons and Baldwins archive part two - 1930's jumpers and cardigans

Are you ready for some more gorgeous 1930's knitwear? After showing half the jumper and cardigan patterns in part one, here are the rest of them!

Starting off with a couple of sporting outfits:


Apart from the knitwear I am liking the fact that our dapper gent is puffing away on his pipe as he contemplates his round of golf. Miss Asymmetric Block Stripe jumper appears to be keeping score rather than playing even though more women began to play sports such as golf in this period.


Even though I can not ice skate at all I would rather like to have this outfit in my wardrobe. I love the fact that the stripes repeat on every item and that you would be fully kitted out with a hat, scarf, gloves, jumper and socks!


Given the countryside background and the stick I would say that this is an outfit designed for a good walk. It consists of a jacket like cardigan with a low, single fastening and an A line type skirt. Nicely done in a country tweed!

Next is a skirt and top:


The jumper has a neck tie fastening and a raised stitch stripe detail and the skirt gives the appearance of pleats which may be achieved by the stitch pattern used.

Now for a few in colour:


This one is very interesting with it's two colour neck and cuffs and the two colour triangle pattern on the front which is then repeated on the sleeves. The main body appears to be knitted in a tweedy type yarn. Look at her amazing hair, white blonde with perfect waves!


I like the yellow and blue colour work on this jerkin which gives the appearance of lapels. The yarn used in the main body again appears to be a tweed type. I can't tell if the belt is integral to the pattern or is there for styling purposes.


I like the repeating bands of colour on this one too and the low waist fastening for the cardigan. These three patterns were obviously part of a set, presumably for the tweed type wool. I have never seen any like this in all the P&B patterns that I have come across before. It is worth noting that it is possible to just make out some asymmetric button detailing on the front of the skirt.

The rest of the patterns are jumpers and cardigans:


The background of this one says cruise liner to me with its curved lines and fancy rug. Very elegant!


I like this fancy neckline on what is otherwise quite a plain and loose fitting jumper. I think the cowl neck ends in a flat bow on the shoulder and this is possibly knitted in some sort of lace stitch.


I find this one interesting but I am not sure that I want to wear it. I like the shape and fit of the jumper itself, especially the deep band of ribbing at the bottom. But what is that in the centre? A one eyed monster sticking it's tongue out? A buttoned in handy tissue/napkin? I'm really not at all sure.


I do like this. I like the use of the darker colour to add some depth and interest to that large pointed collar. The lace type stitch is very pretty too.


Is this the tweed wool again? I love the striped yoke which makes it look as though she is wearing graduated strings of pearls. I also like the slight puff to the sleeves where they are gathered around the arm. I would definitely add this to my wardrobe!


This is another that I am not quite sure about. I like the simplicity of the dark bottom half forming a triangle in the centre of the paler top half. I like the idea of the scarf with the alternating light and dark bands but I think I would want to be able to tie it. Like this I think I would just dangle it in my soup, cuppa, ketchup etc.


I like this one a lot. I think the zig zag stitch pattern is lovely and very effective. The wide ended scarf looks like it is knitted using the main yarn and then angora (those rabbits again) to form the stripes. It looks to have a woggle/band to hold it in place which is also angora. I think the wide ends may be fastened on with buttons at the sides too. Lots going on but I think that it works.


These two patterns are included to give a sense of what it was like to flick through through the pattern folders in the archive, finding these amazing garments at every turn of the page. The one on the right uses angora to create stripes too and the one on the left has very interestingly shaped sleeves.

Did you have a favourite? Or do you want nearly all of them like I do?!

You may be interested to know that a part three, which does not feature jumpers or cardigans but features other goodies, is on the way!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Patons and Baldwins archive part one - 1930's jumpers and cardigans

I have written about my enjoyable trip to the Knitting and Crochet Guild archive here and here, focusing on the garments that we were shown. As well as garments the archive holds books, needles, magazines, yarn charts, gadgets and many, many patterns. I was very excited to get the chance to look at some of the patterns that were part of the Patons and Baldwins archive which the Guild now holds.


There are folders full of amazing knitting patterns like this fabulous butterfly outfit. I think this may be a swimming costume with a skirt and long line cardigan to match. I was almost drooling at some of the patterns and I hope that I will find them out in the wild one day. Imagine a wardrobe full of these beauties!

A child's geometric jumper.

If you are not a knitter there is no need to stop reading right here as knitting patterns are also brilliant source material for fashion history. Obviously, people wanted to knit fashionable garments so knitting patterns followed the variations in fashions. So in these knitting patterns you can see many 1930's traits: big sleeves, bows, interesting necklines, geometry, chevrons, colour blocking, yokes.

Knitting patterns are also a good way to see how clothing was styled,  to see what normal people rather than film stars wore and to see glimpses of skirts, accessories etc. They are also a good source of hairstyle inspiration!

A pretty button shoulder feather and fan jerkin. Notice the chevron yoke on the skirt.

Patons and Baldwins was formed in 1920 by the merger of two wool companies, John Paton, Son and Company from Alloa, Scotland and J&J Baldwin and Partners from Halifax, West Yorkshire. They focused on producing wool for home knitters and knitting pattern support to go with it.

Cute lace short sleeved jumper with a integral neck tie.

By the 1930's the company had factories and buildings across Scotland and the North of England and also in Canada and New Zealand!

A deep V neck cardigan with a lace stitch and lovely square buttons.

Look at this glamorous evening dress bedecked with bows! The pattern is for an angora evening jacket and a waistcoat.

I have read somewhere that P&B owned an angora rabbit farm which would explain why they produced many angora patterns between the 1930's and 1950's.

There is a lot going on in this jumper. Epaulettes, a chevron yoke and either beads or some kind of metallic thread embellishment.

There is nothing new about colour blocking! This has a lovely ribbed body that continues up the front of the jumper with a striped yoke, a belt and colour block sleeves.

Lovely chevron striped jumper with a high tied neck.

I do like an all over cable cardigan and this one has a lovely pointy collar.

After the Second World War P&B decided to build a new, modern and efficient factory in Darlington. It even had it's own railway siding for speedy transport. The factory was complete by 1951 and was the largest wool factory in the world! It became a tourist attraction, I would have loved to have looked around. Find out more here and here and here.

I like this with the large stripes on the sleeves and the asymmetric front.

Gorgeous voluminous sleeved jumper with an integral bow at the neckline.

This one also has amazing sleeves and a beautiful stitch pattern. The bell type flowers remind me of the pattern on this 1950's cardigan that I knitted.

Patons and Baldwins merged with Coats in 1961. Patons wool is still available to buy.

Such a smart long line cardigan, belted at the waist. It has a lovely stitch pattern.

I want nearly all of these marvellous knits! The 1930's is not the period that I am first drawn to fashion wise, though it is growing on me now that I look into the fashions more and more. I think I was maybe put off by all the slinky, bias cut evening gowns which I would look a total horror in but when looking at everyday clothes I see fashions that I would like to try.

Luckily, this is not the end of the 1930's knitted gorgeousness as part two is on it's way!