Saturday, January 29, 2011

One for the Boys


When a few Ravelry knitters from Britain mentioned a men's wear book by Jane Waller, I knew I had to find a copy. Jane Waller is the woman who gathered fabulous vintage patterns together in the 1980's. She published A Stitch in Time (just re-done by Susan Crawford and Jane Waller), The Family Knitting Book, and the men's book, above: Classic Knitting Patterns from the British Isles: Men's Hand-Knits from the 20's to the 50's.

I love 1920's and 1930's patterns and even the 1940's, so I was very excited when this book arrived on my doorstep from a used-book store far away. It was in perfect new condition and very modestly priced. I thought it was about time I did some vintage knitting for the boyfriend. Whenever we watch All Creatures Great and Small on Public TV on Saturday nights he exclaims "Look at those great vests!" I know he wants one.

This book is a hoot! Because it was compiled in the 80's, a few of the classic styles were translated into colour photographs with the 80's sensibilities (my very LEAST favorite) but just a few. All of the patterns and the many, many black and white photographs are in their original vintage format - I was so happy about that. The 80's examples show indolent, pouty, pretty boys lounging against walls while wearing baggy, oversized versions of these knits. But, just as with women's knitting, men's vests and sweaters in the 20's and 30's were mostly form-fitting and sleek, designed for what was assumed to be an active lifestyle, and the earlier photographs show these interesting differences, both in style and in activity.

Let's examine what men wearing knits in the 20's and 30's actually did in their sweaters and vests! At least, what they did according to the knitting pattern photographers - perhaps there is a Sociology thesis here!

Well, first of all, men kissed:


Men smoked a pipe:


Men smelled bad smells (apparently):


Men drank:


Men fished in manly ways on the rugged sea:


Men dug in the back yard:


(Whoops! Caught in the act!)

Men also sun-bathed and needed a special suit for this, an "ingenious suit for sun and sea" with a "lightening quick fastener at the waist":


and of course, men swam with their buddies, or at least went to the beach in their knitted shorts and yelled to each other while displaying their ribs:


(Give these men a steak and potatoes dinner - Please!)

Several of the patterns from the 1920's show women wearing the men's designs:


and this one - the one I think I might make for the bf - is shown on both a man and a woman. It is the same pattern with no adaptations for the women's size and is knitted all in one piece from the bottom up, with just a 3-needle bind off at both shoulder tops (I love those easy 20's patterns):



The bf also was very interested in this neat knitted waistcoat:


and this warm helmet hat, although it's knit in FOUR pieces and sewn together! (there must be a better way!):


Strangely, he said NO to this red, yellow, and green number, "designed especially for the man who spends most of his spare time on the golf links":


The chapter on the 50's begins with this quote and this iconic photograph from Jailhouse Rock:


"The pullover has now become a friend... whether it is worn on the back, over the shoulders, wrapped around the waist, or slung over the arm, thrown in the car, tied to a bicycle, it seems indispensable." from Menswear, 1953.

Go, Men!

Updated Lodestone

Here is the Miss Marple's Shawl after I've done a few repeats of the pattern.


I am so happy that Piecework Magazine chose this particular pattern as their example of a typical 1940's pattern that Miss Jane Marple might have knit. It is completely characteristic of the era and is easy to complete - if you are experienced with the vintage pattern language.

I created a chart - a type of spreadsheet - for myself to keep track of the rows and the increases and decreases. After all, this pattern has 671 rows! I'm very happy with how this turning out. I can't wait to display it on my bed as my new bed shawl!

And here is a better photo of Holmes and Watson in all their butterscotch furry cuteness. They are about 7 months old.


If anyone has any tips on how to make them more comfortable in their new environment or more friendly around people, I'd love some advice. They are wonderful boys, but Watson in particular is very shy and skittish and Holmes is quite aloof - very like their namesakes, I think!

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Lodestone


As you all know, I'm a dedicated addict fan of Blue Moon Fiber Arts yarns - all of them. There's something about the colourways and the way that they kit up that makes them unique. A lot of hand-dyed yarns look beautiful in the skein, but then when you knit with them, the lovely colours that looked so good side by side blend into a nauseating clown barf (see my failed attempt at Caruso socks). Blue Moon Fiber Arts colours blend when they're knitted (or crocheted or woven) in most pleasing ways. I don't know this for sure, but I suspect that the dyer, Tina, actually tests how the colours knit up in new colourways that she's developing.

So when I first bought a skein in the Lodestone colourway, I fell deeply in love - fast. I think I now have this colourway in every fiber that I use. But it's not enough. Hand dyed yarns are a living entity - the colours will migrate slightly or greatly and every dye job is unique. I want so much more of this in it's current incarnation!


My newest project is the Miss Marple's Shawl from Interweave Piecework - a vintage pattern. I got two skeins of the BMFA Marine Silk fingering-weight for this pattern, for a total of about 974 yards. But I suspect it's not going to be enough for a 45-inch square lacy knit.


This pattern knits up very quickly - in the beginning, when there are just a few stitches on the needles. But I have a sneaking suspicion that as I add two stitches every other row and the project gets wider and wider, those middle-of-the-pattern rows will go a lot slower!

Our weather today is 10 degrees below zero and with the wind chill it's reported as feeling like 32 degrees below zero (really!), so I wish I was already halfway through this shawl and it would be warm and comforting over my legs as I knit!

In other knitting news, I've gone back to my multi-project ways and am also knitting both an adaptation of the Anthropologie-inspired Capelet in a black and tan tweedy worsted weight and a gorgeous little Oh Handsome sweater, using blue Lima yarn from Rowan - tweedy as well. I guess I'm having a winter Tweed moment!

Now I must go make oatmeal for breakfast and feed Holmes and Watson, and then make my way through this frozen world to my cosy office. I think I'll bring my vintage shawl and knit at noontime while the frigid wind swirls outside my windows.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

pic spam

Well, it's a slow week, what with the 2 foot snow storm and all, and I finished up a few small knits. The photos are quite terrible - phone photos in a house dark from winter - but here they are anyway...

Baby Mitts:


I searched hard for just the right pattern for fingerless mitts but didn't find one, so I improvised my own for a toddler with 5 inch wrists. That was 32 stitches. After an inch, I began increases for the thumb, every other row for 5 increases. I can picture the happy smile on his face when he puts these on!

Current famous movie mitts:


These are Amy's gloves, a late Christmas present. I made them from a bit of Koigu. They're meant to balloon a bit on the wrist to go over long jacket sleeves.

And, on the day of the Snow Storm, when I stayed on the couch and watched Edwardian Farm all the hours except those I spent shoveling snow, I knitted this scarf from one marvelous bulky skein of single ply hand spun with needle felted flowers from Pagewood Farms. I got it at my LYS for 50% off and I suspect that they only marked it down because they knew I wanted it so desperately!



Finally, I have the first photos of Holmes and Watson - dear yellow boys who used to live in an abandoned warehouse and now have a whole, big, warm, rambling farmhouse to explore!

This is the intrepid Sherlock Holmes. He is quite an investigator and his specialty at the moment is vivisection on the dolls: In this picture, he is poised in the cat carrier, ready to spring out and box with an enticing toy on a string that I'm dangling in front of his nose!


And here is a very blurry photo of the shy John Watson. You can see him in his favorite napping spot - a cardboard box of stuffed animals, capped by a huge soft lion. The lion stuffed toy is the same colour as Watson, and I think he likes to be amongst the stuffed animals because it must remind him of the pig-pile of his brothers and sisters and how they kept warm at night in the empty warehouse.


They are both still quite wary, but Watson let me scratch his ears yesterday - I think it was the first time in his life that he's been petted.

Wish me luck with these two wild boys. I think it will take a long time for them to become domesticated.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Peace Dale on a peaceful winter day...

Good Morning from Chez Sophia! Would you like to join me for breakfast and a small chat about vintage knitting patterns? Today we're having McCann's Irish Oatmeal with blueberries and dates, Pepperidge Farm thin-sliced wheat bread toast, and Lupicia Chocolate Orange tea!


Let's sit in the front room, where the wintry light is bright, even if this drafty old house does let in an occasional sigh from the west wind...

Today I wanted to share my collection of vintage pattern books from Peace Dale Yarns with you. I wrote a Little Bit about them in 2008 - in January - so this snowy time of year must bring these booklets back to my mind. I wonder why?

Peace Dale, founded in 1801, was a wool processing mill in Peace Dale, Rhode Island. Peace Dale has a fascinating history and was named after the wife of the founder, Mary Peace - married to Rowland Hazard in the late 1790's. It was Hazard who began the wool-carding mill in 1803, putting out the carded wool to be hand-spun in area homes. He had the yarn hand-woven into cloth by local weavers and shipped this wool far and wide. From the History of Peace Dale: "Hazard purchased the mill privilege outright in 1812, and invested in experimental machinery including primitive power looms. By 1815, he ran a small, fully integrated manufacturing operation, going from raw material to finished goods. It is said to have been one of the first such textile plants in America. Thus began Peace Dale, a mill village created by over four generations of the Hazard family."

The Hazards were Quakers - "Friends" - and sought to create a village that improved the social order and reflected their philosophy of philanthropy. Along with the sobriety, unity, and an "air of elevated amenity" encountered in their village, the Hazards - Friends into the mid-nineteenth century - were said to have about them "a seriousness, ambition, and commitment that reflected Quaker attitudes".

During these early years - the early to mid 1800's - Peace Dale remained very small. In the early 1820s there were only 30 inhabitants, the wood-frame mill buildings, five dwellings, and a store. In 1840, the mill burned down. The sons of Rowland - Isaac and Rowland G. - rebuilt the mill, this time as a stone building and added the newest in hydropower technology of the 1800s. They began manufacturing woolen shawls instead of bolts of cloth and gained a substantial reputation as the producers of the highest quality goods.

Here is a line drawing of the Wool Mill, from 1920 - the frontispiece of one of the Yarn Pattern Books:


There is more to the history of Peace Dale, including Rowland G's support of abolition in the Civil War, even though a pacifist Quaker, through the writing of essays and support of organizations that sought to abolish slavery. His sons, John and Rowland II, carried on the family business into the late 1800's and Rowland II had a big impact on the business and the village, when he used his financial resources and abilities as an architect to establish offices, a store, a post office, and a public hall. Over the years, he built over half of the buildings of Peace Dale RI, a dale founded for love of his grandmother, Mary Peace.

My collection of Peace Dale booklets span 1920 through 1924 and includes mail order yarn samples and advertising pattern samples. I'd love to have everything they printed, but even this small collection was hard to find!


Peace Dale produced many yarns for their cloth, their shawls, and for hand knitting. These yarns were available by mail for a very small fee. I have a sample book mailed to Mrs. J. E. Bassill of E. Bakersfield, California on April 3rd, 1923 that includes yarn samples for 13 different types of knitting yarns.


These were (from the top down):
Longwear Worsted - "Longwear Worsted is what it's name implies." 44 cents per 4 oz skein
Knitting Worsted - A splendid yarn for everyday sweaters" 42 c per 2 oz skein
Germantown - "Wonderful quality yarn that made Peace Dale famous. Makes fine, soft sweaters." 49 c per 2 oz skein.
Men's Sweater Yarn - "Extra heavy and makes warmest garment it is possible to knit" 98 c per 4 oz skein.
Sicilian Worsted - "Makes fairly heavy sweaters. Beautiful lustrous colors." 38 c per 2 oz skein.
Veronian Worsted - "for fine quality sweaters. Slightly lustrous in delicate shades". 42 c per 2 oz skein.
Weaving Yarns - "Used by professional hand weavers. Also makes light weight sweaters." 49 c per 2 oz skein.
Sicilian Floss - "Peace Dale's most popular yarn. Makes wonderful sweaters in our most beautiful colors." 19 c per 1 oz skein.
Arolian Floss - "Slightly lustrous, light in weight." 42 c per 2 oz skein.
Country Club Floss - "Fashionable colors , all worsted. Light weight." 21 c per 2 oz skein.
Longwear Shetland - "A cheap, light floss. Very serviceable." 15 c per 1 oz ball.
Iceland - "Our lightest weight. Used double is also cheapest." 17 c per 1 oz skein.
Saxony - "Three-fold Saxony finest quality for infants' wear." 27c per 1 oz skein.

Mailing costs were from 2 cents an ounce to 13 cents a pound. The yarns themselves sold for from 15 cents per 1 ounce ball for "Longwear Shetland" to 98 cents per 4 ounce skein for "Men's Sweater Yarn". There is also a chart showing how many balls or skeins to order for different items, like slip-on sweaters, and coat sweaters (cardigans).
I chose the two books I'm going to show today because they are the winter editions, as you can see. Passion for winter sports was great in the early 1920's and my little New England state saw a great influx of sporty people in those years to stay in northern quaint towns with chalet-type dwellings for skiing, and snow-shoeing, and skating, and ice-fishing, and winter hiking, as well as for bonfires on snowy slopes with toasty hot drinks!

The first book I want to show you is the 1923. The drawing on the cover says it all - with the pole-free skier gliding down the hill and her group of friends at the bottom cheering her on. She's dressed in woolen plaid knickerbockers with two pairs of handknit socks, and handknit hat, turtleneck sweater, scarf, and guantleted gloves. I doubt if that outfit would be warm enough for our actual skiing weather conditions, but it certainly is stylish!


Inside the booklet are many indoor and outdoor sweaters (called coats) as well as the cover outfit.

Coat Sweater Trimmed in Cross Stitch:

The Lake Placid Skating Set (though shown skiing on the cover!):

Sleeveless Golf Slip on - " This is a popular sports sweater, also favored for wear under coat to give extra warmth". (I like the useful pockets):

And, to match your own Lake Placid set, one for your favorite child's doll:

The earlier booklet, from 1922, was more versatile with patterns for women, men, teenagers, children, babies, elders, and even something for the home:


The first sweater is not even really for a winter sport, unless for those well known 1920's Rhode Islanders in their sea-side mansions with indoor tennis courts (think "The Great Gatsby"):

The Alma-Mater reads, "develop this in school or college colors and have something new, something absolutely different! Just the thing to wear on the campus or at class games when you want to "show your colors!" It takes online a little time to knit and in addition to being good-looking is warm and practical.":


The second, an attractive sweater with the U-neck that was becoming so popular, is describes as a golf sweater:


Here is a man's sweater - check out the length! It could double as a dress! "A splendid sweater for cold days - warm, wooly, and good-looking! Just the sort of sweater to bundle into when the thermometer hovers down around zero! Very handsome of red Heather, or Navy, or Dark Green Heather."


And this vest, which I think I actually might make - "Sleeveless V-Neck Slip-on, A perfectly splendid model (why are men always described as "splendid" in the 20's?) for the man with a liking for sports! (as opposed to a liking for other things?) The absence of biding sleeves allows a free, unhampered swing of the golf club or the tennis racket. Also a very good sweater to wear under a coat when extra warmth is desired. Colors suitable for men are White, Navy, or Camel." (They obviously never saw men in pink, lavender, or bright blue as we do now. Sorry - these goofy old photos of the men are making me a bit punchy!).


Also tucked into this 1922 booklet was a page of advertising for the "Cool o' the Evening" Sweater.


I believe that the "cool o' the Evening" was a song in the 1950's, but I haven't been able to find any reference to it in the 1920's, so I don't know why Peace Dale put it in quotes like that. The ad says that for 95 cents, you can make this sweater - plus the cost of postage. By enclosing $1.00 and attaching a sample of the color wanted, Peace Dale would send you 5 skeins of Sicilian Floss to make the sample illustrated:


The "Cool o' the Evening" Sweater



Use no. 8 wooden needles or no. 7 bone needles.
(Peace Dale sold the needles for 25 cents a pair)

(BTW - Plain knitting = garter stitch. )

Cast on 50 stitches. Knit 5 rows in plain knitting.

Knit 1 row, purl 1 row and continue using entire skein.

Tie on second skein, and cost on 50 stitches each side for sleeves; continue to knit 1 row, purl 1 row, using the entire skein.

Tie on third skein, knit or purl 68 stitches, bind off 14 stitches for back of neck, and knit or purl 68 stitches.

On last 68 stitches knit 1 row, purl 1 row till there are 3 ribs on the wrong side.

Cast on 10 stitches at front, knitting last 5 of these stitches plain for border.

Knit 1 row, purl 1 row till there are 24 ribs on wring side; bind off 50 stitches (keep 5 stitches plain knitting at front for border).

Knit 1 row, purl 1 row till front is as long as back, the last 5 rows being plain knitting for border; bind off.

On remaining 68 stitches, knit second front.

Pick up stitches at wrist and knit 5 rows plain knitting for cuff; bind off.

Pick up stitches around neck and knit 10 rows plain knitting for collar; bind off.

Sew up under arm and sleeve.

Put button and loop at neck.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Snowflakes and Helmet Hats

A little while ago, when the last knitted gift had been given, I told you that I was going to embark on three "transitional projects". The concept of transitional projects were introduced to me by my friend Briley - they are little things that are fast and gratifying to make; they tide you over from the creative doldrums into more inspired and complicated designs. I've been successfully using this tip since he mentioned it.

Here are my New Year transitional knits:

The first, is the helmet hat out of Noro Kochoran, which is very soft because of the bit of angora in the yarn:


And the second is the "raglan-sleeved cardigan with a patterned yoke" from the DROPS pattern website.


I made this in a nice teddy-bear brown with yellow and light blue snowflakes - from Debbie Bliss Rialto DK, a superwash Merino wool. The sweater in 12 - 18 mo size took 3.5 balls of the brown and just a bit of the yellow and blue. I used leftover bits of the Kochoran yarn for the blue, actually.


Both yarns came from my LYS and I got the buttons at the same time. Sadly, there were only four that matched, so I supplemented with some vintage brown abalone shell flat buttons from Gram's button box. I think they are fine, and those buttons probably won't be much used anyway.

The cardigan is extra long - more of a sweater jacket than an indoor sweater - and will fit probably through 2 years and beyond. The pattern itself had a turtleneck, folded over, but I can remember hating tight things around my neck when I was young, so I left it as a shorter, very stretchy standup collar, that will likely be worn open, with only the giraffes buttoned closed.


Now that these are done, I'm in the middle of the cutest ribbed toddler pants, using Blue Moon fiber Arts Sock Candy - which is a beautifully soft cotton with just a little stretch in it. The colourway is "Spike" and it's striping up so perfectly! Grey and black, and orange-red... I'll come back and post a picture when I get a chance.

All of this is priming my creativity for bigger things. But that's a post for another day.