Tuesday, 12 July 2011

My Knitting Aunt

I have mentioned my Knitting Aunt before.  She was my mother's sister, one of seven, my Knitting Aunt was the third girl, then came three boys and lastly my mother (born in 1918).  She was barely 18 when she married and left the family home in Kent to live in Buckinghamshire in the 1920s.  My mother went to live with her ten years later when both their parents died.  This picture was taken of my mother when she was about 7, probably about the time my aunt married

In due course my mother met and married my father, my brother and I growing up in the same village as my seven girl cousins.  The cousins were older than me but one of my aunt's many grandchildren is my oldest friend.  She and I shared our first day at school in the little village school, our first teenage parties, family holidays and now we compare grandchildren.  She is three months older than me and those three months are the only time that we did not know each other. 

This is a picture of her son Zak wearing one of his great grandmother's famous hand knitted sweaters (I am not worried about embarrassing Zak, this picture was taken more than 20 years ago).  In the family they are known as Joseph Jumpers.  When bringing up children on a small income, during the second world war, economy was second nature to my aunt and her contemporaries, they grew their own vegetables, picked blackberries in the hedgerows to make jam and made all their own clothes.  My mother was a very skilled dressmaker and I think made clothes for her nieces, my aunt's skill was knitting.

My aunt took her knitting everywhere.  I think the only time she put her wool and needles down was to cook a meal or work in her garden (where she grew as many flowers as vegetables).  She knitted in the evenings while everyone else watched television and when she visited us to have tea with my mother, one afternoon each week, her knitting came too.  On Sunday afternoons when the whole family went out for a walk she walked and knitted, carrying the ball of wool under her arm.

Joseph jumpers were the ultimate make do and mend, they were made of unpicked wool from worn out or out grown hand knits (cast off from the family or bought in village jumble sales) and knitted up in my aunt's special stripey, slipped stitch.  The pattern is made by slipping (always purlwise) one stitch in five from the stripe below,  right through the next stripe then the alternate stitch slipped when the next colour is joined in, making a brick pattern.  Once her girls married and had children of their own Aunty Kit began to knit Joseph jumpers for the grandchildren as Christmas presents.   In time there were 18 grandchildren (I've lost count of the next generation) and the  knitting began in January in order to be ready for the next Christmas.

One day I came across a similar stitch pattern in 200 Knitted blocks, by Jan Eaton, where she calls it V-stripes, I decided to knit a cowl in the style of a Joseph jumper.  As always happens when I decide to knit something free hand I did not have exactly the yarn I needed in my stash so I bought this silky bamboo in some bright shades plus the standard neutral.

Without a pattern I did swatch first to get the right number of stitches then cast on, knitted a wide band of k2/p2 rib before launching into the stripe pattern, keeping 6 stitches on each end of the row on pins, then knitting up the button and button hole bands and finishing it off with more rib.  The mother of pearl buttons in bright colours to match the stripes give me a little smile of pleasure to see them gleaming down the side of the cowl.

I haven't actually written down the pattern but please let me know (in the comments below) if you would like it and I will post a free pattern in PDF to download.




gill said...

This is gorgeous! and what great colours!!

Jane said...

My mother used to knit very similar jumpers, she called the stitch 'bunnies ears' - rows of little rabbits with their ears sticking up into the colour above. Love baby bamboo, it's great to knit with and there are some lovely colours - says she who should be using up yarn from stash not contemplating further purchases!

Caroline said...

Ooh, that is gorgeous! I'm always on the lookout for new patterns, so I'd love it sometime please, although don't rush to write it down as I have a little queue of projects to get to first! caroline (at) almcnicoll(dot) co (dot) uk
C :-)

silverroseknits said...

That's so beautiful! I'd love if you ever posted a pattern of it; I'm not a cowl person, but I can't help but think how nice it would be to alter a little for some mitts made out of handspun--which I never have enough of for larger things.

spinndiva said...

It's absolutely DARLING!

Little Blue Mouse said...

What a lovely post.
I am in awe of your Aunt knitting whilst walking!

Sheep Rustler said...

Very gorgeous! I have just got 'into' cowls.

I presume 'Joseph' jumpers as in coat of many colours?

do you mind if i knit said...

That Joseph Jumper is GORGEOUS. Very inspiring, I'm not surprised you were inspired to knit your wonderful cowl, I think it's an excellent idea to do a pattern we can download. I've got the Jan Eaton book in front of me, I was looking at it before I went to sleep last night, her books of pattern swatches for knitting and crochet are wonderful aren't they. I hope you have a wonderful time on your holiday, I always take my knitting with me to hot climates too! Vanessa xxx

Sara said...

What a beautiful cowl! I would truly love to knit this one for myself. I'm not gonna stop you if you'd want to write a pattern or something :D