Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Knitting 1914 to 2014

A few weeks ago I chatted on here about Southampton University Library's wonderful vintage pattern resource.  Well as a consequence of registering with the library I was invited to the private view of this exciting exhibition .  It's on till April 4 and if you can get to the Hartley Library at the university may I encourage you to make a little detour to have a look, it's well worth it.

knitting for the war effort
1914, such a terrible, momentous year,  and there are all sorts of events commemorating the out break of the first world war but  I love it that the gentle art of knitting is included.  Knitting was something that the women who were left behind, worrying, could do for the fighting men.  Hats, socks, gloves ,and scarves must have been so welcome to the soldiers freezing in the trenches, not only to help keep out the cold but as an indication that the people at home were thinking of them and cared.

As a former nurse, used to modern dressings, I have often wondered how knitted bandages could be useful, it seemed to me that they would be too stretchy.  But I can see that this example in garter stitch, knitted on very fine needles, would hold a dressing in place.  The terrible wounds inflicted by military ordnance would have needed very large amounts of gauze and lint, and very big bandages.

The text panels in the exhibition explained how knitting for the troops in the second world war was more organised with the issue of official patterns like these

These photographs are just a hint of what you can see and I won't spoil your enjoyment by telling you the whole story but it is not all historic either.  On show is this fabulous piece of knitting art work

And this traditionally inspired sweater that features in one of the Rowan magazines

Often the best bit of such events is the conversations one has, I met knitters and potential knitters, men and women and we discussed the objects as well as out own knitting adventures.  I was thrilled to meet the curator of the show and she was generous enough to let me rabbit on about my plans for a small vintage display at my town's festival in the summer.  I was shamelessly wearing my fingerless gloves and she very kindly admired them.

And so I'm planning to visit the pattern collection very soon.  Meanwhile I am swatching for my next vintage project - a 'cloud'.  There is a pattern for one on page 26 of A Knitters Companion but to give a flavour of what a cloud is I love this quote from No Idle Hands by Anne L. Macdonald 

A great deal of coquetry was indulged in by the red-cheeked bright-eyed girls in the adjustment of the cloud.  It might be bright red, in colour, or pink or blue or white.  It was always puckered in at each end and finished by a fluffy tassel.  It was wound around the head two or three times ,then around the neck, several times, and the ends, with the swinging tassells, thrown jauntily over the shoulder.  A fresh, young face, framed in such fleecy fluffiness was like a new-blown rose.
All very Gone with The Wind! And quite a long message for a simple scarf!  My cloud will be red, in this vintage 3 ply

I think the 'vintage' of this yarn is probably 1950, a cool 150 years younger than the pattern in The Knitters Companion which gives two stitch patterns. I have tried out both in my swatch (the stocking stitch section is just a divider and not part of either pattern)

The pattern at the top of my swatch is perhaps a little too subtle for photographing but is a pleasing lattice forming a gentle zig-zag, I think I shall use this one and report back to you as I make progress.



beautifully worked swatches from the exhibition


Jennifer said...

Oh, wow. What an amazing exhibition. I love old patterns. I had the privilege of using some vintage dressmaking patterns from the 1920's when I worked as a costume-maker. Thank you for sharing.

Adaliza said...

Thank you so much for posting about this. I can use the university library as I did my MA there some time ago - now I've got a brilliant reason to visit the library again. Fascinating.

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

Brilliant post! And oh how I wish Southampton wasn't so far away from me. Looking forward to seeing your cloud!