Tuesday, 15 April 2014

WW1 knitting

My blogging life is fast becoming like my knitting life - fuller and fuller of WIPS.  I blog about something or other and then, at the end, just mention I happen to be embarking on another exciting project.  But the next blog post? ... nothing, nada, nix.  I forget to follow up and having whetted appetites say no more.

The Somme 1917 watercolour painted by J Brunt a private soldier

Today was no different.  I had an idea as I was running some early morning errands (which, after I chatted in shops, forgot something, went back and then met two neighbours it was nearly lunch time and well into the afternoon as I sat down to blog).  I thought I would blog about going to knitting festivals (L'aiguille en Fete and Unravel to date, WonderWool and Unwind to come).  And then I remembered at the end of last week's post I posted a picture of a manly waistcoat in a conservative colour (not my usual style) and a promise of more next week.  So I will keep my promise and put off yarn related travels till another day and tell you about Tell Them Of Us

I heard about this exciting project on Annie's Blog.  A community project making a film about the lives of real people who lived through, and suffered the effects of, WW1. Because the people depicted in the film actually existed there are photographs of them and as near as possible the actors will wear costumes like those worn by the men women and children of 1914 - 1918.  That is where knitting comes in, so many hand knitted garments and so a plea went out to knitters to volunteer to knit for the wardrobe.  They now have more than 200 volunteer knitters and over 90 of us have finished our first garments.  Some of the patterns are contemporary with the war and some have been created by the clever co-ordinators of the project just from the photographs.

The yarn for my allotted project arrived in the post just before I left for my holiday

Lovely BFL dyed a lovely soft brown

The pattern was e mailed and I rushed to print it off and swatch before I left.  Patterns of the period can be a lot less detailed than the modern ones we are all used to, there is also less use of standardised terms.  When you are knitting up vintage patterns it is advisable to read right through before putting yarn around your needles.  

In this case there was no mention on how the borders were to be worked.  The usual way of finishing armholes and button bands were not mentioned at all (except for the left front that simply said 'work 6 button holes').  You need to use common sense and scrutinise the photograph or sketch very closely as well as the written word.  The stitch used for the back is plain stocking stitch and for the front a sort of rib with one row knit and one p4k1.  Without some sort of edging stitch this waistcoat was going to curl!  So I incorporated a two stitch garter stitch border along both fronts and around the armholes.  This kept the work flat after blocking.  However, it did not work for the back neck that due to some short rows actually had an unusual upward curve  and, with my two rows of garter stitch mod, just gaped in an ugly fashion.  So I unpicked this bit and finished in stocking stitch concluding that the back neck was meant to curve outwards forming a little draught proof roll collar.  Apart from being a little bulky (the yarn is aran weight) it was the perfect simple project to take on holiday

Sitting on our balcony sewing up the waistcoat

The only other modification that I incorporated was on the pockets.  The pattern instructs to knit the garter stitch top and then cast off for the opening and cast on again on the next row before carrying on up the front, later picking up from the cast on edge and knitting the pocket lining downwards.  Instead I knitted the linings separately first, incorporating the live stitches in the next row after the cast off instead of casting on.  This meant there was slightly less bulk at the pocket edge.

You have already seen the shot of the waistcoat blocked and ready to post, but here it is again

Ready for William Crowder

And the watercolour at the top of the picture?  My Grandfather William Acaster was a volunteer and served throughout WW1, mostly on the Somme.  One of the few working men of the time who could drive a motorised car he was immediately employed as a driver in the army.  Perhaps this saved his life, as far as I know he never actually 'went over the top'.  When my grandmother died in the 1990s an old sketchbook was found in the back of a cupboard.  Inside the front cover was written

Drawings by
G Percival & L Hardy

Book property of R W Acaster and all above mentioned
Full privates
with pay, don't forget it

Some Soldiers on the Somme
La Guerre 1916 - 1917

The book contains cartoons, mostly in pencil ridiculing German soldiers and British Officers, two water colours of Northern France and one or two satirical cartoons from the 1920s.  It is still a bit of a mystery, not all the drawings are by Percival or Hardy, the watercolours by someone called Brunt and several are not signed, perhaps they are by my grandfather.



The Military Moustache 27/2/17


Becky G said...

Ooh, what a pleasant refresher from pressing deadlines, thank you! :-)

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

Great post! That watercolour is wonderful.

I'm hopeless at following through, I often mention things on the blog and then never another word, whether or not they happen as planned (they often do).

Thank you for the link :)

Unknown said...

Such an interesting blog. Very moving to have such touching family artefacts. The waistcoat is beautifully knitted! Jane

Quinn said...

I've been looking forward to reading more about that neat and perfect waistcoat, but was in no hurry - I knew you'd come back to it at some point! :)
What a clever way to do the pocket! Do I understand correctly: you knit a little rectangle, replaced the cast off stitches in the front panel with the live stitches of the rectangle, then later stitched the sides and bottom of the pocket to the front panel?
I love the balcony picture. Love it.

Jennifer said...

It came out beautifully. I think this project is so interesting. If I were better at knitting, I would have joined in too. You've made a great contribution.

Minding My Own Stitches said...

Love the sketch; thanks for sharing that!

Also love the vest, although I'd be flummoxed by the sparse instructions. I need a lot more hand-holding!

Anita said...

Hi Catherine,
I found it very interesting ready about the instructions for knitting the vintage pattern. I actually struggle with today's patterns more so than older one's. As soon as I see SSK in the modern patterns, I just close the book up because I know there will likely be other strange instructions in the pattern too. How are you with the new patterns? I'd be interested to know. A great finish with the garment in the end. Lovely.
Cheers, Anita.

Catherine said...

I think many people would agree with Anita about the changes we have seen to knitting terminology in the last 20 years. Although Anita is from the USA generally this cry comes from we UK knitters and I wonder if it is the influence of that great community of knitters across the pond which is so much bigger than ours in the UK. Although we in the UK may be a little put out to see terminology change we could look at it as opening us up to a whole new sweetie shop of knitting opportunities.

There are some simple transpositions like stockingnette for stocking stitch and other terms that though they achieve the same result are worked differently, Anita's dislike of SSK in place of Sl1K1 PSSO is a case in point.

I actually prefer SSK now, I think it's smoother but it is largely a matter of personal choice. My advice with any pattern is to read it through first and make sure you know what the terms are, even if you haven't a clue how to work the stitches then just dive in and take I one row at a time.

Modern patterns seem to me to be the opposite of the old, they tell you about every move (except when to go and make a coffee!)

I know that knitting is a lot about comfort and this ort of thing can jolt us out of that soy place but I suggest it is worth it. So much better if we all eventually talk the same language. I am still confused over the different meanings of DC in crochet patterns and wish the crafters of the US and UK would agree on what they mean!

I'd love to hear of different knitting terms used in other countries (with a translation please) in the comments here



Shani said...

my granddaughter is doing a project on WW1 at the moment, and has found this incredibly interesting.
I love the knitting you are doing - the patterns are just my kind of project...
hugs and hope you are well xx Shani

Benita said...

Your "Ready for William Crowder" caption under the blocked vest arrested me in mid-read. My maiden name is Crowder.