Vintage Knitting, Retro Dressmaking, Make do and Mend, Original and Vintage Inspired Knitting Patterns, Vintage Inspired books

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sample Sale

Since moving back in March, I have been attempting to re-organize, clear out, streamline the amount of ‘stuff’ that I have. For a considerable length of time prior to this, I have been concerned about the number of sample garments I need to store. Added to this is the imminent arrival of a hell of a lot of books in less than a week's time (more on this in a day or two), so I have finally made the decision to sell some of them.

A significant number of the items are from A Stitch in Time Volume 1, and all are sold as seen. Some have been used as display garments over the years but all have been stored in dry conditions, and in a smoke, pet and moth free environment. There is only one of each item and they are only available in the size specified and colour shown. As much information as possible will be included on the sale page for each product.

To give everyone an equal opportunity to acquire one of these beautiful knits I have opened a basic ebay shop where I will list each item. The shop will ‘open’ at 7pm (GMT) on Saturday evening - that’s the 29th November.

 Here is the link:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/susancrawfordvintageshop

Nothing will be listed on it until the specified time on Saturday, but if you follow the page you will be notified as soon as items begin to go live.

I'm afraid I can’t reserve or hold things for people so if you do want one of these gorgeous knits you will need to go through the ebay shop.

To whet your appetites here are a few of the garments that will be up for sale:

New Cowl Neckline





It Cannot Fail to Please

Fair Isle Yoke







Sun Ray Ribbing


Its going to be hard to let these garments go but I know they will all be going to good homes and the time is right to say goodbye.

Good luck!

For now,
Susan xx

Monday, November 17, 2014

Come and say hello at the Knitting and Stitching Show!

I'll be having at stand at the Knitting & Stitching Show in Harrogate again this year. The show commences next Thursday - the 20th of November, and runs until Sunday the 23rd. The stand is in a completely different place to last year and if you're trying to find me in the programme, I'm afraid I'm not listed.

So if you would like to visit the stand you can find me in Hall A, stand number A130

*** ETA: DUE TO A CONSTRUCTION ERROR ON SITE MY STAND WAS BUILT OVER A METRE TOO SMALL. THE STAFF ON SITE WERE GREAT AND SORTED OUT A SOLUTION MOVING US TO A DIFFERENT STAND.  SO YOU CAN NOW FIND ME STILL IN HALL A BUT ON STAND NUMBER A104

THIS IS JUST TO THE LEFT AFTER COMING THROUGH THE MAIN ENTRANCE TO HALL A. ***

I've got a number of fabulous new kits and designs available for the first time, including:

Blodini - an extremely snug yet elegant tubular stranded knit cowl in Excelana DK. This design was originally released in Dreaming of Shetland by Deborah Robson.



Marit - Scandinavian style mittens based on a traditional Norwegian mitten pattern knitted in Excelana 4 ply



Day at the Races - Vintage Fair Isle beret available only as a kit and knitted using 5 shades of Fenella - more about this design very soon!



and very exciting indeed is the exclusive release at the show of two new designs from the "Knits for a Cold Climate" collection, with a design each from my marvellous co-designers, Tess Young and Karina Westermann.

Tess Young's exquisite design uses innovative techniques and clever use of structure to create Alconleigh, a fabulous slouchy hat and gauntlet set knitted in three shades of Fenella.



Karina's playful and stylish set features a gorgeous stranded knit beret with felted pom pom. Teamed with this is the choice of a triangular neckerchief, scarflette or shawl in a co-ordinating stripe pattern, also with optional felted pom poms. Again knitted in Fenella, this pattern provides so many options - particularly useful for Christmas present knitting. Intriguingly entitled Noblesse Oblige.



You'll hear more about both of these designs when they are 'formally' released when I get back from Harrogate, but in the meantime the only place you can buy either of these patterns is from my stand.

I'm also very excited that due to popular demand, Diamonds are Forever will be available as a single pattern for the first time - and is now knitted in Excelana 4ply. Modelled here by the lovely Anna, who agreed to model for me only a few days ago and did a fantastic job on a very chilly day. Thank you Anna.



Kits for the very popular Nancy and Wartime Farm patterns will also be available on the stand along with much, much more.







 Phew! Listing them like that it sounds like a lot of new stuff! So don't forget, Hall A, stand A130.

If you've not yet purchased your tickets for the show, the organisers are offering a discount of £2 on every ticket purchased, if you enter the code EX14 at the checkout Alternatively you can call 0844 848 0155 and quote the same code.

I hope to see some of you there!

for now,
Susan xx 

All images copyright Susan Crawford
 



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lest We Forget

It is now two years since I first told great uncle Herbert's story and on this day, 96 years to the day since the 'Great War' ended, it seems appropriate to reprise his story - lest we forget.


From April 2012 -

In the autumn of 1914, a 19 year old John ‘Herbert’ Ogden, from Blackpool Lancashire, enlisted in the newly formed “Kitchener’s Army” to fight in the “Great War”. Like hundreds of thousands of other young men Herbert firmly believed it was his duty to fight when his country called.

Herbert, aged 18

Herbert was born in Oldham, the second child of Thomas and Edith Ogden. Thomas was a successful licensed victualler  and had sent his son to a boarding school in Scotland. Herbert had three sisters and two younger brothers who all admired the tall, good looking and refined young man that Herbert became. Herbert’s mother had passed away in 1912, so was not there to see her sons join up one by one.

Herbert after joining up

Due to his education Herbert was placed with the Royal Fusiliers 21st Battalion (4th Public School Division) and was sent to Clipstone Camp in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire for his basic training.

In this photo Herbert, in the foreground, is wearing a stylish knitted cardigan

Herbert is on the left of this photo leaning on the post
herbert is standing third from the left looking away from camera in his natty knitted cardigan

By 1916, Herbert had received his ‘commission’ and was promoted to Second Lieutenant in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (5th Battalion, Territorial Force).

Herbert on the right looking older and more serious than previously


Herbert fought in the Battle of Arras in France on Easter Monday 1917 and ever since the family, including my husband, Gavin - Herbert’s great nephew - have believed that that is where Herbert died in battle. Herbert’s war record like almost 70% of others from before 1940, was destroyed in a fire at the War Office so details of his movements had been hard for the family to trace. And more significantly, no one thought to doubt handed down oral stories of Herbert’s tale. Where Herbert was buried was sadly unknown.

Only two or three weeks ago an amazing family treasure came to light. Buried in a box deep in the attic, a photo album belonging to Herbert’s sister Edith was unearthed. Edith was also the sister of Florence - Gavin's grandmother. In it are numerous photos of a smiling, handsome, well groomed young Herbert in uniform. Amongst these photos are even a number of Herbert at the training camp in Mansfield (shown above). But one photo in particular made me decide to write Herbert’s story.

Herbert in a hand knitted scarf

This photo of an elegant Herbert was taken in 1915 during Herbert’s training. Under his coat he is wearing a thick, warm looking hand knitted scarf. Knitted by one of his sisters or by one of the hundreds of thousands of women who knitted for the troops during the WW1 conflict? Dorothy Peel in her book “How We Lived Then” (1929) writes of women knitting socks, mitts, body belts, hats, scarves - ‘comforts’ as they were known - for the soldiers. Knitting took place everywhere, in trams, trains, theatres and parks. In “All Quiet on the Home Front” (Richard van Emden and Steve Humphries, 2003) it tells the story of a minister being asked by local women if it was right or wrong to knit socks on Sundays for the soldiers. The minister told them it was quite right, which they were very pleased about. In his “A History of Hand Knitting”, Richard Rutt explains that wartime knitting hit a peak in 1915 and was further fanned by an appeal by Queen Mary for hand knits for the troops in 1916.  In fact, troops apparently received so many hand knitted comforts that socks and gloves were used as dish clothes and tea towels!

Herbert’s simple scarf really doesn’t need a pattern but I went through my patterns anyway to see if I could actually find a pattern for a garter stitch scarf. The most likely place was the first edition of “Woolcraft” published  by J and J Baldwin shortly before the outbreak of war in 1914, and which before the end of the war, four years later, was on to its third edition but I was unable to locate a scarf pattern like Herbert’s. In “Knitted Comforts for our Sailors, Soldiers & Airmen” by Scotch Wool & Hosiery Stores is an almost identical scarf to Herbert’s, but the copy of the book I have is much later in date, although I believe it may be a reprint of an earlier booklet as the yarn recommended is “Wheeling”. In Richard Rutt’s book he has described this as a coarse woollen-spun yarn, usually 3 ply, a description which he in turn probably got from one of the earliest Woolcraft’s where it is described as:
“a term applied to a distinctive material which, by reason of its early association with the town of that name, is often referred to as ‘Alloa Yarn’. The word ‘Alloa’ is, as a matter of fact, often used as a synonym for the thick woollen thread or ‘wheeling’ yarn which, for hand knitting purposes is generally sold in 3 ply and in a skein of 2 ozs., eight of which form a head of 1lb. Wheelings, as a class, when of good quality, fill a very useful place as producing warm woolly fabrics specially suitable for heavy socks, stockings and garments for outdoor wear, such as get softer and more comfortable the oftener they are washed. A cheap wheeling can, however, be very deceptive in point of durability and, in this class of material especially, it only pays to buy a good reliable article”.

By the time Woolcraft updated editions were being published in the 1920s this description was no longer being included in the knitting definitions and instructions. This suggests that the use of this word was out of date even for the late 1930s when I believe the Scotch Wool book was printed, and therefore possibly indicates a reprint of an earlier publication. However in the Scotch Wool booklet, Wheeling is described as the same as Double Knitting and “a splendid quality for motor rugs, capes and scarves, heavy weight jumpers and pullovers. The best quality for ‘brushing’”, thereby changing the definition and maybe suggesting Greenocks, who published as Scotch Wool, were using the name in a different way? This is the project included in this publication.



There is nothing I can do to change what has passed, but it would seem appropriate if people were to knit a simple scarf and remember Herbert. So as I can’t actually find the pattern that was possibly used to create his scarf I have written a simple pattern of my own and so this is “Herbert’s Scarf”. 




You can download the pattern free of charge here which also contains this essay, and if you would, think of Herbert or any other man or woman who has fallen in conflict when you knit from it.

Delving deeper into Herbert’s past finally revealed as much of his story as we are ever likely to know. On 31st July 1917, the Battle of Passchendaele (or Third Battle of Ypres) in Belgium, commenced. One of the most controversial and horrific battles of WW1 began in torrential rain, which refused to stop.

the battlefield of Passchendaele

And since that morning, after going over the top into No Man’s Land into craters of mud, barbed wire, gas, bodies and bullets, Herbert, only 22 years old, was never seen again. His date of death is given as 31st July 1917 but his body was never found. His name however, is carved into a panel in the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, so that he will always be remembered.


Over half a million men, including over 350,000 British and 260,000 Germans, died at Passchendaele, many of them drowning in mud and rain-filled trenches. After surviving the horrors of this battle, the poet Sigfried Sassoon wrote about it in his poem, Mud and Rain -

Mud and rain and wretchedness and blood.
Why should jolly soldier-boys complain?
God made these before the roofless Flood -
Mud and rain.

Mangling cramps and bullets through the brain,
Jesus never guessed them when He died.
Jesus had a purpose for His pain,
Ay, like abject beasts we shed our blood,
Often asking if we die in vain.
Gloom conceals us in a soaking sack --
Mud and rain.

In Memory of great-uncle John 'Herbert' Ogden: 1895-1917

for now,
Susan xx

Friday, October 31, 2014

De-mystifying Blocking - Part 1

As I began to plan this post, it dawned on me very quickly, that there would have to be more than one post dealing with the mystery that is blocking, as varying types of projects and differing yarns require handling differently.

‘Blocking’ instructions are usually found within the making up or finishing instructions in a pattern. Blocking has become a catch all expression which refers to how to finish or ‘dress’ your almost completed project. How to bring out the best from your chosen yarn, how to ensure the correct shape and fit to your project and how to have the desired finish to the surface of your fabric.

As a dressmaker, one of the first things I do when preparing to sew, is to open the ironing board, get the iron out and fill it with water to ensure plenty of steam. Alongside this I usually have a water sprayer and a fine, damp, muslin cloth to protect the fabric. No woven item would ever be produced without the use of some heat or pressure. And yet, when I first began to knit garments, I didn’t initially make this connection and wrongly assumed that once a knitted project was sewn up that was the end of that. Maybe I have some excuse. When I first became ‘pattern aware’ as a teenage knitter, instructions on how to approach what is now called blocking were scanty to say the least. 

Examining a book today from the late 1980s which became a firm favourite, the “Elle” knitting book, there are absolutely no blocking or dressing instructions included. Once the garment was sewn up, it was ready to go. And yet, quite obviously just from the cover image below, some form of pressing or blocking must have taken place on the samples produced for the book.



Interestingly in a number of Margaret Murray and Jane Koster books from the 1930s and 40s, they do tell the knitter to press the pieces using a warm iron, usually on the wrong side and to avoid ribbing, prior to sewing up.


I can find no evidence however of the full process of blocking, including soaking, being recommended to the knitter. This is, of course, all taken from a UK point of view although  I have many Vogue Knitting magazines from the US and Sandra magazines from Germany, neither of which make very much reference to these final steps. It would be really interesting to hear what sort of instruction patterns from the 1930s to the 1990s provided elsewhere.

My assumption is, that this is because it was assumed that knitting would always be washed once it was completed. Coal fires, cigarette smoke and an often, smoggy atmosphere would mean that most knitting would get dirty during the knitting process and would automatically mean it would be washed. Likewise drying flat and patting out to shape was an every day occurrence when natural fibres were always used.

And I think that is probably the key here. With the overwhelming popularity of synthetic yarns in the 1970s and 1980s the ability to use heat and/or warm water and pins to create a permanent shape was forgotten about by many. Coupled with that, patterns assumed a knowledge from the knitter that wasn’t always there. I may be wrong with this generalization. It might in fact, have been more of a disconnection between the washing of the garment being anything more than a need to clean the item once it was produced and the idea that this process could be used to aid the finished appearance or the sizing of the piece. Either way, many of us, including myself, grew up and learnt to knit without these links and lessons being taught or learnt until fairly recently.

I hasten to add I always washed my knitting after completion - unless I was wearing it for a night out whilst still sewing on the buttons on the train! I also, always pressed the usually individual pieces prior to sewing up. I too have fallen into the trap of assuming everyone else already knew what to do but over the years as I’ve talked to many, many knitters, I have come to realise that actually lots of knitters are completely baffled by the term, blocking, and what they are supposed to do.

So first of all, lets not worry about a word. Blocking, dressing, or finishing are umbrella terms which are telling you that you need to take further action with your knitting before it is complete. As I have already said, different projects, yarns, stitches require different approaches so I’m going to focus on today on a particular project and explain how I would approach the blocking/finishing of it.

Blocking a Pair of Scandinavian Style Mittens

These mittens are knitted in 100% wool - in this instance Excelana 4ply - but most wools behave and respond similarly and they are knitted using stranded knitting, or Fair Isle, technique. Usually when working a piece of stranded knitting there will always be some irregularity in the surface of the work and until the piece is finished it will never look quite right. Pretty much everything we would do with these mittens we would also do with a stranded garment.



Before 'blocking' to the left and after to the right
These mittens are based on a traditional scandinavian pattern which I found in Annemor Sundbo’s wonderful book,  Norwegian Mittens and Gloves, which I have then adapted - knitted using Cornflower Blue and Alabaster Excelana 4 ply.

Step One

I usually soak the knitting in luke warm, soapy water for about 20 minutes. Use a laundry liquid specifically for wool.
 

I always use Navia Wool Care hand wash which is an organic hand wash (perfect for those of us on a septic tank) that contains organic lanolin which in turn feeds the wool as it is washed. It does require rinsing out afterwards but that really doesn’t worry me.


 It also only has the slightest scent of Juniper but otherwise lets the natural wool scent dominate. This is obviously a personal choice, but I’m not a one for perfume smells on my knits so this works perfectly for me.  The wool wash is available either from Island Wool's online shop or I also have it available to purchase when I am at events. At some point I will get it added to my online shop too, but in the meantime, I would highly recommend the lovely folks at Island Wool.

During the soaking the wool will begin to ‘bloom’. The wool absorbs the water and each stitch fills out, plumping up, filling in the irregularites and most importantly with stranded knitting, attaches itself more firmly to the stitches on either side of it.

Once you have allowed the knitting to soak, rinse thoroughly then roll your knitting in a towel and firmly yet carefully extract the excess water from the wool.

Step Two

Remove the knitting from the towel. Mittens require careful shaping to get the best results and the way to this is with a mitten stretcher (blocker). These are traditionally made of wood and come in a whole range of sizes. If like me, you are often knitting mittens in a variety of sizes being able to rustle up your own blocker is a really useful thing.

Making A Mitten Stretcher


Get yourself a firm piece of cardboard larger than your hand, a pen or pencil, scissors, a tape measure and some sellotape.

Measure around your hand at its widest point above your thumb. Divide this by two to give you the width needed for your mitten stretcher.





On your cardboard, draw two rectangles about 30cm tall and your required width. Draw a curved shape at the top as similar as possible to the desired final shape of your mitten, then round off the bottom corners to prevent snagging, and cut around your outline. Now for the fun bit. Cover your cardboard stretchers completely in sellotape. This makes them water resistant. The final step is to make a further two small rectangles the size of your thumbs in the same way.




Insert the larger stretcher into the mitt, ensuring the side seams of the mitts line up with the side edges of the cardboard and that the mitt is stretched evenly across the cardboard.

Insert a thumb stretcher into each of the knitted thumbs. Place on a rack or maiden to dry flat.

Once the mittens are completed dry remove the stretchers and hey presto, you have a beautifully smooth fair isle fabric and a perfectly shaped mitten. If you wish you could also apply some steam with the iron if necessary.

I would recommend that only at this point do you do the final darning in of any remaining ends.

Your stretcher is re-usable so write on each piece whose hand the stretcher is for and store for next time.

And there you go, that’s all there is to it. And is it worth doing? Absolutely. There is no comparison between a mitten that has been blocked, dressed, finished and one that hasn't. Its definitely worth taking just a little extra time to end up with such a professional and beautiful finished object. I’ll be back on the subject of blocking in a couple of weeks, when we’ll look at finishing a fair isle garment.

If you are interested in the mitt pattern, you can purchase Annemor’s book from online book retailers or I will also have an updated version of this classic available on my website in the next couple of weeks.

but for now,

Susan xx

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Land Army Memorial unveiled

After successfully raising £85,000 the Women's Land Army Tribute Campaign was finally able to reveal the beautiful sculpture commissioned to honour both land girls and lumber Jills who worked so hard through world wars one and two.

My land army badge
The sculpture was unveiled on Tuesday by the Countess of Wessex at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Although it was a terribly wet and cold day, many former land girls made the trip to see the 8 foot high statue for the first time. Some of them even dressed up in their land girl uniforms!

Copyright Express & Star
  The fabulous bronze was created by sculptor Denise Dutton who is based in Staffordshire herself.



Here you can see the models posing for the statue in their land army uniforms.


 Here is the sculpture in a bit more detail.


I feel extremely privileged and proud to have been involved in the campaign in even just a small way by raising funds through the sales of the Wartime Farm Sleeveless Pullover pattern and I really want to take this opportunity to thank everyone of you who purchased a copy of this pattern. You all helped make this memorial actually happen.


Funds are still needed to for annual rent on the plot, insurance and maintenance, so please do continue to support the campaign. The Wartime Farm pullover will continue to be sold to help raise funds towards these running costs.

I thought I would close with an illustration I found on the cover of Woman's Magazine from September 1941. Its called Land Girl and inside the magazine it states that it is taken 'from the camera study by W. Suschitsky' who was a photographer and cinematographer born to Jewish parents in Austria in 1912. He moved to London from Vienna in 1934 due to the political climate, where he worked on Government information films during WW11.



What fascinates me about the illustration though is the colour choice for the land girl uniform. Brown jumper and blue tie. Had the illustrator not seen a land girl uniform? Artistic licence? Or was there an alternate colourway? I'm leaning towards the first option but would love to hear if anyone knows differently.

Thank you all once again,

for now,
Susan xx




Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Bright Young Things

Thank you so much for the lovely response to Tess Young's Clemmie design. To celebrate the end of Wool Week I wore it to a knitting event at Williams Wools in Kendal on Sunday. It was incredibly comfortable and easy to wear and I received a lot of compliments! I wore it with one of favourite Cath Kidston tea dresses and felt relaxed and yet elegant. Just the result I was hoping for.

Me, Clemmie and Adrienne Williams


Anyhow, now that we are well under way with the Knits for a Cold Climate collection, I want to give you some more general background on the period we cover with the patterns. The 1920s and the 1930s were some of the most fascinating decades in terms of fashion, art and culture.

The 1920s were very much a reaction to the desolation and change brought on by the Great War (also known as World War 1). Many things had changed as a result of the War: Women had been thrust into industry (and had received the right to vote), air travel and modern media were both making the world smaller and larger, and a whole generation was permanently scarred by the losses incurred by the War. Is it any wonder that people decided to drown their worries and anxieties in fashion, art and music? Berlin, London, and Paris became fashionable cities where penniless artists could mingle with rich socialites - the world may have changed irrevocably, but the noise of despair was drowned out by jazz, cabaret, flappers, fast cars, cinema and bohemian artists.

The Bright Young Things
 Amid all this hedonism we find Nancy Mitford. Nancy was part of the "Bright Young Things" set - a group of bohemian and flamboyant aristocrats hell-bent on seeking entertainment and flying in the face of conventions.They were the original celebrities famous for being famous - and were chased throughout London by journalists as they partied hard, indulged in various substances and experimented with unconventional relationship configurations. Nancy was in her late teens/early twenties and would later base several characters in her books upon the friends she made during this period of her life. People like Noel Coward, Cecil Beaton (whose beauty as a young man is staggering), and Evelyn Waugh were also part of this set alongside people whose charisma and excess never transcended the period.

Cecil Beaton
And they all looked fantastic. Beaton is one of the most renowned and influential portrait photographers and I have studied his work at length. One day I'll talk more about him but let me just share this portrait of Marlene Dietrich and rejoice in his brilliance (admittedly from the 1930s but who's counting?).

Marlene Dietrich
In "A Stitch in Time, vol 1" I go into detail about the 1920s silhouette, but suffice to say the ideal 1920s girl looks completely unlike her mother. She looks boyish with short, bobbed hair and a wardrobe designed to conceal her hips and bosom. Her eyebrows arch towards the sky in an expression of perpetual wonder and her lips are painted with a perfect bow (Lillian Gish and Clara Bow - stars of the cinema - were huge influences upon this look). Ladies' fashion was both androgynous and overtly feminine: the lines of the outfits may have been boyish, but the materials were sumptuous and decadent with silks and velvets ever present. The clothes allowed for unprecedented movement - the Flapper girl needed to be able to dance, play tennis, and compete in death-defying car races - but she looked completely glamorous whilst doing so. The 1920s It Girl appeared to have it all. Also see my recent blog post for more detail about the knitted fashions of the period.

All this decadence, hedonism and care-free behaviour hid a lot of darkness - and eventually it all came crashing down. I'll discuss it more when we get to the 1930s, but I hope you enjoyed a brief glimpse into the Roaring Twenties.



If you really want to immerse yourself in this most decadent of decades why not indulge in some movies, books and art from my lists below:

1920s films:
The Kid (Charlie Chaplin)
Metropolis (Fritz Lang)
Get Your Man (Clara Bow)
Pandora's Box (Louise Brooks)
Safety Last! (Harold Lloyd)

1920s books:
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Agatha Christie)
Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
Good-Bye to All That (Robert Graves)

1920s Art and Design:

If you want to watch an entertaining British film about the Roaring Twenties, I can also recommend Bright Young Things, a 2003 film by Stephen Fry starring notables such as James McAvoy, Emily Mortimer, Peter O'Toole, David Tennant, Michael Sheen and Richard E. Grant (many in "blink and you will miss them" roles) and the vicar in Our Zoo!


What other films, books, music or art would you recommend from, or about, the 1920s?

for now,
Susan xx


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Clemmie

I'm incredibly excited to reveal the latest design in the Knits for a Cold Climate Collection.

Clemmie knitted in Fenella 2ply - using Atomic Red with Jonquil sash
Clemmie has been designed and created by my new design team collaborator here at Susan Crawford Vintage HQ, the incredibly talented Tess Young. Tess has a number of self published designs available and has also previously designed for Quince & Co., with a design aesthetic that combines a love of vintage with a vast knowledge of knitting techniques and an instinctive understanding of fabric, drape and structure. When we first discussed design ideas together,  I just knew she would design something very special with Fenella, and she has. Let me now pass you over to Tess, who will tell you more about her inspiration and the design process in creating Clemmie.

Tess:  

The Clemmie drape is my first pattern for the Knits for a Cold Climate individual pattern collection under the Susan Crawford Vintage label. Clemmie is the third pattern in the collection, inspired by Nancy Mitford, her novels, her life and her family. Nancy was one of the original "Bright Young Things" - a group of decadent and bohemian socialites roaming the party scene in interwar London - and she used these experiences in her books. You can see the two other patterns already released, Nancy herself and Asthall.

It’s been difficult keeping this exciting collaboration with Susan and Karie Westermann under wraps. I’ve so enjoyed working to Susan’s design brief, but it has been a challenge to reign in the inspiration this period provides for lovers of vintage fashion and knitwear.


Clemmie knitted in Atomic Red Fenella with Roman Plaster sash

When Susan and I first started discussing a design collection to include her new Fenella yarn I was immediately drawn to the 1930s, a period when much knitwear called for 3 ply yarns, but also characterised by elegant glamour, a little more restrained than the 20s, but perhaps more sensuous for it. This period saw the return of the waistline and accessories of the period, including capelets, shrugs and boleros, would stop just below the fullest point of the bust to emphasise the natural waist and hips. This can be seen in this illustration for Germaine Page hats, which also features the drape that was my original inspiration for Clemmie. 


The period was also characterised by details and designs that broadened the shoulders, again to offset the waist, and emphasised necklines. The use of bows, interchangeable collars, corsages and panel details were all key elements of garment design. 


The lace edging detail on Clemmie was inspired by a garment that features these elements so redolent of 1930s design and which is my favourite vintage piece; a crepe de chine dress, cut on the bias and constructed to hug the waistline and hips, with panel inserts in the skirt to make it float at the hem. 


 The panels of exquisitely hand sewn mesh, satin inserts and satin covered buttons at the neckline of the dress informed my choice of the simple mesh lace edging for Clemmie.


Knitted on 4mm needles, the Fenella creates a fine open fabric with wonderful drape which makes it an elegant finishing touch for formal wear but, as our model remarked, is surprisingly warm making it also ideally suited as elegant outer wear.


The Details:

You can buy the PDF Clemmie pattern from the Susan Crawford shop here

OR

You can buy the pattern from Ravelry here. (You do not need to be a member of ravelry to make a purchase from the site.)

The PDF pattern costs £3

You can also purchase or take a look at all the possible colour combinations of Fenella on the shop
here 

Materials Required:

Option 1(as shown)
Main body – 5 skeins of Fenella 2 ply wool (shown in Atomic Red and Columbine)
Contrast drape – 1 skein of Fenella 2 ply wool (shown in Roman Plaster, Jonquil and Marriner)

Option 2
Main body worked in 2 colours with all lace edgings in contrast colour and drape worked in main colour;
Main colour – 4 skeins of Fenella 2 ply wool
Contrast colour – 3 skein of Fenella 2 ply wool

1 pair of 4mm needles
Stitch markers
Stitch holder

Fenella retails at only £4 a skein making Clemmie an extremely cost effective project.

Clemmie knitted in Columbine with sash in Marriner
And why Clemmie?

The original Clementine was the grandmother of the Mitford sisters. She married Algernon Bertram Mitford, a diplomat who had travelled in Russia, China and most notably Japan, about which he authored Tales of Old Japan, before serving under Benjamin Disraeli in the British government.

Clementine and Algernon were also patrons of the artist James Whistler, whose interest in Japanese art they shared and who painted portraits of both Clementine, ‘in draperies of Chinese blue silk’ and Algernon ‘in Van Dyke costume’. Unfortunately both paintings are believed to have been destroyed by Whistler to avoid them falling into the hands of his creditors.

Clementine and Algernon as Lady and Lord, then Baron Redesdale spent summers at Batsford Park, where their grandchildren visited them in the summer. On the death of her husband, in 1916, not long after that of their eldest son who died on the Western Front a year earlier, the title and Batsford Park passed to David Mitford, father of the Mitford sisters, who moved in with his family briefly before selling it and moving to Asthall. Clementine moved to Redesdale Cottage, the family’s country home in Tynedale where they had extensive land holdings. She stayed there taking an active part in community life until her death in 1932.

The second Clementine was the daughter of Clementine and Algernon’s eldest son, Clement. She was born after her father died in the Battle of Loos in 1915. It’s said that her childhood was as the ‘relatively’ poor relation once the inheritance went to her father’s younger brother, but she married well aged 23 in 1939, having been proposed to by Alfred Beit under the family’s Goya. Beit was a conservative MP and heir to the wealth accumulated by his father, a South African diamond millionaire and a considerable collection of paintings now housed in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Whilst a child Clementine's mother spent periods abroad with her second husband and Clementine spent much of this time with her cousins. She was regarded as a great beauty, and cousin Nancy described Clementine as one of London's 10 most elegant women.

During the Second World War Beit served in Bomber Command and Clementine worked in a factory making air reconnaissance cameras and became a member of the Transport Workers' Union. After the war they went to South Africa and planned to stay, but returned in 1952, reportedly due to their opposition to the National Party's apartheid regime. On return they moved to Russborough House near Dublin. Their art collection made them target of burglaries at Russborough House in the 1970s and 1980s.

Here is Clementine with her grandmother Clementine, the Dowager Lady Airlie (having reverted to her own title when her daughter in law inherited the title Lady Redesdale on the death of her husband)



The third Clementine, was another ‘cousin’ Clemmie, the daughter of grandmother Clementine’s sister Blanche, and Lord Henry Hozier. However, due to her mother’s infidelities, her paternity is disputed with one of the candidates Aunt Clementine’s husband, Algernon.

Again, regarded as a great beauty this Clemmie married Winston Churchill in 1908 and the Mitford girls spent time with them at Chartwell when growing up, although Diana and Tom Mitford, the lone brother among the sisters, visited most regularly as playmates for the Churchill’s children, Diana and Randolph.



Clemmie made her début at Yarndale along with Asthall and it was wonderful to see the response from knitters after quite a long gestation period. Thank you to everyone who stopped, looked, purchased and indeed, even stroked her. Pattern pre-orders have now been dispatched so if she’s not with you yet, she will be very shortly.

Me:
Thank you Tess for creating such a beautiful design and for loving Fenella as much as I do, and thank you also to our fabulous model, Zunya, who bravely agreed to model for me despite having no previous modelling experience, and for entering into the spirit of the shoot with such gusto and providing us with such amazing images.

for now,
Susan xx