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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lithuanian Knitting and how Knitting brings the Past into the Present

I'm very excited about the forthcoming publication from the extremely talented Donna Druchunas and equally talented co-author, June Hall.

Lithuanian Knitting Continuing Traditions promises to introduce us to Lithuanian knitting techniques and traditions as well as introduce us to the knitters, weavers, spinners and sheep of this fascinating country. To top it all there are 25 knitting patterns celebrating this rich knitting heritage. One of my favourite patterns from the book are these beautiful mittens.

Donna has kindly written a blog post for me, telling us more about this book and how you can get involved in its publication.

Donna: I'm not the kind of person who is nostalgic or dreams of the "good old days." I love living in a modern world with the internet and cars and antibiotics and so many life-improving inventions. But I do think there are some things we've lost in our frantic rush into the future in the Western world. One way I connect to the past is through knitting.

Mezgimas, the most popular vintage knitting book in Lithuanian

Boy wearing knitted outfit from the Mezgimas knitting book
Vintage knitting designs provide me a window into a life that was slower and less commercial. Where people took time to make things for themselves, and often this was less expensive than buying a similar garment in the store! On the personal side, I think about my grandmothers and their mothers sewing, knitting, crocheting and doing so many other handicrafts and with each stitch I make in my own newest knitting project, I make another stitch in my memory letting me connect with loved ones who are no longer with us.

If you're familiar with my work, you will know that in addition to having a passion for knitting, I also love history and storytelling. Most of my books are cross-genre with stories and history as well as a collection of knitting projects that are used as illustrations to the story. I'm continuing this trend with my newest book, Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions. In this book, I take my connections to the past and my family history even further back in time, to Eastern Europe, where all of my great grandparents were born.

In 2007, I made my first trip to Lithuania. I was the first one in my family to return since my ancestors came to the United States in the first years of the twentieth century. For over one hundred years, we were Americans. I'm still an American--how could I not be after living in this country for 53 years--but after visiting Lithuania, I feel a strong connection to the lands of my heritage. In Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions, I explore this heritage through knitting, along with memoir, travel essays, and lots of information about what's going on in the knitting world of Lithuania today. 

June and Donna with Marija in Lithuania
My co-author, June Hall, is also partly of Lithuanian descent. She brings an English perspective to the book. I could not have created this book without her collaboration. June's experience raising sheep, being a member the Wool Clip fiber-artist co-operative in Cumbria, organizing WoolFest, and serving on the board of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in the UK make her uniquely qualified to offer us a glimpse into the world of Lithuanian sheep breeds and their wool. June is also a fiber-artist in her own right, and has had her articles and designs published in magazines in the UK and the USA.

June with a gift of Lithuanian wool
I hope you'll join us on our adventure and check out our Pubslush campaign to raise the funds to print this book in Lithuania and give back to the local economy. We are 95% funded with about a week to go, so don't miss your chance to be one of the first people to get this book and receive some really special bonus rewards, too!

Thank you Donna, and I'm sure you'll all agree that this is going to be one heck of a book!

for now,
Susan xx

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

New Pattern Release - Heywood Hill

My wonderfully talented collaborater on Knits for a Cold Climate, Tess Young, has created a stunning shawl pattern for the collection featuring a bold art deco colourway and striking stripes. I'll pass you over to Tess for the rest of this blog post to tell us about the inspiration behind Heywood Hill:

The Heywood Hill shawl takes its inspiration from the use of bold colour blocks and simpler cuts and shapes characteristic of 1920s and 1930s fashions. Influenced by modernist avant-garde artistic movements, such design features were a stark contrast with the Edwardian pastels and more complex, structured garments.  It is perhaps this degree of contrast that slowed the move from innovative turn of the century haute couture, to wider adoption. Although the relative speed of change in women’s social position and roles precipitated by World War I, also appears to have shifted expectations and accelerated change in women’s wardrobes.

Simple to knit this shawl is also incredibly simple to wear as the ‘V’ shape ensures it sits flat at the neck and drapes nicely over the shoulders to the front and at the back. The beaded tassels give it an added elegance and restrained glamour. 

The two colourways used for the samples, the bolder colours for the large and the subtler colours for the medium, show the versatility of both the design and the Fenella yarn palette. 

The Heywood Hill shawl is named after the Mayfair bookshop where Nancy Mitford worked in the later war years of the 1940s.

This coincided with her perhaps most productive literary period immediately prior to the publication of The Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love in a Cold Climate (1949) and perhaps signaled a timely change in her literary fortunes. 

Nancy’s marriage to Peter Rodd in 1933 came to be characterised by his numerous affairs. Nancy herself suffered miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in a hysterectomy. In addition her experiences as a relief worker during the Spanish Civil War had cemented her anti-fascism and the outbreak of World War II had divided the Mitford family and seen Rodd commissioned and overseas.

Thus Heywood Hill appears to have been not only a place of convalescence but also of literary escape.

Her sister Debo recalled this period:

It was the best fun in the world. She earned £3 a week and lived in Maida Vale and often walked home to save the bus fare.” 

Family connections with Heywood Hill developed at this time continue as a result of Nancy introducing Debo’s then new husband Andrew Cavendish to the bookshop. By the 1990s he was a major shareholder in the shop and instituted the Heywood Hill Literacy prize which continued until his death in 1990 when its last recipient was Beryl Bainbridge. The Heywood Hill prize was awarded to a writer, publisher or anyone else deserving of recognition for their contribution to 'the enjoyment of books'. The shop is now completely in the family since Debo and Andrew's son Peregrine 'Stoker' Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire became the sole owner of Heywood Hill. 

I can just imagine Nancy working at the shop with a Heywood Hill shawl draped over her shoulders and then wrapped around her snuggly as she walked home. 

Pattern details:

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

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 £4

You can also purchase or take a look at all the possible colour combinations of Fenella in the shop here and a kit will also be available shortly from the Susan Crawford Vintage shop.

Materials Required:

Susan Crawford Fenella 2ply wool, 100% British wool
(124 metres per 25g skein)

5 skeins of shade Myristica
1 skein of shade Atomic Red
1 skein of shade Phthalo
1 skein of shade Limoncello

3 skeins of shade Roman Plaster
1 skein of shade Delicot
1 skein of shade Columbine
1 skein of shade Constance Spry

Needles and Notions Needed

1 pair of 2.75mm (US 2) needles 
1 pair of 4mm (US 6) needles 
1 removable Stitch marker

Beads (optional ) Gutermann Rocailles 9/0 -
Large: 3g each of colours 1265 (yellow) 8360 (light green), 4295 (light red)
Medium: 9g of clear beads (col.1016)

I hope you enjoy Heywood Hill

Monday, May 11, 2015

Announcing a Barn Sale!

Over the years I have managed to collect a huge amount of 'stuff' and after vainly attempting to upload just some of this onto Ebay,  I decided a much less time consuming and much more fun way of finding it all new homes would be by opening our barn doors to the public for the first time and having a Barn Sale.

There will be mountains of yarn for sale, fabric, patterns, books, vintage bric-a-brac, a little furniture, lots of ex-display garments, clothes - vintage & otherwise, handbags, jewellery, haberdashery, handbags, shoes, CAKES, plants, farm produce, free range eggs, and possibly more.

There will be refreshments for sale - homemade cakes, snacks and soup, hot and cold drinks and mini tours around the farm to meet the sheep, chickens and ducks throughout the two days.

If you would like to come along here are the details:

The Barn Sale will be taking place at Monkley Ghyll on Saturday 6th June and Sunday 7th June from 11am - 4pm each day.

You can find full details and useful information on my website here. I have also gathered some information about places to stay as some people have already expressed a wish to make a weekend of it. If you register your interest via the email on the website and let me know that you need accommodation information I can forward that to you too.

It will be a wonderful opportunity to welcome every one to the farm for the first time before we formally open for workshops etc later in the year. I'm really excited about it and I hope to see some of you here.

for now,
Susan xx

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Bowland has been a long time in the making. I first started working on this design almost two years ago and have played with it and tinkered with it endlessly to create a basic Fair Isle cardigan pattern which is interesting enough for established Fair Isle knitters to enjoy knitting it, but for it to also provide beginner Fair Isle knitters with an achievable garment project.

Bowland is knitted in the round from the bottom up. As it is a cardigan this requires a steek positioned at the centre front. The steek will be cut open towards the end of the knitting and button bands picked up on either side. At the armholes two further steeks are added for joining the sleeves. These two steeks are cut open, the sleeve stitches are picked up around the armholes and the sleeves are then knitted downwards to the cuffs.

There is almost no shaping in the garment other than on the sleeves, to make the knitting process as simple as possible, allowing the knitter to focus on their Fair Isle technique. The same motif patterns are used throughout the design again making it easier to build up familiarity and confidence during the knitting process. The sleeves have a slightly dropped shoulder again for ease of knitting. Any shaping or casting off is done on plain knit rows so there is no pattern to worry about at the same time.

The shoulders are joined together using three needle cast-off to provide structure and shape to the cardigan. This technique is fully explained in the pattern.

The raw edges of the steek are concealed behind a decorative ribbon which runs up both button bands and around the neck band. This in turn strengthens the button bands, stops them from stretching and makes them look very very pretty when your cardigan is left open or is hung on the back of a chair.

The pattern instructions themselves are extremely thorough and over the next few weeks I will be adding additional tutorials on the website to assist further. I knit Fair Isle with one colour in each hand which will be one of the new tutorials. Details of this technique are also included in the pattern.

However if you've never done Fair Isle knitting before there is a basic introduction video which you can already view on my website.

The Fair Isle motifs are shown as full colour charts and have been carefully designed so that no 'catching' of yarns along the rows is required. You can simply strand the yarn at the back of the work as you carry it forward to be used. There is also never more than two colours on any one row.

How to cut your steek is also shown and explained in the pattern.

The pattern comes in a wide range of sizes to cover from 30-52 inch (76-132 cm) bust. I'm wearing the 42-44 inch (107-112 cm) and the cardigan is designed to have a fairly close fit to ensure the shoulders fit nicely.

Bowland is knitted in Excelana 4ply using Alabaster, Sweet Chestnut, Land Army Green, Nile Green, Damson Wine and Dark Mandarin. The yarn is also available in kit form on the website. Excelana works beautifully for Fair Isle knitting. It is a 'sticky' yarn so the stitches want to hold together - always reassuring when you intend to cut them apart!

The great news is the yarn is also available as a kit from the website along with a free project bag.
You can get the kits here.

So why "Bowland"? Funnily enough this pattern has spent most of its life without a name. It was just the Basic Fair Isle Cardigan. Which seems a bit uninspiring seeing as most people who see it fall in love with it. Then a few weeks ago, a good friend mentioned how my colour palette had been affected by living here at the farm, and realising how true this was, the name simply fell into place. Our farm is in an Area of Outstanding Beauty known as the Forest of Bowland. The cardigan is knitted in very autumnal, 'foresty' colours and so it made sense to name it, Bowland. My first, but certainly not my last, design to be named after where I now live. One of the biggest influences on me though, has been the immediate surroundings of the farm, and when looking for a backdrop for the photoshoot it was no surprise to see that the same colours that could be found in Bowland were echoed in the architecture around me.

My favourite barn door became the natural place to use for the photos, the various shades of fading green paint reflecting both shades of green in the cardigan, the rusting metal and multi-hued stone capturing the tones of the Sweet Chestnut edgings and the Dark Mandarin detail shot through the Fair Isle design.

So a few weeks ago, when my lovely daughter, Charlie, was visiting, I cajoled her into taking photos of me. I think photographers make particularly bad models, as we spend more time thinking about the camera settings and the light and the background than we do about ourselves and must be thoroughly annoying to deal with. I'm really not happy modelling. I would much rather be behind the camera but I am slowly beginning to come to terms with being the model. Charlie somehow got me to behave myself though and she took the fabulous photos above. She made me feel a lot better about the whole thing - and if I could just stop analysing my short comings in the photos I'll hopefully learn to enjoy it!

So for the details

Bowland is available as a PDF download pattern from either my ravelry shop 
from my online shop 

A printed version of the pattern will be available in the near future from myself and other wool shops. Also Bowland along with all my other single patterns will be available on Deramores and Loveknitting websites in the very near future. 

There are no purchasing problems if you reside in Europe - you can purchase the PDF download pattern from either ravelry or my own online shop - vat is included in the purchase price of the download.

Materials required are as follows:

Susan Crawford Excelana Luxury 4 ply wool 
100% pure new British wool (159m/174yds per 50g ball)
2 (2, 3, 3, 4) 50g balls shade Sweet Chestnut - A
1 (1, 1, 2, 2) 50g balls shade Nile Green - B
2 (2, 2, 3, 3) 50g balls shade Alabaster - C
1 (1, 1, 2, 2) 50g balls shade Damson Wine - D
1 (1, 1, 2, 2) 50g balls shade Land Army Green - E
1 (1, 2, 2, 2) 50g balls shade Dark Mandarin - F
1 2.75mm circular needle (40cm long)
1 2.75mm circular needle (80cm long)
1 3.25mm circular needle (40cm long)
1 3.25mm circular needle (60cm long)
1 3.25mm circular needle (80cm long)
Set of 2.75mm double pointed needles
Set of 3.25mm double pointed needles 
Waste yarn
Stitch markers
Safety pins
Spare needles
Needle and thread
9 Buttons
2m Coordinating ribbon

The multi sized pattern comes in the following size ranges:

To fit bust: 
                76-81cm (30-32in); 86-97cm (34-38in); 107-112cm (42-44in); 
               117-122cm (46-48in); 127-132cm (50-52in)

Full sizing information is included in the pattern.

Yarn kits are available with a free project bag from my website starting at £44 for the first size.

If there is enough interest I would love to launch a KAL for the cardigan to begin in a few weeks time so that we can all work our way through the various skills needed together so maybe pop a comment on this post if a Fair Isle with steeking knitalong would be of interest.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Knits from the Madding Crowd

Last night I watched the trailer for the new version of Far from the Madding Crowd staring Carey Mulligan and Tom Sturridge as Bathsheba and Troy. The 1967 film adaption of the Thomas Hardy novel, starring Julie Christie, Terence Stamp and Alan Bates as Gabriel,  is without doubt one of my favourite films. One Sunday afternoon at about the age of twelve I watched the film for the first time. I fell passionately in love and lust with Terence Stamp - a love that lasts to this day. He was responsible for a dangerous desire for dark eyed, skinny, effete, hedonistic, beautiful bad boys that got me into a heap of trouble over the years!

 Looking for images of Stamp in the film to share with my daughter whose passion is understandably for Sturridge, I stumbled across some fabulous images of Stamp in knitwear and moving on I discovered a link between the casts of both films and that link is the chaps have all modelled knitwear!

These amazing intarsia jumpers were modelled by Stamp with his model girlfriend, Jean Shrimpton for a European fashion magazine.

Next I found several images of the equally sexy Alan Bates modelling the 'Country Man' look.

And again in this gorgeous, chunky cardigan

Tom Sturridge started his career as a model and wears a lot of cool knits but here he is in a particularly spectacular jumper.

Finally, to round off our look at chaps connected with Far from the Madding Crowd would you believe I found a picture of 'Thomas' Hardy in knitwear! Wearing both a cardigan and a Fair Isle sleeveless pullover at the same time.

And here he is..

OK, that's Tom Hardy not Thomas Hardy but do I really need an excuse to show Hardy in a cardi?

So, for now,

Susan xx

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

The lovely Maya at Knit With Attitude in Stoke Newington, has long been a stockist and supporter of all things Susan Crawford Vintage. In fact, when I announced the pre orders for for the republication of A Stitch in Time volume 1,  Maya was one of the first retailers to get in touch and pre order the book.

Many emails have passed forwards and back but we have never managed to meet. However, on Saturday 25th April I will be presenting a talk at the shop, "Looking Back and Looking Ahead". The talk begins at 1pm and is completely free, although booking is required as space is limited.

So what is the talk all about?

I will be looking at my career to date paying particular attention to the long life of A Stitch in Time volume 1 - now in its 7th year of publication. I will have a selection of samples, old and new, for people to look at and try on and I will also explain how I have approached the recreation of these garments.

Then we will be looking ahead to the forthcoming publication of The Vintage Shetland Project which in collaboration with The Shetland Museum, has taken over three years to date and will finally be published in October of this year. I will have with me a small and very secret selection of some of the items being knitted for the book and I will share an insight into the work that's gone and is still going, into the project.

There will then be a general Susan Crawford Vintage trunk show celebrating the introduction of Fenella to the Knit With Attitude range of Susan Crawford yarns.

I hope to see some of you there!

for now,
Susan xx

Friday, April 03, 2015

Finish A Long - Sewing up Seams on my Land Army Jumper

Heavens! It has been almost exactly a month since I last blogged. March came in like a lion and despite the arrival of lambs, it did not go out like a lamb. It raged and roared all month long and it proved a tough 31 days to get through! Now as the Easter weekend is with us, the daffodils are finally beginning to flower and we have actually had two or three dry, sunny if cold days. On one of those unexpectedly nice days we finally had a long overdue photoshoot so that I could finally prepare for the launch of several patterns. One of those is my Land Army Jumper. 

Knitted in Excelana 4 ply in most appropriately, Land Army Green, it is already my most favourite of jumpers. You can get the yarn directly from my website here. You'll need between 6 and 9 balls depending on the size you're knitting. The heavily textured cable pattern creates warmth and the very stretchy nature of the stitch creates a very flattering, form fitting shape. Increases worked at the side seams enhances this neat fit. A looser option can be worked by casting on more stitches at the beginning and working straight to the underarm. The V-neck makes the jumper wearable indoors as well as out and is the perfect depth to wear with either a blouse or t-shirt underneath or it can also be worn on its own.

I've teamed the jumper here with my reproduction land army dungarees from Apple Tree Lane Costumery which I absolutely love. I wear them regularly for farm 'duties'. They are comfortable, warm and very practical. I opted for a ready made pair rather than custom made but now I have this pair and understand where I may need little fitting tweeks, I may very well get a second pair made to measure.

The completed pattern for the Land Army Jumper should be available in a few days time but as part of the Finish A Long on my ravelry group I promised to share some of the details of the finishing techniques involved in sewing up a jumper knitted in flat pieces.

The Land Army Jumper has four pieces. The back, front and two identical sleeves. Because it is a cable and rib pattern there is no need to press the pieces before starting to sew up. In fact you would flatten out the pattern if you did so. 

The first step in the finishing process is to sew together the shoulder seams. The shoulder shaping in this pattern is created by casting off a percentage of the shoulder stitches at the beginning of each of the next 8 rows creating a sloping cast off edge going downwards from the back neck to the armhole edge. By creating the seam in this way small ‘steps’ occur along the length of the shoulder seam. There are a number of alternative ways to approach the shoulders but for today I am going to simply look at sewing together this type of stepped shoulder. 

On this particular pattern, one of the things to look out for is the obvious pattern of knit stitches and purl stitches. It is essential when joining the front and back pieces together that the knit stitches are matched to each other and the same with the purl stitches. No matter how neatly you may sew up the seam if the stitches are out of line the shoulder will look unsightly. In the first instance I always pin the seams with right sides together so that I can adjust until everything is lined up correctly. Most importantly for a neat seam is to create a smooth diagonal sewing line - DO NOT follow the contours of the steps. If you are in anyway unsure about your sewing abilities sew a line of running stitches along this line using sewing thread and fairly large, easily removable stitches. Remove the pins as you go. Now you can follow this nice, straight line when you sew up properly. For a garment of this weight I would always use the same yarn as I knitted with. I cut a length of the yarn sufficient to complete the entire seam and thread it through a ‘sewing up’ needle.

I have a whole host of sewing up needles of different lengths and eye sizes, some sharp and some more blunt. I have one or two favourites however which I use for most sewing tasks. One of the most important things to remember when sewing through your knitted pieces is not to sew through the stitches. ALWAYS take the needle between stitches. If for any reason you have ever had to take sewing up out after breaking through any stitches you will know how dreadful a task this can be! This applies regardless of what stitch or technique you are using.

For shoulder seams of this type I would always use back stitch. It creates a very strong seam which gives the rest of the garment strength and structure. As a rule I start at the back neck edge and work downwards towards the armhole. Leave a length at the beginning to reinforce the first couple of stitches. Start by working a couple of stitches in the same position then remembering to follow a straight diagonal line, begin to work your way along the shoulder.

Take your needle down through both layers of knitting between the stitches and come back up one stitch along. Pass your needle back down through the work half a stitch back, and come up half a stitch ahead. Continue in this manner all the way along the seam. Reinforce at the end in the same way as at the beginning then weave the end in back through 2 or 3 stitches before cutting off. Rethread your needle to the length left at the beginning and weave this end through 2 or 3 stitches then cut off.

And voila, your shoulder is complete. Now follow the same process for the second shoulder. Our next step is picking up stitches around the neck which I will take you through in a couple of days time.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot similarities between this jumper and ‘The Warm Jumper’ in A Stitch in Time volume 2 and indeed the Land Army Jumper is based on this, with a different cable pattern and some tweeks to the fit, construction and number of sizes available, but I’ll have more on this when I publish the pattern shortly. We had an absolutely fantastic time on the photoshoot for this jumper and got so so many beautiful photographs that its going to be hard to choose just a few for the pattern pages. In addition we had 'publicity' photos of the two of us on the farm done and I just wanted to share this photo from the shoot with you. Here's me and Gavin having a chat over the farm gate during the shoot with me in my Land Army jumper and Gavin in his Wartime Farm Sleeveless Pullover. This photo just makes me so happy!

'sew' for now
Happy Finishing!

Susan xx

All images Copyright ©Susan Crawford Vintage 2015