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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The 1930s: The Decade Between

When I posted The Bright Young Things, I always thought I'd want to write about what came after the Roaring Twenties. We humans like to think of decades as clearly defining cultural or political phenomena, but real life is rarely that clear-cut.

The Roaring Twenties really ended in 1929 with the infamous Wall Street crash. From a cultural point of view, the reaction to the economic downturn is really interesting. People demanded escapism and the result was the rise of glitzy Hollywood musicals (made possible with the invention of "the talkie" in 1927). This Busby Berkeley number from 1933 is incredible: economic woes, American values, risky outfits, imaginative choreography, and an adorable Ginger Rodgers.

I love the contrast between the glitz of Busby Berkeley musicals and the British equivalent. The Gracie Fields musical, Sing as We Go, was written by novelist J.B. Priestley and was the story of a young girl laid off from her work in a mill who decides to go to Blackpool in pursuit of her dreams. Pay attention to Gracie's wonderful jumper in this excerpt!

The two clips make for good companion pieces because they tell the same stories in two different settings. the world was a darker, more uncertain place and people faced real hardship as they were trying to 'make it'.

Fashion was more grown-up as well. The boyish silhouette of the 1920s gave way to a feminine, more fitted look with a high waist and puff sleeves. The young, carefree girl had grown into a hard-working, smart woman and fashion trends reflected that. Tailored ensembles, mid-calf skirts, and form-fitted blouses with detailed neck-lines were all staple wardrobe items. The 1930s also became one of the most exciting ages in which to be a knitter. Jumpers were hugely fashionable and knitting became a way of making fashionable clothes for yourself on a small budget. You can read more about 1930s knitted jumpers in A Stitch in Time, vol. 1! Some of the most cutting edge designs in the book are indeed from the 1930s. Just look at The Rose Jumper with its dramatic neckline and beautiful sleeves coming to points immediately above the cuff.

The most dramatic piece of all has to be Concentrate on the Sleeves with its 'sharks fin' pleats at the top of each, already dramatic, leg o' mutton sleeves.

One of the things I love most about the 1930s is the music. As per usual Hollywood took advantage of new technology and as a result they made many splendid musicals while radio and gramophones made stars of touring "dance band" orchestras. Many "standards" started life as big popular hits in the 1930s: I Got Rhythm (written by George & Ira Gershwin), Cheek to Cheek (written by Irving Berlin), and Begin the Beguine (written by Cole Porter) among others. You also saw the rise of crooners like Bing Crosby (Pennies from Heaven) and a very young Frank Sinatra (Night & Day).

What about literature though? Writers like John Steinbeck, George Orwell, and Ernest Hemingway wrote angry, realist pieces about every-day life, but again you see a lot of escapism. The 1930s were the Golden Age of detective novels with writers like Agatha Christie (whose Miss Marple series started in 1930), Dorothy L. Sayers, and Ngaio Marsh. All wrote genteel mysteries featuring nice and definitely not so nice, middle-class and upper-class people. What better way to assuage the trials of toils of every-day life than curl up a good mystery where the villains eventually are brought to justice? Likewise, it is no coincidence that science-fiction and fantasy began to take off (J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone, and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World were all published in the 1930s) nor that the biggest literary success of the decade was Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind!

Nowadays I think we tend to forget the 1930s a little bit because it was the decade between the Roaring Twenties and the devastation of World War Two. I think it is a fascinating period of time filled with strong women, interesting books, and the start of mass pop culture.

Did I forget your favourite piece of 1930s culture?

for now,
Susan xx

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cecilia's Stranded Knitting Adventure

Last weekend I went on a lovely trip to see my good friend Cecilia, who lives high in the Cumbrian countryside. Cecilia is a spinner and hand dyer of the highest level and she has very kindly (or foolishly) been teaching me to spin. In return, she asked if I would help her improve her stranded knitting skills.

As well as both living on farms and being obsessed with wool and knitting, Cecilia and I have another thing in common. We were both supporters of our mutual friend,  Felicity Ford's 'Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook'.

Helping Cecilia to improve her stranded knitting skills seemed the perfect moment for us also to explore Felix's book and launch Cecilia into a project.

Before I arrived I had set Cecilia some homework based on Felix's book. She was to study her surroundings and choose something around her as the inspiration for her piece of stranded knitting. She was then also to extract the colours from this and create a colour palette from which she would knit.

As a hand dyer inspired by her environment on a daily basis, Cecilia decided to turn things on their heads somewhat and chose a skein of her beautiful hand dyed yarn as her inspiration. This in turn had been inspired by a view by the near by lake early this year. You can read more about Cecilia's processes in this interview on the Wovember blog in 2013.

 She then chose a selection of Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper weight Shetland wool that reflected the colours to be found in the skein.

Felix's book helps you to see the range of colours and patterns in everything around you and then shows you how to take those colours and patterns and turn them into beautiful samples of stranded knitting. I would recommend you looking at Felix's website at just some of the truly amazing images of completed works that people have sent to her.

Felix has herself been using a photo I had taken of my farm, Monkley Ghyll to create the most stunningly, rich swatch. Here it is in progress.

Here is the photo which Felix has used to create this incredible swatch.

And so, once colours had been identified, Cecilia took up her needles and set about learning to create stranded knitting. Sitting at her kitchen table we talked and drank tea oblivious to the day darkening outside; the only sound disturbing us that of Cecilia's two new Old England goats who have been relentlessly trying to escape since coming to live with her.

Initially awkward, the rhythm of working stranded knitting with a colour held in each hand began to make sense and Cecilia's speed and accuracy improved dramatically.  At the end of the day a small but perfectly formed swatch had begun to appear on her needles. Cecilia is going to continue with this and at our next meeting I will hopefully be able to share with you her completed project.

Felix's book is inspirational in the true sense of the word and yet also manages to be fabulously instructional as well, releasing often un-noticed patterns and colour combinations for us to use and admire.

If you haven't already got yourself a copy of the Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook I would highly recommend you do so. Take a walk, look at the everyday things around you and begin to create your own works of knitted art.

Felix's book can be purchased via her website here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Alconleigh - from the Knits for a Cold Climate collection

Folowing on from her incredibly popular design, Clemmie, Tess Young has created Alconleigh for the Knits for a Cold Climate collection. Following on the heels of Nancy, Asthall and Noblesse Oblige the collection is really coming together and there are still more exciting new designs in the works.

Image Copyright Susan Crawford 2014
 Alconleigh is a stylish ensemble of hat and gauntlets heavily influenced by 1920s design. Again knitted in Fenella and with the pattern providing the instructions for both hat and gauntlets. I'll now pass you over to Tess who will tell us more about her design inspirations for this fabulous set:

"When discussing Knits for a Cold Climate with Susan I knew I wanted to design a hat. After all during the 1920s and 30s it would have been considered vulgar by most women, across classes, to leave the house without a hat.

Whilst cloches are often thought synonymous with the 20s, they had already been popular before this point and were far from the only style of hat worn during this period. Many designers produced popular more flamboyant and exotic hats drawing on oriental influences, popular since the opening of Tutankamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922, and Russian embroidery and styles brought to western Europe by those fleeing the 1917 Revolution.

What was more consistent in the 1920s was the way in which hats were worn; deep or low over the head to frame the face, itself a canvas for the new trend in striking make-up.  However, the trend for fuller more glamorous hairdos, demi-waves and perms in the 1930s saw hats softening, pushed back a little, and brims broadening.

And of course, along with hats went matching gloves.  Day dresses tended to be worn with short gloves and evening dresses with long gloves.

In terms of colour, Paul Poiret set the trend reintroducing vivid colours in his collections in the 1920s and these stronger colours replaced Edwardian pastels. Colour was also used in bold blocks reflecting the influence of the cubists and fauvists on textile design and fashion during the 1920s.

Drawing on these influences the Alconleigh hat uses deep stripes or blocks of myristica and myrtle separated by accents of Jonquil, a favourite of Poirets. It has a deep hemmed brim, and gentle folds achieved by changing needle size between the colourwork and plain sections. This is topped off by a striking colourwork crown which can be worn to the back or at a jaunty angle to the side. Alconleigh frames the face just as I hoped it would and this makes it a very flattering hat to wear.

Image Copyright Susan Crawford 2014
 The gloves similarly have a hemmed cuff and folds along the forearm and can be worked pulled up of with gentle ruches. The colourwork on the hands reflect that on the crown of the hat.

Image Copyright Susan Crawford 2014
Image Copyright Susan Crawford 2014

Alconleigh is named for the setting of much of Mitford’s 1945 novel, The Pursuit of Love , the first of the trilogy that includes Love in a Cold Climate and The Blessing. The novel begins with its narrator Fanny recalling childhood Christmases at Alconleigh. The fictional Alconleigh is largely based on Asthall Manor (link to Susan’s post) home of the Mitfords in the early 1920s. It does not receive the most sympathetic treatment in the novel, the house reflecting the character of its inhabitants, or perhaps its Lord, Uncle Matthew or Lord Alconleigh, a loud, crass, bullying, blood sports enthusiast. It would be tempting to suggest that he is a parody of a particular element of the aristocracy of the time, but actually he seems to be a rather close representation of Mitford’s own father and there are parallels with the Mitford family biography throughout the novel. Alconleigh is described as both metaphorically and literally cold and a warm hat and gauntlets would be equally suitable for wear in both the house and across the estate!"

Image Copyright Susan Crawford 2014

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 on the shop here and a kit will also be available from my shop here. Check

Materials Required:

Hat Only (in 4 sizes to fit 46, 51, 56, 61cm, 18, 20, 22, 24 in.)
1 (1, 2, 2) skeins of shade Myristica
1 (1, 1, 2) skein of shade Myrtle
1 (1, 1, 1) skein of shade Jonquil

Gauntlets Only (in 2 sizes, medium & large ladies hand)
2 (2) skeins of shade Myristica
1 (2) skein of shade Myrtle
1 (1) skein of shade Jonquil

Hat and Gauntlets
3 skeins of shade Myristica
2 (2, 2, 3) skeins of shade Myrtle
1 skein of shade Jonquil

Needles and Notions Needed:

Set of 2.75mm (US 2) double pointed needles or 40cm (16in) circular needle
Set of 3.25mm (US 3) double pointed needles (gauntlets only)
Set of  of 3.75mm (US 5) double pointed needles or 40cm (16in) circular needle (hat only)
2 Stitch markers
for now,
Susan xx

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Noblesse Oblige - and a little something about Language

Noblesse Oblige is the latest pattern in the 'Knits for A Cold Climatecollection.

And I am extremely excited to announce that it is designed by my good friend and collaborator, the extremely talented designer, Karie Westermann. Karie is not only a marvel at designing but has an incredible knowledge about the English language. When we decided on the name for this design it seemed to make perfect sense that its name would therefore be Noblesse Oblige.

I would now like to pass you over to Karie to tell you a little more about her fabulous design:

"When I was given the design brief by Susan, I knew I wanted to use the wonderful colour range in Fenella. Inspired by my recent forays into knitting archives, I began sketching Fair Isle bands but it was not until I uncovered a photo of a 1930s knitting pattern that I decided upon the colour scheme. The jumper is charming, but I fell in love with the red/green/yellow motif. Could I use these colours in a more traditional setting?

After several attempts, I hit upon a 1930s inspired hat and scarf using that red/green/yellow combination, but also tempered by a soft porcelain blue and a delightful creamy white. The jaunty beret features two Fair Isle bands that counteract each other to create a sense of dynamism.

The scarf comes in three sizes - you can make it a neckerchief, a small scarf or a full-sized shawl. To optimise knitting pleasure, the scarf does not use Fair Isle bands but features narrow stripes in a colour sequence that calls back to the beret. After much discussion, Susan and I agreed that small, felted pompoms would add a delightful finishing touch.

Naming the pattern was harder. I wanted to use one of Nancy Mitford's book titles, but neither Christmas Pudding nor Pigeon Pie seemed appropriate! Finally, Noblesse Oblige seemed to suggest itself - it is a collection of essays and I rather enjoyed Nancy Mitford's essay on the English language. So, Noblesse Oblige. A lovely hat and scarf set. I hope you will enjoy knitting it.

But let's talk about Nancy Mitford's essay briefly.

Found in Noblesse Oblige, "The English Aristocracy" is her most famous essay. Nancy Mitford had recently read an academic article by a British linguist and was inspired to write her own examination of how the British upper class ("U") and the middle class ("non-U") spoke. The essay is very much of its time - apparently only non-U people would speak of telephones! - but that is also part of its appeal. It is a snapshot of a world in transition where old notions of class and importance are slowly eroding. It is particularly interesting to compare Mitford's essay to Grayson Perry's TV documentaries about Class in Britain. The economic barriers between the classes may have eroded, but cultural markers such as language and taste have not.

"The English Aristocracy" is an early example of what we know today as sociolinguistics. A "sociolect" is a type of language associated with one socioeconomic class, age group or gender. The British 1990s sit-com Keeping Up Appearances uses Mitford's little U vs non-U markers and sociolects to great comic effect. The main protagonist, Hyacinth Bucket, insists her surname is pronounced Bouquet, and she keeps grasping at big, fancy words in her attempt to sound more refined (something Mitford notes is the true mark of a social climber - why use the word "lavatory" when "loo" is perfectly adequate?). The underlying class anxiety so evident in Mitford's 1950s essay is very much visible even forty and fifty years on.

If you have half an hour to spare, I suggest you read Mitford's little essay in Noblesse Oblige - I assure you that you will notice amusing little things about how you and the people around you speak."

Thank you so much Karie for sharing the thought processes behind your design with us.

Now for the important 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 on the shop
here  and a kit will also be available from my shop here.

Materials Required:

Beret Only (both sizes)
1 skein each of shades Myrtle, Atomic Red, Chalk, Jonquil, Porcellana
Neckerchief/Scarflette/Shawl Only
1 (2, 3) skeins of shade Myrtle 1 skein each of shades Atomic Red, Chalk, Jonquil and Porcellana
Beret plus Neckerchief/Scarflette/Shawl
2 (3, 4) skeins of shade Myrtle 

1 skein each of shades Atomic Red, Chalk, Jonquil and Porcellana

Needles and Notions Needed
Set of 2.25mm (US 1) double pointed needles 

Set of 3mm (US 2) double pointed needles 

1 pair of 3mm (US 2) needles or 3mm circular needle 

Stitch markers 
Pom pom maker or small piece of cardboard

I hope you'll agree with me that this is a truly beautiful ensemble. Later this week I will share my blocking tips for the beret and also how I made the felted pom poms.

for now,
Susan xx

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Edited 8.40 am Sunday: The page is now finally beginning to be populated with the sale items. As I upload them it is taking about 24 hours for them to appear on the page and as a new vendor I am limited to how many I can add at any one time, but I'll be slowly working my way through. Some items have sold almost as soon as they appeared on the page so do keep looking if there's a particular favourite that you're waiting for.

Original post 21.50 pm Saturday:
I have begun to list samples on my ebay page and these should have been published by now but unfortunately ebay hasn't yet updated them to show them on my page. If you are following the page ebay should hopefully notify you when items 'appear'. To be doubly sure I will post on the blog again once the page does update.

I'm so sorry for the inconvenience if you are waiting to see the listings, but unfortunately I don't have any control over the ebay system. If its not sorted tomorrow however I will find another way to list them for sale.

for now

a slightly irritated
Susan xx

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:

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



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