Saturday, 6 September 2014

'Knitting for Tommy': Book Review & Giveaway

Publishers, The History Press, have sent me a copy to review of one of their latest publications: Knitting for Tommy written by Lucinda Gosling in association with Mary Evans Picture Library. Knitting for Tommy is one in a series of books that The History Press have published in this centenary year to commemorate all those, both military and civilian, whose lives were forever changed by the devastating effects of the First World War.

In Knitting for Tommy, Gosling takes a detailed look at the reasons why 'Home Front' knitting was so important in clothing the British Commonwealth and Allied Forces during the Great War and the importance that the continuous supply of civilian knitted garments and accessories (known as 'comforts') played in keeping these Forces warmly clothed. 

The book opens with a jaw-dropping statistic that puts into perspective the uphill task that the British Government faced in providing uniforms: "In August 1914, the War Office was faced with the task of kitting out a volunteer army of an unprecedented size. In Great Britain, from July to September 1914, 253,195 men voluntarily enlisted and, by 1918, over five million British men had worn uniform". No wonder that a 'call to needles' was raised, to which the British and Allied civilians met with gustoKnitting for Tommy describes the stirring and patriotic effect that this had on both adults and children, with people cramming in as much knitting as possible in what were very fraught and straightened times. It highlights how people pulled together to clothe not only their sons, fathers, uncles, husbands and beaus, but others' unknown loved ones too; with occasional
tragic consequences. However amongst the seriousness of war, there are touches of humour too in the cartoons reproduced in the book and a particularly cheeky excerpt from a serviceman's letter home.

Gosling also relates how knitting turned from a recreational past-time into a craze that permeated all aspects of popular culture; from the knitting-themed picture postcards sent out to those at the Front Line, to the songs being sung in music halls and parlours, or the latest fashion in knitting accessories: The Bracelet Wool Holder.

Apart from retelling this social history aspect of the First World War, Knitting for Tommy also includes a whole chapter dedicated to facsimiles of contemporary knitting patterns. These are typical of the comforts that were being knitted in their thousands, such as variations of woollen Balaclava helmets and gloves; I particularly like the rather natty 'Warleigh Smoking Cap'. This aspect alone will appeal to those who like to dabble in a bit of vintage knitting; although some might find it hard persuading their other-half to wear a crocheted combined cap and scarf this winter!

I eagerly read Knitting for Tommy cover-to-cover, but it is one of those books that you can easily dip into; being an engaging read that manages to retell this aspect of social history without the 'dryness' that some books of a similar ilk have. The book's further appeal is that it is thoroughly peppered with illustrations, many depicting winsome beauties dutifully knitting or adverts promoting the qualities of manufacturers' knitting wool and patterns. As Gosling is a historical specialist at Mary Evans Picture Library and has a rich pictorial resource at her fingertips, its therefore no surprise that Knitting for Tommy is a visual treat too.

Finally, The History Press have kindly offered a copy of Knitting for Tommy for me to giveaway to a lucky bod. All you have to do is be a Follower of this blog and add the words 'Knitting for Tommy' after your comment. After the closing date (14th September), I'll pick out a random name via the time-honoured 'name-in-a-hat' method and will announce it on this post the day after the closing date. Good luck!

P.S. If you can't wait and want to order a copy now, here's a link: Knitting for Tommy

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A Slice of Gnome Life

I like gnomes and I like cake so I thought I'd combine 'em both in a post!

The assortment of camp/evil looking gnomes above are modelling my latest crop of beetroot - of varying sizes. This is my fault as I didn't thin them out properly, but I'll know for next time (or year). 

So what did I make with them? Well, I decided to use my tried and tested recipe for beetroot brownies taken from BBC Good Food, which is always a lunchbox favourite for Monkeychild. Its really simple and quick to make; although washing and peeling the beetroot is a bit messy, so out come the disposable gloves to avoid the red-stained hand effect.

And here is the final result - minus a few slices that were 'Quality Checked'!

As for the gnomes, I've always liked them in the garden. Not the plastic brightly-coloured modern variety, but the old terracotta or concrete ones with their flaking and weathered paint that evoke a nostalgia for gardens of long ago.

When I was a child in the early 1970s, I was fascinated by one particular garden I used to walk past on the way back from school. It had the full complement of gnomes, obligatory three foot tall windmill and flamingos that looked like they had been out in the sun too long. This lovely (and I don't mean lovely in the sarcastic sense either) group was artistically set out amid a stripey manicured lawn, which was obviously the owner's pride and joy. Back at home we only had one gnome much to my disappointment, sitting in solitude in the middle of the lawn. Luckily he went with us when we moved to our next house and he is still with me today, looking very faded but much loved...

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Bargain Hunt

Its been a while since I last wrote about my charity shop/flea market finds so I thought I'd do a quick update for you, as I've picked up a few bargains during my recent outings.

First is this St. Michael 1940s 'Controlled Commodity' CC41 apron with its 'two cheeses' label. I was really pleased to find this at a local flea market and brought it for a couple of pounds, which is a bargain especially as CC41 items are getting harder to find. With a wash and press, its come up quite nice. I usually buy aprons for their fabric, aiming to cut them up and re-use the fabric elsewhere; but this one will be staying in one piece I reckon.

As I'm a big fan of picnics with all the trimmings, there was no way that I was going to ignore this 1970s Preci Ware 'Pac-a-Pic' picnic box.

Its lucky that the boxes still have their full complement of plastic cutlery, compartment lids and tumblers. However, the elastic straps had perished resulting in a 'saggy bottom' when lifting up the box, so I replaced them with new identical elastic strapping and re-attached the toggles and its as good as new! 

I also brought this lovely picture...

I saw an identical one at a flea market a few weeks ago, which was badly faded but was still being sold for £30! There's no way I'd buy one at that price, so I was more than happy to buy this for a lot less. The frame was a bit grimy, but a quick wipe-over with sugar soap fixed that and restored the frame back to its glowing whiteness.

I also picked up some more 1940s Stitchcraft magazines too, which will help complete the gaps in my collection...


... and even Husband got in on the bargain hunting, buying a rather large linen Union Jack flag after hankering after one for quite a while. The stairwell of our loft is the only place in which it'll fit - just about!

So, what's been your recent best bargain? Do tell...

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