Saturday, 30 April 2016

Nettles, Newts & Broken China


Don't let the above photo deceive you - it hasn't been all sunny days in my part of Blighty recently. This week we've had rain, hailstones and frost, so today's sun has made a very welcome change. Also, the cold snap has affected some of my species surveys too. They're supposed to be carried out in spring, but at optimal air temperatures. These colder days we've been having has meant that certain surveys for reptiles and great crested newts are on hold until the weather warms up. However, I did find some cresties during a recent survey...

...cute aren't they?

Whenever weather has permitted, I've been out in the orchard mowing the grass and also trying to get our raised border and seating area finished. Its changed quite a bit since I last blogged about it here and is no longer an untidy, overgrown pile of grot, but somewhere peaceful to sit out and catch the morning sun (not very often recently!).

Husband rebuilt sections of the former greenhouse foundations and I filled in some of the voids with fragments of broken pottery and china that I've collected over the years.

I've included blue and white transfer pottery that I dug up on a Victorian rubbish dump, half a toy china tea cup found in a stream and the base of a pottery beer bottle from a derelict cottage's rubbish dump. I've collected fragments like these since I was a kid and they still fascinate me, so it was a nice touch to be able to include these.

I'm aiming to plant the border in a cottage garden style and am currently growing some sweet-pea seedlings to plant against the rustic wigwam that I made from hazel and jute rope under Dad's supervision.

We were lucky with the bench. A neighbour gave it to us as it saved him from having to chop it up. Its paint was flaking off and the exposed wood rather rough, but after I gave it a sand down and a few coats of paint, its spruced up perfectly and is comfortable too. The elephant plant stand was rescued from Mum and Dad's old summerhouse before they moved last year. It makes an ideal stand for a mug of tea or beer bottle!

There are plenty of nettles in the orchard, which gave me the chance to make some nettle soup in the week. The cooking removes any sting, and the nettles combined with potato and carrots makes for a hearty, earthy tasting soup. Honestly, it does taste good! If you fancy having a go yourself, I can recommend the recipe on the River Cottage website. 

Bon appétit!

Friday, 22 April 2016

'Home Fires': The Knitwear

For me, Sunday evening television has livened up with the welcome return of of 'Home Fires' - Series Two on ITV. I enjoyed the first series, but this has surpassed it in my opinion and to be honest I much prefer 'Home Fires' to 'Downton Abbey' any day - with apologies to Julian Fellowes! I have to admit to re-watching the previous three episodes just because I've found the story-lines so engrossing and also to admire both the outfits worn and easy-on-the-eye Captain Novotny!  

Kudos has to given to the programme's wardrobe department. They've managed to find plenty of authentic 1940s knitwear for this series and it probably helps that many of the actors are very slim, so easily fit into these garments. One thing that I've noticed is the knits have that worn appearence with a few having genuine-looking frayed edges that comes with wear, rather than artificial ageing by a wardrobe hand. Its great to see a WWII tv programme with a wardrobe that clearly evokes both the period and the fact that many people didn't have a lot of clothes, so the ones they did wear frequently received a lot of wear and tear. Look at farmer's lad Stan Farrow with his holey pullover...

Being a keen collector of vintage knitting patterns, I've recognised a few of them during the series; this and a recent post by Wendy of The Butterfly Balcony, gave me the idea to write a post specifically about the patterns and share them, in case anyone wants to recreate one or more of the 'Home Fires' knitwear. So here are some screen captures of the knits, which I've matched up with their corresponding patterns.

As knitting wool was so scare during WWII due to a high proportion of Britain's wool clip being used to manufacture military uniforms, patterns that eked out every last strand of yarn found favour with knitters. Fair Isle was one of the most popular of patterns due to its colourful motifs that was bright and colourful, yet economical with wool. This Fair Isle jumper worn by doctor's daughter Laura Campbell, is part of a twin set from Bestway and I recognised it immediately as I have an identical one from the 1940s knitted in the exact colourway and in a fine 3ply. 

You can find an updated pattern for this jumper available  in a wide range of sizes in A Stitch in Time, Vintage Knitting Patterns 1930-1959: Vol 2 written by Susan Crawford & Jane Waller.

By the way, keep an eye out in 'Home Fires' as you might notice that this jumper is 'recycled'; being also worn by the village busy-body.

Coming to one of my favourite characters, exchange telephonist Claire Hillman, the 'rabbit-ears' jumper that she's wearing above nattily matched with her helmet, is knitted from Weldons No 528 pattern. This has been a favoured pattern for a while and I've previously toyed with the idea of adapting it into a cardigan.

Image source
Looks like the wardrobe department have another version in a different colour-way. I think I prefer the pattern contrast against the dark blue wool.

This colourful jumper worn by vicar's wife Sarah Collingbourne, minus its neckties, was knitted from Bestway 1511 - I love the model's pose on the cover. Fancy knitting one yourself? There's a re-written version for a size 38-40" bust in Jane Waller's book Knitting Fashions of the 1940s, which uses 4ply wool.

Here's another Fair Isle design that appears to be a wardrobe staple for character, Erica Campbell. An identical pattern can be found for it in Patons Knitting Book No 262 and is featured - albeit in a different colourway - on the front cover.

The Neapolitan ice cream colours of this jumper knitted in a traditional wavy Old Shale pattern is bound to be a favourite with knitters. I can't find an identical pattern for the knit featured with its slashed neckline; however, Sirdar 1140 is a close match and the Your Victory Jumper available free from the V&A website is another variation.

The pattern shown above taken from Subversive Femme's Etsy shop is a dead-ringer for farmer Steph Farrow's jumper. The chevron pattern, colour combo and eyelet detail are really eye-catching, but not too overpowering.

One of the most feminine knits in the programme has to be the cream jumper with its lace-work yoke and embroidered flower details as worn by troubled book-keeper Alison Scotlock. I've found a pattern, which looks line an identical match on the Fab 40s Fashions website.

Here we come to the patterns that I haven't been able to find a match for, but thought I'd include them anyway...

The blue cardigan below worn by Butcher's wife, Miriam Brindsley, looks very Thirties in style, with a longer line than its waist-skimming 1940s contemporaries.

I've enjoyed pulling this post together and aim to update it if I recognise any further knits shown in the remaining programmes. If you have any ideas on the 'mystery' knits, please let me know and I'll add them to the above.

 I'm also planning to do a similar post, but on the dresses featured - so watch this space.

In the meantime, happy viewing!

If looks could kill - however, she does have a nice button detail on her shoulder!

UPDATE! In the spirit of sharing, I have added a page above - 'Vintage Patterns' - where I have included free downloads of some the patterns featured in this post. These are original versions from my personal collection, so please have a look through. Also, check out Wendy's site full of amazing vintage patterns from the 1940s and other decades, which is also freeThe Vintage Pattern Files

Sunday, 3 April 2016

#VintagePledge 2016 - Berry Beret

After sewing Monkeychild's Alice dress, my second #VintagePledge item is a Fair Isle knit. I returned to a 1940s pattern that I had previously used to knit my friend Rachel a beret from.

It's a great pattern to knit and not complicated either; taking me just over a week from start to finish. The pattern is written and not charted and I find these type of patterns easier to follow than charts; less of a strain on the eyes too!

This was a stash buster and luckily I had some toning shades left over from other projects. These were a mix of Debbie Bliss 'Rialto 4ply' and 'Baby Cashmerino', and I still find that they're a pleasure to knit with and not coarse either. 

After finishing, I hand washed it and blocked it over a plate. When wet the beret did look quite big and I was worried that it might resemble The Goodies' 'Ecky Thump' head-gear in diameter!

Photo Source
Happily it lost some of the size after drying and fits with just the right amount of 'flop'.

I've already started my next knitting project, which is a Fifties dolman sleeved bolero - also in a berry-red shade.

P.S. For those of you who are interested, the beret can be seen on  my Ravelry page here: Knit1Monkey.

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