Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Knit Wit: Am I Mad?

I think its quite fair (groan) to say that I have grown to love Fair Isle. 

From my first foray with the beret nightmare through to the Just William pullover and my recent cardigan from a few posts ago, I've started to enjoy following the patterns and choosing my own colour combos. Heck, I'm even designing a pair of patterned wrist-warmers and am currently knitting up the prototype pair. But what I'm thinking of doing next is madness in my mind, considering my slow knitting pace.

I'm planning to re-write a pattern from the 1920s for a Fair Isle coat and knit it up. Its the cream one on the bottom right of the below cover.


I'd love to have an original copy of the above booklet just for the full-length coat alone, but luckily my chosen pattern has been digitised and saved here, as published in The Australasian, May 31 1924.

As the newspaper print is tiny and still annoying to read even when blown-up, I will re-write the pattern. I'll re-do the charts too, but it looks like its a straightforward pattern repeat so hopefully there'll be no unwelcome surprises.

As for colour, the original pattern uses 'putty', 'blue' and cherry'. However, I'm more swayed by the colours used in the full length coat, so am thinking about black, red, teal and either green or yellow. 

Am I mad?

Will I finish it?

Will the finished coat even suit me?

Who knows, but I'm hoping it'll be a fun project to have a go at and will keep me busy over winter, spring, summer, autumn....

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Splash Back in Time

I've long been an advocate of lidos and am lucky to live close to arguably one of Britain's best: Sandford Parks Lido. A Grade II Listed Building with its 50 metre Olympic sized outdoor swimming pool, separate children's pool, excellent café and neatly manicured lawns calling out for the laying down of towels and picnic blankets, its a hidden gem on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment. 

We're regular visitors throughout the summer months when its open as Husband and Monkeychild are keen swimmers. I would love to be able to tell you that you can find me there sunning myself and wearing my best Fifties cossie, but being a hopeless swimmer and not bothered whether I tan or not, you're more likely to find me writing whilst keeping an eye on Monkeychild. 

We visited the lido today as it'll soon be closed for its hibernation and am so glad that we did as it was bathed in glorious sun.

I believe that lidos, as important recreational and cultural heritage places, are due for far more recognition than they currently get.

The perfectly proportioned café pavilion it all its 1930s elegance

Their truly golden age was in the Thirties when pools were either constructed or refurbished and to add a touch of cosmopolitan Rivera glamour, incorporated the word ‘lido’ (derived from the Italian for ‘beach’) in their names.

Typical 1930s poolside wear - knitted natch!

The lido craze caught on throughout Britain with new pools being built in many towns and cities. This craze provided architects with an excellent opportunity to exercise contemporary Art Deco and Streamline Moderne influences with their clean lines and sweeping curves. Buildings were sculpted in white-painted cement render that beautifully contrasted with reflective chromium rails, vitrolite tiled walls and shimmering blue pools - who could resist taking a dip in places such as these? 

Cheltenham's lido was officially opened in 1935 and was advertised as the "Largest Open-Air Pool in the West Midlands, set in charming park-like surroundings. Temperature of constantly purified and aerated water, never under 70 degrees F". Admission 6d". Well, not much has changed - apart from the entrance fee and the water is slightly warmer.

However, lidos saw their fortunes shift after WWII due to the accessibility of foreign holidays and changes in recreational habits. Some struggled on with falling attendance numbers, whilst others became disused and subsequently derelict as local councils could not justify their renovation costs. Numerous lidos fell foul of urban redevelopment and were demolished to make way for new town centres and housing. 

The original turnstile at Sandford Parks Lido - still in the entrance

Luckily many lidos - like Cheltenham's - had preservation groups set up comprising local people who had the foresight to realise that these facilities had not only public recreational value, but heritage value too. These groups battled against councils selling off 'their' lido to developers intent on demolishing them and redeveloping the land. Many groups fell by the wayside, but Cheltenham's continued through thick and thin, with a charitable trust being formed and later securing National Heritage Lottery funding. 

Today Sandford Parks Lido is now recognised as a great asset for the town, being loved and appreciated by those who use it.

P.S. To finish off, I thought I'd include today's outfit in this post as its been a while since I last blogged about one: 

1980s hand-knitted cardigan
Edwardian camisole
1970s maxi skirt
Years old trusty retail wedges
1960s souvenir bracelet
Edwardian sovereign holder 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

'Vintage Hollywood Knits' - Book Review

New out this month is Vintage Hollywood Knits published by Pavilion Books and based on fashion designer Bill Gibb's own interpretation of silver screen knits.

Gibb (1943–1988) was an influential British designer who specialised in knitwear. He closely collaborated with fellow textile artist, Kaffe Fassett, to produce collections for fashion house Baccarat during the late 1960s and early 70s; later prolifically designing under his eponymous label. Though a dress designer too, it was Gibb's machine knitted jersey and acrylic garments with their Fair Isle inspired patterns that earned him international recognition. His choice of tactile textiles and a rich palette of earthy colours suited the ethnic vibe of 70s fashion and contributed towards the popularity of the decade's fashion knitwear.

In this book Gibb's patterns are based on twenty photos of film stars wearing knitted garments (sixteen for women and four for men), which have been updated for today's knitters. This updating includes yarn options from well-known brands such as Rowan and Debbie Bliss, and the patterns featuring a range of bust sizes from 32" to 40" for the women's patterns; although some patterns only go up to a 38".

Below is a selection of the designs available:

Top left: Vilma Banky's flag motif v-necked sweater. Top right: Marilyn Monroe's sleeveless pullover. Bottom left: Greta Garbo's textured buttoned sweater. Bottom right: Cary Grant's traditional cricket sweater

My favourites include Adele Jergens' fluffy midriff baring jumper that reminds me of the similar cropped jumpers that were popular in the early 1990s...

...and Jane Wyman's top with its cigarette motifs brought a smile to my face. I suppose e-cigs  are the modern equivalent!

The book also includes a basic techniques chapter and also an interesting Introduction, which includes a list of films that featured knitting in one way or another. I like the sound of The Bat (1926): "Nothing can faze an obsessive knitter. Writer Cornelia van Gorder (Emily Fitzroy) knits in most scenes while caped killer The Bat murders her house guests one by one".

Vintage Hollywood Knits is a handy book for those who like to knit their own vintage-style woollies, as the designs featured in it all are wearable and feature knits for a range of abilities. The patterns are clearly written and include detailed schematics and coloured charts where necessary. 

My only reservation is that I would have liked some colour photos of the garments knitted up in the yarns specified and worn on modern models to provide a more visual guide to refer to when knitting.

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