Thursday, 21 May 2015

Introducing 'Vintage Knitting' & Book Giveaway

Back in June 2013 I submitted a knitting book proposal to a publisher thinking that it was a long shot and I'd be lucky if I even got a reply. To my complete surprise they got back to me and suggested that I took the book in another direction than what I originally proposed. Well, almost two years and many drafts later, the said book, Vintage Knitting, was published earlier this month.

The publisher, Old House, specialises in printing facsimile editions of out of print books and my editor and I both thought that one of the 1940s knitting books written by Margaret Murray and Jane Koster deserved a re-issue but in a different format. We chose their 1941 book Knitting for All Illustrated as our source book and so began the difficult choice of which of the original patterns to reprint in the Vintage Knitting book. 

The 1941 book has fifty-three patterns excluding variations and as it wasn't feasible to include all these in my new version, they had to be whittled down to 25 and then to the final 18, which are a varied choice for all knitting abilities. Believe me, this was hard to do and I 'ummed' and 'ahhed' about which ones to keep and which ones to leave out; anyone who is familiar with Murray's and Koster's books will know that their patterns were very comprehensive and full of wearable designs. 

The pages are reproduced exactly as they are in the 1941 book with only a minor bit of editing...

Vintage Knitting is in the background with the 1941 copy in the foreground

To complement the patterns I also wrote a chapter focussed on knitting and making do, but from a contemporary 1940s viewpoint. This involved reading and researching a pile of primary source material from the early '40s such as needlecraft and womens interest magazines to get the feel for a 'voice' and vocab appropriate for the era. 

One of the fun things though was choosing the photos to go into the book, as Old House were keen for it to be fully illustrated throughout. I knew that there would eventually be a reason for me to keep on collecting old magazines, knitting patterns and books etc. and I'm glad that did as I had a wide to choice to pick and choose from. 

As well as a selection of the 1941 patterns, the 'Principles of Knitting' chapter is also included and reproduced in Vintage Knitting

As most of the original chapter's content is still relevant today, not much editing was needed; only a few tweaks to bring it more in line with contemporary knitting and the patterns featured in the book.

The one thing I was adamant about though, was that Vintage Knitting had to re-use the endpapers from Murray and Koster's 1941 book. Those of you who are familiar with Murray and Koster's series of knitting books for Odhams Press throughout the 1940s will be aware that the charm of these books includes the different endpaper designs that incorporated visual aspects of knitting such as balls of yarn, needles and even hands. To have published Vintage Knitting without reproducing these original endpapers wouldn't have felt right as an important feature of the 1941 book would have been missing. So I'm happy to say that they have been included:

The endpapers from Vintage Knitting are the paler version whilst the original ones are more vivid
Writing the book and putting it all together was quite an intensive process throughout 2014, which is why there weren't many frequent posts on this blog; but now I'm so chuffed that its all come together and I can finally strike 'writing a book' off my list of ambitions!

If you buy the book I hope you do enjoy it as much as I did working on it and thanks for choosing it.

Finally as a 'thank you' to all of you who follow my blog and put up with my ramblings, I'm giving away a copy of Vintage Knitting. All you have to do is be a follower of my VK blog and leave a comment below. Feel free if you want to comment but not be entered into the giveaway - just let me know. For those entering the giveaway, it'll be open until Friday 5th June; after this deadline a name will be pulled from a hat in true traditional style and I'll announce the winner soon afterwards on an updated version of this post.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Apples & Pears

When I blog about a new project I'm undertaking it's usually knitting or sewing related, but this time its on a slightly larger scale: an orchard.

We recently brought from our neighbours an orchard that borders our garden. It had been in their family since the 1920s, so they had a great attachment to it and had refused all previous offers from other neighbours to buy it. However, they surprised us last year by asking if we'd like to buy it as they knew that we'd hankered after it and would restore it back to how it would have been. So, since last month we've been the orchard's new owners and boy, do we have our work cut out!

As the orchard hadn't been managed for at least ten years, lots of bramble had sprung up and was slowly taking over the ground and climbing up on the trees. So, my first job was to cut back the bramble and ivy. Luckily, we had a week of lovely sunny weather soon  after we had brought it, so I was able to crack-on with the clearing.

Bottom left: The size of the project is just dawning on me!

Apparently, sheep used to be grazed in here back in the Twenties and earlier, and even a horse used to be stabled here. The remains of the livestock sheds are at the back of the orchard, but they're derelict...

...however they are starting to give up a few of their 'treasures' such as this old mangle!

We also found beneath one of the trees a lead label carved with the name 'Charles Ross', so at least we know what one of the apple varieties in the orchard is! 

All the trees are now in blossom and the bluebells are out too, so there's a lot of colour (and bee activity) taking place in there.

We've now taken down the hedge that once divided off our garden from the orchard so that it's one big open area and the enormity of the task ahead is daunting, yet exciting.

Our plan is to restore the orchard, removing the remainder of the bramble scrub in autumn as they're providing breeding bird habitat at present, and re-stock it with local heritage varieties of fruit trees. At present, apples are the main trees with some plum and a single pear, but I'd like to add a few more plums and pears to the mix with some elderberry bushes too. 

I'll be updating you all on the orchard's progression throughout the year - so wish us luck with our new project - I think we'll need it!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Day Trippers

Armed with our National Trust family membership card and trusty Sirram picnic case, Monkeychild and I decided to have a couple of days out last week visiting some local NT properties. The gorgeous Newark Park near Wotton-under-Edge was our first destination.

Newark Park was originally a Tudor hunting lodge, being remodelled over the centuries into the current structure. The below photo shows the fa├žade of the original lodge, with its bay windows fitted with leaded panels. 

The NT took over the house in 1949 and later rented it in 1970 to an American architect, Bob Parsons, who had been in search of a historic property to restore. This choice of tenant was very lucky for the fortunes of Newark Park, as Bob lovingly restored both the house and the gardens. 

NT properties are a lot more child-friendly than they were in my childhood, with plenty of activity sheets to keep the young 'uns busy and in Newark Park's case, an enviable dressing up wardrobe. Monkeychild chose a long dress (I suspect that it was made using a 1970s sewing pattern) and we had fun trying to create spooky looking photos...

After the picnic where we were invaded by crumb pecking hens...

...we went for a walk around the grounds. The adjacent woodland was full of wild garlic, clumps of primroses and scatterings of violet and wild cyclamen; and we had the perfect warm spring day to enjoy it.

If Monkeychild had her choice, she would have happily smuggled the (albeit struggling and squawking) peacock home, whereas I could easily have found a place in the garden for this peaceful hound...

The next day, we travelled north to Broadway and out to the small village of Snowshill and another NT property: Snowshill Manor.

Dating from the sixteenth century, Snowshill Manor is home to the very eclectic collections of Charles Paget Wade, who brought the manor house after serving in the First World War. An architect by profession, Wade's love of curiosities and collecting items of quality that met with his criteria of "colour, design and craftsmanship" is reflected in the house, as virtually every room is filled with a collection of treasured items. 

Wade gave each room its own name such as 'Hundred Wheels' where his collection of 'boneshaker' and penny-farthing bicycles and model haywagons are kept, and the 'Turquoise' room with its hoard of oriental lacquer ware and cabinets. In fact, Wade didn't live in the main house, preferring to live in a smaller building just hidden behind the house to the left of the above photo.

The gardens were laid out as a series of 'rooms' by Wade and M. H. Baillie Scott, the influential Arts and Crafts movement architect. As you can imagine, there is something to capture the eyes at every turn...

A downpour meant that we had to eat our picnic in the car, yet we both enjoyed our day out and are looking forward to the next.

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