Sunday, 7 May 2017

What I read in April

I have not really spoken much about my reading habits here except for in this bookworm post where I also answered a reading questionnaire. It has been seeming daft to me to not have been talking about books here as I love reading and if I'm relaxing I'm either reading or knitting. But not both, I haven't mastered that yet....

I think part of it has been thinking that I should write some 'proper' book reviews and every time I started that I just couldn't get going with it. So instead, I'm hoping to do a monthly round up about what I have read in that month and I'm just going to chat on like I would at my book group or at a cafe or at knitting group or at the pub.

I really wish that I had managed to decide this in January as it would have been pleasing to me to start this series at the start of the year but I've had a little chat with myself and May is perfectly acceptable instead!

I began this book in March and it was finished in April. I borrowed this from my book group, we swap books and chat about them rather than all reading the same one each month. I enjoy social history books and I am a WI member so I was eager to read this and find out more. Each chapter covers a certain period in the WI's existence and I was particularly interested in the ones covering the World Wars and the 1930's. It was great to read about what a bunch of very determined women can do. What I enjoyed most was realising just what a force for change and what a powerful campaigning organisation the WI has been since it's inception. I knew some of this but it was fascinating to know more. If you have an interest in social history, WI member or not, you will enjoy this.

I am currently addicted to modern crime/detective stories set in the 1930's due to my recent discovery of this author and the one that I will mention next. This is the second book in Nicola Upson's Josephine Tey series but is the third one I have read. In a very uncharacteristic (and frankly rather stressful once I realised) move I read the most recent one first. Part way through I realised it was part of a series but by then I couldn't stop and start at the beginning. So the first thing to say is that if you can cope with reading a series out of order then you can with these as each holds its own as a separate book although it is clear that the characters have a back story.

The character Josephine Tey is a writer who has written a successful crime novel and several well respected plays. In this book she goes to Cornwall to stay on the estate of a friend and write her second crime book. The friend, Inspector Archie Penrose, ends up investigating the goings on at the estate and Josephine gets drawn in. It is a super book, strong characters, interesting storyline, good period detail. I really couldn't put it down and I recommend it highly.

The Maisie Dobbs mystery books are my other current 1930's crime obsession. I am enjoying them so much, I'm torn between reading them one after another but then running out or rationing them so I have some to look forward to for a long time. This is book two of the series and I read book three straight afterwards as I couldn't wait! Also, loving the cover art. I don't choose books by their front covers but these definitely attract me and are reflective of the nature of the book.

Maisie Dobbs is a private investigator with an interesting background as the daughter of a London tradesman who went on to university and then became a nurse in France in World War One. The scars of the war are still to be felt both in Maisie and the other characters and there is a great sense of period and place in these books. In this novel Maisie is tasked with finding the runaway daughter of one of the country's wealthiest men and in doing so finds links to recent murder cases and to the war. It is both well written and gripping and I enjoyed it enormously.

This is Maisie Dobbs number three. It is set in London in 1930 and Maisie is asked to prove that an aviator shot down in France in 1917 is really dead, as was reported at the time. This means that Maisie has to return to France to lay some personal and professional ghosts to rest. This novel explores the sadness of that time wonderfully and doesn't flinch from looking at the aftermath of so much death and destruction. It was a really super read and Maisie is a fabulously drawn character.

Hmm. I still don't know whether I enjoyed reading this book or not. It is set in a small rural town in Australia and Tilly, who left under a cloud aged 10, has returned to look after her unstable mother. She returns as a couture dressmaker and makes clothes for the locals who are still both suspicious and hostile and relations are tricky to say the least. I found it very difficult to like any of the characters, including the main one so I found it harder to care about the story. But, the descriptions of the clothes that Tilly makes are just fabulous and you can really envision these designs and outfits coming to life from her machine. So if you like clothes a lot it is worth a read. I haven't seen the film yet, I wanted to read the book first so I'm going to watch that next and see what I think.

This is one of the books in the Persephone Books series. They publish neglected works of fiction and non fiction by mostly female writers of the mid twentieth century. The authors range from well known like Noel Streatfeild, E.M. Delafield and Winnifred Holtby to the less well known. There are 122 books in the series, covering a breadth of topics, this is the eighth that I have read and I have enjoyed them all. The books are beautifully bound with endpapers that are copies of fabric designs. Each book comes with a bookmark in it's endpaper design which is a wonderful touch. This design is Farm Scene, a 1930's dress fabric.

Dorothy Whipple (1893-1966) wrote eight books, two of which were made into films. This is the first of hers that I have read and I enjoyed it greatly so would look out for another by her. High Wages was  first published in 1930 and is set in 1912. The main character is Jane, a young woman with no family behind her who starts a new job in a better class of haberdashery as a shop girl. The story follows Jane's progress in the shop and in the world within the constraints and class structure of the time. Jane is both intelligent and motivated with an eye for fashion and plenty of ideas and it was interesting to see what became of her.

As well as the story the novel is a commentary on both the lives of shop girls and the shopping habits of the times. I learnt a lot from a social history point of view. There are also lovely descriptions of fabric and clothes and accessories which bought the shop and the customers to life. It is a lovely read.

What have you been reading recently? Anything I should add to my reading list?

Friday, 5 May 2017

Free Pattern - 1930's cruising coat

I recently bought a few 1930's copies of The Needlewoman magazine. I really like finding this magazine as it covers a wide range of needlework projects but usually contains at least one knitting pattern. It also has some lovely illustrations for fashion and styling inspiration.

This 'jaunty little cruising coat' is from the July 1933 edition. I think it is a lovely little jacket, perfect for in-between weather or a walk along the sea front. I particularly like how the scarf is integrated as part of the jacket, I haven't seen that in any other knitting patterns that I have from this period. I thought I would share the pattern here so enjoy it if you make it.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Tweed, tartan and tapestry

A few Saturdays ago I went on a little outing to a neighbouring town with a friend who gets as much joy from all the crafty things as I do. We get a bit squeaky with excitement. We were most excited to be going along to the Beyond Measure Open Day. If you haven't come across Beyond Measure yet and you like beautiful things to help you in your making and doing then you really are in for a treat. Grace, the owner, was opening her studio for the day and the opportunity to handle some of the lovely goodies, plus the chance to spend our leftover spending money from Edinburgh Yarn Festival, could not be missed!

Beyond Measure is housed in a fabulous old mill type building with lots of industrial architectural details and interiors to look at.

Lovely old staircase
I love a bit of peeling paint
Light switch
We had a really good look at everything in the studio, a really good look and a little fondle and a stroke here and there. There was a lovely atmosphere and it was good to chat with fellow craft fans and make new friends. There was a cafe set up in one corner and we took full advantage of that (who said we had two of the oh so delicious cakes?!), whilst pondering what our purchases were to be.

Pretty Tulip needles
Fantastic storage jars
Trimmings and bindings
Pretty tins of haberdashery
Love these little chaps by Eleanor Bostrom. My friend may have taken one home!
All the colours in the embroidery threads.
Gorgeous tweed just waiting to be made into lovely things.
More tweedy goodness.
One of these fab knitting bags came home with me.
You can probably see that it was time for tough decisions. I got a very cute thimble necklace and a wooden sewing needle holder to keep my yarn needles safe in my knitting bag. I just realised I don't have a photo of them as yet.

If you are wondering where the tapestry and tartan of the title are - they formed the main part of my outfit.

One of my Welsh tapestry handbags. This one has lots of mustard and teal in it which meant I really couldn't resist it.

My tartan skirt is from good old M&S and is a) orange, b) wool, c) lined and d)warm. It has had a lot of wear since I bought it in the sale in January. My local charity shops have had a dearth of old lady tartan skirts so this filled a gap in my wardrobe.

My preciousss
My fabulous sewing machine brooch was a gift from my in laws and it and others like it are stocked by Beyond Measure. I should say here that this is not a sponsored post, I just love lovely stuff.

Thanks for taking my outfit pictures Karen.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Five go to Edinburgh Yarn Festival

It started just after visiting Yarndale last September. Five of us got together and hatched a plan to go to Edinburgh Yarn Festival the following March. We had heard great things about it and felt that we should find out for ourselves. Savings tins were started, a group chat was set up on social media, accommodation was found and agreed upon and as soon as they became available train tickets and show tickets were booked. Excitement levels were building, growing as the list of exhibitors was released. It was time for five to go to Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

So, a couple of weekends ago, very early on a cold Friday morning, we met at the train station and set off on our much anticipated jaunt. The train journey passed by quickly as we were occupied by our knitting and crochet projects and by a discussion of our tactics for the next day. Some had a plan of attack and a hit list not to be deviated from, some wanted just to wander and ponder.

1950's Bohus jumper
The big day dawned and we were up bright and early, wearing our carefully chosen woolly garments and our comfiest shoes. Our bags were packed with food, drink, project lists and knitting and we set off. Handily the stop for the bus out to the Corn Exchange was opposite our apartment. Twenty minutes later we were off the bus and following all the other excited faces and fabulous knitwear to the festival.

The marketplace was a joy to behold, a feast of colour, texture and pattern just waiting to be explored. The exhibitors are all hand picked and it shows, every stall was full of the highest quality items. The stall holders were a mixture of designers, dyers, yarn suppliers, small shops and makers. As you might expect there were many Scottish brands exhibiting, such as Iona Wool, Ardalanish and Uist Wool, all with fascinating products and stories. 

1950's Bohus hat and gloves
The Knitting and Crochet Guild had an attention grabbing stand with several examples of Bohus style knitwear, including a stunning cardigan and jumper which I though were amazing pieces of work. Bohus style originated in Sweden in the 1930's in the Bohuslan area. The area was badly affected by the Depression and women there requested help setting up a home industry which they could make a living from. Knitting was the answer and the Bohus style was at the height of it's production in the 1950's, which is when the Guild's garments are from. The patterns and colour work are just beautiful, it was lovely to see them close up.

1950's Bohus scarf
There was much to take in and savour as well as much yarn stroking and squishing to do. Our eyes were drawn not only to the stalls but also to everyone else’s beautiful knitwear. Stephen West patterns were definitely having a bit of a moment. Everyone was very friendly, united in their excitement over all the woolly goodness, chatting about their projects and their purchases. We met people from all over the country and from much further afield with plenty of knitters from Europe and Scandinavia.

1950's Bohus cardigan
The Festival runs from Friday to Sunday with taught classes on all three days and with the marketplace open on the Friday and Saturday. Buying advanced tickets for the day you wish to visit the marketplace lessens the time spent queueing in the Edinburgh drizzle. The taught classes sounded fascinating but sold out almost immediately so booking the minute the class tickets go on sale is key. Half an hour later was literally too late for some classes.

One of the KCG display boards showing Ingrid Bergman wearing a Bohus jumper

Some highlights of the festival for me were meeting and chatting to The Icelandic Knitter, the walls of colour at John Arbon Textiles and Jamieson's of Shetland, the sample garments from the Inspired by Islay book on Kate Davies stand, the Tin Can Knits, the beetle and penguin buttons and beautiful leather goods at Beyond Measure and all the sweater spotting. I really wish I had taken more photographs. Very bad blogger! I actually bought very little, despite my long accumulated savings, but only because I was determined not to add to my stash unless I had a definite project in mind.

It was also exciting to see the Shetland Wool Week stall as the Patron for 2017, Gurdrun Johnston had just been announced and her free pattern for wool week, the Bousta Beanie was available to pick up. Visiting Shetland is on our wish list so watch this space for the sequel to these adventures, Five Go to Shetland Wool Week.

Just one of our group's hauls

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

2017 knitting wish list - 1960's-1970's

Clearly this year's knitting wish list is not nearly long enough so after going through my 1930's-1950's patterns I thought that I had better round things off and pull out my wish list from the 1960's and 1970's too. These are not always my preferred eras but I do find things that I would really like to knit from them. In particular, the 1960's knits have a good range of summer appropriate tops, something that I have discussed with another 1960's knits fan Crinoline Robot.

I really like the styling on this pattern before we even get to the knitwear and look at her glorious hair. This lovely little lacy top would be perfect for a summer's day.

We might as well look at all the lacy summer tops first. I haven't narrowed down my favourites yet which is why there are quite a few in the list. I like the way the lace carries on into the hem on these two.

This is called a harebell shell which sounds fabulous and I do like the harebell stitch pattern. The neckline is good too. It has styling potential for the 1950's so that would make it a versatile wardrobe addition.

Lee Target were obviously on a lace shell top roll in this year as this is very similar to pattern number two, just a different lace pattern. I still like it though.

I love this one. Who doesn't need a knitted poodle jumper in their wardrobe?!

I'm particularly taken with the orange jumper on the right. I really like the deep rib and the interesting stitch pattern. I think with careful styling this jumper could work in a 1940's outfit too.

I must deal with my hankering for a tank top soon and just knit myself some. I like the slip stitch pattern of this one and can see it working in many colour combinations as well as this fantastic monochrome one. Check out those blouse sleeves too.

I am after making myself the perfect Aran jumper or cardigan and I have a number of patterns to choose from. The one on the left is a strong contender. I even have two bags of Millamia aran in ochre stashed away ready to knit the perfect Aran when it is found!

I don't have very many (any?) jumpers as I am usually all about the cardigans. I think there may be a jumper shaped hole in my knitwear drawer and this might be just the thing to fill it. It finishes nicely on the waist, has interest in the lace panels and has a raglan sleeve.

I could also do with a fairly plain cardigan but I never put that very high up the list when there are all the fancy stitch cardigans to be knitted. Then I found this lovely ribbed Mary Quant number and suddenly a plain cardigan is looking quite likely.

One thing I love about 1960's knitwear are these fabulous skirt and jumper outfits. I think knitting a skirt might a) try my patience and b) not be flattering but I really like the look and would like to try it out. The cables on this skirt would relieve the tedium of miles and miles of stocking stitch too. Though I'm not knocking miles and miles of stocking stitch, that is good for watching films, inducing a calm state and knitting and talking/drinking/eating cake/all three at the same time.

A variation on the set above. I like the striped skirt but am not sure it would look so flattering. I do like the fact that you can have a matching hat and scarf to go with your jumper though.

So many fabulous patterns and not enough knitting time! I wonder what I will have made by the end of the year, if any?!

Next weekend I am off to Edinburgh Yarn Festival with a lovely group of friends. It is massively exciting and there will be many yarn shopping opportunities. I have been saving up and now I have kind of narrowed down my pattern choices I will know what to look out for! I am supposed to not get sidetracked by yarn that I don't have a plan for so I will see how that goes! Wish me luck!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Top Ten his and hers knits

Last night at midnight you would have found me rummaging through my pattern collection as an idea for a post had struck at a most inconvenient moment and I had to act on it right then to find out if it was going to work out. This led me to finding the relevant patterns in my collection and then setting up a temporary photo studio in the bathroom as it had the best light I could find at night! I knew I couldn't go to sleep until I had it all sorted out so I just cracked on with it!

For some reason, the idea of matching set knits, often known as his and her knits (though they could also be his and his or hers and hers) appeared in my head as quite a vintage thing. Especially a vintage outdoor activity thing. I was sure I had quite a few his and her matching knits and it got me wondering as to why the whole matching clothes thing was a thing? How did that come about? Did people actually knit and wear the matching sets? Would you? Do you have matching outdoors wear jumpers? Is it still a thing? I would say not, except for in an ironic way, or for a specific event but what made the change? I don't know the answers to this but if anyone does do share.

Let me present the Top Ten his and her knits in my pattern collection. My choices were made purely on liking the patterns and feeling that if I were to be in a matching knit mood any one of these could make it onto my needles.

If I was knitting this I would make the one the man is wearing for me. I like the chunkiness of the knit and the shawl collar design, as well as the motifs.

I do like a yoked jumper and I am yet to make one so these have definite appeal. I like the roll neck too.

If I was going to perch a heavy old typewriter on my knee and sit on an uncomfortable stool this is the jumper I would like to do it in. A lovely look for vintage casual inspiration.

I love this one, this is what I want to look like whilst walking my dog. The matching hat is an added bonus.

My other outdoor outfit of choice would feature this lumber jacket. I like the raglan sleeve and the cable detail surrounding the zip.

You can't beat a traditional Aran cardigan. I like the fit of this one, the longer length for casual cosiness and of course, the pockets.

I prefer his button up version to her zip up one and I like the contrast of the plain body with the ribbed sleeves. Please take a minute to notice that massive saw. This one ticks both the his and hers and the worrying props categories of my pattern collection.

This 1940's knit is very similar in style to the 1950's one above except for the shawl collar and the tighter, shorter fit. This one is a double pattern category entry (men smoking) too as the man has a pipe.

Not only do they have matching jumpers they have matching hats. Fabulous yokes and the pattern continue round above the cuffs and the bottom of the jumper. All good.

Karaoke and motif knitwear? Go on then. I like both designs.

Which would you choose?