Susan Crawford-along: talking about vintage patterns and accidental genitals

Nik:

I wonder if there’s this thing that authentic vintage patterns = difficult, or if it’s just the way that the patterns are written? The twinset cardigan is pretty simple, though, and I’m loving the ‘mock cable’ pattern because I don’t have to use a cable needle…that being said, I am about 2 inches into the back. There’s still time

Ellen:

It may be that authentic vintage patterns= difficult because back then, more people knitted, so there was an assumption of greater knowledge. I mean in the UK, girls were taught knitting in school, so if you were designing a pattern you were writing for knitters who had been doing it for longer. Maybe. And you look at some of the old patterns and the code is even more code-like than a normal pattern. “Continue in pattern as set and do-ci-do every 2 inches. Use number 6 needles (subtext: if you don’t know what number 6 needles are, this pattern is NOT FOR YOU) and 7 ounces of 4ply”. Never mind that the weight doesn’t actually correspond to the yardage, or not totally.

I still think the Susan Crawford= Alien Government Recruiter theory is probably more accurate.

Mainly because we would be completely fabulous as secret agents.

Nik:

I realised the other day that I’ve been knitting for eleven years now! Although perhaps I haven’t been as brave in my choice of projects…my first ever book was the original “stitch and bitch” do you remember that?

I’m quite happy with this choice of yarn, now. At first it felt a bit plastic-y, but now it seems to be softening out. I’ve decided that 1×1 rib never shows off yarn at its best…and yet it’s often a feature of vintage patterns. Maybe I’ll bust one of my Nana’s genuine 1950s vogue ones for my next project. Or more likely I’ll knit something simple in stocking stitch in chunky yarn and cackle to myself about how easy it is.

Ellen:

It’s 10 years for me- yikes.

I’m making good progress- I’m actually quite surprised at how much of the front I’ve knitted up now, considering how long I thought it would take me. The trouble is, now I’m at the point where I needed to make an important decision about the jumper: AT-ATs or reindeer?

The thing is, the AT-ATs would be cool but I don’t think they quite fit with the style of this jumper. So reindeer it is. And AT-ATs next time I do a fair-isle jumper. One that isn’t 1940s style. Or maybe one that is, but is in navy blue and grey. Rosie the Rebel Alliance Riveter could be a fun cosplay…

And then, of course, there’s the accidental penis in one of the rows of Fair Isle. To our lovely readers- nope, I’m not kidding:

2015-07-17 13.51.07

Duplicate stitch is my friend, because there is absolutely no way on God’s green earth I’m ripping back three repeats of a pattern to fix two stitches in the wrong place, even if they do make it look like there’s a penis in the bottom corner of my fair isle.

I’m starting to wonder if I’m cursed. The number of times I’ve ended up unintentionally adding genitalia to the design of a project is alarming. First there was the Vagina Owl, and now this. Are Freudian Slipped Stitches a thing?

The Susan Crawford-along: in which we decide that our knitting patterns prove Susan Crawford is an alien

Read our adventures with casting on here: casting on our vintage knits.

Ellen:

OK, so I finished the ribbing and got on to the larger needles. And then the colourwork. I’d say I’ve started the colourwork, but technically I’ve started the fucking colourwork THREE TIMES.

And then had to carefully frog said colourwork and start again.

Apparently I can’t maths, because getting the pattern to actually line the fuck up is some kind of Labour of Hercules.

This is what I get for knitting backwards, and thus having to read charts backwards and oh my god just put me out of my misery.

Nik: 

I’m slightly worried I’ve made the wrong size, so I might frog and start over. Not too traumatic, I’ve only done about 2cm of ribbing. I also stopped because I felt a bit chilly (it’s been averaging about 3 degrees) to make a chunky cowl.

Ooof, colourwork. Flat? I love colourwork in the round, but as we know, there’s nothing that English designers hate in particular than knitting in the round. Colour work and purling. Uggghhh.

Not so fond of this yarn, but it’s nice and solid.

Started cable pattern. If there;s anything SC loves it’s the dreaded AT THE SAME TIME instructions. Repeat pattern 6 more times, while inc stitch at every 16 row, while also balancing your entire stash on your head.

Ellen:

OH GOD NOW I’VE GOT TO SWITCH TO ANOTHER CHART.

This will involve additional maths and 3d modelling in my head to try and work out which end to start the chart so it looks like it’s supposed to look.

It’s flat, though that’s actually a good thing because if it was in the round I’d be using a lot of extra yarn just carrying it across the back.

The really fun bit (and by fun, I mean complete bloody nightmare) will be the reindeers. You’re right about how SC loves AT THE SAME TIME. For the reindeer part of the jumper, it’s Fair Isle AND Intarsia involving, from what I can tell, at least 5 different balls of yarn at once AND armhole shaping.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that SC is an alien with about 4 extra limbs that are used solely for knitting. Either that or her patterns are part of some kind of government training programme designed to identify people with elite multitasking skills to become secret agents. Possibly both.

Which I’m all for, if I get a red Stetson like Agent Carter.

Nik:

Think about how fabulous we’d be as secret agents though.

 

Monsterful Monday: in praise of the Great British Bake Off

Yep, I went there. I have knitted in front of a programme about baking, because apparently I’m turning into somebody’s great aunt Margaret or something.

Season 3 is being re-screened on Prime, and I haven’t seen it before so please don’t tell me who wins.

Maybe it’s because of my heritage, but I love how British this particular iteration of the talent reality show is. I love how Mary Berry tries to find something positive to say about each contestant’s efforts. I love how happy people are when Paul Hollywood likes their cooking. I love how they own it when something’s gone a bit wrong, they don’t try and argue about it. I love how the departing contestant each week is given an enormous bear hug from Mel and Sue, the presenters, as well as all the other contestants.

And season 3, oh season 3. Cathryn, who is all of us wanting our baking to turn out well and being nervous. Victoria, who knows what a ‘filip’ is and wears padded vests and I suspect has a couple of dogs and a family tree that goes back to Cromwell, or at least her name on a plaque at a fancy girl’s school. And James, the student from the Shetlands in his array of devastating fair-isle jumpers, who is every hipster crafting girl’s dreamboat. Note, I don’t have a crush on him, though I do wish I had some of his recipes and that I could find out whether he bought the fair-isle jumpers or had them made for him by his Nan. I hope it’s the latter.

There’s actually an impressive number of guys in this season, and I think it’s great seeing men embracing something so ‘domestic’ as baking. I am deliberately not looking up who won Season 3, because that would ruin the fun.

I love the gentle innuendo, “we need to come up with something naughty to say about this week’s challenges. It’s tarts…nope, can’t think of anything.” And my personal favourite, of course, “we all know what makes a great cocktail party: keys in a bowl!”.

And I love all the inspiration it gives me to bake myself- the flavour combinations that make me hungry, the tips and comments from Mary and Paul that help you know what good baking looks like…

All I can say is, I love this show and I actually made choux pastry from scratch last night and turned it into profiteroles, and it’s because I’ve been watching this show.

The Susan Crawford Along: casting on our vintage knits

Nik and I both got started, and we’ve started keeping each other updated on what we’re doing. Enjoy!

Nik: 

I have 1000 vintage dresses (shush) that I don’t tend to wear because their line doesn’t lend itself well to normal/modern cardigans. I have been searching for ages to find the perfect cropped vintage cardigan, so I was pretty excited when this one came along. I’ve been meaning to knit it for ages, but RSI is hard on the hands. But now, thanks to some gift vouchers and a nice pair of warm gloves, I’m ready to start!

Ellen: 

For me, the issue I have with cardigans is that I loathe ¾ length sleeves. Which is problematic as most every retro-styled cardigan I’ve seen seems to have ¾ sleeves if it’s a plain one. But my reason for choosing the jumper I’m making is party the shape, which I think is pretty fabulous, and also the slightly OTT Christmas-ness of it. For that reason I stuck with a super-bright red yarn for the MC, though I’ve no idea whether the fibre content is actually what it said it was when I ordered it, because Ebay. It feels very soft though. I’m excited to get going on this.

Nik:

The cardigan I’m actually making is the Princess Twinset one – sorry if there was any confusion! I get what you’re saying about the ¾ sleeves, it’s a pain. Especially since they’re such an awkward length! Just started casting on – 2.75mm needles. Ouch. And my only 3mm have vanished into the aether. Weirdly, I have four lots of 3.25mm. Why.

Ellen:

Argh, sorry for the pattern confusion. Fortunately, I cast on before we got a houseguest who likes to be in the lounge- counting when someone else is talking to you is the sort of thing that leads to stabbing. But I don’t find I need to concentrate quite so hard when I’m ribbing. Though I probably should, I slightly futzed the first row because I managed to forget whether I was on a knit or a purl stitch. And I hadn’t even put the knitting down and come back to it later. Yup.

I feel like getting the ribbing on the front done is taking forever on the tiny needles.  I didn’t have any of either size of needle. Actually, that’s not true. I probably do have both sizes of needle. But a lot of my needles have projects on them, and also there’s the problem of the circular needles I like (the KnitPicks Options ones) not actually having anything on them to tell you what size they are. So I probably do have the right size needles but HOW WOULD I KNOW?

And yes, I probably should have finished some of the projects already on the needles before starting this one… I feel like I should have a point about that. But I don’t.

Anyway, I still like the way the yarn feels, and the ribbing it’s producing is nice and sproingy (IT IS A WORD). I just want to get on to the bit with the larger needles so I feel like I’m making more progress.

A 4ply knit jumper doesn’t seem so crazy now, does it?

I often find myself wondering, as I look at vintage patterns, “did someone really knit this?”. Not just as a sample, were there people out there who actually looked at these jumpers made from super-fine yarn and with complicated lace or cables, and make them and wear them? I hope they did.

I feel that way looking at some modern patterns too, but then it’s usually “how would anyone afford to knit that sweater in that yarn unless they were the designer and getting yarn support?”. Or with Wollmeise jumpers, “how the hell did they manage to get SO MUCH of it when it sells out so damn fast?”

But I digress. I have never wondered ‘did someone really knit this?’ with more curiosity than when I found these patterns on Etsy.

Knitted wedding dress

 

Yes, that’s a wedding dress. A wedding dress knit in 4ply yarn (like the jumper I’m hoping to cast on this weekend). Oh, but it’s not JUST a wedding dress!

Knitted bridesmaid dress

The crafty bride could also make dresses for her bridesmaids. Or get them to make them themselves. Even the Mother of the Bride was included:

Knitted mother of the bride dress

Or (according to the description) fairy godmother. You know, if you have one. Actually, if you did, you could probably get those dresses knitted up no problem.

I think I know why all the women in those photos look so happy. It’s because they finished the damn project and now they can move on to something REALLY challenging.

Like a house cozy.

House covered in knitting

From http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/yarn-bombing-los-angeles-craft-folk-art-museum

Yup.

Announcing: the Susan Crawford-along

My friend Nik and I have two clothing-related things in common. We both love and adore vintage-style clothes and wear a lot of them. She saves up over time and then buys Stop Staring dresses. I scour auction sites for secondhand bargains from my favourite labels and treat myself to full-price things when I can afford them.

The second is that we’re both crafters. Nik has always impressed me with her willingness to embrace things like Rowan patterns. When she introduced me to the glory that are Susan Crawford’s vintage style patterns, I was smitten. There’s just one problem.

Like most vintage patterns, Susan Crawford’s gorgeous designs are, for the most part, knitted with fingering weight yarn. If you’re new to knitting, I shall explain. It’s super thin. The stitches are tiny. The needles are also tiny. This is a recipe for things that will take a lot more knitting time than your average snuggly jumper.

But just look at these jumpers, will you?

The retro styling!

Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

The British-coronation gorgeousness!

Lion and Unicorn jumper

Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

The F***ING CRAZY SLEEVES!

Jumper with crazy sleeves

Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

How can you NOT want to at least try that on- yes, those are some cray-cray shoulders, but look what it does for her figure. Glorious.

To prevent us stabbing ourselves, or our partners, with a knitting needle (or several), and to motivate us to knit the whole thing and not a few inches of it before it disappears to the bottom of the knitting basket (you know it happens), we decided to do a knit-a-long. We’ll be blogging together on our progress, the trials, the tribulations, the things we learn about the patterns, as we go- for our and your entertainment.

Nik is making the Lion and Unicorn Jumper from ‘Coronation Knits’ while I’ll be attempting the Perfect Christmas Jumper. Yes, even though Christmas is in the middle of summer here. This means that we’ll both have to deal with intarsia on tiny needles. Fun!

While I love the reindeers on the pattern I know what I’m like. Therefore I make no promises about not switching the design to be space invaders or something else weird.

Here’s hoping the end results will be as glorious as we’re both hoping (and that the wool I bought doesn’t itch too badly…).

And of course, if you’d like to play along at home, you can! Just get yourself a Susan Crawford pattern, and the relevant yarn and needles. We’d love to hear about/see your progress!