Thursday, 24 April 2014

Beautiful 1940’s Bolero – Bestway 900

Until a few months ago, I’d never considered knitting a bolero.  I know boleros were worn during the ‘40s, but the only ones I’ve ever seen in pictures, or have seen for sale anywhere, are evening boleros, made out of fabric. 

I have quite a few bolero patterns in my collection.  Some are just simple stocking stitch, others look seriously complicated, and what put me off tackling a number of them, was the fact that the edging was knitted separately and then sewn onto the finished garment.   Realistically, asking me to knit a strip 8 stitches wide and over 20 inches in length just isn’t going to happen.

Eventually, I happened across a pattern that made me think that knitting a bolero wasn’t going to be that bad after all.  The pattern claimed to be the perfect pattern for beginners.  A neat little bolero knitted almost entirely in rib, by one of my most favourite pattern producers, Bestway.

Like so many patterns of the era, the original called for 4 ply, but I had some Stylecraft DK meadow that I wanted to use up.  Using DK wool on a 4 ply pattern creates a bigger finished item.  Sometimes that can cause problems in a garment, especially on the shoulders, but because my knitting tension is very tight, and because of the slender design of the bolero, I didn’t have to adapt the pattern at all, I just stuck to using smaller needles. 

Sometimes I don’t always like what I’m knitting, but I am so pleased with how the bolero turned out.  I like the simplicity of the design and the square shoulders, and the tiny bit of cable is the perfect finishing touch.

The bolero was finished back in January, and sold on Etsy within 10 minutes of it being listed.  It was sold to the lovely Fleur De Guerre, and you can see a picture of her wearing the bolero here.

It is a great pattern to work from, easy enough to pick up and knit just a few rows at a time, and knitted in DK, it grows really quickly.  Because it is such a popular design, I have already made a second one, in plum, which was snapped up by a lovely lady in London.  A third, again in plum, went off to New Zealand at the beginning of this month, and just today, a fourth, this time in a vibrant blue called aster, was packed off to London.  And yes, yes I am already knitting another one, another green one, using beautiful Stylecraft meadow.  I’m beginning to think I could knit this bolero in my sleep ;-) 

The pattern really is perfect for the beginner.  If you can knit rib, then you can knit this bolero.  The tiny bit of cable on the front is only worked across 2 rows, and the back is simply rib.  If you fancy giving it a go, I have the pattern for sale in my Etsy shop as an instantly downloadable PDF, which you can find here.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

1930s Cable Jumper - My Weekly

I’m certain that it won’t have escaped your notice that I knit.  I knit a lot, in fact.  I knit in the car, I knit while my girls are in gymnastics class.  I knit during breakfast, lunch, and more often than not, during dinner.  My knitting is always to hand.  I never leave the house without it and would, if I could, knit in my sleep.  It is definitely an obsession of mine :o) 

As much as I love to knit, I have found that something I’m not overly good at doing is the finishing off.  As soon as I have cast off the final stitch on a jumper, I’m always eager to move onto the next one, and so jumpers get shoved into bags, which then get shoved into bigger bags until, come Spring, I realise that the events are approaching, and I better pull my finger out. 

With Mr Y having been on holiday these past two weeks, I have had an extra pair of hands to help out around the house, which has given me some time to stitch up some of the jumpers that have been accumulated these past few months. 

When choosing a pattern to knit, I find myself drawn to both new patterns and those which are familiar to me, i.e. those that I have knitted before.  I always have more than one jumper on the go; I’m currently working on 4, as I always flit from one to another.  Easy knits for when the girls are working, complicated patterns for the evenings when I can get some peace. 

The one I’m showing you today is one of the complicated ones, only knittable in silence, when full concentration can be given. 

The pattern is from the 1930’s, issued with My Weekly.

I opted for one of Stylecrafts relatively new shades, a pretty brown colour called mocha.  I use Stylecraft yarns a lot because they are good value for money, and so soft.  Last year they released some new shades, which I bought lots of, just in case they take them off sale! :o)

The pattern design is all over cable, which is very time consuming, but as the pattern runs in a regular pattern repeat, it is an easy pattern to follow, but is very slow growing.
Wherever possible, I like to finish my jumpers with vintage buttons, and a raid of the stash turned up some tiny fabric covered buttons from the 1930’s, which made the perfect finishing touch to this pretty, never to be knitted again by me, woolly! :o)

The response to this jumper on my Facebook page has been absolutely overwhelming, with nearly 4000 people viewing the photograph, and numerous kind comments.  If you were one of those lovely people, thank you, you make me want to knit faster ;-) xx

I also had requests to make the pattern into a PDF, so if you fancy giving this woolly a go, I have listed the pattern for sale in my Etsy shop, which can be found here :o) 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter Holiday Fun

We’ve been enjoying a lazy couple of weeks here.  Its school holiday time, and we have certainly been making the most of it. 

Everything stops for the holidays.  Routines, like the 5.50am alarm, and set meal times go out of the window, and we relax into each and every day, mostly taking them as they come. 

The girls adore having their dad at home, and with the glorious weather we have been blessed with, we have made the most of the time. 

There have been lazy family breakfasts, and early morning strolls along the beach.  Picnics in the park, and staying out in the garden until the sun goes down, the nip in the air reminding us that it is still only Spring. 

Trips to trip to the zoo with wonderful family, and time spent with very special friends. 

We had the first BBQ of the year, watched movies, walked through the fields and took long drives through the countryside.

Trips to antique shops turned up vintage treasures, and more pretty patterns found their way into my collection.

And the best bit for me?  Well, I got my husband back to myself for a while.  No planning or marking, no assessments or reports.  We talked of weekends away and made plans for the summer.  Booked tickets for trips with the girls, and watched films together while eating chocolate.  Read books, listened to music, took time out, all the simple things that we just don’t have time for during term time.

With my Mr here to lend a helping hand, I got time to knit and sew, and have so many posts to write up about jumpers and dresses.  I could have written up posts while he was home, could have spent my time writing and editing, clipping and pasting, but I didn’t.  These last two weeks have been about taking time, being a family, and having fun. 

Normal service will be resumed this coming week, but it has been a time for plenty of cuddles and snuggles and lots of laughter and smiles.  I love the holiday’s, and I hope you enjoy looking at the photographs :o) xx

Stunning 1930's hat with rust leather trim. 

1940's crepe day dress - oh so pretty.
1940's blue velvet evening dress.
Cheeky leopards at the zoo!!

Seeing what they can find.
Easter isn't Easter without a simnel cake.  Should have taken the baking paper off though!

These were tasty.
All completed these past two weeks :o) 

Monday, 24 March 2014

A Cosy Carriage Home

A couple of weeks ago, on what seemed like the first sunny weekend since last year, we popped out of Suffolk, and into the neighbouring county of Norfolk, for a weekend by the sea. 

The weather was glorious, one of those perfect spring days that I remember from my childhood.  As we walked the coast path at Weybourne, the sky was a brilliant shade of blue, the sun was warm upon our backs, the skylarks were singing above our heads and the air was delightfully fresh and crisp.  The walk certainly blew away some lingering cobwebs.

I adore North Norfolk, I could happily pack my bags and move there tomorrow, if circumstances allowed.  There is something about the pace of life and friendliness of the locals that seems so welcoming. 

Whenever we visit this neck of the woods, we endeavour to take a trip on the North Norfolk Railway.  My Mr is a lifelong railway fan and would live on the railway, given the chance!  If truth be told, I’m rather fond of a steam engine myself, and nothing beats travelling behind the engine, in a vintage railway carriage.

The NNR is our favourite heritage railway, and if you ever get the chance to visit, I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.  At the end of the line at Holt, tucked neatly against the tree line, with a perfect view down the track, is the most A-M-A-Z-I-N-G railway cottage ever!  I have seem some pretty quaint railway cottages in my time, but this one, without exaggeration, is the most incredible cottage I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. 

You see, the cottage in question isn’t just any cottage, oh no, this beautiful home, one that I would happily set up home in, started out life as a railway carriage! 

Once upon a time, railway carriages as homes wouldn't have been an uncommon sight.  When soldiers returned home from WW1, the promised jobs and homes simply weren’t there.  When they were demobbed, soldiers received any back pay that was due, and could apply for a grant to buy a small plot of unproductive farmland, onto which they put a decommissioned wooden Victorian railway carriage.  

Railway Cottage was a home from the 1930’s right up until 2007, when the then owners donated it to the NNR.  Once on site at Holt, an extensive restoration project took place, and the tireless work of everyone involved has made Railway Cottage something truly amazing, well, to a vintage loving, social history obsessed nut like me it is! :o) 

The cottage was officially opened to the public in April 2011, and although we have visited the railway on numerous occasions, I’d never actually managed to cross the threshold until that weekend.  I’m pleased to say that wasn’t disappointed.

The interior is beautiful.  It is as though you could just move in.  The larder is full, there are clothes hanging in the wardrobe, and what’s more, you are allowed to actually touch things.  The cottage is used as an educational resource for local schools to learn about what life would have been like during WW2.  I shan’t prattle on any more, but shall let you enjoy the pictures.


Not bad hey?!

My Mr and I have a sort of unwritten rule.  If he goes to see a train (or 10!), I get to have a scout about for vintage goodies, and Norfolk never disappoints.  Holt has some beautiful antique and vintage clothing shops, and I’m always eager to see what we can find.  This visit proved fruitful, and finds included a coral linen 1940’s day dress, a novelty print cotton smock, knitting patterns and some knitting needles :o)

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Bestway Vintage Knitting Pattern Archive

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to any of you that I like a spot of knitting.  If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, I'm certain you know that I have a somewhat unquenchable love of vintage patterns, especially those from the 1930s and '40s.  The storage boxes under my bed, the drawers of my dresser and the drawers of my sideboard are all testament to my hoarding habit.  Take a book from the bookshelf, and a pattern is likely to flutter to the floor! 

I haven't been particularly good at keeping an accurate record of the patterns I already have.  When we are out scouring for patterns, and the like, my Mr is always amazed that I can, just by looking at a front cover image, know, categorically, whether I have said pattern or not.  
Although I adore most of the individual patterns from the 1940's, I always find myself specifically drawn to the Bestway patterns.  I don't know what it is about them, but I am always surprised at the varying designs and clever stitches, many of which I am yet to master!  The leaflets vary in size.  Those from the late 1930's and early years of WW2 are quite large, on thickish paper that doesn't bend easily.  As war progressed, and paper shortages became an issue, the size of the patterns was decreased and there was a significant decline in the quality of the paper.  Wartime patterns are far flimsier and tear more easily, yet survive in surprisingly large numbers. 

As you would expect, I have some all time favourite patterns, all of which are on my "to knit" list :o)

Frustratingly, I can't find a single thing out about the history of the Bestway Company.  I don't know when they first started producing patterns, or when they stopped!  I know they didn't exclusively deal with knitting patterns, as I have Bestway patterns for crochet, leather work, lacework and sewing, but sadly, that is as far as my knowledge goes.  

Liza, who blogs over at The Vintage Knitter, has done a wonderful visual archive of the front covers from the 1940's Stitchcraft magazines, which you can find HERE.  As well as knitting, I love nothing more than to ogle at all the wonderful patterns that were produced in the 1940's, and so, inspired by Liza's efforts, I decided it was about time I got a grip of my own patterns. 

Not wanting to feel overwhelmed, I started out slowly, tackling just 10 patterns a day and scanning them.  This scanning lark is boring, don't you know?! :o)  Anyhoo, I have managed to work my way through my Bestway stash and have, I think, put them into number order.  

Some I know I'll never knit, nor do I ever wish to, but I collect and love them all the same.  I like the idea of a knitting pattern archive, and so have put my Bestway covers into a Flickr album that, should you fancy a butchers, you can find HERE.

Liza has kindly agreed to send me over pictures of the covers of some of her own Bestway patterns, and if you have any cover pictures that you would like to contribute, then please do get in touch. 

Ultimately, the goal is to scan and digitally store all of my patterns.  I don't have any plans to get rid of my originals, but it is safer for them to be stored away, rather than mauled by me :o)

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

A Floral Frock for my Birthday Belle!

At the end of February, C turned 8.  I can’t quite believe that I have an 8 year old, how can time have raced by so quickly?!  It seems only yesterday that she was this tiny, toddling, cuddlesome bundle. 

Anyway, my bundle of joy loves nothing more than to dance around in a pretty dress, the more voluminous the better! 

I figure that every birthday girl deserves a new dress, right?  Having left it somewhat to the last minute, we wasted no time in choosing a pattern.  Options were given, but C was very definite in her choice, a sweet little pattern by ??

As much as I love to use vintage fabric, I don’t like to use it on anything I make for the girls who, lets face it, are growing taller by the day, so anything made will likely only last them one season.  Instead, a practical and easy to work with cotton was the order of the day, in perfect fresh spring tones.

Where one leads, the other often follows, and so not to be left out, M had to have a new dress too.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may recognise the fabric that she was lucky enough to end up with!  It’s a 1930’s reproduction fabric which I had bought with a view to turning it into a dress.  Right from the start, M had had other ideas, and as soon as it dropped on the doormat, she had claimed the fabric for a dress for herself. 

To be fair, it’s a very practical fabric for a child’s dress.  Being cotton, it’s really easy to work with, is pretty durable, something required in a fabric for M who is always climbing, jumping, skipping and falling over! 

Again, the pattern was a vintage one, but more simply constructed than C’s dress.  Not one for fancy collars or restrictive clothing, the sleeveless, open neckline design of the dress really suits M.

The fabric had no nap, which meant the pattern placing was easy.  The skirt construction was basically a run of 3 rectangles joined together and gathered.  The major plus point for M’s dress is that there is a 4” hem, so hopefully she will get use out of it well into next year. Teamed with thick tights and a cardigan, it’ll be perfect in winter too.

We still aren’t entirely sure how C managed it, but celebrations that would ordinarily have been confined to the one day ended up spreading over 3 days and she managed a meal out with my parents and brother, a day walking the coast at Dunwich with a buffet afterwards, and then a trip to the cinema with very special friends.  Think I might ask her for a few tips on extending my own birthday celebrations :o)