Thursday, 28 March 2013

Pretty Posies

A few weeks ago, with spring failing to make an appearance and the arctic weather still lurking (it's snowing here as I type!!), I decided to bring some colour to the doom and gloom and indulged in a spot of felt flower making. 

Corsages were very popular during the '40s.  With the availability of new clothing very much restricted, people had to make the very best of what they had.  The women of the era turned to accessories and embellishments to give a tired frock a new lease of life. 

Scouring the pages of craft magazines of the time, you will find various patterns for posies and trimmings.  As well as the expected knitted, felted and crocheted examples, you can find buttonholes made from all manner of things.  From broken zips to bottle corks, pine cones to dried seaweed (yes, really, it was dried before being painted with enamel paint), the women of the time were truly resourceful - they simply had to be - although how many of them actually pinned seaweed to their lapel, I don't know.  Eau de poisson and visions of the local cats following you home spring to mind! :o)

I have dabbled (and failed) with the knitted variety, given a good go (with limited success) to the crocheted lovelies but my fail safe and favourite crafty supply to work with is felt.  The range of colours, the way it can be snipped and shaped and stitched - I just love it.  I try to work in 1940's colours, where possible, no acidic or fluorescent shades here.

So, when the opportunity presented itself for a few hours "me" time, a very precious commodity for anyone home educating little lovelies, I jumped at the chance. 

With some forties favourites on the airwaves and cake to keep my company, I set to work.  Felt flower making is not a quick process, as I'm sure many of you fellow crafters know.  From copying the pattern, drawing it onto the felt, snipping, stitching, stitching and yet more stitching, a single pretty posy can take upwards of 30 minutes. 

After a few happy hours, I had 6 bright, pretty posies.

You've probably seen the anemone many times before.  This one is the exception to the rule, as far as working from original patterns go, because it's one I designed myself a couple of years ago.  I love anemones and wanted to create something small enough to wear on my beret.  With over 25 pieces to hand cut and stitch together, it is probably the most time consuming of the lot but it is also the one which has proved to be most popular at '40s events where I sell them for £5.00 each.

My least favourite of the bunch is the tulip.  I love tulips and their happy spring shades but I didn't enjoy making the corsage one bit.  The pattern comes from a Needlework Illustrated magazine and the instructions said you had to glue the felt together. 

I'm not a fan of gluing fabrics, especially not thick felt.  I don't think glue gives longevity and so instead I opted to stitch rather than stick.  Stitching it, although I was super careful, leaves a very definite mark on the petal and doesn't leave a very tulipy shape.  It's a plus size posie as the tulips are life sized but that's fine on my more than ample bosom!

The very autumnal mustard and brown one is from another Needlework Illustrated magazine (I'm a little obsessed with these magazines).  I've used the pattern before to make bright red versions with black middles, a bit like a gerbera, and they are relatively easy to make. 

I make all the stems on my trusty sewing machine before adding some florists wire to make the stems bendable and therefore the flower heads slightly pose able.  Next, it's simply a case of fringing a strip for the centre and then stitching on the double flower heads.  Not very time consuming and oh so pretty.

Today marks the last day of the school term and the beginning of a much anticipated two weeks with Mr Y, I can't wait.

With Easter celebrations almost upon us, I have two girls waiting to get messy and make the obligatory chocolate nests and I also want to try out a child friendly recipe from my new cookery book.  Something chocolatey springs to mind, after all, it is almost Easter.

To those of you celebrating, I hope you have a lovely Easter!  Let's hope it's sunny rather than snowy! x

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Warming Wartime Woollies

My word hasn’t it gone cold again?!  Much of the UK has been blanketed with yet more of the white stuff and here in snowy Suffolk, more than 3 inches fell.  We should be thinking about bright floral frocks for spring but instead, snugly woollies have been the order of the day.  My girls love it though and have certainly made the most of it.

During my blogging absence, (where have those 2 weeks gone?) my fingers have been busy.  I’ve being doing a spot felt flower making, a post on that to follow shortly, and I’ve finally managed to finish and sew up the red and black waffle jumper that I was working on. 

Knitted in trusty Stylecraft 4 ply, using black and cardinal, it’s superbly soft and rather pretty, even if it does have a certain “Dennis the Menace” look about it!

For anyone considering giving the waffle jumper a go, I highly recommend it.  It’s a simple pattern to follow so is nicely suited to a beginner, and worked in 2 colours, rather than the 4 suggested, it’s an easy jumper to do.

With the waffle finished, I’ve swiftly moved onto my next commission and am working from another Needlewoman Needlecraft pattern, again from 1943.  This time I’m working with Stylecraft luxury DK in shades ecru and autumn glow. 

I’ve never used the yarn before and I’m not far enough into the pattern to know whether I like it or not.  It’s a 51% wool, 49% premium acrylic mix and it’s not as soft as I expected it to be.  That probably has something to do with the fact that I’m not a great wool fan but it’s knitting up nicely, in terms of shape, and I’m looking forward to seeing the two colours worked together.

On the buying front, I've been doing more than a little pattern shopping.  Due to the chilly weather, I've been reluctant to poke my nose outside the door and have therefore spent more time than usual on eBay.  Good for increasing my pattern collection, not so good on my purse!  I also made my first ever Etsy purchase.  I'd never looked properly at what is on offer on Etsy but was pleasantly surprised at what you can get.

Ebay has plenty of patterns to choose from at the moment but I have been restrained and only bought ones that I really liked and those that didn't go for a small fortune!  

First up, a couple more Stitchcraft magazines, one in very good condition, the other in slightly tatty, sticky tape mended condition.  I also bought my first ever knitted skirt pattern!  Don't misunderstand me, I have no intention of ever knitting a skirt, but it's nice to have it in my collection :o)

Many of the second lot feature one of my most favourite knitting models.  I find it hard to resist such patterns when they come up for sale.

Very much saving the best until last, a much coveted and searched for knitting booklet that I am super duper happy to have added to my collection.  It’s a booklet called Knitting for the RAF.  I’m not going to go into too much detail because the lovely TicketyBoo Tupney has done a fabulous post about it on her blog, you can check it out here. 

My copy of this beautifully illustrated knitting book has “COMPLIMENTARY COPY” stamped on the front in purple ink with W.V.S pencilled on the top right corner.  I find the thought that this booklet was originally in the hands of a W.V.S group rather exciting!  Illustrated by Laurie Tayler, it's a delight to flick through for the images alone.  The pattern book was bought for an unbelievable £2.40 plus postage!  Bargain I think!

My new knitting booklet and my treasured Laurie Tayler wartime postcard.

Right, I'm off.  I already have my evening’s entertainment planned.  I shall be tucking into a rather indulgent slice of homemade Guinness cake before picking up the needles and watching of with the return of Foyles War – thank you ITV – it’s been too long! 

I hope you enjoy your evening too :o)

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny 1940's Style...............

Jumper!!  Yes, I know that doesn’t rhyme but that was the song that popped into my head when I was stitching up this jumper of most minute proportions and I bet you’ll soon find yourself humming that song too! :o)

This is my most recently stitched up jumper, a rather stylish 1940’s number knitted from a Lavenda pattern.  Don’t know about you, but I think this pretty model might just be wearing a hair piece!! ;o)

I’d wanted to knit the pattern for a long time having seen some other people knit it in the rather popular red, white and blue colour way, but tracking down the pattern had proved difficult.  After much lurking on eBay, I managed to get a seriously tatty copy for just a couple of pounds!  A bargain in my book when you consider a good copy of the same pattern went for over £10!  

Anyway, the jumper should have a base colour and 5 contrasts but with 4 ply colours being somewhat limited, I couldn’t find 6 colours that went well together and so ended up with just 4 instead, opting for cardinal, fern, silver and cobalt.  They might seem like an odd batch of colours to mix up but I’ve used them before for the waffle jumper and they have been very popular.  

It’s such an easy pattern to knit but the end result makes it look far more complicated than it really is – always a plus point :o)  Once the K1, P1 rib is done, it’s simply a case of working in stocking stitch with every 4th stitch carried as a slipped stitch over 3 rows. 

Sewing up is a different matter though with a grand total of over 150+ ends to sew together/run in but the final result is definitely worth the extra time taken in sewing it up properly.

Button wise, I didn’t have any which were just the right shade.  I don’t know about you, but I find reds are one of the hardest shades to match up.  Instead, I went for my "go to" button, the little faceted plastic ones.  I think we have over 2000 of these which were picked up at a car boot sale a couple of years ago for just £5.00!  Bargain! :o)

When knitting straight from a pattern i.e. not making any size adjustments at all, I find that the jumpers come out pretty close to the original size, give or take an inch.  In my enthusiasm to get it knitted, I didn’t think to look at the pattern size.  I should have checked though because the original was for a petite 32”-34” bust! 

True to the pattern, and proof that using modern 4 ply on a vintage pattern that states 3 ply is ok, this jumper has come up at the 32”-34” bust it was meant to.  I just managed to wriggle it on to the well travelled “Doris”, but it is very much “sausage in a skin” like and needs to be on a much smaller model. 

This jumper is coming with me to the fair in Norwich tomorrow.  Lets hope it can find a loving new home with a petite, vintage loving lady :o)

If you fancy giving the pattern a go yourself, I have a PDF versions for sale through my Facebook page which you can find here.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On

Anyone here in good old blighty is probably very familiar with the Keep Calm and Carry On slogan.  It can be found on anything from pens to posters, t-shirts to tables (yes, seriously, just take a look here).

The original slogan was created in 1939 when the outbreak of war was unavoidable.  The third in a series of 3 posters, the other two being:

Keep Calm and Carry On was intended to be taken at face value, public information and practical advice for the populous.  A much needed morale booster in the face of great adversity. 

However, contrary to popular belief, the red and white posters that so many people have displayed on their walls were never publically released during the war.  The poster had been kept back, in reserve if you will, only to be used in the event of something like a mass bombing with gas or an actual German invasion.

Although produced in thousands, the posters had very limited distribution.  Post war, the unused posters were destroyed and it wasn't until 2000 that one of the originals was re-discovered in a book shop in Northumberland. 

Anyway, for Valentines Day, Mr Y presented me with a rather marvellous DVD.  So marvellous, in fact, that I feel compelled to share it with you lovely folk.

The DVD in question is Keep Calm and Carry On – News Reports From The British Home Front 1939-1945. 

It contains 3 DVDs which feature 8 hours of viewing pleasure. 

Pathe news reels have been chronologically grouped together to bring you a year by year, month by month account of war related activities that occurred on the home front during the 6 long years of war.  

The DVD starts off in January 1939, and although the outbreak of war was some months away, the rumblings of the impending hostilities are clear.  The introduction of identity cards, gas marks and mass air raid shelters are all featured.  You see women being called to work as light ambulance drivers and bus drivers and the land army, a subject close to my heart, are seen doing their bit. 

You get to watch the ARP, the Home Guard, evacuees and factory workers.  Safety precautions, blackout precautions, busy farmers and numerous spiffing servicemen (and women).  The collection culminates in the VE day celebrations held outside Buckingham Palace with revellers partying until dawn!

I’m fascinated with WW2 home front history and, with my parents being seasoned re-enactors, like to think that I’m pretty knowledgeable about the fashions of the forties.  I have bookshelves positively groaning under the weight of numerous publications, both wartime and current, that have proved invaluable for filling my head with information, but this DVD goes a step further. 

There is nothing like actually seeing what life was truly like.  The ladies in many of the magazines of the time were perfectly turned out, beautifully matched clothing, hair “just so” and of course they had to be because they were keeping morale up.  In contrast, most of the ladies featured in this DVD are, in my opinion, a more accurate depiction of what the wartime woman really looked like.  Hair was not perfect, slacks were worn and not everyone was stick thin!

The DVD was produced by Strike Force entertainment who also do some other great wartime DVD’s, a selection of which can be found here.

For anyone who has an interest in life on the British home front, this is an incredibly informative DVD.  For anyone wanting to accurately portray what life was truly like on the home front, I believe this DVD is a must! 

Friday, 1 March 2013

Free 1940's Jumper Pattern - Bestway 1320

So apparently, being March 1st means it's the first day of spring.  Personally I remain unconvinced as I'm sat here in Mr Y's cosiest jumper. 

However, if you are thinking of the warmer months to come, why not give this lovely 1940's jumper a go, a perfect spring sweater. 

Although the pattern says the jumper is to be knitted in 3 ply, I've recently completed it using Stylecraft 4 ply and it has turned out nicely.

If you fancy giving it a go yourself, just click on the link below to access the full pattern.

                                                         Bestway 1320 Free Pattern