Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Fabulous Prefab

Did you watch the new series of Foyle's War which aired on ITV a couple of months ago?  If so, what did you think of it?

Personally, I loved it and spent the entire 90 minutes (I watched it on catch up to avoid the 30 minutes of adverts!) glued to the spot.  I'm a fan of Foyle's War and was super excited when I knew it was to return to our screens, but was a little disappointed that there were only 3 episodes made and must admit that I did miss Sgt Milner.

Anyway, the eagle eyed among you may have noticed that Foyle's driver, Sam, was living in a rather splendid prefab.

For those of you who aren't familiar with prefabs, they were basically prefabricated homes, built in a factory and put together on site.  They were originally outlined in the Housing Act of 1944 and the idea was that the temporary structures, intended to last just 10 years, would provide affordable homes and solve the immediate housing shortage which had been caused by the German bombing of our towns and cities. 

Of an intended half a million, in the end, only 156,623 prefabs were built.  Construction was undertaken from 1945 to 1951, with varying designs used across the country.  Small, but most definitely perfectly formed, they boasted running water, an inside toilet, an electric cooker and, in many cases, a refrigerator (something we all take very much for granted nowadays).  For many who, pre-war, had had an outdoor toilet and bathed in front of the fire, the prefab offered luxury after adversity.  

Not intended for long term use, most were razed to the ground many years ago.  However, a small number remain and just a stones throw away from me in the north of Ipswich, there are more than 120 prefabs which have, for now, stood the test of time.

Built in 1947, they are, as far as I can tell, one of the largest "estates" of prefabs still standing. Certainly, they have been modernised and updated, UPVC windows fitted, new roofs etc, but they still hold the unmistakable charm of the fabulous prefab.  If you Google earth it, they are quite an impressive sight; little rectangles nestled neatly together. 

A great place to see one kitted out in true vintage style is IWM Duxford.  Duxford's prefab was made by Uni-Seco Structures Ltd and was erected in Peckham, South London, just after the war, and was inhabited until 1978.

It is placed at the back of the site, tucked behind the American Air Museum.  Sitting alongside a mock air raid shelter and victory garden, it's as though the family have gone out for the day and you are a mere visitor.

With sewing on the table, and a magazine on the chair, it's kitted out with everything the post war family needed.  I never tire of looking at it and it's well worth a look, if you get the chance. 

We visited on a beautifully sunny day in May and the reflection on the glass was quite bad, so please excuse the somewhat dodgy photographs.

The wooden high chair can be seen at the table.  My youngest had use of a simliar one, only it was painted white.

For me, prefabs are pretty special and I think there is something rather romantic about them.  A new home for the homeward bound solider and his family perhaps, or a safe place for a returning evacuee to rest his weary head.

They are one of the iconic post war images and I very much hope that when the remaining few are deemed uninhabitable, someone has the foresight to preserve more of them, so they aren't consigned to the pages of history. 

I have a romantic image in my head of sitting in my prefab, sewing a new dress while the children play in the larger than average garden.  In truth, I would struggle to get all my tat into a prefab, let alone try to live in one but I can dream, can't I?? ;o)

Thursday, 27 June 2013

For the Love of Blog

Ok, so things are changing in this funny old world of the blog. 

The powers that be at Google, for reasons best known to themselves, have decided to close Google Reader.  The service will close on Monday July 1st, which, if I understand if correctly, means you will lose your blog reading list.

Fear not though, because where one app closes, plenty more pop up to take it's place.

I've chosen to move over to Bloglovin'.  It was quick and easy to sign up, and my reading list was transferred at just the click of a button.  If you want to keep reading my knitting, crafting and vintage loving ramblings then you can pop on over to my Bloglovin' page, which you will find here.

However, if you don't fancy joining up to yet another site, and I truly can't blame you if you don't, you can still keep up to date with my goings on by subscribing via email (the link for which is in my sidebar) or by checking out my 1940's Style For You Facebook page, which you can find here.

While I'm posting, I just wanted to say thank you for your kind comments and emails on my previous post, which wasn't the sunniest.  You lot are fab and made me feel much happier - I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!! xx

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Playing Catch Up

Argh!  Time, where do you go?  More than halfway through yet another month, the longest day of the year been and gone.

June is galloping by at an alarming rate and yet there is still so much I want to share with you.  A trip back in time on the Great Central Railway and a spot of 1940’s dressmaking, this time for C, to name but two.  I will get there; honestly, I’ve just been flat out busy, which is great, but very tiring.

I’ve felt a little “bleugh” about the whole blogging thing of late, a little jaded I suppose, for one reason and another, but I’ve had a look back at some of my original posts and actually like this visual record of the sunnier parts of our little lives so, giving myself a much needed kick up the backside, I’m determined to carry on, so this little post today will be a round up of a few of the things I’ve been up to these past few weeks.

Last weekend saw us up with the lark and into the car to make the 2 hour journey to the North Norfolk coast.  We love this beautiful area of the country where coastline meets countryside. 

It was a dual purpose visit, encompassing both business and pleasure.  Our first stop was to visit the North Norfolk Railway.  It is a beautifully preserved railway with immaculately kept stations and the line runs through rolling countryside with panoramic views of the North Sea. 

There are three stations on the railway; Sheringham, Weyborne and Holt.  All three stations are very different and have their own individual charms, but Holt is my favourite.

Once Mr Y had had his fill of the trains (well, once I’d prised him away from the platform) we journeyed 10 miles along the coast to a little village near Blakeney.  While Mr Y took the little critters crabbing, we visited the octogenarian who has been an incredible source of some of the most amazing vintage clothing I’ve ever had the privilege to lay my hands on.  

This visit was to sort through some of the clothing that was stored in what were once the servants’ rooms.  We moved boxes and bags, cases and trunks, my arms certainly felt it the next day, as did my knees (gosh I’m sounding so old!). 

What was the reward for crawling around in old mouse droppings and cobwebs (one of the less glamorous sides to my line of work!)?  A fabulous collection of knitting patterns in the most amazing condition.

And an absolute millinery treasure trove of genuine ‘30s and ‘40s hats, with everything from close fitting felt numbers to late 1940’s straw hats. 

I was very reserved and kept just one of the 40 hats we brought home with us, a stunning late 1930’s example in the most beautiful burgundy colour with a green grosgrain trim!  It has a little moth hole on the crown, so a little clever mend is required, but what’s one moth hole in a hat that is over 70 years old??

Once we had gathered up the haul and dusted ourselves down, we popped back into Holt to do a spot of shopping, vintage style! 

There are a number of vintage shops in Holt selling everything from clothing to kitchenware.  It was a drizzly kind of day but we weren’t deterred and after visiting nearly every vintage shop in the town, I made just a few purchases, all from the one shop.  It's a place called Cobwebs and they have the most amazing collection of vintage patterns and haberdashery items (as well as plenty of other bits and pieces) that I have ever seen, and incredibly reasonably priced.  I picked up a couple more patterns which I will use for C and build up her '40s wardrobe.

And yet more knitting patterns for me, all at less than £2.00 each.

On the knitting front, I've fluffed up yet another jumper, which means that's two in a row - I'm not sure how, I'm blaming it on brain overload and tiredness. 

Don’t get me wrong, it's pretty, knitted in a 55% wool, 45% acrylic mix, in the most fabulous autumnal shades, but it is just way too big for the lady who had ordered it. 

You can tell I lost heart because, once I fully realised it wasn't going to fit, I couldn't find the motivation to sew in the other sleeve or knit the front collar.

For fear of fluffing up another woolly, I’ve put the knitting down for a while and have, this past week or so, been working on some more felt corsages. 

The pattern I have been using comes from a 1942 Needlework Illustrated magazine and the felt crafting section was part of the crafts for convalescents scheme.  They are quite fiddly to cut, those tricky little leaves especially, but the finished article makes all the fiddly bits worth it.

So that's me and what I've been up to these past few weeks.  I hope you have all been having fun filled days.  I intend to find time this week to check out some of your blog posts that I have missed :o) 

Oh, and if you fancy a night of 1940's fun, please don't forget to enter my giveaway where you have the chance of winning two dance tickets and 1 nights bed and breakfast at the Red Lion, in Cambridge.  Details of the competitiona can be found link.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

1940's Dance Tickets Give Away!

Today, I'm bringing you a rather fantastic give away, courtesy of The Red Lion, Whittlesford Bridge, Cambridge.

For allowing an advert on my Facebook page, I was given two tickets to The 1940's Society Night being held at The Red Lion.  This great event is on Saturday July 27th and kicks off at 7.30.  You get a free glass of Pimm's cocktail on arrival and can dance the night away to the swing tunes of the Homefront with live music from "The D-Day Darlings".

Sadly (and I really mean that!!) I am already booked to be somewhere else and so can't go.  However, my loss will very much be someone else's gain because I am giving my tickets away! 

It gets better though.  The owners of The Red Lion have very generously thrown in 1 night's bed and breakfast so you can enjoy the evening, indulge in a tipple or two, and not have to worry about how you are going to get home!!

What's more, IWM Duxford is just a stone's throw away, so once you have tucked into a full English (or just a coffee, depending how fragile you feel!) you might want to take a look at all they have to offer. 

It looks to be a great event; a chance to get dressed in your '40s best and enjoy the sounds of the forties.

So, if you want to be in with a chance of winning this is what you have to do;

- You must be a follower of this blog
- You need to place a comment on this post telling me what you favourite 1940's tune is
- You must share this give away on your own page.  Sorry, but if it isn't shared, then you can't  enter. 

You can also enter the competition through my Facebook page, which you can find here.

I know not everyone likes sharing posts on their own page, but the Red Lion have been very generous with the prize so I think it is only right that we should try and spread the word about what looks to be a fabulous event and see whether we can make it a sell out!!

It's a UK only competition and entries close on June 30th, the winner will be announced shortly afterwards.  The gift card will be sent to the winner by recorded delivery,

Good luck !! :o)

Sunday, 2 June 2013

That Will Teach Me!!

Have you ever seen the film “Love Actually”?  It’s a feel good favourite of mine that I have probably watched more times than I care to remember.  Anyhow. If you have, bring to mind, if you will, the scene with Bill Nighy where he is in the recording studio attempting to do a festive rendition of “Love is all Around”. 

Well, after failing again to cram the new lyrics into the song, he lets off steam with a rather expletive laden tirade.  If you do know the scene that I am writing of, then that was me when I naffed up the most recent car jumper that I was knitting (if you don't know the scene, then you can see the clip here, courtesy of Youtube).

I’m not actually knitting a jumper with cars on, no, my car jumper is my “on the move jumper”; the one that keeps my fingers busy when we are out and about in the car.

The jumper that I made a right royal muck up of was one I started about 2 months ago.  The pattern used was a 1940’s Lavenda one that I have had on my “to knit” list for a very long time.

Being stripy, I thought it would be the perfect woollie to use up some of my 4 ply stash on.  The pattern wanted 5oz of main and 3oz of contrast, which was fine.  I weighed the melon wool left over from a jumper completed 2 summers ago and, with just over 5oz, I thought I had enough.  Struggling to find 3 contrasting shades, as the pattern suggested, I ended up opting for just the one in a neutral shade of silver grey. 

I got off to a good start.  The sleeves knitted up quite quickly and the colours looked really nice together, if a little ‘30s rather than ‘40s.  I moved onto the front and, although it turned out bigger than the pattern suggested, despite my accurate following of the instructions, I wasn’t too concerned.   

I moved onto the back and blithely carried on, not getting too concerned at the diminishing ball of melon and then; disaster!  When I got just above the second stripe of grey, I ran out of melon! 

To say I was peeved would be an understatement.  Furious would be closer to the mark, with a few expletives thrown in to boot!  I can honestly say that I have never run out of wool on anything I’ve knitted.  I’m usually meticulously careful with my calculations and I check and double check everything.  Not this time.

Looking back over the pattern, I’d mucked up the calculations entirely because I had failed to notice that the original was knitted in 3 ply!  Such a school boy error but that’s exactly what I’d done. 

So, what to do then?  I didn’t like to admit my failings and at first did what every rational knitter would do; shoved it in a bag and moved onto something else!!  I thought the old saying “out of sight out of mind” might be true; not this time.  With the knowledge of a more than half finished jumper niggling away at the back of my mind, I was determined that the many hours worth of work would not be wasted. 

I thought about possible solutions to the problem including buying more melon, but matching the dye lot would have been impossible after such a passing of time.  I thought about ripping back the sleeves and then knitting them in just the grey, but that didn’t appeal to me either because one of the main reasons I loved the original pattern was the continuity of stripes going across the entire jumper. 

No, the only possible solution to the problem would be to unpick the melon rib and then use the unpicked wool to finish the top of the jumper.  I could then use the grey, a wool I had plenty of, to re-knit the rib.  Labourious, certainly, but it was the only solution I could think of.

And so it began!  Have you ever tried to rip back a jumper from the bottom up?  All I can say is avoid it if you can!  It’s really tricky!  I thought that it would unravel nicely, like it does from the top, but the wool kept getting caught and, after an hour of pulling and unwinding and seemingly getting nowhere, drastic action was called for. 

With a No. 12 needle, I picked up a row of knit stitches just about the rib and then, with a deep breath, I cut off the rib!

I really could see no other way to go about it.  Unravelling it from the bottom was leaving me stressed and the wool over stretched.  Working it this way round, I was able to take the knitting back to a neat finish and then, after doing a row of knit with the grey, was able to carry on with the K1, P1 rib. 

I didn’t want to rip back the rib on the sleeves because that would have given an additional grey stripe which would have looked uneven.  Instead, I left the sleeves as they were, but opted to pick up around the neck using the grey wool in an attempt to pull the jumper together.  A couple of clear plastic buttons later, and the jumper was finished.

Beautiful sleeve detail gives the iconic '40s shape.
The "gathered" look in the grey stripe is created by knitting twice into every alternate stitch.
Obviously, the jumper didn’t end up looking exactly as the pattern suggested, but I’m not unhappy with it, although I don’t intend to have to go through the same faff again and will therefore be certain to get my calculations right next time!!