Monday, 19 September 2016

Historical knitters: Tsarina Alexandra and the Grand Duchesses

I've been meaning to get back to my monthly posts featuring literary knitters (or other crafters), and yesterday I came across a group of historical knitters in the book I'm currently reading; The Romanovs 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

As Alexandra and the girls [the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia] did their knitting, behind her chair, bringing into splendid relief her bright gold hair, recalled Anna, stood a huge Negro servant gorgeous in scarlet trousers, gold embroidered jacket and white turban. 

As, in the passage before, Montefiore had commented on the families enthusiastic embracing of photography, I was hopefully I would find an image online of the Romanov knitters. I couldn't find one showing the exact scene described in the book, but I did find some other images.

Tsarina Alexandra knitting on the Royal yacht Standard, 1908

Tsarina Alexandra knitting in the outfit of a Red Cross Nurse, c.1915

Grand Duchess Anastasia knitting (something very large) in her mother's boudoir

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Tom & Jerry, Cath Kidson and Mrs Line of Holloway

I spent last Saturday afternoon engaged in one of my favourite activities, charity shopping with my friends T and M. We had a lovely afternoon and all returned home with bulging bags of goodies.

It is hard to decide which of my purchases I like best. The best bargain was certainly the unused Cath Kidson bag. Especially as I has been thinking that morning that I would need to get a new shoulder bag, before my current one completely falls apart.

I also go this retro/vintage dress which is very cute and wearable.

But if I have to pick a favourite it would have to be the 1990s Tom & Jerry sheets, which were just €2!!!!!
At T's suggestion I'm planning to turn them into a pair of pyjamas. I think I want to go for quite a traditional pyjama design, piping, pockets and all. Possibly making use of Closet Case Files Carolyn pattern.

Then, on Tuesday, the postman delivered a parcel from my mum containing this;

A Second World War guide to smart dressmaking, full of lots of handy hints and tip.

Possibly the best sentences come on the first page when, explain the need for the booklet, it states conversationally;

Well - let's face it - women's traditional aptitude with the needle is more legend than fact. It's by no means every women who can sew by instinct. Lots of them bungled through the mending and called it a day. Repairs were as far as they could go.  Anything which savoured of creative skill - such as renovations and remodelling (let alone dressmaking proper) - was quite beyond their scope.

Ouch - that's put you in your place ladies, nothing that 'savours of creative skill' for you! And, don't even think about 'dressmaking proper'. Although rather harshly worded there is, probably, a bit of truth behind the statement, and there is certainly no reason why women should be natural needlewomen.

As well as the home truths and handy hints the book also has some fantastic adverts, here are just two of the ones I like best. (Note the amount of copy - not like today's adverts with limited text and short catch phrases).

Four blouses from dressmaking cuttings??? Mrs Line of Holloway must have been some kind of magician or, alternatively, her children where wearing some pretty unusual patchwork clothing! I suspect she would think me very unadventurous for only planning to turn a pair of sheets into a pair of pyjamas. Oh well, you have to start somewhere.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Pints & Purls

Thanks to the Dublin Knit Collective I won two tickets to Pints & Purls at the Irish Craft Beer Festival on Thursday Night. With my trust knitting companion T, I set out to enjoy a couple of crafty ones!

The get together was organised by Phil & Sue of Mountain Man Brewing Company, and we had a table in front on their stand, with a very appropriate crochet patterns table cloth.

I went to the festival last year with the boyfriend and a group of his brewing chums, but it was a different experience being there with a group of knitters. I think it would be fair to say we were a bit of a talking point, and were photographed (not always very surreptitiously) by many others at the show. We also received, what I like to consider, as a number of admiring comments. Once we'd got used to the attention it was a really lovely evening; a delightful combination of knitting, beer drinking and chat.

Having said that, I probably should have brought something easier to knit than I did - as I frequently lost my place in the pattern and had to rip back and re-knit!

There were also a couple of raffle prizes for attendees. Slightly embarrassingly, given that I had won free tickets to the show, I followed this up by winning the mini skeins in the raffle. (Note, I wasn't embarrassed enough not to accept the prize). They are five beautiful jewel coloured mini-skeins of sock wool, hand dyed by the Dublin dye company. I also found out from T, that mini-skeins like this are called unicorn tails - what a great name!

'Hazwool' goes undercover as a hipster bearded craft-beer drinker,
it is a hard task but someone has to do it!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

August ends

Despite posting at the beginning of the month about my intention to blog more, I've not really done so and I still have a stack of finished projects to share. This is partly due to another little resolution I made at the beginning of the month, which I have been rather more successful in keeping.

Having finished my baby blanket and chevron top in July, I decided to spend August knitting up some of the ends of balls of yarn in my stash. The left overs from former knitting projects that I just can't bare to throw out. The pattern search function in Ravelry is ideal for this. It allows you to search the massive pattern database for patterns that use the amount of what ever weight yarn you have. 

In the last month I've knitted up a baby cardi and pair of fingerless mitts using left over sock yarn. (It would now be possible for me and my dad to wear matching father and daughter matching socks and mitts!) I've knitted a baby hat with the left overs from this jumper, and I've started on a scarf with some of the left overs from my chevron top.

I've found these small and quick project very satisfying to knit, and it has been great to clear some oddments out of my stash. Plus I've now got a stash of knitted gifts! I've still got a few yarn oddments left in my stash, and I think I might carry on working through them for a bit longer, especially as I don't really feel like starting on any of the bigger projects in my queue.

Depending on how I get on the leftovers, I'm also thinking of what I can make with the single skeins in my stash, some of which have been there for a while. I think all knitters probably know the problem of the beautiful single skein of yarn bought on impulse, which then lingers reproachfully in the stash :(

Having just come to this decision I met my knitting friend T for coffee today, and she gave me a lovely gift from her recent holiday in Denmark.

Yes, two more single skeins of possibilities. The one on the left is partly made of nettles!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

FO: Rainbow flag baby blanket

As I've mentioned before, I'm at the stage in my life when all my friends are having babies. This month one of my friends had here second baby. Having rather out done myself with this traditional baby shawl for her first born, I felt I needed something different, but equally lovely, for number two!

This time, rather than going traditional I went modern, with one of Purl Soho's baby blankets, of which there are a delightful choice. I went for the Colo[u]rful Wedges Baby Blanket - both because I love the design and because it would use up some of my ends of sock yarn. 

The construction is very clever; short row shaping is used to make the firsted coloured triangle, the the shaping is mirrored to make one in the background colour, and so on. I went for a rainbow coloured theme to my blanket, and a soft light grey background.

The background yarn is Drops Baby Alpaca Silk, so super soft for baby. Each of the coloured triangles takes about 20 grams of yarn, so I was able to use up ends of balls from various sock projects.

This project was a delight to knit, and would certainly encourage me to try some of Purl Soho's other designs. I was a little late in starting on the blanket, but once I had started I was knitting at the rate of a triangle a day. The blanket was knitted, finished, and packed up in time for baby J's arrival, and certainly seems to have passed the snuggle test!