I love vintage patterns and have piles of old knitting magazines from the 1940s, 50s and 60s, so I was very excited when Christine Boggis, the editor of Knitting magazine, put out a call for knits inspired by the 40s.
Even more so because for a while I had had a picture of a vintage teapot that I wanted to use as a template for a colourwork jumper and I realised this was great fit for the brief. Colourwork and stripes were popular choices for sweaters in the 1940s because rationing meant people often reused wool and only had limited supplies.
I named my design sketch Tea Time and included the story of the teapot in my submission. Soon Christine cam back to me saying she like the design and could I do a tea cosy to go with it. An unusual request bit fun and one that now makes a lot of sense having seen how the magazine styled its shoot this month.
The new issue of Knitting magazine is out and it includes my Spring Leaf cardigan. A simple draping cardigan for over a light top or dress.
It has a bolero shape with a curved hem line and the leaf edging is knitted on so the leaves grow up the front symmetrically. The leaf pattern is based on a Victorian edging from the Knitting and Crochet Guild archive.
It is one of those knits that is much easier than it might a appear at first glance at the pattern.
The yarn is Lotus Yarns Tibetan Cloud Worsted - my first time using 100% Yak - which is lovely and soft and very rich colourwise with the right drape for this project.
Such a valuable resource needs protecting and maintaining, so a few weeks ago I was delighted to come across a competition run by Yarn Stories to create a blanket pattern that would raise money to support the archive.
The pattern was a single cable column but looking at the archive pictures I thought of it again and realised that a double version would make an interesting square which in turn could act as a swatch for a scarf that could in the future be added to the Birdie pattern set.
Then I look for some colourful yarn to make the square - the Yarn Stories range uses some vibrant colours, so I choose this orange and created by square.
The square before posting off
In the last few days I heard that my square will be one of 10 designs that make up the final blanket. It is great that it will help support this valuable archive and I'm really looking forward to seeing it in the chosen yarn alongside the other squares.
It is also exciting that there will be a public vote to choose a winner from the 10 squares - as soon as I know more I'll share it here and lots of other places.
The last month has been eventful Chez Penguin - some good, some bad. Involving a lot of travel - some expected, some not. There has been a fair amount of stress and a lot of emotion.
But through these things one calming and comforting factor has been knitting. I find it relaxing when I travel, occupies my mind when I'm waiting around and calms me down.
With the result that quite a few projects are off the needles or making a lot of progress.
This non-stop period started with a holiday in Austria. There was less skiing than there might have been due to me picking up a knee injury at the National Veteran Fencing Champs the week before - I'm such an action woman. But that just meant that when I wasn't on the mountain there were more opportunities to sit with my feet up in the hotel enjoying delicious cake and working on a few yarnie projects.
Which, in turn, meant my vintage inspired hat and mittens were available to wear on the colder days.
And I was able to make a start on my Surf on Slate shawlette using some fab Eden Cottage Hayton 4ply which has a touch of cashmere and is a delight to knit with.
This is an idea I've had for a while and is part of a series of shawls inspired by childhood experiences in Donegal.
The next few weeks were a sad time for my family and indeed took me back to Donegal. So the shawl was soon off the needles, as were an as yet unnamed pair of fingerless gloves - an unlabeled ball of sock yarn orphaned in a project bag was very clear on what it wanted to be.
Gloves of all types make great portable projects as do socks so I've made good progress on a couple of pairs - Hot Cross Socks (well it was Easter) pictured in the wonderful Regia Design Line Sizzle colourway and also some with a leaf design.
Now I have to figure out what projects will go to France with me and what I might get off the needles. There are Eurostar journeys and coach trips, so let's see if I can get some more socks finished and perhaps make some significant headway on one or even two lace projects.
I'm in the process of some fashion history research because I am looking after a family heirloom.
This beaded dress belonged to my great-aunt Dorothy who was both formidable and elegant. That's certainly my memory of her as an old lady and the pictures of her, my grandmother and their other sisters show some very well dressed young women during WW1 and the 1920s.
Dorothy was an artist and jeweller who married a well off older man - as result she was a widow living in a large house with a maid and an unmarried sister or two for a lot of her life. She seemed like a character from a book to me.
The dress is a prefect match to that - exquisitely beaded and stitched, drawing on the mid-20s Egyptian obsession for the diagonal panel, it is the bold choice of someone who loves colour and isn't afraid of making an entrance.
The pictures aren't great because I didn't want to handle the dress too much and risk damaging it. For the same reason I've only had a tentative look for a dressmaker/fashion house label and not been able to see anlything obvious.
So now I'm trying to find a 1920s dress expert. There's nothing a intricate on display at the V&A and very few similar items pictured online. So I need a specialist to find out more and to tell us whether it would be worth finding a home for it in a fashion display.
If anyone knows and expert please poit them this way.
Excelana is something unusual in the world of yarn, designed to be old-fashioned. Developed by vintage knitting guru Susan Crawford and yarn producer John Arbon of Fibre Harvest, the range is intended to evoking vintage wools from the 'Golden Age of Knitting' in both feel and colour palette.
According to Susan and John it is: "100% British wool, spun from the fleece of the Exmoor Blueface, which live on the moors of North Devon. A cross between the Exmoor Horn and the Bluefaced Leicester, the fleece of the Exmoor Blueface creates a lustrous yarn with a soft handle, great stretch and excellent stitch definition, affording the knitter a pleasurable knitting experience."
All of which leads me to imagine they know the names of all the sheep involved.
I tried out on Sun-Ray Ribbing from Susan's collection of vintage knits A Stitch in Time - exactly the sort of pattern the yarn is intended for.
I found the bounce of the yarn perfect for the pattern which needs a lot of spring and found it a great knitting experience - soft on the hands and no splitting. Also good stitch definition which is something I value because I enjoy textured and lace knits.
I used the cornflower blue - which is a classic mid blue with a lot of depth.
The 100% wool does give it more volume than some more modern style 4-plys which is worth bearing in mind when choosing patterns.
Amazingly the cardigan is finished and the sun is still out.
This little cardie, one of my picks from Knitting 88, was remarkable quick project despite requiring me to thread all those beads on to the yarn. So with the sun out the plan is for more summer knitting while the glorious weather inspires me. Already on the go are two shorts-sleeved little vintage numbers. A cotton lace and cable number is the new sofa knit while a pure wool 4ply ribbed top is the spare knit for when concentration is likely to be difficult eg sitting round with friends in a pub in Northern Ireland when fine lace is not the best option.
Meanwhile 3 or 4 other summer tops are in my sights, using up a stock of cotton, bamboo and silk yarns I have mysteriously accumulated.
A couple of weeks ago it was officially spring. A typical British Isles spring, a few brighter days, temperatures creeping into double figures enough for a lighter coat but nothing spectacular. I was thinking fine handknits, smart skirts and trousers and light jackets where my wardrobe mainstays.
The the sun came out and I started thinking of floral and floaty dresses and this little number from Debenhams.
So while I still want to do the blue jumper, last night,fickle knitter that I am, I couldn't fit the urge to cast on a cropped, short puffed-sleeved bolero from the same edition of Knittingin Sublime extra fine merino.
With beads - something I'll talk about when I've decided whether I decide it was worth it.
Of course the sun will probably vanish now but at least I have two projects for as my fancy turns.