Sunday, 28 January 2018

More knitting

One unexpected joy of last week's London trip was that the weather was so mild down there that I didn't need to wear gloves! This might not sound worth getting excited about, but it is for me. I suffer from Reynaud's, so spend large chunks of the winter with my fingers turning an unappealing blueish white at the slightest opportunity.

I've got some very thick gloves for outdoors, but I can have problems indoors as well. A work colleague mentioned that his wife had found wearing wrist warmers helpful, so this seemed like a good excuse for another knitting project.

The basic pattern for my scarf had come from this book.

'Knitty Gritty' by Aneeta Patel

I can't remember who recommended it to me, but I really like it; very straightforward to follow, and clearly illustrated. My only minor quibble is that in order to provide quick and easy projects for beginners, the author has (quite reasonably) included a lot of projects for babies and small children, neither of which feature in my world. There is however a pattern for wrist warmers.

I stuck with variegated yarn for this project as I like the effect, but this time used double knitting. Because I'm a knitting newbie, and my tension can still kindly be described as 'variable', I decided that it would be best to knit both wrist warmers simultaneously. Years ago I made an embroidery which included two birds with 'feathers' of woven picots, and it was very noticeable how much better the second bird turned out - I wasn't going to make that mistake again! So armed with a yardstick I set about splitting the ball of wool into two equally-sized smaller balls.

The design includes a pattern of eyelets made by bringing the yarn forward. I had never come across this before and really couldn't imagine how it would work, but gave it a go anyway - and it worked! I was amazed. Purely by accident, the variegated yarn produced wrist warmers which are almost the colour opposite of each other; I really like the effect. I forgot to take any 'in progress' pictures, but here's the end result. As you can see, there's quite a lot of yarn left over.

Completed but not sewn up

The finished pieces are so curled up in the above picture that the completed result doesn't look much different. Making up consists simply of sewing the sides together, and the adding a stitch at the top to make the thumb opening.

The finished article

The end result is quite long on me. I'm glad I took the author's advice to cast on using larger needles; even so they are a bit snug at the bottom (arm end).

Very long wrist warmers

They are also undeniably toasty, and I can see them getting a lot of use.

Better view of the eyelet pattern

Of course now I want to Knit All The Things. It's a long way off, but ultimately I want to be able to knit jumpers and cardigans. When I'm dressmaking, I have to shorten bodices by a couple of inches, and it's always annoyed me that I can't get knitwear to fit me. There is of course American Duchess's fabulous method of jumper shortening, but it would be nice to have some items which are naturally the right length, ideally in suitably vintage styles as well.

And it may just be possible! A browse in my local Oxfam bookshop turned up this.

Vintage knitting patterns in multiple sizes

And there's more. No London trip would be complete for me without a visit to Skoob in Bloomsbury, quite possibly my favourite second-hand bookshop ever. (It took me years to notice that 'Skoob' is 'books' backwards - Mr Tulip despaired!) A lot of my college books have come from there, and last week I found this.

Even more vintage knitting patterns!

So all in all, I'm not short of inspiration.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Louise Dahl-Wolfe at the Fashion and Textile Museum

Firstly, a couple of apologies. Normally I try to post about exhibitions well before they finish, but this one I only managed to visit just before it ended (today). Also, because most of the exhibits were framed images behind glass, it was very hard to photograph without reflections. So the quality of some of the images is not as good as I would like.

Louise Dahl-Wolfe in Good Housekeeping magazine, 1941

I must admit that I'd never heard of Dahl-Wolfe before this exhibition, but it turns out that I had seen her work; I recognized several of the portraits on show. Born in San Francisco in 1895, she initially trained as an artist before taking up photography in the 1920s and turning professional in 1930.

Black and white images on display

In the early 1930s she and her husband went to live in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where she recorded everyday life during the Great Depression.

Tennessee portraits, 1931-2

After moving to New York City in 1933, Dahl-Wolfe became a staff photographer for Harper's Bazaar in 1936. She would work on the magazine for the next 22 years. In 1938 she was sent to Hollywood to take portraits of the stars, often shooting her subjects outdoors and in natural light.

Hollywood portraits, clockwise from top left: Carole Lombard, Vivien Leigh, Veronica Lake and Bette Davis

She brought the same approach to fashion photography; a genre which in 1936 was still in its infancy and very much based on the stiff style of society portraits.

Fashion photographs

Twins at the Beach, Nassau, 1949 (image taken from

Suzy Parker by the Seine, costume by Balenciaga, 1953 (image taken from the FTM website)

Many of her indoor shots used backgrounds built and painted by her husband, the sculptor Meyer 'Mike' Wolfe.

Swimsuit, 1939

Of particular interest to me of course was a collection of images of hats.

Lots of hats!

Liz Benn and Balloons, 1948

Suzy Parker in Dior, 1953

In 1937 Dahl-Wolfe took her first colour photograph for Harper's Bazaar. In total the magazine published 600 of her colour photographs (and over 3,000 in black and white), including 86 front covers. Her artist's training gave her a strong grasp of colour theory, and she worked closely with the printer to ensure that the images produced on the printed page were true to her vision.

A study in green and brown

The New College Girl in Training for New Skills for a New World, August 1943

Betty Bridges and Evelyn Tripp, April 1948

Jean Patchett, January 1955

Unfortunately many of the more colourful covers were impossible to photograph well. My favourite however was not especially colourful, and happily it was positioned where the reflections were not a major distraction. An outdoor shot, like so much of Dahl-Wolfe's work, it was photographed in the courtyard of Les Invalides in Paris. The discoloured stonework forms the perfect backdrop to the masthead, and this and the slight green tinge to the carving perfectly set off the model's clothing.

Green velour hat, Dior, November 1947

Sunday, 14 January 2018

#VintagePledge - 2018 plans

After four fabulous years, the #VintagePledge is taking a well-earned rest for a while. But I've decided that because it gives me something to aim for (if not always achieve!) that I'll make a pledge of my own anyway.

I could keep making the 1940s and 1950s styles which I love, but I've decided this year to push myself to do something different. I've somehow acquired quite a few patterns from the sixties, seventies and (heaven help me) eighties, and it's time to actually do something with them.

So my pledge this year is this:
During 2018, I, Black Tulip, pledge to make up at least three of my vintage patterns from the period 1960 - 1989.

Obviously one candidate high on the list is Vogue 9004.

Vogue 9004, 1984

So that's the 1980s covered, what about the other decades? Here are some of the possibilities.

Although this was clearly a pattern aimed at young people, by today's standards it's a very conservative look.

Butterick 4384, 1967

Last week some friends were complaining about the lack of pockets in women's clothing - certainly not something you could say about Vogue 8194!

Vogue patterns from (L to R) 1965, 1968 and 1971-2

I keep putting off doing the alterations for this pattern because I know that it's going to be tricky, but I really should give it a go.

Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress, 1976

I have absolutely no use for a floor length dress, but I am strangely tempted by the long versions of these two!

Simplicity from 1972 (L) and 1977

Finally my favourite brand of the 1970s and 1980s; Style. As with the Simplicity patterns, there is a real difference in the look of these two, despite only being a few years apart. 2828, with its raglan sleeves and no waist seam, is so of its time.

1974 (L) and 1979

So all in all, I have plenty of inspiration to choose from.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

And now for something completely different

I can safely say that I never thought that knitting would feature on this blog; it's just not something that I do. But never say never. . .

It all started last month, with the Sale Arts Trail Christmas Bazaar (Sale being a place on the outskirts of Manchester). My friend Bronwen Simpson was there selling her beautiful hats and scarves, so I thought I'd go along and have a look. Another stall had items made from super-chunky merino yarn, including scarves with big buttons. They were lovely, but a bit too chunky for my taste. Also I must admit that dry-clean-only items don't really fit into my life. Then on a stall selling turned wood pieces I found a bowl full of big wooden buttons, and Had An Idea.

My last (and indeed only) attempt at knitting was way back in the early 1980s, when I made a sweater. It was (intentionally) baggy, had very little shaping, and was made from a chunky and very fluffy yarn, which disguised a multitude of errors. I love looking at the beautiful knitted items which bloggers such as Juliana and Tasha post, and am in awe of their skill, but couldn't imaging producing anything like that myself. But it struck me that I ought to be able to manage a basic scarf.

The first problem occurred when I went to my local fabric and wool shop, and was overwhelmed with choice! I didn't want anything too expensive for a first attempt, so eventually I decided upon a chunky, multi-coloured acrylic yarn in blues and browns.

Wool and buttons

I bought some needles as well (6mm) and set to - and the results were just as you would expect for something which I last did 35 years ago, and to a mediocre standard then. So I ripped it out, and did the sensible thing of practising with a ball of double knitting yarn which for some unknown reason I had lying around.

Once I had mastered the idea of a basic knit two purl two rib, I had another go with the proper yarn. Much better.

In progress

I was spending most of Christmas and New Year at my parents' house, and this was a far easier project to take with me than any dressmaking. What I did need to do before Christmas was master the art of knitting and talking simultaneously; my parents deserve more than monosyllabic grunts!

I was surprised at just how quickly I got into my new hobby; whenever I had a spare couple of minutes, I would find myself picking up my knitting to sneak in a couple more rows! I made the buttonhole by casting off a few stitches, and casting them back on in the next row - I have no idea if this is the correct technique.

Button and buttonhole

The length was based on an existing fleece scarf, and I used the remaining wool to make a fringe. There are all sorts of crimes against tension going on along the scarf, but I'm still thrilled with the end result.


I did quickly get tired of carrying my work around in a plastic carrier bag, so between Christmas and New Year I made myself a knitting bag from a couple of cotton remnants. A couple of people have given me knitting needles they no longer use, so as there's some fabric left over I'll make a bag for those as well.

Knitting bag. The handles were the most expensive part!

As a seamstress and a knitting newbie, I underestimated the stretchiness of knitting, so the button and buttonhole are further down than I would like. The button has to be wedged in the V of my coat.

Holding the button in place

No matter. The 2X2 rib makes for a toasty warm scarf. Even better, the button stops the ends from flapping about with an unbuttoned coat.

With Simplicity 4896 - not at all historically accurate, but super-warm

I've had to create a new 'knitting' label for this post, but I doubt if this is the only time I'll use it!