Sunday, 11 February 2018

Knitting inspiration

The chimneypot hat is finished, but I've not yet had an opportunity to take any photographs. So instead here is a slightly belated post about my birthday present from my lovely friend F.

Warning: extremely picture-heavy post ahead!

Woot! To say that I was excited by this would be a major understatement

All three books were published by Odhams Press Limited, and have the same endpapers in different colours. At least two were written by Margaret Murray and Jane Koster (the title page is missing on one). All have sections on knitting for women, men, and babies/children, but it's the women's items which I'm focusing on here.

None of the books have dates in them, but I think that "Knitting For All Illustrated" is the oldest; probably 1940 or 1941. There is a section on 'Re-making and making do', which begins, "Wool is scarce and precious now", but other than that there's little to indicate that there's a war on.

Each section begins with an illustration.

Morning clothes

Most of the items are made in a single colour of wool.

Pullover and sleeveless jerkin

This knitted dress is from the 'afternoon' section, but what I really noticed is that the hat is a similar shape to my chimneypot hat.

Now I just need to knit the 'frock' to go with it!

On the subject of hats, this fez was designed to be worn three ways - and I think that all three of them would look ridiculous on me.

Not top of my to-knit list

Some of the knitted underwear is very practical, some less so. Clearly at this time silk yarn was still available for making this bra and knickers.

Love the fluffy mules!

Close-up, showing the bra shaping

The thing which really caught my eye was this housecoat - it appears in the Vintage Knit book which I bought from Skoob last month. I can't imagine ever knitting it, but it was lovely to discover that I've now got both the original pattern and the modern version.

"You'll be getting up earlier in the morning to put it on"

At the back of the book is a 'how to knit' section. The individual topics are each headed with a drawing of a little wool person.

Click on image for a larger version

Things are altogether more serious in "Complete Home Knitting Illustrated". The foreword makes reference to coupons, so the book was obviously published after the introduction of clothes rationing in 1942. Far more of the items are made in several colours of wool, to use up oddments.

Contrasting sections, and a fabulous hairdo

Stripes use up small amounts of wool

There's not just knitting inspiration; sometime I really want to make the skirt on the left.

Great  (if wasteful?) use of check fabric

Silk underwear is nowhere to be seen; it's all wool.

At least she's still got stockings

Even the hat has a military look to it.

Glengarry-style cap, and another wonderful hairdo

Not everything is military and severe though. There's this pretty cardigan with a square neckline, for example.

Lacy cardigan for 'between seasons'

The section on re-knitting is greatly expanded from "Knitting For All Illustrated". I wonder, did anyone actually try this idea of replacing worn parts of a fabric dress with knitted sections?

Dress with knitted sleeves, back, and front yoke

Despite its title, "Practical Knitting Illustrated" is positively frivolous compared to its predecessors. Gone are references to shortages, rationing, and re-using wool. The New Look has not arrived in the illustrations yet, so I'm guessing the date is around 1947-8.

No contrasting sections to be seen here

Making a striped jumper from oddments is the closest this comes to 'making do', and even then the pattern suggests what colours to use.

Narrow stripes

Worn with a classic cardigan

Knitted underwear is a thing of the past, too. Instead there is a three-piece beach suit; a bra top and shorts for swimming, and a skirt to go over the top for sunbathing.

Sunny days ahead

It will be a long time before I'm proficient enough to try knitting any of these patterns, but it's nice to have the ideas. Thanks to F for a wonderful present!


  1. Wonderful inspiration and I particularly love the underwear and striped jumpers. That bra is amazing! I have a Practical Knitting book by Odhams Press from the 1940s which has some really gorgeous pieces in it. I really need to get my head around knitting, just so I can make some of the patterns I love. However, I really wouldn't want it to deter me from my crochet. I love it too much to make way for other things! xx

    1. You really shouldn't do anything that will distract you from your crochet, you make too many lovely things! I just can't get my head around crochet at all. I put it down to being left-handed; trying to flip the illustrations in my mind simply doesn't work. I think there might be a few crochet patterns in the books - I'll let you know if I find any. xx

  2. Great post! I too have Practical Knitting and I think it's an excellent collection of patterns. The pictures and photographs in these books are fascinating and you have really done all three volumes justice here. I have knitted a Tailored Cardigan with a roll collar from another Odhams book - Knitted Garments for All - it is described as Mother's Cardigan - which reminded me of your post about Making Clothes for the Older Woman. The cardigan was successful but I had to donate it to my husband as the red didn't work for me. He loves it. And with regard to the skirts above - I really want to make the one on the right.

    1. Thank you Kate, your husband is a lucky man!

      One thing I really can't understand about these patterns is how little wool they seem to use. A short-sleeved jumper for a 34" bust is described as needing 8oz of 4-ply - which I think is about 2 balls of modern wool. Surely if the wool was thinner then it would have been knitted up on narrower needles, so you would need more wool? Was wool just somehow lighter then?