Sunday, 20 January 2019

Free Pattern - 1940's A Charming Stitch Jumper


This knitwear model has an amazing hair do! And those eyebrows! I think this is such pretty jumper, perfect for under your suit for spring. It is knit in a lacy rib and has a moss stitch yoke and has typical 1940's strong shoulders. It is finished with a set of crochet buttons. The pattern is for a 32-34" bust. Remember to check your tension before you start!

I like finding a pattern with the stamp of the wool shop that sold it. This one was sold at The Readicut Wool Co Ltd, Briggate, Leeds. I managed to find a picture of it here. If you know Leeds the wool shop was where Harvey Nichols is now. Readicut was founded in 1928 in Wakefield. They supplied pre-cut wool for rug making. Prior to this crafters had to cut the wool themselves from skeins. I have some vintage rug patterns somewhere, it was a very popular activity. I will have to dig the patterns out.





So here is another pattern to add to my ever growing list!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

A year in books - 2018

I love reading, I've talked about this quite a bit before. I have a fabric covered A5 notebook where I write down every book I read. I started it in March 2008 so 10 and a bit years ago. In case you are interested, in March 2008 I read Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Graft by Martina Cole, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan and Double Fault by Lionel Shriver.

I often flick through my notebook at the lists of books. I can picture where I was reading some of them, they remind me of holidays and days out or of people who lent them to me or the joy of discovering a new author or of visiting particular book shops or of being part of a book group.

I don't write reviews in my notebook or give the books a mark out of ten or a certain number of stars. That isn't really for me. I just like a list and I find it satisfying to see all those books listed. I do count up how many I have read at the end of the year but not for any kind of competition with myself, it is just out of interest. It also makes me reflect on how the year went and what kind of books I read. Did I prioritise reading books? Did I read lots of magazines instead? Did I spend more time reading blogs or using social media? Did I read lots of great big thick books or conversely loads of thin ones? None of it matters, I read to please myself, but I do find it interesting.

In 2018 I read 73 books. I read some thick ones and some thin ones. I read new fiction, old fiction, non-fiction, poetry, young adult titles and children's books. I read historical fiction, memoirs, crime, cosy crime and diaries. I loved spending time with these books in 2018.

January


London War Notes by Mollie Panter-Downes is a fantastic piece of 1940's social history, covering information that the author used in her articles that she sent to an American newspaper during the war. The Companion by Sarah Dunnakey has a dual timeline of the present day and the 1930's and is a great read. The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin is an atmospheric murder mystery set in Georgian London. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is a true story about the man who tattooed the numbers on his fellow inmates arms and his time in the camp. It is a tough read and an important one.

February


Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls is a great read following 3 young women and their involvement in the fight for the vote. Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore is set in the late 1700s and is a portrait of a marriage, radical texts and architecture. I didn't love it which surprised me as I usually enjoy her writing. The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe was written in 1958 and portrays the lives of 4 young women in a New York publishing house. It was interesting but it also annoyed me. Every Day and Another Day by David Levithan tell the story of a character who wakes up every day in another person's body. The books show two sides of the same story and were a good read. Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish, full of her poetry and reflections was the book I enjoyed most that month.

March


The Lives of Stella Bain by Anita Shreeve follows Stella as she pieces her life back together after being found in first world war field hospital with no memory. London Calling and British Bulldog by Sara Sheridan are books in the Mirabelle Bevan crime series set in 1950's Brighton. I really enjoyed them. Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys is historical fiction based on a true event in 1945. A group of young refugees are trying to walk past the fighting to a port to safety. It is a great book. I enjoyed the poems and illustrations in Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. How To Hang A Witch is set in Salem and follows a group of descendants of those involved in the original witch trials and the goings on in their town. I really enjoyed it. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson follows two young people who know they were born the wrong sex and is fantastic.

April


The Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith was not a favourite. The Graces by Laure Eve was a great tale about teenage friends and witchcraft. The Dollmaker Of Krakov is a great book, a mix of fairy tale and wartime fiction. The Stars At Oktober Bend is a beautiful and poetic tale about a girl recovering from a traumatic event and a brain injury. Light After Light by Victoria Gatehouse was one of my favourite poetry collections last year. Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman follows a young girl who when freed from slavery has to pass as a boy and join the army in order to survive. An interesting and powerful read. I love Hollie McNish's poetry in Plum. We Were Liars by E. Lockheart follows the goings on of a group of teenagers over one summer. The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslie Walton is full of beautiful imagery and is fairy tale like.

May


Under the Rock by Ben Myers is the story of a place, local to me, and the effect it has had on the people living there. Beautifully written and fascinating to me as I learnt more about where I live. The Dry by Jane Harper is gripping Australian crime. The Betrayal by Kate Furnivall is set in Paris in 1938 and follows two sisters with a secret. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell is just brilliant. A creepy, uneasy story featuring a house full of secrets. I had to finish it on a sunny afternoon as I was too scared to read it at night anymore! Invitation To A Bonfire by Adrienne Celt I disliked. Simon Vs The Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli is very good. Simon is not openly gay and he is being blackmailed at school whilst dealing with friendships and a potential romance. Where The World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean is a wonderful read with a really strong sense of place. It is based on a true story about a fishing party from the Scottish Island St Kilda being stranded on a sea stack for months when their annual bird hunt goes wrong. The Break by Marian Keyes is a lovely read and funny like you would expect.

June


Private Papers by Margaret Forster looks at a family through the eyes of four daughters and a mother. It was interesting but not my favourite of hers. The Goose Road by Rowena House looks at a young girl trying to save her family farm when her brother is away at war. This leads to her having to drive a flock of geese across part of France. It was a great read. One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus is a clever story about a group of teenagers under suspicion for killing their classmate. It is told from multiple points view and is a good book. The Wondering by Mira Bartok was disappointing and I did not enjoy it. Sealed by Naomi Booth made me feel sick whilst I was reading it and I mean that as praise. Dystopian horror in a very clever story. Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein follows Tash dealing with her memories from when she was younger involving her imaginary friend and a missing little girl. It is a very good read. Heathcliff Adrift by Ben Myers is a poetry collection imaging what Heathcliff experienced after his time with Cathy. Lovely poetry. The Adventures of John Blake by Philip Pullman is a graphic novel which is not my usual thing but I quite enjoyed it.

July


The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland was a bit of a struggle and I didn't enjoy it. Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon is a raw and honest look at her mental health issues and is well worth a read. Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber covers love, loss, friendship and the Palm Springs desert and was a good read. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert is a fairy tale like story which I wanted to love and didn't quite. The House On Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve is brilliant, historic crime fiction set in Victorian London with a trans main character. I loved it. Betty Church And The Suffolk Vampire by MRC Kasasian I did not love.

August


Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen follows a Jewish girl who is spying at a Nazi boarding school and passing secrets to a secret agent. It was very good. The Lost Witch by Melvin Burgess I did not enjoy. The Corset by Laura Purcell was excellent, creepy and gripping. Ruth, a seamstress on trial for murder, talks to prison visitor Dorothea about sewing murderous thoughts into the clothes she makes. I loved it. Raising Sparks by Ariel Kahn is a well written story set in Israel. It follows Malka and Moshe, their religious upbringing, their friendship and difficulties and Kabbalah. The Psychology Of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas has an interesting concept but I didn't enjoy it.

September


Clean by Juno Dawson is a great 'issues' book that deals with drug addiction, rehab, teenage friendships and family issues. To War With Whitaker is the diary of Hermione Whitaker from her time spent overseas in the second world war. It is fascinating and she was a very determined woman. Before The Fire by Sarah Butler deals with teenage friendship, grief, poverty, lack of ambition and social issues. It is a good read.

October


Girl Heart Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe was one I did not enjoy. Dying In The Wool by Frances Brody is the first of her Kate Shackleton detective stories. It is set in a mill village in the 1920s and looks into the disappearance of the mill owner. I really enjoyed it. Dragon Daughter by Liz Flanagan is a brilliant story featuring dragon eggs, dragons, dragon riding and an ancient island. The main character is a very fierce and determined girl and I loved the story. The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister ed by Helena Whitbread are fascinating to read. Anne Lister lived at Shibden Hall, an estate near Halifax, in the 1800s. She was a land owner, traveller, reader, employer, diarist and a lesbian. Many of her diary entries were written in code, when these were eventually transcribed they were found to reference her love affairs. She was an amazing, interesting woman. Her story will be on the BBC soon as Gentleman Jack by Sally Wainwright.

November


I am on a learn all I can about Anne Lister mission so I read more about her this month. Gentleman Jack by Angela Steidele is a biography chronicling Anne's life and the women that she loved. I learnt lots and really enjoyed it. Presenting The Past and Nature's Domain by Jill Liddington also told me more detail about Anne's Life. A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge is a spooky great read set in the English Civil War. Makepeace learns as a child to defend her head from ghosts that try to enter it. When she finds out more about her creepy family history she needs these skills. A Medal For Murder and Murder In The Afternoon by Frances Brody are the second and third Kate Shackleton books and I really enjoyed them. The Mermaid's Singing is the first Val McDermid book I have read and it was a good read and I will be reading more. It follows Tony Hill a psychologist and profiler and Carol Jordan, a detective, in their first case. Not pictured is The Moss House by Angela Clare which is a fictional account of the relationship Anne Lister had with Ann Walker, they lived together as a married couple. I was lucky enough to read this as a manuscript. It will be published later this year.

December


Splinter The Silence by Val McDermid is another Tony Hill and Carol Jordan book and it is a good read. The Quality Street Girls by Penny Thorpe is a bit too romance for me but I wanted to read it as the Mackintosh factory, where Quality Street were invented and made, was in Halifax and I wanted to know more local history. They are still made in Halifax. The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers is a beautifully written, fascinating look at a gang of coiners (forgers) who operated in the Calder Valley in the eighteenth century. I loved it. Educated is Tara Westover's memoir about growing up in a strict Mormon family with a father prepping for the end of days and an abusive brother. It was a very interesting read, difficult in places. The Lingering by SJI Holliday is a great story, I really enjoyed it. It is part ghost story, part psychological thriller set in a commune based in an old institution on land linked to witchcraft.

So that was my 2018 in books. I got some super books for Christmas and some book tokens and am looking forward to more reading this year.

Monday, 5 February 2018

What I read in January


I did very well at Christmas for books and book tokens; I am looking forward to getting plenty of reading done this year. I've talked before about my love of Persephone Books and I was lucky enough to get five of their titles as presents. I couldn't wait to start them which is why one of them is the first read of the year.


In 1939 Mollie Panter-Downe was a 33 year old writer of novels, short stories and articles, living in Surrey. Between the years covered in this book, 1939-1945, she wrote a regular 'Letter from London' for the New Yorker. These letters gave American readers a real idea of what it was like to live in wartime Britain.

The author covers all topics in her letters; politics, war reports, rationing, evacuation, bombing, entertainment and work. She can be critical, stern, amusing and is detailed in her accounts. Her writing feels very immediate, she is quite chatty, as a reader you get a real snapshot of exactly what was happening on that day, both locally, nationally and often globally and, importantly, you also get to know people's reactions and feelings to these events. I found the book fascinating and very readable. Even if you have read quite a bit of wartime social history this book will enhance your knowledge and understanding.


Sarah Dunnakey is an author local to me and this book takes inspiration from some of the places and landscapes in the area in which we live. I was looking forward to reading her book for these reasons alone but I really enjoyed her writing and story too. It is a fantastic read, rich in detail and captivating.

The book is set in both the 1930's and the present day. The main character in the 1930's is Billy Shaw, a young boy who lives with his family at the mill turned Pleasure Palace where his mother works and he helps out. He becomes a companion to Jasper Harper who lives on the moors above the palace with his mother Edie and his uncle Charles, both of whom are writers. Billy's life becomes entwined in theirs until a tragic event occurs which leaves behind a mystery.

In the present day Anna Sallis is the new custodian at the mill/palace and she is working on the archives, history and exhibitions to make it more of a tourist attraction. She comes across Billy's story and begins to unfold the mystery linking him and the Harpers. As the mystery unravels all the events of years ago and their consequences become clear.


Set in 1831 in the grimy, murky, crime ridden streets of London this novel follows the story of Hester White. She wishes to escape her dire surroundings to find a better life. She is also worried about the number of people in her area who are disappearing without a trace. A chance meeting with a gentleman doctor and his sister, Rebekah Brock, leads to a change in Hester's circumstances. She becomes caught up in a perilous attempt to solve a grim mystery and finds love and belonging along the way. An atmospheric and gripping tale.

I really enjoyed reading this, it was quite a page turner. I thought the author captured the sights and smells of London at that time very well, as a reader you were transported there. I was a bit disappointed by the end of the book, not so much that it spoilt it for me but it was all just rather convenient.


This is the true story of Lale Solokov, a Slovakian Jew who was sent to Auschwitz. The author became friends with him in the last few years of his life and Lale shared his story with her as he wanted it to be recorded before he died.

Lale's job in Auschwitz was to tattoo the numbers onto the prisoner's arms as they first arrived at the camp. This job allowed him some small perks, he got a few extra rations and he was allowed to move around the camp more freely than an ordinary prisoner. Lale used his position to aid his fellow prisoners; he shared his extra rations and traded smuggled jewels and cash for food and medicine. He met a young woman, Gita, as he tattooed her number and they managed to keep meeting up and fell in love. This book tells their struggle for survival in the most desperate and harrowing of places. It is an incredibly moving, powerful and important read.

What have you been reading this month?



Monday, 29 January 2018

Photographs from the past

I always enjoy a good rummage in dusty old boxes in junk/antique shops to see what I can unearth. I had a good look a few weeks ago in my local antique shop and I found these beauties. I spent quite some time deciding which to have. I couldn't afford to buy them all and I do find abandoned photos touching. I don't like to think that no one cares about the people photographed any longer and I always think that I need to rescue them. That is coupled with the fact that I love seeing fashions worn by real people in the past. So here are the choices I made:

Edith Dolan 1940's
One fantastic thing about these photos is that most of them had names written on the back and I do like to be able to put a name to a face. Many of them also had date stamps which is so very useful, especially for the starts and ends of decades where the fashions of one are merging into the new fashions the next and clothes alone aren't always enough to go on.

Isn't she just perfect?! Amazing hair, the arches on her eyebrows, glimmering pearl studs, puff sleeved jumper. I think the jumper is a hand knit and it looks to have dark thin stripes knitted in from the bust down. I think I have a similar pattern. I would love to know more about her.

Winnie Gibson and Douglas 1940's
Winnie's hat stopped me in my tracks and she went into the 'must keep' pile straight away. It is pretty amazing and so very big! Her dress is worth a good look too with those big round buttons on the shoulders and the diagonal stripes that cross at the bust. I wish I could see the rest of it. Douglas looks rather jolly and very smart in his uniform. I hope they came through the war unscathed and were happy together.

Ethel Booth 1920's
Ethel Booth 1920's
I couldn't leave Ethel behind for two reasons. One is that I found two photos of her and I wanted to keep them together. The other is her gorgeous 1920's day wear. I particularly like the first dress, the second is very pretty but a bit floaty for me. The first however, is one that I can imagine wearing. It appears to be a leaf print with a central white bib in the front and a long, pointed collar. Lovely shoes too.

I think Ethel is older in the second photo. Her face has slightly changed shape, her eyes are more defined like she may have some make up on and she has waved her hair. Her floral print dress has pointy, plain cuffs and collar. The floral fabric appears to be see through with a slip underneath, I think the slip is lace trimmed. Great shoes again. I can't quite see what she is holding but I think it is a beaded purse and so that is what it shall be.

Elsie Godard 26th October 1930
Bob and Elsie Godard 6th April 1931
I think Elsie Godard is such a glamorous beauty and I was so pleased to find two photos of her. I just love the top one; the casually knotted pearls, the big fur collar, the sparkle from the ring, the waved hair and that beret. It looks to be tweed, possibly with a bow at the back. I want it.

It is a bonus to get to see whole of her coat in the second photo; I'm sure it is the same one. I would like to know why they are in their outdoor clothes. Are they pretending that they lived in or visited the thatched cottage on the painted backdrop? Elsie looks more set for town than country to me though. Elsie still has her pearls on and I'm wondering if that is a dress clip on her cloche? Her shoes are marvellous too, with white edged bow shaped cut outs on the front.

Bob appears to be in a rather nice three piece wool suit, I can just about see his waistcoat. I like his big turn ups on his trousers. Nice tartan scarf too. I would like to know more about them.

Hilda and I 1920's
On the back of this photo it looks like the writer (I), on the left,  has written that they were 15 and a half and that Hilda is 17. I found out who was who as the next few photos are clearly labelled as Hilda. I think from their positioning that this is Hilda with her sister and I will come back to this in a couple of photos time.

I do like these dresses. You can clearly see the dropped waist of the one on the left, it is marked by several rows of small pleats. From the waist down the skirt are decorations which look rather like rosebuds. These appear to go all the way around the skirt. Hilda's dress has printed flowers and leaves which seem to reach just above waist level. There is a lace insert in the V neck. They both have lovely pearl necklaces and Hilda is spotting some very pretty, glittery star slides in her hair.

Hilda Price 11th April 1931
I would like to know what Hilda is thinking here; she has an interesting expression. I like her smartly belted coat with the big buckle and the thick fur collar with the corsage pinned on. I think her hat is woven fabric though it is hard to tell.

Florrie and Hilda Price 1930's

This was taken on 1st November but I can't read the year of the date stamp sadly. I think it is safe to assume that they are sisters. I am certain that Florrie is the I in the first photo with Hilda.  I have studied them a lot to make the connections. I like the matching huge bead necklaces and the carefully set hair. Hilda could well be wearing the same coat as in the previous photo.

Hilda 7th My 1939
Another interesting expression. What were you pondering Hilda? This photo really has something about it. Here she is a few years older, still liking a big pearl like necklace and a fur collared coat and a star shaped hair clip.

Hilda and hubby 1930's
I loved finding this and realising that I had photos of Hilda from her teenage years to her wedding. The back of the photo just said hubby, so sadly we don't know his name. I'm surprised that the writer didn't say having been so good at writing the names in the first place.

It is a perfect vintage wedding photo. Floor length veil, gigantic bouquet, beautiful full length, long sleeved dress and the groom is carrying his white gloves. I hope they were very happy.

Hilda Price and hubby
I nearly left this one when I first found it as it isn't my kind of thing and as I said I couldn't buy them all. But then I realised it was Hilda and it kind of finished her story off for me. I want this to be a honeymoon memento and I really think it could be. It was taken in a studio that has two branches, one in London and one in Blackpool. I'm so sure that Blackpool is where this was taken, it just feels right!

I think that these photos all came from one person's collection. I wish we knew the links between them all.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

2017 in knitting

It is time to look back over last year and see what I got up to with my knitting. You can read about 2015 here and 2016 here. I feel like I haven't knitted all of the things that I wanted to knit this year. There are just so many great patterns! I am very pleased with what I have made and I enjoyed making them so I have to remember that. These are more or less in the order that they were made. Things do get moved up and down the list when deadlines or other occasions mean a change in project is needed.




This 1960's cravat and tam makes a super set but the pattern required a bit of tinkering. The cravat works very well and I made it and the tam in a lovely mustard Sirdar Baby Bamboo. It is 80% bamboo and 20% wool. I love everything about wool but it does not love me back. It itches me beyond belief, even a fine merino or when blended with silk. That is why I always wear a scarf and long sleeved tops with my cardigans. I thought I would get away with this one but not round my neck, so my mum now has the cravat. The tam is lovely but has no rib and no hatband (as per the pattern) so it just does not stay on my head. I have threaded elastic through it and that kind of works now. I can cope with wool in a hat as I have a big fringe so it never touches my skin!


I wanted to crack the pattern so I had another go in this lovely red Wendy Merino. I added some rows of rib and this one does fit and stay on. I don't normally wear red so this one was going to be for sale but I was surprisingly pleased with how it looked on so I kept it! I knitted the matching cravat too but I don't seem to have a photo of it.


I knitted this Aran pattern hat for my niece in Sublime Merino. She loves yellow and I love knitting cables so it was a good match. It was great fun to knit. There was a small moment of difficulty when she found that the pompom wasn't quite the colour green that she had picked out in the shop, (well remembered by her, age 3), but we have got over that now!





Next up was the completion of this lovely 1950's lace panel cardigan which I knitted in Millamia. I knitted the back, sleeves and one front in 2015!! It then sat in the naughty corner for a good long while as I got a bit confused working out the instructions for the other front. As is the way of vintage patterns, it just said to reverse what you did on the other side and I could not make it work. Helpful with lots of yarn overs and lace. Eventually, I sat down with my mum and she read out all the possibilities that a row could be whilst I knitted them to see what looked right. That way we got the pattern and I could finish my cardigan! It is a beautiful teal, the colour isn't exactly right in any of these photos.





This Marriner's tank top was one that I put on my 2017 knitting wish list and is in fact one of two projects from that list that got started in 2017. I started it on the train on the way to Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I have knitted the front and back, in Fyberspates Scrumptious and have stalled on the armbands. It is currently languishing in the Knitting Bag of Doom from which it deserves to be rescued rather soon. I would like to wear it.




This 1940's cardigan from a Canadian pattern has such a lovely texture, nice and squishy, and has great forties shoulders. It was knitted in Drops Merino and the colour is more like the second photo then the top one. It was a great pattern to knit. This one hasn't featured on the blog before as it was a commission knit.


I knitted this baby helmet from a 1950's pattern for a lovely friend's baby. I like the look of these traditional helmets and they must keep a baby's head nice and cosy. The decoration on the top is a button that you knit a little cover for and then sew to the centre of the helmet. I first knitted one of these helmets for my niece as a Christmas present when she was four months old. It has a bit of a family tale behind it. You can read the story of here.


This was another one from my knitting wish list. The model is holding an egg timer as the pattern states that this jumper can be knitted in eight hours. If you follow me on Instagram you will already know the sad story of this jumper. In brief, no, you can't knit it in eight hours and nor can you knit it with the yarn that I used (a Sublime silk/cotton mix) without it looking like a dish cloth. An expensive dish cloth at that. So it had to be pulled back and the yarn is back in my stash waiting for a more suitable project.


This is another unfinished project, it had to be put aside for more pressing matters but I do intend to go back to it. I really like 1940's tank tops/pullovers and have a great collection of men's patterns. This one gets bonus marks as it also fits into my Men Smoking collection. I have knitted the back and done the rib of the front. It might be for sale, it might be for me, we shall see!



I was on a beret mission in the latter half of 2017 as I wanted more of these most useful hats and had plenty of patterns to try out. This 1960's one is knitted in Debbie Bliss Aran in a fabulous duck egg colour. It was lovely to knit and I like the pattern. No photos of it on yet but I plan to remedy that soon.




I recently wrote a post about this beret pattern which you can read here so I won't repeat the details.

I also made a black one as a commission:


Squeezing in as the last knit of the year on the 29th December was a cream version, in alpaca and silk, for me.


In November I started another garment for myself. It is a 1960's sleeveless jumper with a big collar for pining brooches on. It is not finished yet but I can share the beginnings of it. I have knitted most of the front and have about an inch more to go on the collar. So about halfway there.


2017 appears to have been a year of hats and unfinished things. I'm aiming for more garments and more completed projects in 2018. What about you?