Substance and Story

The selected textiles are all constructed from double knit 100% acrylic yarn. The yarn choice purely for its durability and ease when washing. Acrylic yarn can be washed at 40 degrees and tumble dried if necessary. Pressing garments made from acyrilc yarn is discouraged as the heat damage to the fibres affects the life of the garment.

Hand-knitted, the garments lack labels, however the yarn skein labels provide much of the information that would be included.

The chosen textiles, all knitted garments, the fair isle sweater differs slightly, as when viewed from the reverse, shows the stranding technique adopted when producing the colour-work embellishment. This technique involves weaving the different colour yarns across the reverse of the work to create smooth changes in colour, avoiding creating holes in the fabric. Loose ends are woven in when constructing the garments and fasteners are applied in the form of Bakelite buttons, an early form of plastic made from Formaldehyde and Phenol, crocheted loops created to secure them. The buttons are attached with cotton thread.

Being handmade, the chosen textiles were made by me, the yarn from a personal archive, adding to a personal archive of knitwear.

Both the fair isle sweater and the fan and feather stitch sweater are embellished with colour-work. A traditional fair isle OXO pattern with its crosses and lozenge shaped hexagons adorns the child’s sweater, the colours true to the pattern. The ladies sweater embellished with a textured stitch “fan and feather” a form of lace work. The removal and addition of stitches in every forth row creating the form of a fan/feather and a highly textured surface. The addition of colour in the form of bands, emphasising the textured stitch. During Wartime, colour could be relied on to brighten an outfit. As long as there was enough neutral wool for a main colour, oddments could be used for the pattern.

The ” Joan Crawford” sweater lacks embellishment. Instead it has a subtle change from the traditional knit stitch (Garter stitch), knitting into the stitch below on every other stitch on alternate rows. Thus creating the effect of a woven garment as opposed to a knitted one. The resulting honeycomb effect providing scope for mark making in fine detail.

The chosen yarn, 100% premium acrylic is made in Turkey for both Premier Skipton UK and Hayfield, Wakefield. Acrylic is a synthetic fibre. Double knit referring to the number of strands that are twisted together to form the yarn. In this case, double 4 ply so 8 strands twisted together. The diameter of the plies determines the weight of the yarn. Double knit is classified as a light weight yarn.

It is rather hypocritical using acrylic yarn to produce garments from wartime patterns, however when knitting for children and in my case with children and the vast amount of family washing, acrylic is a practical choice due to its ease when washing and its durability.

It has proven difficult to glean information on the origin of the yarn used, this would be less of a challenge if locally sourced natural wool was used or if wool was self spun and dyed.

Lack of damage to the garments is evidence of their lack of use, having only been made recently and in the case of the ladies sweaters, still in construction.

The child’s fair isle sweater produced from a 1940’s Bairnswear pattern is embellished with a traditional fair isle OXO pattern. Fair isle patterns were popular in children’s knitwear at this time due to the fact that an unpicked adults jumper could provide the main colour and an oddments bag could yield the fair isle pattern. “Little figures might edge a cardigan, or flecks of different colours, cunningly patterned together would make the most expensive looking outfit.” (Knitting Fashions of the 1940’s. Jane Waller. 2006.)

The fan and feather stitch sweater pattern, doesn’t provide colour recommendations, the principle being the same as that of the child’s fair isle sweater. However drawing inspiration from the “Your Victory Jumper” pattern from “Home Notes” publication 2 June 1945, I have used red, white and blue to embellish this sweater. Red white and blue were colours prominent in patterns produced during 1952 in celebration of the queens coronation.

The “Joan Crawford” sweater is a pattern published in a book by designer Bill Gibb entitled “Vintage Hollywood Knits.” During the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s pattern books were published with patterns inspired by the knitwear worn by Hollywood starts of the time. the idea being “Knit what the starts are wearing!” This particular pattern is inspired by an iconic shot of screen star Joan Crawford. She was known for her sophistication and independence. Her outfits suggesting a freedom and independence, during wartime counteracting the potential for a feeling of lacking femininity.

These garments were traditionally made in 3 ply wool and although more time consuming, they would last longer. The complex stitching making a denser texture. The lack of natural wool in my finished garments and the use of the thicker yarn is more suited to my lifestyle, being a quicker knit and easer to maintain. Synthetic yarns are more economical, I factor I have to consider with a young family.

Nostalgia is a recurring theme in all my work.

I lost my Nanna when she was still young,  she died before she should have done. My memories are starting to fade after 20 years. However objects that I associate with her provide great comfort.. My Gramps would wear grey sleeveless pullovers at home with his white shirt sleeves neatly rolled up. Her handmade pullovers I imagine she had always made for him. I strive to be like her in so many ways. Our lives are very different, generations apart, but by knitting, I feel I connect with her. My knitwear therefore tells a story. Not so much to the viewer but the same story is behind all my knitwear. My interest in patterns from the 1940’s – the 1940’s being the decade in which they met, got married and started their family. Id like to think that we could have been producing knitwear from the same patterns. These emotions I hope will be reflected in mark making I produce as a response to these chosen textiles.

 

 

 

 

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