Vintage Knitting, Retro Dressmaking, Make do and Mend, Original and Vintage Inspired Knitting Patterns, Vintage Inspired books

Friday, April 17, 2015

Knits from the Madding Crowd

Last night I watched the trailer for the new version of Far from the Madding Crowd staring Carey Mulligan and Tom Sturridge as Bathsheba and Troy. The 1967 film adaption of the Thomas Hardy novel, starring Julie Christie, Terence Stamp and Alan Bates as Gabriel,  is without doubt one of my favourite films. One Sunday afternoon at about the age of twelve I watched the film for the first time. I fell passionately in love and lust with Terence Stamp - a love that lasts to this day. He was responsible for a dangerous desire for dark eyed, skinny, effete, hedonistic, beautiful bad boys that got me into a heap of trouble over the years!

 Looking for images of Stamp in the film to share with my daughter whose passion is understandably for Sturridge, I stumbled across some fabulous images of Stamp in knitwear and moving on I discovered a link between the casts of both films and that link is the chaps have all modelled knitwear!

These amazing intarsia jumpers were modelled by Stamp with his model girlfriend, Jean Shrimpton for a European fashion magazine.

Next I found several images of the equally sexy Alan Bates modelling the 'Country Man' look.

And again in this gorgeous, chunky cardigan

Tom Sturridge started his career as a model and wears a lot of cool knits but here he is in a particularly spectacular jumper.

Finally, to round off our look at chaps connected with Far from the Madding Crowd would you believe I found a picture of 'Thomas' Hardy in knitwear! Wearing both a cardigan and a Fair Isle sleeveless pullover at the same time.

And here he is..

OK, that's Tom Hardy not Thomas Hardy but do I really need an excuse to show Hardy in a cardi?

So, for now,

Susan xx

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

The lovely Maya at Knit With Attitude in Stoke Newington, has long been a stockist and supporter of all things Susan Crawford Vintage. In fact, when I announced the pre orders for for the republication of A Stitch in Time volume 1,  Maya was one of the first retailers to get in touch and pre order the book.

Many emails have passed forwards and back but we have never managed to meet. However, on Saturday 25th April I will be presenting a talk at the shop, "Looking Back and Looking Ahead". The talk begins at 1pm and is completely free, although booking is required as space is limited.

So what is the talk all about?

I will be looking at my career to date paying particular attention to the long life of A Stitch in Time volume 1 - now in its 7th year of publication. I will have a selection of samples, old and new, for people to look at and try on and I will also explain how I have approached the recreation of these garments.

Then we will be looking ahead to the forthcoming publication of The Vintage Shetland Project which in collaboration with The Shetland Museum, has taken over three years to date and will finally be published in October of this year. I will have with me a small and very secret selection of some of the items being knitted for the book and I will share an insight into the work that's gone and is still going, into the project.

There will then be a general Susan Crawford Vintage trunk show celebrating the introduction of Fenella to the Knit With Attitude range of Susan Crawford yarns.

I hope to see some of you there!

for now,
Susan xx

Friday, April 03, 2015

Finish A Long - Sewing up Seams on my Land Army Jumper

Heavens! It has been almost exactly a month since I last blogged. March came in like a lion and despite the arrival of lambs, it did not go out like a lamb. It raged and roared all month long and it proved a tough 31 days to get through! Now as the Easter weekend is with us, the daffodils are finally beginning to flower and we have actually had two or three dry, sunny if cold days. On one of those unexpectedly nice days we finally had a long overdue photoshoot so that I could finally prepare for the launch of several patterns. One of those is my Land Army Jumper. 

Knitted in Excelana 4 ply in most appropriately, Land Army Green, it is already my most favourite of jumpers. You can get the yarn directly from my website here. You'll need between 6 and 9 balls depending on the size you're knitting. The heavily textured cable pattern creates warmth and the very stretchy nature of the stitch creates a very flattering, form fitting shape. Increases worked at the side seams enhances this neat fit. A looser option can be worked by casting on more stitches at the beginning and working straight to the underarm. The V-neck makes the jumper wearable indoors as well as out and is the perfect depth to wear with either a blouse or t-shirt underneath or it can also be worn on its own.

I've teamed the jumper here with my reproduction land army dungarees from Apple Tree Lane Costumery which I absolutely love. I wear them regularly for farm 'duties'. They are comfortable, warm and very practical. I opted for a ready made pair rather than custom made but now I have this pair and understand where I may need little fitting tweeks, I may very well get a second pair made to measure.

The completed pattern for the Land Army Jumper should be available in a few days time but as part of the Finish A Long on my ravelry group I promised to share some of the details of the finishing techniques involved in sewing up a jumper knitted in flat pieces.

The Land Army Jumper has four pieces. The back, front and two identical sleeves. Because it is a cable and rib pattern there is no need to press the pieces before starting to sew up. In fact you would flatten out the pattern if you did so. 

The first step in the finishing process is to sew together the shoulder seams. The shoulder shaping in this pattern is created by casting off a percentage of the shoulder stitches at the beginning of each of the next 8 rows creating a sloping cast off edge going downwards from the back neck to the armhole edge. By creating the seam in this way small ‘steps’ occur along the length of the shoulder seam. There are a number of alternative ways to approach the shoulders but for today I am going to simply look at sewing together this type of stepped shoulder. 

On this particular pattern, one of the things to look out for is the obvious pattern of knit stitches and purl stitches. It is essential when joining the front and back pieces together that the knit stitches are matched to each other and the same with the purl stitches. No matter how neatly you may sew up the seam if the stitches are out of line the shoulder will look unsightly. In the first instance I always pin the seams with right sides together so that I can adjust until everything is lined up correctly. Most importantly for a neat seam is to create a smooth diagonal sewing line - DO NOT follow the contours of the steps. If you are in anyway unsure about your sewing abilities sew a line of running stitches along this line using sewing thread and fairly large, easily removable stitches. Remove the pins as you go. Now you can follow this nice, straight line when you sew up properly. For a garment of this weight I would always use the same yarn as I knitted with. I cut a length of the yarn sufficient to complete the entire seam and thread it through a ‘sewing up’ needle.

I have a whole host of sewing up needles of different lengths and eye sizes, some sharp and some more blunt. I have one or two favourites however which I use for most sewing tasks. One of the most important things to remember when sewing through your knitted pieces is not to sew through the stitches. ALWAYS take the needle between stitches. If for any reason you have ever had to take sewing up out after breaking through any stitches you will know how dreadful a task this can be! This applies regardless of what stitch or technique you are using.

For shoulder seams of this type I would always use back stitch. It creates a very strong seam which gives the rest of the garment strength and structure. As a rule I start at the back neck edge and work downwards towards the armhole. Leave a length at the beginning to reinforce the first couple of stitches. Start by working a couple of stitches in the same position then remembering to follow a straight diagonal line, begin to work your way along the shoulder.

Take your needle down through both layers of knitting between the stitches and come back up one stitch along. Pass your needle back down through the work half a stitch back, and come up half a stitch ahead. Continue in this manner all the way along the seam. Reinforce at the end in the same way as at the beginning then weave the end in back through 2 or 3 stitches before cutting off. Rethread your needle to the length left at the beginning and weave this end through 2 or 3 stitches then cut off.

And voila, your shoulder is complete. Now follow the same process for the second shoulder. Our next step is picking up stitches around the neck which I will take you through in a couple of days time.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot similarities between this jumper and ‘The Warm Jumper’ in A Stitch in Time volume 2 and indeed the Land Army Jumper is based on this, with a different cable pattern and some tweeks to the fit, construction and number of sizes available, but I’ll have more on this when I publish the pattern shortly. We had an absolutely fantastic time on the photoshoot for this jumper and got so so many beautiful photographs that its going to be hard to choose just a few for the pattern pages. In addition we had 'publicity' photos of the two of us on the farm done and I just wanted to share this photo from the shoot with you. Here's me and Gavin having a chat over the farm gate during the shoot with me in my Land Army jumper and Gavin in his Wartime Farm Sleeveless Pullover. This photo just makes me so happy!

'sew' for now
Happy Finishing!

Susan xx

All images Copyright ©Susan Crawford Vintage 2015

Thursday, March 05, 2015

What a difference a year makes

A whole year has passed since we made our move to our hill farm in the North Lancashire countryside and what a year it has been. We have experienced tremendous highs - shearing our own sheep, growing our own food, seeing chicks hatch from eggs, incredibly busy periods for the business - and also unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, some lows - foxes taking our lovely young ducks, my studio blowing down in gale force winds, stock (as in wool) being damaged, incredibly busy periods for the business (Bizarrely both a high and a low as those busy periods have proved hard to deal with to be honest).

Sometimes it has felt like taking one step forward then two steps back but there hasn't been a single moment when I haven't been glad we took the plunge and made the move. When I view our initial two year plan I almost laugh out loud at our optimism and naivety and we are only now at the beginning of our second year really beginning to address the plan at all. But when I wake up of a morning and look out of my window at the fields, at the weather, at the wildlife, at our home, I cannot help but be happy. Yes the amount of work we have to do is frankly, insurmountable, and we have next to no free time and I can't remember the last time I wore nail varnish, and the books I am reading are all about sheep illnesses or the correct grass seed to use but I have never been more content in my life.

When people visit the farm or even just drop off a parcel, they stop half way down the drive and stare into the distance. Without exception they are filled with awe and tell us they could remain in the same spot all day just absorbing the scene. And after a year this is still how it makes me feel. It often overwhelms me completely and I feel moved to tears. I have butterflies in my stomach as I let nature seep through my skin and into my being. I am still struggling to channel these feelings and use them creatively but that will come.

A good friend pointed out how much my colour choices in my work had been affected by our location. She is right and yet I hadn't even noticed. Maybe this is how it will happen. I won't see the changes in me, I won't know the impact but others will. And that's fine.



So for now,
Susan xx

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Finish A Long

Over on my ravelry group we have decided to run a Finish a long. Like a Knit a long but with the emphasis on completing projects that have been languishing at the bottom of your knitting bag or hiding behind the sofa. Often the project is almost complete. All the pieces knitted but just not sewn together or the button band or neck band hasn't been picked up and knitted or the final blocking and dressing simply hasn't been done. Many of us fail to to take the final steps to finishing a project because we don't like the process and this is usually because we don't feel confident enough about the techniques we need to use or about the results we're going to get.

To assist both my ravelry group members and anyone else staring at that ever growing pile of unfinished objects (or UFOs as Rachel Matthews astutely refers to them) I thought I would share some projects of my own that have been awaiting completion for one reason or another.

Today I'm going to introduce you to two jumpers I am going to finish over the next few days. Both are knitted in four pieces - front, back and two sleeves - one from A Stitch in Time volume 1 and the other from A Stitch in Time volume 2. Whilst they have a lot of similarities, they each have a number of complications which could and often do, put knitters off embarking on the finishing.

The first garment is "It Cannot Fail to Please" from A Stitch in Time volume 1. This jumper has been knitted for display purposes and uses Excelana 4 ply in Damson Wine.

It is knitted in an all over lace stitch which causes the knitting to draw together and also to curl inwards at the sides. The pieces will require pressing to open out and reveal the pattern but also to make sewing up easier.

The jumper also has armholes and sleeve heads which don't really look like they belong together. We need to find a way to make the sleeve fit into the armhole neatly and correctly.

To further complicate matters you can see from the image above that once pressed the pattern creates wavy edges at the side seams, up the armhole edges and on the sleeves so we need to decide how best to deal with this and what methods will provide the most appropriate seams.

This can all seem a little daunting but it really isn't as difficult as it may sound and hopefully the techniques I use for this jumper will help you with any similar projects you may be working on.

The second project I need to finish over the next few days is "The Warm Jumper" from A Stitch in Time volume 2. I knitted this jumper for myself using Excelana 4 ply in Land Army Green and it should have been for me to wear this winter but time constraints have meant the pieces have sat on the finishing shelf for several months waiting to be sewn together.

This jumper has an all over cable and rib pattern which I have adapted slightly from the version in the book as I wanted a denser knit for added warmth and so created a different looking pattern but otherwise it is knitted exactly as the original. It is again knitted in four separate pieces, front back and two sleeves. Again you can see from the photo of the finished jumper above how much more open the fabric needs to be to reveal the pattern properly. The side and sleeve seams are smooth on this jumper but on this occasion it has stepped shoulder shaping on the front and back pieces which need to be sewn together neatly and the pattern matched.

In addition stitches need to be picked up around the somewhat wiggly V neck shaping to create a ribbed neck band. I know from many years of teaching Finishing Techniques around the country that many people really dislike picking up stitches because the finished effect is untidy but I can assure you that this certainly shouldn't be the case.

The other main concern is again fitting the sleeve neatly into the armhole. With the clear vertical lines of the pattern its really important to ensure that the sleeve is lined up correctly otherwise the pattern will be visibly skewed.

The finishing of these two garments will cover many of the issues that arise when projects are being sewn up but if there is anything else you would like me to cover over the period of the Finish A Long just leave a comment here on the blog and I'll do my best to answer it in a future post.

I'll be beginning with the basic tools I use for finishing garments then we will start with the Warm Jumper and will be looking first of all at sewing up stepped shoulder seams and some tips to avoid them and picking up stitches around the neckline.

If you would like extra encouragement or would like the opportunity to win a prize for the best finishing tip or the best finishing why not join us on the ravelry group here where you'll find all the details of the FAL. If you're not already, simply join the group and then you can take part in the Finish A Long.

for now,
Susan xx