Thursday, 13 July 2017

Vintage Special: Bletchley Park Knitting; Susan Crawford Shetland Update & Land Girl Jumper

Today's post is dedicated to recent news on all things vintage. The trend in scouring the archives for patterns from the 1920s - 1960s shows no sign of abating, with talented British designers rewriting old patterns to suit modern yarns and techniques and also creating new designs inspired by those of yesteryear.

Bletchley Park's call for hand-knit 1940s garments

The ground-breaking museum near Milton Keynes celebrates the secret intelligence and code breaking that took place there in World War 2. The exhibitions show how the emerging science of information technology changed the course of the war, with many rooms set out as they were during the 1939-1945 conflict.

In June the museum appealed for knitters to donate garments knitted using authentic 1940s patterns put on display and show what everyday sartorial life would have been like for the men and women who worked there. The appeal was so successful that applications are on hold for the moment. When the items are all on display at Bletchley Park, made famous by the 2014 film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the museum will be well worth another visit.

I visited in December 2014 and was delighted to see the knitting collection already there including the fabulous  'Please Knit Now' poster galvanising knitters to help the war effort.

15th July update - This fascinating article from atlasobscura tells of the wartime spies who used knitting as a tool for espionage.
Image courtesy of Susan Crawford

Susan Crawford's Vintage Shetland update

Knitting designer, writer and historian Susan Crawford is one of Britain's best known vintage knitting specialists. Sadly her latest much-awaited book, The Vintage Shetland Project, a collection of essays and patterns recreated from Shetland Museum's textile archives, had to be put on hold whilst Crawford was treated for breast cancer.

In her latest email to those who subscribed to her crowdfunding campaign to publish the book she revealed the good news that she is now feeling well enough to complete the project and it should be ready pre-Christmas.  Crawford also reveals that the book contains:
"More than 20 essays ... around 50,000 words all about Shetland knitters and designers, Shetland knitting history and the history of the island, fashion history, knitting history, the bigger picture featured in the first half of the twentieth century and the connections form these to the knitwear featured in the book." 
There will also be 25 patterns. I'm eagerly awaiting my copy and am sure the book will feature in many a vintage knitting fan's Christmas stocking this year.

The Knitter magazine's Land Girl jumper

Mavis image courtesy of The Knitter
When I spotted Penelope Hemingway's Mavis design in issue 112 of The Knitter magazine I immediately broke my 'no more yarn' rule and bought the 100% British yarn, Dovestone DK, from Brityarn taking advantage of their 10% off deal (which has now ended), to knit it with.

The pattern accompanies an article by Hemingway describing the life of Land Girls, young women who joined the Women's Land Army to work on farms during World War 2, and the clothes they were issued with.

Whilst Hemingway used the colour Eggcup to knit her jumper in I chose the dark olive green Dalby, reminiscent of the grass and greenery in the fields the Land Girls worked in.

The design is featured on Ravelry but cannot be bought there. If you can't find issue 112 in a newsagent then it can be purchased directly from the publishers here.


  1. What a delightful trend to rewrite the old knitting patterns and for knitters to be recreating them. Hope to visit Bletchley Park one day, enjoyed Imitation Game as well. I have started knitting small projects again for now. I really enjoyed your post, and please keep these interesting stories coming. Bext wishes, Pauline

  2. Thanks for your feedback Pauline - I'm really glad to hear you enjoyed the post.


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