Tuesday, 18 July 2017

New Things

New thing number one:     Improvised Raddle

A raddle is basically a long piece of wood with posts sticking up to spread the warp when warping a loom. Proper ones are silly prices so I tried this thing that I bought at Dunelm Mill some time ago. I can't remember what it's meant to be used for but I think I found it in the kitchen department. Anyway it only cost a couple of pounds and it worked. You could cut out the middle bars and use both sides next to each other for wider warps too.

New thing number two:     Bobbin Winder

This one is the real thing, made by Ashford. Again, you can improvise with drills and suchlike but I decided to go for this one. I got fed up with always having to reload my stick shuttles when weaving with thin yarn so decided to try a boat shuttle. Which leads me to the next new thing.

New thing number three:     Boat Shuttle

This is an 8" shallow Swedish style boat shuttle, made by Bluster Bay and supplied by The Handweavers Studio. Here it is in action at the start of a new scarf. It's definitely quicker and easier to use than a stick shuttle. I bought some paper quills to go with it (these take the place of a bobbin) but I think I shall make my own too. I did read somewhere that you can use drinking straws ...

See that stitched edge above the paper? That's my first attempt at hemstitching.

New thing number four:     Curtains

These aren't at all exciting but they took me three days to make and hang so I'm glad to have finished them. The windows are triple width - think of a bay window flattened - so I had to use two lengths for each curtain and then I lined them with blackout material (having discovered that you can get it in cream as well as black). The worst thing about making curtains for this house is adjusting the length. It's all very well measuring from the floor but my floors aren't level and nor are the windows. This time there was only a few inches difference from one side of the window to the other; when I made floor length curtains for the front room there was a 6" height difference across the window.

See that table in the corner? That's not at all new, being a Regency Card table from the early 19th Century but I only bought it last year. The top opens out to make a big square table, just right for cutting fabric on. I was looking for a desk to fit that alcove when I found this one at Brackley Antiques Centre for about the same price that a new table of that size would have been. I do love old things.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Margaret Murray & Jane Koster

Today I thought you might like to see some of my old knitting books, published by Odhams Press in the middle of the 20th Century.

These were all written by Margaret Murray and Jane Koster, sisters-in-law who started out running a child model agency and then became prolific knitting designers. As well as collaborating on knitting books, they also designed patterns for many of the big yarn houses of the day and were pioneers in the study of knitting history. I learnt all this from Richard Rutt's A History of Hand Knitting which, by the way, is a book that should be on every knitter's bookshelf.

The Murray and Koster books all have very similar titles: 'Practical Knitting Illustrated', 'Modern Knitting Illustrated', 'Knitting Illustrated' ... you get the idea. They also all have lovely endpapers on a knitting theme.

'one plain, one purl' - I like that one

Before looking inside, here's a tip for dating these books. If you look at the line of text giving the printer's details (this is often at the very end of the book) you will see a short series of letters and numbers. The numbers give the month and year of printing.

So, this book was printed in the tenth month of 1946 - October 1946.

Although the books are of their time with lots of patterns for knitted vests and swimsuits, there are also many timeless designs that would be fun to try now.

This shawl would not just be 'appreciated by the older woman' today

Not quite sure why she's reading with her gloves on but the pattern's nice

I particularly like old patterns for baby clothes and isn't this spread beautifully designed?

Many of the books have features on stitch patterns ...

... and also some crochet patterns.

Should you want to look for these lovely books, they often turn up in charity shops and secondhand bookshops or ... you could start your collection with one of my books.

Owing to a combination of never having my list with me when I see these books and the titles being so similar, I have an extra copy of two of the Murray and Koster books.  
The first one is 'Practical Family Knitting Illustrated', printed in 1946.

This one is unusual in that it has colour illustrations. As you might guess from the title, there are 62 patterns for all the family, divided into four sections - one for each season. There's also a short chapter on the 'Principles of Knitting and Crochet' but no stitch patterns in this one. I couldn't find any crochet patterns either.

The second book is 'Practical Knitting Illustrated' printed in 1940.

As you can see, this one has the normal black and white illustrations. There are 75 designs, including some crochet patterns and a few toys and things for the home. There's also an excellent section at the back of the book with advice on adapting patterns for different shapes and sizes and quite a few stitch patterns too. I think this book has a better variety than the other one but of course those colour pictures are lovely.

Anyway, if you would like one of these two books, just leave a comment at the end of this post, telling me which one you'd prefer. First come, first served and I'm afraid I can only send the books within the UK, owing to the cost of the postage. If, once they've got their books, the recipients would like to make a donation to my fundraising page for the Children's Liver Disease Foundation, then that would be very nice but is not compulsory.

Let me know if you've enjoyed this post and would like to see more of my old knitting books. I have some that are about 170 years old ...

Friday, 7 July 2017

A Tale of Two Plays

In the last month I've been to see two plays at the RSCVice Versa at the Swan and Titus Andronicus at the main theatre.

As you can see from the programmes, they were a bit different. 'Vice Versa' is a new play, written by Phil Porter and described as a 'side-splitting comedy romp', inspired by the Roman playwright Plautus. On the other hand, 'Titus Andronicus' is famously the Shakespeare play with the highest body count (which is saying something). I leave you to guess which one I was looking forward to most ...

... which just goes to show how wrong you can be. 'Vice Versa' has had good reviews and most of the audience seemed to love it but it left both me and my son cold. There was no plot, no character development and the jokes were tediously predictable. For those of you of a certain age, think of a combination of 'Up Pompeii' and a 1970s panto. The production was excellent as were the actors but oh dear, what a play! We were still glad we'd gone as it gave us hours of conversation, trying to work out why it was so bad.

Now for 'Titus Andronicus'. This is one of the plays I don't know so I read it before going to see the play. Well ... there are three hands and one tongue cut off, a double rape and so many murders I lost count. By the time I finished reading I was feeling slightly sick. I knew that the play would be better though; for anyone who thinks Shakespeare is difficult, do go and see it live - it will all make sense in the theatre.

It's always interesting to see how each play is staged. Having seen 'Julius Caesar' and 'Antony and Cleopatra' this year which were both in Roman dress, I had assumed that this one would be too. Instead, Rome's Capitol was distinctly reminiscent of the White House, complete with podium, microphone and Secret Service men talking into their radios. The microphone itself almost stood in for the Emperor's crown (or should that be laurel wreath?) and the Emperor Saturninus himself was brilliantly played by Martin Hutson as an immature and needy politician.

Yes, there was a lot of blood, but what was most chilling was the build up to the various murders with the actors becoming increasingly frightened as their fate became apparent. Hannah Morrish's performance as Lavinia crawling on to the stage after her brutal rape was incredibly moving. There was complete silence from the audience as she flinched away from her uncle and brother.

And, as is always the case with Shakespeare, there was humour, often involving members of the audience as the actors broke the tenison by speaking to them directly (word of advice - if audience participation isn't your thing, don't sit in the front row of the stalls at the RSC). We were also amused by the man in the front row who, each time he was handed the 'baby' by the actor playing Lucius, hurriedly passed it on to the woman sitting next to him! It was quite a realistic baby but even so ...

All in all, it was a fantastic play and gave us lots to think about. As my son pointed out, with all those deaths there wasn't a single suicide which was interesting given that it was a Roman play. There was lots of pleading for mercy which, in many other Shakespeare plays, would have had some effect but which never did here. And that led to more murders as each one served as revenge for the last.

So, that's the two most recent plays I've seen. We've booked our tickets for the Winter season now and will be going to see Coriolanus and Twelfth Night, as well as Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage and Kingdom Come which is a new play set in the English Civil War. Next month we're going to see Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare's poem, performed with the help of puppets. Lot's of interesting stuff there.