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 ...


  1. Hi Frankie - am still very much enjoying your blog. I check in every week or two to see if there is a new post. I love the look of these knitting books - especially the one with colour illustrations and would love to see more of your collection!

    1. I shall definitely show you some more books then! If you would like my spare copy of the book with the colour illustrations email me your address and I'll send it to you. You can copy and paste my email address from my 'about me' page on this blog.

  2. Hello Frankie, I recently discovered your blog via another one I was reading and I very much enjoy it. I just thought I would tell you about a book I've had foe many many years. It's called "A Treasury of Knitting Patterns" by Barbara G Walker. It's not as old as yours (1968) but it has hundreds of stitch patterns, most of which I've used in garments etc. Over the years. It begins with a quotation from Proverbs which I think is really appropriate for all crafters.. " she seeketh wool, and flax and worketh willingly with her hands" Lovely isn't it?

    1. I use the Barbara Walker treasuries a lot too. There is so much in each of them, although I tend to use the first one most. Lots more patterns than you get in modern stitch dictionaries too. And yes, that quotation is very apt. I might do a blog post about Barbara Walker now that you've reminded me of her. Also, so you know the two Mary Thomas books?

  3. No I haven't but the black and white pictures so reminded me of my treasury that I just had to comment!

  4. I love seeing/learning about old knitting books!

    1. Oh good, I'll have to dig out some more to show you then.

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