Thursday, November 29, 2007

Stash Haus, you’ve sold me. I’m going to order some Manos Silk today. Follow the link, people, for a lovely virtual tour of the Blackberry Ridge mill and a top down view of the cat I want: tortoiseshell and white. They’re not all that easy to find.

I had a successful if boring evening of i-cording. I’ve now finished the second short edge and have progressed perhaps two feet up the final long one. With a bit of pressure, I could get it finished today – ready to start on tidying the yarn ends.

Yesterday’s Knitting News was that Vogue Knitting Book No. 19 turned up – the specification on eBay said 2nd class post, and I didn’t write to her about it because she was selling six others the same evening – but she sent it 1st class anyway. That’s service. It’s in splendid condition, better than the photograph I posted here would suggest.

It was published in the autumn of 1941, when things must have been pretty grim. If I’m ever going to attempt a survey of Vogue-at-war I’ll need a companion volume of London-at-war to know what was going on in the background. The publisher’s address is given as 1, New Bond Street throughout.

(I must gaze at it reverently the next time we’re in London. The pursuit of art takes us up and down New Bond Street regularly, but I’ve never looked for Number One.)

The winter of 1939-40 was the winter of the “phoney war”, i.e., nothing much happened. Hitler made his move into the Netherlands in May, 1940, and the fall of France and Dunkirk and all that followed hard upon. Who was it? said when he heard the news from France, “So -- we’re in the Final.”

But the Blitz? When exactly? I have a sort of feeling that the bombing of London was very bad in '40-'41, tapered off somewhat in the later war years, and then was capped by the final horror of the doodlebugs.

Anyway: autumn, 1941. Vogue is never going to refer to specific events, but the war is on every page. Each pattern is tagged with the number of clothing coupons required. What a responsibility! – buying yarn in the knowledge that you’ve got to get it knit up promptly, and it’s got to be a good enough fit to be useful, or you’d have been better using the coupons for shoes.

(Coupon-free yarn was available for knitting for the troops. I’d have stuck to that, and to my stash, as I’m sure many did.)

Some peculiar yarns are coupon-free: “Greenwood’s rayon boucle”, “Greenwood’s Angel Skin Yarn” (what do you suppose that was?), “Copley’s Alpaca Loop”, “Greenwood’s Lightweight Chenille”, “Coats’ Crochet Cotton” (for stockings). By the date of the next issue (Spring ’42) all hand-knitting yarns were rationed.

The patterns, needless I hope to say, are Vogue through and through, all pretty knittable today with the addition perhaps of a little more ease. Vogue published knitting-for-the-troops in a separate publication. There is nothing of that here. “For walking, cycling, and the country life…” , “Here’s your new autumn sweater…” “Chic for wartime evenings.”


  1. Anonymous9:28 AM

    Born after the war, but heard a lot from my Mum - coupon-free "darning" wool was available, but it was cut into lengths of a good darning needle-full. About enough to knit one row, and many people did - a whole jumper! Very few people would have been able to afford a stash - it was: choose the wool, buy a couple of ounces and have the rest put aside. I was 16 before I met someone who had a fabric stash, and with wool there was the worry of, if you could afford to buy it and put it aside, you had to worry about moths.

  2. Anonymous9:30 AM

    Interesting to read your blog this morning Jean. Last night I made a blog entry, Knitting for Others, referring readers to the cover of Life Magazine November 24, 1941. A full size black and white photo of a woman puzzling over her knitting. You might be interested in the accompanying article which I found on a Washington State history site.

  3. I met a woman the other day, who was talking about the knitting she did during W.W.II. She made vests out of crochet cotton, apparently not then on coupons, on 1.5mm needles, so she could save hercoupons for more exciting knitting. Now there was dedication!

  4. I am fascinated by these Vogues. I would love to sit and look through them in order ... to get a real feel for the times in which they were published. Instead I will live vicariously through you and your wonderful descriptions. Thanks!

  5. there was a big shortage on everything during ww2 in england . my mother used to paint the seam on her stockings on here bare leg. well that is what she said. my uncle who had dollars after ww2 took my danish aunts to sweden to buy material for new clothes. danes were not allowed to buy anything abroad and he left for sweden with to slim girls and came back with two chubby ones due to the material for new clothes they had wrapped around their bodies.
    and they sure knew how to reuse and some learned to beaver big time afterwards.

  6. thanks for the "history" lesson -- we are so fortunate we are not in that situation here -- with rationing, and worse. It's amazing that the issues were even "put out."

    I'm reading a book "The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm" by Juliet Nicolson. Sort of fascinating but sad, as the author discusses the upper class and their lifestyles of that time, and then the changes that came about in/by the fall of 1911. I'm at the point of late summer in 1911 where she is talking about strikes, a more up and coming "egalitarian society," and how others were put out of work with the installation of electricity, toilets and stoves in big houses, not to mention the toll the war took on the country. It's almost like parts of the movie "Gosford Park" with gossip and trials and tribulations -- there was even a "tell it all book" that early by somebody famous' butler!

  7. Anonymous2:40 AM

    Jean, there is a book out (my edition is from the Folio Society) called Mass Observation--people who kept diaries during the war, which were then collected, I think--it arrived quite recently and I've not yet gotten to it. And Persephone has quite a list of books written during the war (before they knew how it would turn out)!

  8. Jean, Ken Burns did another phenomenal film - this time about WWII from the perspective of people living in 4 towns in the US. It's out on DVD and may be available at your local library or for rental at the video rental store. Check out

    Also, the next time you are in London, go to the Churchill War Rooms and check out the gift shop. They had tons of books re WWII, including cooking books during rationing, etc. I believe that if you are only visiting the gift shop, you could avoid paying admission. (Although if you haven't been, it's a very well done museum.)

    Glad you liked the tour of Blackberry Ridge!