Vintage Verity

Somewhere in the middle of writing Code Name Verity I started knitting, using patterns from the 1940s. It was part obsession, part procrastination. The projects grew tentacles and the obsessions started suckering like wild roses, and came to include purchases of 60-year-old pens and antique underwear. Occasionally I've posted photos of some of this stuff on my blog, but now, for the first time, they are gathered here in one place... on an ongoing basis. Share and enjoy!

The WAAF Doll and the Diddy Things

Bestway 947 Knitted WAAF dolls
The WAAF doll from the front
The WAAF doll from the back
WAAF doll accessories - heaset, map and courier bag
WAAF doll accessories - ration books
WAAF doll accessories - Players cigarrettes

(originally posted 21 September 2011)

For the uninitiated, WAAF stands for Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (and it's pronounced waf to rhyme with laugh if you're American, or to rhyme with caff' if you're British).  Another friend (not the knitting one) sent me this knitting pattern for my birthday last year.

I’m pretty sure she picked it up here at the Vintage Knitting Lady again.

http://thevintageknittinglady.com/toypatterns.html

I have actually made 3 dolls using this pattern (more or less), each one departing further from the original ‘Finella, Knitting Expert of Wife and Home Magazine’ pattern.  (I do not know if Finella is a real person.  But I have followed a couple of her patterns.)  This first doll I made as a gift.  She is about 12 inches tall.  And here she is.   I don’t know why I started on the Accessories.  But I kinda went accessory crazy. (Actually, until I looked these pictures up, I had forgotten how much cool stuff I made her.)  The pencils, lipstick and cigarettes are all made out of toothpicks.  The headset is made out of a pair of Continental earbuds (we have got a collection of about 4 dozen of these useless objects).

Make Do and Mend…

Knitted on a gazillion UK size 12 needles (2.75 mm / US size 2).  The pattern keeps requiring you to leave legs, bits of tunic, skirts, etc. ‘on a spare needle.’  I think it calls for ‘oddments’ of yarn, and I did not actually purchase any specially to make this, although I did use an entire ball of Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino ‘French Navy’ (being a rather darker version of Air Force Blue) for the uniform, which was technically supposed to be earmarked for my Finella WAAF pullover.  As a result I think I had to buy some more.  The hair is embroidery floss.

 

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The Verity Sweater

Verity's Sweater - I preferred this Bestway 1963 vintage knitting pattern
Verity's sweater - My friend preferred this Bestway 1605 vintage knitting pattern
The author Elizabeth Wein modelling her handknit Verity Sweater
Elizabeth Wein modelling her Verity Sweater and non-regulation wartime skirt

(originally posted 20 September 2011)

This was Knitting Project No. 2.  Its namesake sweater has a personality in its own right in CNV, but mine did not exist in reality until several months after the book was finished. 

There was some debate over what the sweater would actually look like. My knitting friend and I turned up this website, which provides a glory of 1940s knitting patterns from the UK available in PDF form:

http://www.theretroknittingcompany.co.uk/

I favored this pattern, Bestway 1963, and my friend favored Bestway 1605.

I believe that, like Text, the actual sweater is open to individual reader interpretation.  There is no definitive version and I chose mine based on the fact I thought it would look pretty good on me.

I made the skirt, too!  But it is from a modern pattern and technically doesn't conform to wartime standards in the UK because 1) it has a 'slide fastener' (ie, a zip), and 2) it has SEVEN SEAMS and you were ONLY ALLOWED TO HAVE SIX.   Full wartime dressmaking rules here: http://cargocultcraft.com/knowledge/wartime-austerity-restrictions-on-british-clothing/womens-and-girls-wear-dresses-jumpercardigan-suits-blouses-skirts-and-slacks/

Make Do and Mend...

I won’t post the sweater pattern here because it’s not free, but you can order a PDF from the address above for a reasonably low price.  I used UK size 10 & 12 needles as per the instructions, which are 3.25 mm / US 3 and 2.75 mm / US 2.  I bought old style UK needles for something stupid like 20 pence each at a charity shop.  The yarn requirement, however, was WAY out in terms of weight, length, whatever.  I am not a knitting blogger and I’m making this up as I go along, so believe me when I say I had to figure out THE HARD WAY how much yarn to use.  I ordered it in THREE goes and fortunately they were all from the same dye lot.  In the end, knitting to the exact instructions of this pattern, I used 10 balls of Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino (where one ball is 125 m / 50 g).  The color is ‘Burnt Orange’ and is now discontinued.

The buttons are Czech glass (but not vintage) from Pavi Yarns.

http://www.paviyarns.co.uk/shop/426/489/sub_1.htm

 

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Maddie's mittens

1940s knitted mitten pattern from the Victoria and Albert Museum
My own 1940s handknitted mittens

(originally posted 20 September 2011)

I'd not done any knitting for about 14 years when a friend pointed me to this pattern.  I worked on these mittens while writing the last half of CNV and came to associate them with Maddie Brodatt so strongly in my head that I put them in the novel.

The mittens turn out to be part of an up-to-the-minute trend in that they have flaps that flip back so you can free your fingers.

The pattern, and the first image reproduced here, are from a booklet called Essentials for the Forces by Jaeger Handknit, dating to the 1940s, available on the Victoria & Albert Museum website here (the pattern for Maddie's mittens is the PDF called "Mittens for Women"):

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/0-9/1940s-knitting-patterns/

The second image is of my finished mittens.  I wear them at my desk because my house is so dang cold.

Make Do and Mend...

For anyone who's actually interested in the knitting experience... This was the first time I used an old pattern - it dates to the 1940s.  The needles and yarn I used probably date to the 1970s.  It was also my first experience knitting in the round on 4 needles.  I actually really like doing this.  The pattern calls for "2 oz. of Jaeger "Super-Spun" ("J.S." Quality) Fingering, 4-ply (9d. per oz.), and 1 set of No. 13 Jaeger knitting needles with points at both ends."  I have no idea what "2 oz. of 4-ply" translates to in modern English, because the yarn I used was SO OLD it actually said on it "2 oz. 4-ply."  Likewise, I used an old set of British No. 13 needles.  I have since knit 2 more pairs of mittens like these, using 2.25 mm needles (US 1) and Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn (1 ball per mitten at 50 g / 125 m).

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