When I heard that my new book, Knitting Everyday Finery, was going to be published in the UK, I was excited for a number of reasons.
Like many New Zealanders, I’m an Anglophile. I love……… teapots, shortbread, Liberty, Rowan, Paul Smith, Tricia Guild, Boden, the list goes on. One of my best friends lives in Acton. We feel related to you over there. It’s in our blood. My ancestors came here from Wiltshire and Perth in the 1850s, so you’d think that would be time enough to brush off the influence of the old country, but a few generations later we’ve not lost our sense of belonging to British culture.
We love to knit, and we do most of it the British way. Amongst the piles of knitting paraphernalia that I inherited from my mother, a prolific knitter, there are English patterns that date back 80 years.
Here’s what my grandmother’s generation was knitting
English Woman’s Weekly was the crafts bible of my childhood. My Mum had a subscription and it was a red-letter day when each new copy arrived and with it, a new knitting design. Many were fabulous, like a matching aran sweater and mini skirt that I knitted during lunch times at school, and which taught me to cable.
Here’s a 1950s Women’s Weekly from my Mum’s stash
and a knitting supplement
and this is what she made
I learned to knit English, used English terms and abbreviations, so it was a shock when I opened my knitting shop in California and discovered I had to learn a new language: ssk, yo, inches (who knew those that threw the tea in the Boston Harbour would still be adhering to imperial measurements?), and a completely new system of needle sizes.
These days the knitting world is very multi-cultural and most knitters are familiar with all the different methods and terms, but recently I was reminded that not everyone is. One of my patterns was featured in the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly (yes, we now have our very own), and several elderly ladies have telephoned me with a pressing question: “Dear, can you tell me what does it mean to ssk?”
Here are my mother’s “beehive” bakelite yarn holders from the 1950s