Things have been busy around here with the Spring City of Craft, the COStyle event, sales and renovations in the studio.
I feel really grateful for all of the interest in my work. I thought I would talk a bit about how I fell into knitwear. Its a meandering personal story, so I'll post it in two parts. I hope you enjoy it.
We lived in England until I was nine. I vividly remember picking out plastic purple barrettes in Tesco’s to go with my purple pinafore. They came in a rainbow of colours fixed to a small branded card and were PERFECT FOR MY ENTIRE WARDROBE. The importance of coming out of Tesco’s with the barrettes was totally disproportionate with their actual usefulness. Throughout my childhood and teenage years I had a lot of emotional responses to colours, shapes and forms when it came to fashion. Our house was in the Cotswolds, a particularly picturesque part of rural England in which we were living the early 80’s dream of British hippie family life. Dad was a clockmaker and mum was a weaver. And EVERYTHING WAS HOMEMADE.
Mum used to sew the majority of our clothes. She would sew what pleased her or sew in sets to save time so my sisters and I would end up with a wardrobe born of whimsy, frugality and colour experimentation. Depending on my age this was either fabulous or really terrible. There was a lot of lovely pinwale corduroy with paisleys and printed folklorish patterns. As well as classic liberty florals sewn into pinafores, frocks and matching accessories. Granny would round out this utterly British look with Fairisle cardigans and matching knitted accessories. In fact both grannies knitted us all manner of warm cozy sweaters. The house was full of floral and checked dresses, hand knit cardigans, and freshly pressed linens.
As I grew older, I felt the siren call of mass produced clothing. The sort of which everyone in Canada, my new home, had. Everyone wore matching tracksuits with Thundercats and He-man on the front. The girls wore miniskirts and scrunchies. All that fabulous custom made clothing my mother made was suddenly jarringly uncool and my new vocabulary was miniskirts, leggings, printed sweatshirts and jeans. 100% of this ready to wear clothing fit my broad shoulders and tiny hips terribly.
I got my first sewing machine at a fairly early age. Whether it was because I was actually interested in sewing or I just wanted to imitate my mum, I cant remember but I did have one by age ten. It was a Singer hand crank sewing machine. At first I made outlandish costumes and home organizers. But later I began to sew myself summer clothes as well as refitting my ready to wear garments. By the time I was in grade 10 I was sewing all the time and making clothes for one day, which were refashioned the next and so on.
One year my granny gifted me a bunch of her custom clothing from the late 1950’s. It fitted me so well, in all the right spots. Wearing it transformed my idea of ‘vintage’ and ‘fashion,’ as well, my curiosity grew about how fashion could evolve structurally alongside cultural change. Grannies dresses from the 1950’s were both like and very unlike the dresses I wore as a child and I wondered why that was.
At this point, I went to university for fashion design. It was permission for everyday to be like Halloween, even more so than high school. I enjoyed showing off my design and tailoring prowess while at the same time hating all of the classes. The schools teaching structure managed to strip away all of the positive feelings about sewn fashion in favour of a rigid type of industry standard. My intuitive, sewn pieces seemed at odds with the teachers marking processes. It was around this time that I took up knitting and crochet.
I have some more lovely images from Lavori Di Maglieria and Revue Du Tricot (produced by Dubied) circa 1927. There is something light and airy about them that reminds me of spring, even the winter ones! I think it is the bold colour use and the graphic quality of trees and landscapes in the background.
There are many technical pages, graphs and pattern suggestions in the magazines too and I'm thinking about compiling them into a large PDF for inspiration and professional use.
I just love vintage knitwear and I want to share these with you. These images are from issues of Lavori Di Maglieria a magazine published quarterly by Dubied. They also come with instructions for making up and some of the textures are just beautiful. What struck me in these issues were the dresses and coats that expressed volume in a knit. I have a feeling this is to do with the manufacture of circular knitting machines and the use of knit in yardage form. There were also some lovely posters type advertisements for new machinery and here you see a real shift from the cottage industry N series Dubied machines to factory level production.
Business wise I have been extremely busy. So much so it has been hard maintaining an online presence while so much real world activity takes place. I am so thankful for that success, activity and busy-ness! However I post daily on instagram: annakari_knitwear if you would like to see what I am up to and really just want to post items of significance on the blog when I feel excited about them. I'll have some Revue De Tricot to post soon which are from the 1920's and I hope to make time to discuss carriage servicing, repair and cleaning. Recently I had the pleasure of doing a CLA on a 1930's knitting machine. I had to lean on my dad to repair some built force trauma on the Cam plates and I've really learned a lot about various carriage structures.
I'm currently finalizing my SS15 samples and I don't think I've ever felt this excited about a collection. I have been working really hard on creating complex lace patterns and it really has paid off!
I hope you enjoy these images and learn something from them.
Pattern drafting and sewing technology:
1. Fabrics and Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich
2. Metric Pattern Cutting for Womens Wear by Winifred Aldrich
1. Fashioning Apollo by Nicholas de Monchaux
2. Vionnet by Betty Kirke
3. Narciso Rodriguez by Rodriguez and Betsy Berne
4. Fashion in a Time of Fascism by Maria Lupano
5.Christian Lacroix on Fashion by Lacroix
Lately I've had some blog and PM queries about the differences between hand flat knitting machine brands, as well as between knitting carriages, capabilities and how to decipher the inscriptions on knitting machines. Its all very nitty gritty and technical but if you are a buyer looking to get the 'right' machine then nitty gritty is pretty important. I thought we'd start with machine bed inscriptions.
Machine bed inscriptions are engraved sets of information located on the front left of the metal needle bed. They designate: model #, needle bed length (usually in centimetres) and gauge # expressed in either metric or English.
So model#, bed length, and gauge. Lets start with model #. Some Dubied models are MM, MR, NF2, NHF2, N4, NF4, NHF4
(some other brands of machine are: Santagostino, Cabo, Protti, Cabo and Stoll).
In the case of Dubied's, the M series were made in the 1930's and 40's they were simpler machines with very little patterning ability. The N series were produced in the late 1940's onwards. They had the ability to slip or tuck certain stitches based upon a more complex carriage configuration. The N signified the model line, the HF signified the ability to slip and tuck with particular carriage cams and the 2 or 4 signified the number of yarns the machine was capable of changing using yarn holders.
Machine bed length and gauge:
Metric guage indicates the distance between needles in tenths of a millimetre and English gauge indicates the number of needles per inch. English gauge is the most common expression of gauge used in industrial knitting parlance today. Metric is commonly found on pre-1940's knitting machines so sometimes converting gauge measures becomes necessary. Gauge can be expressed as 32 metrically or 8 needles per inch in English gauge as seen in the chart below.
Some common knitting bed lengths are 120cm and 100cm. 120cm long beds are great for wider projects or larger size panels.
I've also got some fun pictures from another set of Lavori Di Maglieria. Enjoy!
It really feels like fall here in Canada. We've got that rainy, wet leafy vibe going on. But I love that. Maybe I'm a knitwear designer because I love fall so much? Check out my new work here. I'm excited about the triangle mittlets and scarves. They will be up on my big cartel storefront soon.
I've also had some requests for manuals and it seems like a fine time to just start offering my Dubied manuals as photocopied bound books to those interested. You can go here for that.
I have some fun posters to share. Poster design for proprietary magazines and knitting machine model promotion would have been very important in the 1930's to 1960's. It appears a number of these are from 1954. The graphics in these posters are sometimes fabulous and sometimes halarious. I love the Dubied mascot, the lady dreaming of machines, random cats and babies ....and of course, the world tipping its hat to Dubied.
In other news, I just received a gauge 7 Dubied intarsia machine. I am busy cleaning that and finalizing my fall catalogue.
I've decided to create an industrial knitting F.A.Q. on my website. Recently I've received an unprecedented level of emails asking me specific questions about industrial knitting machines, model types, parts and more. Like 30 emails a week! I've had some great conversations with people from Australia, Switzerland, England, Scotland, New Zealand, Argentina and more. Some of these conversations have been a great learning experience for me too! I remain committed to the sharing of my knowledge however I think, a F.A.Q. will help with some of the basic questions I get.
You can find this F.A.Q. here. Recently I uploaded an industrial knitting book to the same page with additional information on the Autocam accessory I have previously posted about.
Generally speaking please don't contact me asking to teach you everything I know about industrial knitting machines. Its not fair to me. However, I love the community of sharing knowledge and love to answer specific questions if I can. My hope is that although my focus remains on my business, that the wiki spaces will become more useful and comprehensive in their content:)
Anna is a Hamilton based knitwear and textile practitioner blogging about her collection development as well as pre-1950's knitwear technology.
amy lawrence designs