Meet the Author
Hey there, can you introduce yourself?
Hello, I'm Liza - an ecologist by day, but in my spare time I'm an avid crafter, writer and lover of all things vintage, which I write about on my blog: http://thevintageknitter.blogspot.co.uk
Tell us a bit about the book?
Vintage Knitting is based on a book dating from 1941 called 'Knitting for All Illustrated' written by Margaret Murray and Jane Koster. Murray and Koster wrote a series of knitting books throughout the 1940s that provided the reader with both practical advice on wartime 'Make Do and Mend' and also a range of attractive knitwear patterns for all the family.
The Publisher and I thought it would be a good idea to reproduce facsimiles of a selection of the 1941 patterns along with an edited 'Principles of Knitting' chapter - also reproduced from the original book. However, as the 1941 the book had fifty-three patterns excluding variations and it wasn't feasible to include all these in my new version, they had to be whittled down to the final 18, which are a varied choice for all knitting abilities.
To complement the patterns I also wrote a chapter focussed on knitting and making do, but from a contemporary 1940s viewpoint. This involved reading and researching a pile of primary source material from the early 1940s such as needlecraft and women's interest magazines to get the feel for a 'voice' appropriate to the era.
So expect wearable, vintage knitwear patterns for both men and women such as the 'Fashionable Housecoat' for her and a 'Large Size Pullover' for him. The book also includes children's sock and glove patterns too.
What was the inspiration behind it?
The inspiration for the book comes from my collection of vintage knitting books and patterns and the fact that I have long been a fan of Murray and Koster's books. I also plundered my 'stitchery archives' as I call my collection, for pattern covers and magazine photos to illustrate the book with. Choosing the images to go into the book and writing the captions to accompany each one was a particular aspect that I really enjoyed.
Which is your favourite project?
Do I have to choose just one? Okay, it'll have to be the 'Two-colour Turban'. Its my favourite because its a very easy pattern for a novice knitter to begin with and would be perfect to wear with a vintage-style outfit.
What is your craft space like?
I work from a spare bedroom, which doubles up as my office/crafting/writing space. Looking around it now, its very untidy with things scattered around such as a sewing project that I'm halfway through, stacked boxes containing my yarn stash and a vintage glass display cabinet containing some of my fabrics and bits and bobs like a a pair 1960s shoes and a Victorian top hat. However, I'd love it to be a bit more organised, like the inspiring calm and collected crafting rooms that I see on other people's blogs and in magazines.
Have you always been creative?
Both my parents are very creative, so the crafting element has always been a part of my life in one way or another. In my teens and twenties I was really into painting and drawing, which later led to me taking lessons in stained glass; designing my own panels and translating the design into lead and glass. However, I only started knitting six years ago and have never looked back since. Its such a great craft and I find that I'm always learning new things and have made some wonderful friends through it too, so its a win-win situation all round!
When did you first start crafting?
The first thing I can really remember making was a pair of wooden pigs when I was eight for a school project. Dad helped me with this and I still have them today. More recently, my first knitted garment was a cardigan knitted from chunky wool. This was a quick and easy project and gave me a good grounding in the basics of knitting.
Who are your crafty heroes?
Apart from Margaret Murray and Jane Koster, I would have to say that the 'Rowan Knitting Magazines' published by Rowan Yarns since the mid 1980s were one of the earliest influences that eventually enticed me into learning to knit. I now collect these magazines and find that many of their patterns are still wearable today; in fact, I'm currently knitting a Fair Isle cardigan from Issue No. 4 dating from 1988.
Also, I must mention Kaffe Fassett as he is so inspirational in whatever craft he sets his hand to; be it knitting, tapestry, mosaics and so on.
Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration can occur anywhere - even in the bath! I often carry a noteboook about with me so that I can jot ideas down as and when they occur. Sometimes its nice to write in a different environment too without the distractions there are at home (like unfinished sewing projects!), so sitting in a cafe with a coffee and slice of cake and writing a few lines can be very rewarding.
Another form of inspiration comes in the shape of vintage magazines. I enjoy reading these as you can immerse yourself in the fashions, crafts, beauty hints and stories of a particular era. They're brilliant primary sources for knitwear designers too.
What's next for you?
I'd love to write another book along similar lines of Vintage Knitting. The combination of knitting and vintage lifestyle really appeals to me, so I'd better start scribbling away at some ideas in my notepad!
This vintage guide is based on Knitting For All, written by Margaret Murray and Jane Koster, published in 1941 - the same year in which clothes rationing was introduced. It was just one in a popular series of books written by Murray and Koster throughout the 1940s that provided not only a complete instructional guide to knitting, but also contained an assortment of patterns for the whole family. Apart from the knitting of new garments the book also focused upon the re-making and repairing of existing items, clearly reflecting the contemporary 'Make Do and Mend' ethos.
Following a quick introduction to the styles and spirit of the era, selections of their own charming knitting patterns - which typify this wartime austerity - are reproduced in their entirety in the latter part of this book. These clothes and accessories are still wearable some seventy years after they were first designed and can be easily knitted by the modern knitter (with the conversions provided). For the less experienced, and as rudimentary knitting skills have hardly changed since Knitting for All was first published, excerpts from the original 'Principles of Knitting' chapter that provide a basic 'How To Knit' guide are also included.
Patterns for the whole family include pullovers, cardigans, socks, scarves and gloves.