Knitting as Normal

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Knitting was still very ‘normal’ for me in the early 1980s using mainly Totem and Bluebell yarns, Patons and other traditional patterns. The Australian Wool Corporation had put out this splendid book and it rapidly became a favourite. It had a good range of Aran and Fair Isle designs and better still it had introductory stories about the knitting traditions from various places I’d heard of, and several that I hadn’t.

The wool shops in Canberra were still easy to find and the department stores especially had great ranges of ‘wool’. Most of the yarn then still was sheeps’ wool and ‘wool’ was what we called it. I always had a knitting project to work on, especially as the weather got cooler each year. I made garments for Mum and Dad, Ivan, Penny and Alex and me. Not many of our items from this era were photographed alas – just enough however for the record to show.

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That’s my father on the far left in his Fair Isle vest with Ivan in his Argyll vest. Don’t know the name of the model in the middle but it’s Ivan again on the right in a 5ply sweater with a fine cable feature. I was used to following patterns and it was satisfying to finish garments like these that fitted well, looked good and lasted well.

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From time to time we dressed up in silly gear – on this occasion we were off to a party with some cricket tragics to celebrate [or bemoan] the performance of the Australian cricket team of the time. The signs round our necks probably told more of the story but what I noticed when I found this lovely pic was Penny wearing her Argyll vest.

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In the early 2000s Patons contributed designs to the Yarn Art book edited by June Alexander. One was this classic Fair Isle vest etc featured in the middle. It was good to see it again. I’d made a version for Ivan in the mid 1980s. At about the same time I was making a feather and fan sweater for me in natural yarns that we’d bought in New Zealand a few years before. It was a real favourite. I think this picture was taken to celebrate finishing the black Totem raglan sweater that Alex is wearing.

I kept all the left over yarns from this era – particularly the Bluebell crepes. Each year Patons would change their colour range just a little so I had quite a collection along the way. At some stage I started using the left overs to make popcorn stitch motifs for a ‘yet to be determined’ project.

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For years they sat, apparently abandoned, strung together in the bottom of a box somewhere. From time to time I’d get them out and try to arrange them in combinations that pleased me but back they’d go for ‘later’. It wasn’t till another ‘later’ that I found an old Grannie Rug from a box of Mum’s, had a good look at it then realised that I’d been trying too hard. Any Grannie Rug worth its salt just seems to arrange itself, which the popcorn motifs eventually did – helped along by many triple crochet borders. I’d noticed these on the old rug, separated occasionally by a row of double crochet. The other thing that helped a lot was my collection of 4-5ply multi-coloured sock yarns left over from other rug projects. Magic.

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And just in case you’re interested in finding out more about the Pop Corn stitch and the pattern for the basic motifs, I’ve included the directions from the original 1969 Women’s Weekly page.

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