Saturday 21 September 2013

Gripping Yarns!

The other evening we watched The Fabric Of Britain on BBC 4 [well, to be truthful, I caught up with it on i-player] It was an utter delight. The blurb on the BBC website says

In this documentary, we explore how knitting rose from basic craft to the height of popular fashion in the 20th century. It's a craft that has given us scratchy jumpers, sexy bathing costumes and the infamous poodle loo cover, has sustained Britain through the hardships of war and shown a mother's love to generations of little ones. Today, knitwear has become a staple of every wardrobe thanks to a prince's golfing taste, the Beatles and 1980s breakfast television. Warm-hearted and surprising, this is the story of the people's craft and a very British one at that


The BBC have partnered with the V&A [more here] to celebrate and explore the history of British decorative arts.

Next week the subject will be wallpaper. But if this week’s hour of delight is anything to go by, it will definitely be worth watching.

bbc handmade 1We saw wonderful archive footage of the Duke Of Windsor, 1920’s flapper girls, machinery a century ago knitting vests…and mid century stuff, the War Years and rationing, poodle bottle covers, Mary Quant minis…Vivienne Westwood & Punk,

Kaffe Fassett’s riot of colours, and right up to the more recent revival, and knitting clubs [oh, and that odious Mr Brandreth]


My only quibble was that one of the historians said something like “and then people stopped knitting completely, and it’s only just started to become popular again” 

bbchandmade3Where did she do her research? Some of us never stopped! I have been knitting for over fifty years, and in all that time I have known loads of knitters. Dear sweet ladies [and some gents] in church groups up and down the land have been churning out blankets for Romanian orphans, vests for Oxfam babies, hats and scarves for Sally Army hostels for as long as I can remember.

greenhowe bookAnd when not doing stuff for charity, they have been making garments for their families, and Jean Greenhowe characters for the children.

And Woman’s Weekly magazine is still there, publishing patterns for the home knitter. It used to be ‘famed for its knitting’ – but now its strapline is ‘we’ve come a long way together’…and it has a very useful website to help novice knitters.

The trouble was, as we watched it together, I kept saying ‘next she will mention…’ and sure enough I was right. “Are you sure you weren’t alive during the War, dear?”  said Bob at one point! He even pointed out one vintage pattern and said “that’s in one of your books, isn’t it?” [What an observant chap he is]

It was great fun though – do watch it if you are at all interested in knitting, I don’t think you will be disappointed [it is available on i-player for another fortnight]


  1. Thank you Angela - I will catch up and watch it on iplayer. Like you I have been knitting for most of my life, since the age of 4 and not stopped. Many don't bother as bought jumpers are often cheaper than buying nice wool and knitting - and I often find that a pattern doesn't suit, unpick and knit something else!

  2. Yes, loved the programme - what a gem. My only little gripe, apart from the one you mentioned - no, we didn't stop knitting! I kept wanting them to show how a stitch is made using two needles and tell us that knit and purl are the basis of all stitches in knitting.(Unless, of course they did & I just managed to miss that bit!) But that said it was a marvellous programme. Hopefully lots more people will view it now you've done such a good job of promoting it. Have a great day, xx

  3. Can't beat the BBC for quality programs/programmes.
    Jane x

  4. Thanks for that, I will watch it later. I'm sewing a lot at the moment, though. And no, we didn't stop knitting did we? Help! I've just realised I started knitting 39 years ago!

  5. we watched too, and loved it, thats irked me too, when they said we stopped knitting, mymum taught me at her knee in the early 80's along with my sister and one of my brothers, and i have just taught my eldest and will teach my other 2 soon

    Sharon x

  6. I knit , I have been asked to knit jumpers, any size . I think they are for African children

  7. Oh this sounds just perfect. Have just caught up with Tuesday's Great Bake Off (please let Glenn beat Christine)and need something to keep me going. Did you see Brandreth this morning discussing his book on the Seven Secrets of Happiness?

    1. no, missed that! as yet, I have no favourite for GBBO [but please, not Ruby]

  8. Repeated tomorrow night. Don't know who their researchers were but according to them it was very 'uncool' to be seen knitting in the 80's, unless you were 'old'.....I too have been knitting for the best part of 50 years and have never really stopped. Perhaps they would have been better asking 'ordinary' folk about their knitting experiences rather than the upmarket designers they picked to show off their knitting.Also, most of the designs they showed by Bill Gibb were done on machines (I knew a lady who was one of his home machine-knitters). I thought I spotted Joanna Lumley in the line-up of the models who were sporting the 'long socks' look.

  9. I hope we get that over here. Still can't knit for toffee though!!


  10. I watched this on Iplayer. It was really interesting. I suppose it was uncool in the eighties as it wasn't fashionable to be seen knitting. Saying that my mum had a wool shop in the eighties. She used to get lots of orders to make jumpers especially leading up to Christmas and still has a lot of patterns left from that time. You could buy cheap jumpers in the eighties and I think that was also a reason for the decline in home knitting.


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