Like so many knitters it was my Grandma who taught me to knit. I started with dishcloths before moving on to garter stitch squares which were then stitched together to make sweaters for an Oxfam appeal.

I was always thrilled by the amazing Jean Greenhow patterns featured in Grandma’s Womens Weekly magazine that would then appear as finished articles at local fetes and school fundraisers. Now and then a new pattern would pop up. and whilst I never got round to making Humpty Dumpty, or indeed Mrs Dumpty, I did spend some time making Christmas decorations one year.

Greenhow decorations

The pattern included baubles, a stocking, candy canes, Father Christmas and an angel. It was the angel that caught my eye and so I made her, just how she looks in the picture with the exception of the eyes and mouth. In my infinite wisdom I thought she needed long lashes and rosy red lips so drew them onto the woollen face with felt tip pens. I think I regretted it the moment I did it but she continues to adorn my Mums tree every year.

Earlier in the year, completely out of the blue, the original magazine pattern pages popped up in my ‘recommended for you’ eBay feed. I kept an eye on it but after watching it reach £18.50 I thought the pattern just wasn’t meant to be mine. And then, following the knitters afternoon tea party in summer, Lixie left a few books for us to look through, in amongst them was ‘Knitted Toys’ by Jean Greenhow publised by Hamlyn. There on page 78 was my angel!  By complete coincidence she had returned.

Knitted angel

I’ve got some yarn on stand-by and will re-make her one day but then a part of me thinks that the one knitted fluttery-lashed angel is probably enough for the world and things are never quite the same the second time round are they?

Do you have a favourite handcrafted decoration or memories of making Jean Greenhow patterns?



12 Responses to 12th december: christmas angel

  1. Marion says:

    Ah, Jean Greenhowe! I’ve got several of her thin paper books and have used them a LOT.

    I think Mum taught me to knit; one of my earliest memories is sitting in the kitchen showing Grandma how well I could knit, and I was about 3 or 4 at the time. For years Mum and I knitted garter-stitch Oxfam blanket squares, and when I’d left home and was coming back for the holidays, that was what we did while watching TV and chatting. Then we branched out into toys – we tried knitted teddies (cast on 8 stitches in ‘paw’ colour, work 6 rows stocking stitch, change to ‘trouser’ colour…), when the Romanian orphanage scandal was at its height, as we’d been told that soft toys were better than hard ones.

    And then one day in her local woolshop I spotted a knitted doll in their ‘bits’ basket, and took it home thinking I could just possibly reverse-engineer it. And only a short time later I came across Jean Greenhowe’s “Little Gift Dolls” booklet, and realised I’d bought one of her basic ‘jellybaby’ dolls!

    I’ve since used that pattern and a few others to make and customise dolls – I started out with Cthulhu and Darth Small (not ‘Maul’, he’s only little!), and have since knitted almost every main character from the Harry Potter books (including rather a lot of Snapes!), as well as Albert Einstitch and Isaac Knitton.

    I’ve got a Christmas Fairy in one of the books, but she’s not as cute as your angel!

    • Rachel says:

      Such a lovely little knitting story Marion. Thank you for sharing it. I think I had a go at a similar toy knit to the teddies where you knit different colour stripes then sew the back seam and add seams for arms and legs

  2. Corrie B says:

    I have loads of these patterns that I keep getting given by friends parents, and I have to say that I am so impressed with yours! Mine have never come out quite as lovely as this. I think the felt tips were inspired, they certainly add to the overall view of the angel and it’s wonderful that you have such a great keepsake of your knitting journey!

    • Rachel says:

      Thank you but I have to confess the images are from the original book rather than being my own knits! I feel terrible now in case people think that was my angel…Mum couldn’t get into the garage to retrieve her for the post! My angel is more ‘interpretive’!! They’re lovely patterns, very much of their time but also timeless

  3. katieh says:

    I was coming to here to say ‘i learnt to knit with my nannan from that pattern! but actually i think it was the penguin one, which I will have to go dig out. but i have that pattern as a couple of pages ripped out of said nannan’s women’s weekly.

    I love Jean Greenhowe and used to buy her books from our local remnants shop in my home town, the way other people buy pop albums. in fact i once got a free one because I wrote her a fan letter, and she sent me a letter back.

    and now, in the middle of christmas madness i feel the need to knit a little something of hers. (the first christmas i gave everyone present i made them all from her patterns. my granny got the peddler doll, which stood pride of place on her sideboard for the last 17ish years of her life.

    *wow memory overload!*

  4. Roo says:

    Our Christmas angel is a Jean Greenhowe one, I made it as a present for Tony the first year we spent Christmas together (10 years ago) – it was one of the things that re-started the knitting bug!I’ll get a picture of it when the decorations come out at the weekend. My Mom has a similar one that I made when I was about 7. In fact the only thing I ever made were Jean Greenhowe dolls when I was younger. I was a hideously tight knitter and I used to make my mum do all the sewing up!
    I wanted to make Emily a doll for Christmas and remembered a Victorian type knitted doll by JG – and guess what it is called? –

  5. Lottieknits says:

    Wow! That’s brought back some memories, my Mum made the entire set for our Christmas tree when I was little and they still go on the tree every year. As I recall she had quite a few Jean Greenhowe patterns, she made me a Brownie complete with the same badges as I had on my own sash as well. I still have it somewhere!

    • Rachel says:

      I always wanted the Brownie and how amazing that you and the doll had matching badges! Would love to see a picture of the decorations if you can get one? Thank you for sharing your Jean Greenhow story!

      • Gillian B says:

        My mum made me that one too! She did all the knitting before going into hospital for a back operation then did the making up and stuffing while stuck lying flat on her back afterwards. As a typical selfish young child I didn’t appreciate the effort that went in to it, especially given the circumstances. Now I’m starting to wonder if my brownie is stuck in a bag somewhere in the loft…

  6. Gillian B says:

    The first Jean Greenhowe design I think I ever knitted was the scarecrow, when it was in the Woman’s Weekly. I was hooked and made quite a number of her soft toys after that – including some of the ones pictured here. A truly talented designer.

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