I first heard the name Susan Crawford just after I got back into knitting again in 2007. There was an advert calling for sample knitters to work on a book of vintage patterns, and whilst my skills weren’t quite up the task, I thought it would be a lovely project for Mum to be involved in. The sample turned out to be Simple Elegance and the book was A Stitch in Time Volume 1.
Over the following years, mine and Susan’s paths have occasionally crossed, with a launch for A Stitch in Time Volume 2 and now with her forthcoming book, The Vintage Shetland Project. This will be the culmination of four years researching and rummaging through the archive of 20th Century hand-knitted garments and accessories at the Shetland Museum.
With the help and support of Carol Christiansen, textile curator at the museum, Susan has selected and carefully studied 25 pieces, making detailed notes of their construction and patterning before transforming them into multi-sized patterns suitable for 21st Century knitters. It is these pieces that form the body of work that will be The Vintage Shetland Project book.
Speaking about the research for the project, Susan reflects;
“This task was a painstaking one but revealed much more than simply how each item was knitted. The more I studied them, the more I fell in love with them. But as I considered why I loved each piece it occurred to me that in so many of them there was an imperfection, a flaw, sometimes in the knitting, sometimes in the construction, sometimes in the yarns used, but often because the garment had been washed, worn, loved, repaired, worn more, washed again, shrunk, adapted, repaired again, enlarged, worn more, passed on, loved more… and so each story continued. There is a cardigan which now has one sleeve significantly shorter than the other as it has been worn out, adapted and continued to be used, moving probably from a ‘best’ cardigan to a work wear item. A sweater has been cut open down the front and changed slightly carelessly into a cardigan.
Others heavily worn have been darned then darned again, prolonging a favourite garment’s life. And of course, each and every one of these pieces has survived – outliving its knitter on most occasions – and has then been cherished by family or friends as a reminder of the wearer, the knitter, or a particular moment in time. As these garments slowly perish as they unfortunately will do, I hope to extend their life in another way, recording their image, their patterns, their stitches, and their past and enabling knitters to read these histories and to be able to recreate these perfectly flawed knits too.”
I love this passage! It’s so fascinating being able to read a story from a hand knitted item and to see how they were cherished, mainly out of necessity but also out of love. They became a part of the family, handed down from one generation to the next – a small snippet of history themselves and you will hear some of these stories in the essays written by Susan to accompany the patterns.
If you’re as excited about the book as I am, Susan has launched a Pubslush fundraiser which smashed it’s target within a couple of days! However, you can still support the project with the additional funds going to support a wide range of extras, and most importantly, this is the only way to get your hands on a copy of The Vintage Shetland Project before Christmas and prior to general release in 2016. You have until the 6th August 2015 to sign up.
This post is part of The Vintage Shetland Project blog tour and you will find the next instalment tomorrow over on Woolly Wormhead’s blog.
All images © Susan Crawford and used here with permission.
Disclaimer: I have not been paid for this blog post but will be working on the book later in the project.