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Steam-Punk Balaclava?

Knitting Collection 2
Back Cover.

Here it comes again! ‘Sunk Island’ (my Humber/Ouse kids’ gansey) has just been re-published in ‘TheKnitting Collection 2’.

Available from W.H. Smiths or via Yudu.

You can see it on the back cover, in rather nice company, bottom row. It’s second from right.

No 5 son thought it a bit surreal as when we picked this up in Smiths, he’d been wearing it the day before!

The Agenoria, ca. 1829

This weekend we did the National Railway Museum here in York on Saturday, and Eden Camp on Sunday.  At the Railway Museum, we particularly enjoyed the steam-punk. Worser Half pointed out this engine was already 4 years old when the Stillingfleet Tragedy happened in 1833. We think of it as some lost, bucolic age but of course, the machines were already here!

I also got another look at what is my favourite exhibit in the entire place.  Mallard? No. Flying Scotsman? No.  Here he is:

Laddie, Celebrity Chugger

Laddie, the Airedale Terrier, who collected money for railwaymen’s widows and orphans for most of his life, on a station. Apparently, many stations had ‘Collecting Dogs’. Laddie raised £5000 in his working life. No doubt a record, hence the being stuffed…

Eden Camp was a POW War camp in WW2, near Malton. Well worth a visit but pick a warm day!  The entire museum is spread out over 28 or so of the original POW camp huts.  The whole thing finishes with a pre-fab, ‘Home Fit For Heroes’. Here’s my Auntie Margie moving into her brand new home, post War, with her hero, Uncle Syd – he’d been a sailor in the War. These were the ‘homes for heroes’ that went up in our village, at the end of the War. Just up the road there were some pre-fabs too.

That garden, just bare soil, was to become a vision to behold in the years that followed!

Margie and Syd

Eden Camp had a little knitting on display, on the dummies (‘Autons‘ as my No 4 calls them),  but what with the lighting, and camera shake of No 3,  am afraid I have no informative photos to share with you! It did strike me that most of the knitting (cardis etc) were done in surprisingly chubby grist yarn (DK on the whole), and probably on something close to 4mm needles.

On Saturday night we saw the original ‘The Colditz Story’, and sure enough many of the actors were wearing jumpers of a similar style and grist. You can see Sir John Mills in one, here. Quite coarse knitting, really, compared to the stuff of just a generation or two earlier.

All this 1940s’ knitting makes me want to knit a balaclava!  Worser Half and I were saying that we sometimes forget, us products of the Baby Boom were born only 15-20 years on from WW2.  I vividly recall the still uncleared bomb sites in Leeds when I was a kid. Tatters of net curtains at upper windows, and 1940s wallpaper and older plaster peeling off interior walls… And much of our mothers’ knitting in the early 60s was still, essentially, the wartime knitting they grew up with.

I remember – as many people our age do – one winter mum knitted me this hideous balaclava and insisted I wear the bloody thing to school. I ached to take it off my head, that woolly little helmet-shaped thing. But didn’t dare til I was out of her eyesight.

The second I was waved off at the school gates, I whipped that thing off.

Now of course, I’d love one.  If only I could combine the love of steam punk with the love of balaclava. What a piece of head-wear that would be… This one here may be 1903, but the thing my mum knit in the 1960s wasn’t wildly different.  At the time I hated it, but now I wish i still had it, or at least a photo of me in it. I’d imagine it mysteriously ‘disappeared’ after a decent interval…

I just Googled ‘balaclava’ and wish I hadn’t. Blimey. They have taken on a different connotation since John Mills’ day…

Til next time, gentle reader, let me keep you warm with this from what I think might be the forerunner of the famous Patons’ Woolcraft books. M. Elliott Scrivenor’s 1903 “Knitting & Crochet Book”.


1903 Balaclava: click to enlarge. If you dare.

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