Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Knitting & Crochet Guild Trunk Show

The London Branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild hosted a joint meeting with the Knitting History Forum on 21st February 2015. Barbara Smith, Publications Curator and Angharad Thomas, Textile Archivist brought the K&C Guild Collection Trunk Show to our London meeting and showed us some of the knit and crochet samples held by the Guild. During the meeting, we were able to discuss and closely examine these wonderful items.

Detail from Kaffe Fassett Waistcoat
K&C Guild Collection
Angharad gave us some background detail about the Guild Collection. The basis of the Collection was brought together for the Bradford Textlile Festival 1990 Exhibition. Following this exhibition, the collection was added to by donations from members and their families and some specific items were bought through textile fairs or agents. The Guild collection is unique, in that it is a record of what people were actually making.

Within the Collection, there are also approximately 2000 books and magazines, 50,000 pattern leaflets and 10,500 leaflets from the Patons archive donated by Coats to the Guild. Guild members have access to these patterns through groupspaces on the Guild website. Other ways to access the Collection are through Open Days at Lee Mills (the 'home' of the Collection) and Trunk Shows at local Branch meetings. There are also several in-depth blogs written by members. My favourites are:
barbaraknitsagainonehundredyearsago and knittinggloves.

Barbara gave an excellent presentation about the items that she and Angharad had brought along. I'm going to review just a few of these fascinating pieces here and I thoroughly recommend going to one of the Trunk Shows to hear about all of them!

Shetland Shawl, Sylvia Ratcliffe, 1996
It was great to view this beautiful shawl up close again. When I was a volunteer at the Guild's stand at last year's Knitting and Stitching Show, this amazing piece of knitting by Sylvia Ratciffe formed the backdrop of the stand. We had some lovely comments and discussions with visitors to the stand about the stitch patterns and awesome knitting skills involved in making the Shawl.

Shetland Shawl
K&C Guild Collection
Irish Crochet Bag and Jacket
On the K&S Show stand, we also had stunning pictures of the Guild's Irish crochet items that featured in Rowan Magazine 55. Barbara and Angharad had brought the actual bag and jacket with them. The detail is so amazing. The delicate crochet motifs are made first, then laid out in a design and lastly joined by a beautiful crochet mesh to make a truly beautiful piece of work.

Irish Crochet Bag
K&C Guild Collection
Irish Crochet Jacket detail
K&C Guild Collection
Art Silk T-Shape Jumper
I had not heard of Art Silk before this Trunk Show. This T-shaped jumper had been knitted in one piece to show off the drape of this artificial silk rayon yarn. An example of the jumper can be seen in a 1920 Fancy Needlework Illustrated leaflet, also in the Guild Collection.

Angharad showing the Art Silk sweater
K&C Guild Collection
An important feature within the Guild collection are items with a known history. The stories behind the items reveal what was actually going on in the world of knitting and crochet at the time they were made. 

Yellow Waistcoat, Margaret Clarke, c1950
A lovely example is a fine yellow waistcoat knitted by Margaret Clarke for her fiancé around 1950. The fronts are knitted in linen stitch with 47sts to 10cm. The back is knitted in single rib. At first glance, yellow appears to be an unusual choice of colour at this time, but this is where the story of the waistcoat tells us more. Margaret's fiancé always wore colourful clothing to work as he worked for the International Colour Authority!

Yellow Waistcoat Detail
K&C Guild Collection

Waistcoat, Kaffe Fassett
Kaffe Fassett is a Patron of the Guild and has donated several pieces of his knitting to the Guild Collection. This absolutely stunning waistcoat was both designed and knitted by Kaffe Fassett. It is knitted in Rowan yarns that were unfortunately discontinued before the patten was released. I'm sure that an update would be extremely popular!

Kaffe Fassett Waistcoat
K&C Guild Collection
K&C Guild Collection

Cherry Brandy Sweater, 1980s
Picture knits form an important sub-section within the Collection. We were treated to a close up look of this 1980s Cherry Brandy sweater, knitted from a Wendy pattern. The accompanying YouTube clip is brilliant!

Angharad showing the De Kuyper Cherry Brandy Sweater
K&C Guild Collection
The Coats Archive
In 2014, Coats donated it's Paton's archive to the Guild. There is very little accompanying documentation, but there are lots of wonderful items waiting to be researched. Many of the items were collected by or designed by James Norbury, Chief Designer for Patons and Baldwins 1946 to 1969. For example, these tams from Shetland inspired at least 2 pattern leaflets in the 1950s and 1960s.

K&C Guild Collection
K&C Guild Collection
These are just a few of my highlights from an entertaining and informative afternoon. I really recommend attending a Guild Trunk Show to descover more about the fascinating collection. Barbara and Angharad are absolutely brilliant at bringing the items to life and the resulting discussions reveal many new insights. Non members are also always welcome to attend and I hope that the Trunk Show will encourage even more knitters and crocheters to join the Guild.


  1. Thanks very much for the testimonial, Emma!

  2. Thanks very much for the testimonial, Emma!

  3. You are very welcome Barbara. It was a great presentation and I'm looking forward to the next one!