Alice (my grandma) was the person who taught me to knit and when she passed away I inherited her treasure trove of knitting patterns along with her glorious button tin full of buttons snipped from old garments, another ‘waste not want not trick’ of hers. Leafing through her favoured knitting patterns I could see where she got her style. An hour glass model wearing a bullet bra (my gran never went out without her roll on corset, even at the age of 70!) gazed out glamorously from the dog eared pattern pages, her tight fitting hand knitted sweater accentuating her wasp waist and feminine curves.
The term ‘sweater girl’ was first attributed to the actress Lana Turner after her appearance in the 1937 film ‘They Won't Forget’. In the film she wore a tight-fitting knitted top after which she was nicknamed "The Sweater Girl" by Movie magazines. The sexy yet innocent ‘sweater girl’ look continued to influence hand knitting patterns well into the 1950s
Granny’s knitting skills were put to good use over the years making twin sets for herself, matinee sets for babies, and classic tank tops for her husband Ted.
The ‘twin set’ or ‘sweater set’ was another new fashion trend introduced in the 1950s - a tight short sleeve sweater top covered up, for modesties sake, with a matching cardigan. The cardigan with its dainty buttons was usually worn with only the top one done up, this allowed the tight fitting sweater to peek through producing once again that flirty innocent yet sexy look so reminiscent of the era.
When my mother stared ‘courting’ my father in her mid-teens her mother always made an enormous lemon meringue pie, his favourite, if he came round for tea, (I think she approved of my mother’s choice of boyfriend). Once it was obvious that he was ‘a keeper’ and even my grandad had begrudgingly agreed that he was ‘good enough’ for his daughter my gran would bestow hand knitted sweaters on him too. The image is my dad in their back garden sporting one of her creations.
I will be forever indebted to my grandmother with her 1950s style and her can do attitude for all things creative. Although like many women of her generation she never had a ‘full time job’ she worked tirelessly to support, nurture and uphold her family. Most of this was done through her crafting skills, knitting, crocheting, sewing, baking and gardening. She and her children were always well ‘kitted out’ and no one would have guessed it was all on a shoe string. These skills she lovingly passed onto my mother and in turn to my sister and I. We, like her, never waste a moment, there is always something in the work basket or on the knitting needles. I will often re-work one of her vintage patterns in a modern yarn but as much as I would like to I really don’t have time to knit the 3ply wiggle dress.