Friday 6 July 2012

Knitting in the rain

Midsummer has been and gone and in much of the UK the sun remains an infrequent visitor. This was the view from our window yesterday evening. After a wet day the sun appeared briefly to provide this 'almost' golden sunset but as you can see it is masked by ominous looking storm clouds gathering on the western horizon.

This morning we looked out of the window to see more of this and it's been going on for weeks. Warnings of more floods are coming thick and fast and heavier rain is forecast. . . . . .  The London Olympic Games is just three weeks away!

The garden is sodden, the lawn remains uncut and most of my summer blooms are now in a very sorry state. 

So what have I been doing whilst being confined indoors? Well, looking at pictures like the one below have certainly helped to raise my spirits. This is Milly Molly Mandy who lives in a 'nice white cottage with a thatched roof'. Reading those words I'm able to transport myself into this little girl's world where the sun shines, cottage gardens bloom and everyone is kind and helpful to everyone else.

Milly Molly Mandy books were written and illustrated by Joyce Lankester Brisley. The first was published in 1928 and the stories continued until the 1960s.

Books containing compilations of the various tales are still in publication and I know many of you are very fond of them. In the front of each book there is a map of the village in which Milly Molly Mandy lives. You can see her thatched cottage top left. Across the lane lives her little friend Susan and in the heart of the village is the home of another friend named Billy Blunt.

The gentle stories were written for young children and are typical of the era they portray. The author's beautiful black and white illustrations are equally evocative. Below you can see Billy Blunt being followed into the classroom by the duck that Milly Molly Mandy has befriended. The children shriek with laughter but the teacher is far from amused!

Having been a pupil at a small village school (many years ago) I can remember stray animals occasionally finding their way into the classroom so pictures like this bring back fond memories.

I also find Miss Read books a great form of escapism. They describe the very ordinary but amusing goings-on in an English village during the 1950s and 60s and Miss Read is both author and head teacher of the school at the centre of every story.

I know many of you are fans of Miss Read books. Real name Dora Saint, she had herself been a teacher for many years. She was born in 1913 and passed away on 7th April 2012, just ten days short of her 99th birthday.
Thanks to the wet weather I've been able to spend several hours in the classroom with Miss Read and thoroughly enjoyed scampering around the countryside with Milly Molly Mandy and her friends.

However, after a while I began to consider what fun it might be to knit tiny dolls based on the children in the stories.

For inspiration I looked at the pictures and patterns in my granny's vintage knitting books and even found a stray ball of her 3ply wool that she would have used to knit vests (how times have changed). And so as the wet weather is due to continue for a while I've decided to set myself the challenge of creating some 'mid century' school children similar the ones pictured above.

Choosing the correct colours to use for the period has been fun. In the 50s and 60s my parents owned a knitting machine and apart from looking after us children they knitted lots of sweaters for friends and family. Dad was a teacher during the day but in the evening he often did the knitting whilst Mum did the seaming. I can still visualise the many cones of coloured yarn stacked in the corner and amazingly still have a selection of the buttons Mum stitched onto the cardigans. So being typical of the period the colours of the buttons will become the colours used in my little project.

I have some narrow pink and white striped fabric that is just right for my Milly Molly Mandy doll and I've chosen this clover pink and matching Liberty lawn fabric for her little friend Susan. The dollies will be dolls house size and there's just a chance they might become a knitting pattern. I'll let you know next time.