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Knitting at Cranford

Jan 16, 2013

Anyone who reads Knitting Daily, even somewhat regularly, knows that I love an old-timey book series, TV series, or movie. Love them. And when there's knitting featured in said old-timiness, more's the better.

    
Prudence Cap or Neck Ruff for Miss Pole. This pattern originally appeared in The Lady's Assistant for Executing Useful and Fancy Designs in Knitting, Netting, and Crochet Work, by Mrs. Jane Gaugain.
Muffatees for Miss Pole. This pattern originally appeared in The Accompaniment to Second Volume of Mrs. Gaugain's Work on Knitting, Netting, and Crochet.
Cranfield is one of those books/PBS series in which the characters knit.If you haven't read the spectacular series of books, written by Elizabeth Gaskell from 1851 through 1853, you have a treat in store! The PBS series based on the books is a must-see. It stars Judi Dench as one of the two spinster sisters who star in the series, and who are the doyennes of the sleepy English countryside village of Cranford. Their friends Miss Pole, Mrs. Forrest, and Miss Barker make up their social circle. And when the Jenkyns family moves to Cranford, the action commences.

In the January/February 2013 issue of PieceWork magazine, Mary Lycan writes about Cranford and the knitting that takes place. Here's a bit from that article:

"The ladies of Cranford, especially Miss Matty and Miss Pole, knit for hours at a stretch. A chance remark by the newly arrived Captain Brown's daughter, Miss Jessie Brown, both offends the genteel sensibilities of the ladies of Cranford and opens a portal for today's knitters into historically responsible fan fiction:

'[Miss Deborah Jenkyns] had been a good deal annoyed by Miss Jessie Brown's unguarded admission (à propos of Shetland wool) that she had an uncle, her mother's brother, who was a shopkeeper in Edinburgh. Miss Jenkyns tried to drown this confession by a terrible cough-for the Honourable Mrs. Jamieson was sitting at the cardtable nearest Miss Jessie, and what would she say or think if she found out she was in the same room with a shopkeeper's niece! But Miss Jessie Brown (who had no tact, as we all agreed the next morning) would repeat the information and assure Miss Pole she could easily get her the identical Shetland wool required "through my uncle, who has the best assortment of Shetland goods of any one in Edinbro.'"

An 1880s Local Yarn Shop

Jane Alison was born in 1804 in Dalkeith, Scotland, the daughter of a tailor and his wife who later moved to Edinburgh. In 1823, she married John James Gaugain of Edinburgh, who owned a Berlin-work and ladies' fancywork shop during the 1830s and later. By 1840, the shop was located at 63 George Street, and Jane was managing it.

It is easy to imagine Mrs. Gaugain as the local yarn store proprietress of George Street, helping new or unskilled knitters decide what to buy and teaching them how to knit it. By 1836, she had published three patterns, or "receipts," for her friends and was well on her way to compiling, selecting, editing, and beta-testing many more.

Beginning in 1840, she published a series of best-selling books of knitting, netting, and crochet patterns. Her knitting patterns are unusually detailed for the period, specifying the type of yarn and size of needle to be used. For complex patterns, she provides an introductory paragraph describing the garment structure, followed by step-by-step "blind follower" instructions. She well understood the challenge of technical writing, accepting that clarity sometimes requires repetition: "Timen no occasion ought the learner to be led to conjecture what is meant."

Most notably, Mrs. Gaugain invented and promulgated a finely detailed set of alphabetical abbreviations for knitting terms that enabled her to describe techniques with an unusual degree of sophistication. For instance, whereas her contemporaries might have written "take in" for any type of decrease, Mrs. Gaugain documented six different methods of decreasing, each abbreviated with its own variant of the letter T. Her patterns are so clear that modern knitters, once provided with the key to her symbols, can knit directly from them.

Mrs. Gaugain also practiced what we now call vertical integration of her business. Her earlier books advertised knitting instruction at the "Establishment" on George Street; her later ones offered a mail-order service to purchasers of her goods anywhere in Britain. Perhaps she even sent wool and instructions to Cranford.

—Mary Lycan, PieceWork, Jan/Feb 2013

Wonderful! I can't get enough of this type of information, and PieceWork magazine is the master of presenting it. Subscribe now so you don't miss anything!

Cheers,

P.S. Have you read the Cranford books or watched the PBS series? Leave a comment below and let us know what you thought!


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Comments

Dede613 wrote
on Jan 26, 2013 9:08 PM

Kathleen, thank you for introducing me to Cranford and to Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell. After reading your blog, I downloaded the (free!) book to my Kindle and read it right away. I enjoyed it so much that I have now downloaded several more of her books and look forward to more adventures. The Victorian period has been my favorite since college, and I am thrilled to add another female author to my list.

Dede613 wrote
on Jan 26, 2013 9:08 PM

Kathleen, thank you for introducing me to Cranford and to Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell. After reading your blog, I downloaded the (free!) book to my Kindle and read it right away. I enjoyed it so much that I have now downloaded several more of her books and look forward to more adventures. The Victorian period has been my favorite since college, and I am thrilled to add another female author to my list.

DebraB@8 wrote
on Jan 25, 2013 8:49 AM

I agree with Leslie's comment, nice to see other female authors getting attention. I have always loved Jane Austen. I think if people read and like her, they may be prompted to look for other female authors. Attention to any of the great female writers will (hopefully) bring people to read more of the others too! Love the needlework and knitting books and patterns spawned by these series. There is a book called Literary Knits with patterns inspired by several books.

on Jan 21, 2013 7:05 PM

I watched the series on PBS a while ago, and found it charming. Thanks for the info about the book - was not aware.  Netflix offers both the original series and a Return to Cranford.  And PBS sells the DVD's.  What would we do without the BBC?  Enjoy!

Ldw99 wrote
on Jan 20, 2013 1:16 PM

A great series, love Dame Judi who does her usual superior acting job in her role.

on Jan 19, 2013 3:32 PM

Is that series shown in the US?

NancyG@4 wrote
on Jan 19, 2013 1:06 PM

AndreaD@6: make sure you look for "Cranford," not "Cranfield."

NancyG@4 wrote
on Jan 19, 2013 1:01 PM

I have watched and enjoyed all the "Cranford" TV shows, and have made the "Cranford Mitts" published as a fund-raiser by 'pennies per hour of pleasure' (p/hop for short) at www.p-hop.co.uk/.../cranford-mitts.

(Incidentally, your article first refers to "Cranfield," not "Cranford".)

Sharon1943 wrote
on Jan 19, 2013 8:24 AM

I was very interested in this article as I did not know about this series or the books. I will have to download the books to read. For those interested there is a site called antiquepatternlibrary.org that has Mrs. Jane Gaugains book. The drawback of this book is no pictures. The pattern for the neck or cap piece is on page 22. I did not see any pictures or drawings when I browsed through the book. I hope people interested in very old patterns find this information useful.

frillyjilly wrote
on Jan 19, 2013 6:07 AM

Hi,

Have you seen the one with  the dress frame that Miss pole thought was a parrot cage!

Cranford helps you see how much things have changed for women. Some for the better and some not so. It's interesting to know that if a woman visited a friend, it was the done thing, never to have their  hands idol,They must take  knitting or embroidery with them to do. A single woman was to keep her eyes down at her work when a single gentleman, talked to her, so as not to seem forward. The gentleman could watch her hands at work, so she would keep her hands looking as beautiful, as she could. Her work was a sign to the gentleman that she was industrious and would make a good wife.

Cranford is based on a village in England. Called Knutsford, in Cheshire East, Which is in the North-west of England.

I enjoyed reading your article. I too, love the clothes of the past.

regards Jill   UK.

bsjunk wrote
on Jan 19, 2013 5:29 AM

It's a BBC series, shown by PBS.

PatB@37 wrote
on Jan 18, 2013 11:40 AM

Have not read the books but just download most of them to my Kindle.  They are free for Kindle on Amazon :)

RusynSusan wrote
on Jan 17, 2013 11:54 AM

I had no idea there was a Cranford PBS series (don't have a TV); but about the same time I took up knitting, about 3 months ago, I also starting listening to audio books from booksshouldbefree.com (They are all in the public domain.) Both my husband and I got addicted to Gaskell's books, and I knit while listening. Truth be told, it has to be a pretty simple pattern for me to be able to knit and listen and not end with with many mistakes that I have to undo!

wildoaklane wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 7:10 PM

For the longest time, I've been trying to find a pattern for the capelet that Miss Matty wears in Season 1 episode 4 (the light brown knitted one). Mrs. Forrester wears a similar one. Is this pattern in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue?

wildoaklane wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 7:10 PM

For the longest time, I've been trying to find a pattern for the capelet that Miss Matty wears in Season 1 episode 4 (the light brown knitted one). Mrs. Forrester wears a similar one. Is this pattern in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue?

Karen5684 wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 5:07 PM

I liked the photo of the Orenburg mittens and ordered PW magazine for the pattern.  Thery were not included.  Can you post the source please.  Thery are by Galina Khmeleva.  Thank you.

Karen5684 wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 5:05 PM

I liked the photo of the Orenburg mittens, I  ordered PW and was so disappointed to find them no where included.  I cannot find the source of the patterns by Galina Khmeleva. If you could post it I would appreciate it.  thank you

Dinker wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 3:36 PM

Love the ladies of Cranford and all stories of that time period that PBS has shown.  Thanks for an excellent publication, Piecework.

on Jan 16, 2013 2:46 PM

I've watched both seasons of the Cranford PBS series, and I love, love, love it! I can't wait to read the original story in the books!

norsky3 wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 12:25 PM

I can hardly wait to get to the library for the DVDs.   CRANFIELD is sure to be a story for me.  And, yes, I am going to subscribe to the magazine if only for the pure pleasure of what it has to offer.

foust wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 11:55 AM

No , but I plan to now. :)

essayeff wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 10:36 AM

I have the DVD set, but have not watched it yet.  Thanks to your article, I will watch it very soon, and, probably, read the books, too.

Also, I am going to subscribe.  I only wish the magazine were available digitally.  I am being overrun with paper.

Thanks so much!

lpbarre wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 9:28 AM

Not to be picky, but it's "Dame Judi Dench". To not use her title is disrespectful.

CynP wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 9:21 AM

I absolutley love Cranford!! Got the DVD right after the PBS series came out and have watched it several times.    I often wish that I could have lived during that  simpler era when, as a woman, it was okay and expected, to knit and stitch each day - most of the day!  Today I am lucky if I can find time just to read about knitting!!

on Jan 16, 2013 9:11 AM

The neck ruff is adorable...I could see this worn with a black cashmere jewel neck pullover. Or a red one. Or a yellow one. I can't make up my mind!

TeresaW wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 9:04 AM

This is so odd!  I just came across the Cranford series on Amazon Prime video and watched the first two episodes last night.  I am not usually a fan of this type of program but I found Cranford to be charming.

knitcindy wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 8:43 AM

I've never heard of these books and now I'm looking forward to reading them.  Which one is the first to be read???

leslief150 wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 8:32 AM

I thought the book and the PBS series were wonderful.  I am so happy to see other authors besides Austen getting attention (not that Austen doesn't deserve attention, but so many others do as well!)

intoxyk8 wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 8:24 AM

I loved the series!  One of our county libraries has it on DVD.  All I had to do was request to have it sent over to my local library.  The books are on my must-read list now too.  

NanMary wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 7:52 AM

Watched all the Cranford Series here in the UK when they were first shown, anyone who loves watching historical dramas will loves these

niesa wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 7:46 AM

I have both read and watched the Cranford series many times and loved them.  Thank you for not only reminding me of what a treasure they are, but spreading the word.  

MarianSylvia wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 7:26 AM

I loved Cranford. It's available from Netflix.

4hens wrote
on Jan 16, 2013 7:24 AM

I have never heard of Cranford. When is it on? I would like to watch it!

on Jan 16, 2013 7:11 AM

Re: Cranford and the knitting associated with the PBS series:  the interviews of the actors which are in the DVDs for this series are charming and expand on the costumes.  Dame Judi Dench says that there was great jealosy when someone would get a new shawl or pair of mitts.  And isn't it fun to know that 'what goes around comes around'; ladies mitts are back in style again and I am knitting them!