WHY SHOULDN'T MEN KNIT?
This is the title of an eight page booklet which I discovered in a charity shop some time ago. It was produced during the second World War to encourage the casualties among the armed forces to take up knitting as therapy.
Published by Wm. Briggs & Co Ltd of Manchester the name ‘Penelope’ printed on the front page was one of the company’s ‘brand names’ for various products. Wm. Briggs was established in 1874 and is still in business today under the parent company of Coats Plc.
The front page depicts a hospital scene, which was probably created in a studio, with professional models posing for the photograph. There are bedclothes but no sign of a bed-head or bedside locker. However, a medical chart has been hung on the wall to add a touch of authenticity. A real hospital or not, the picture puts the message across regarding men in the forces taking up knitting. An added incentive would certainly be the pretty young nurse as teacher!
The nurse and patient are in the process of preparing the wool for knitting. In domestic circumstances, the man of the house held the hank of wool and his good lady wound it into a ball. But here the roles are reversed, indicating that the young man is making a good start and fully intends to progress to the knitting needles. If this was a movie, he would no doubt propose marriage to the beautiful nurse with a romantic happy ending – the hospital having ‘knitted’ them together.
Page two gives the reasons why convalescent men in the forces should knit for therapy. This is possibly one of the first indications that knitting could be an aid to recovery for body and mind.
Various basic instructions are described on pages three and four, to enable knitters to follow the patterns. Page five has a pattern for a blanket made from garter stitch squares. Next on page six there is a scarf ‘in a simple stitch which has a most professional look’, it is worked in knit 2, purl 2 rib.
Knitted wristlets are featured on page seven, along with a delightful photograph of young boys learning to knit. There are no details about the photograph, except a credit for the Daily Mirror newspaper for permission to use it.
The youngsters are wearing uniforms – jerseys, short trousers and distinctive white shirt collars. Their determined concentration is charming. It would be interesting to discover the story behind this photograph but I imagine that it reflected the wartime production of warm knitted garments, socks, gloves and hats for the troops. Knitting was an important contribution to the war effort on the home front and even children could join in.
Six more Penelope booklets are advertised on the back page, together with some useful information. Knitters could write to Penelope for help with their patterns:-
‘ … I shall be happy to advise you free of charge, but a 1½d stamp for reply may be enclosed.’
It is miraculous that this publication has survived in someone’s home for over half a century. I’m sure I was destined to find and rescue this small piece of knitting history, before it was recycled as waste paper. It is one of the special treasures in my collection.
There is another interesting bit of information on the front page which doesn’t show up very well on the scan - the details of the shop where the pattern was purchased:-
38/39 Victoria Road
In the past many knitting shops had rubber stamps made to advertise their shops on patterns and this continues to this day. Here is a Jean Greenhowe booklet stamped:-
Inverurie is a delightful town near Aberdeen where I frequently go shopping. The name of the shop is ‘Lovie’s Drapery’ and they sell a wonderful variety of other things beside knitting yarns.
I find the shops in country towns take care of their customers’ requirements and always provide excellent friendly service. There are still many privately-owned shops like Lovie’s in Inverurie and other towns near Aberdeen such as Banchory and Stonehaven. I could sing their praises not only for the shops, but for numerous reasons – the history, scenery… But I digress.
Back to B.P. Allured in Wellingborough -
I wonder if the shop itself is still there and if so what goods are on sale at the present day. Wouldn’t it be lovely to find that it is a knitting shop?
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