We had a plan the other Saturday. That is, I had a plan and the Chef was happy to go along with it. Said plan involved dropping by a local and as-yet-unvisited op shop, followed by a daytrip out to a hopefully photogenic location. Said plan went awry when said local op shop turned out to be closed on the weekends; with the op shop element of the day rudely cut out, everything felt unbalanced and there was only one way to fix it.
We spent the day visiting op shops instead of roadtripping and photographing.
Luckily, this turned out to be the best decision ever because I found some absolute treasures that give me a warm glow every time I think of them (which is far more often than a normal person should do, I am sure). What are these treasures of which I speak? Let me keep in you in suspense no longer…
Normally, my op shop eye is attuned to the old style of knitting patterns: subtle black and white photographs or flimsy edges to the paper. This time, I ended up finding treasures that looked as though they’d fallen out of a ratty old newspaper and been scrunched up to keep a door propped open. Bestway’s Fair Isle Knitwear for Men and Boys had been folded in half and shoved into the side of an awkwardly-placed box of knitting patterns and I only found it because an old-fashioned ad on the back caught my eye. It had been dumped into the box as though it was nothing. It is not nothing. It is a booklet of fair isle patterns from the 1930s, which I know because it possesses something a knitting pattern rarely has: a publication date. Let me show you:
The second treasure cost me a grand total of absolutely nothing. The lady serving me in the op shop picked it up, took one look and declared that I could have it for free. It may have looked worthless to her, but it’s absolutely priceless to me.
I thought I’d indulge in a spot of research about these companies and share the results here but this turned out to be next to impossible. No-one can tell me anything about Bestway, despite the fact their patterns are everywhere. When it comes to Weldon’s, things are a little better but that’s not saying much: anything is better than the nothing I learnt about Bestway.
What little I can tell you is that Weldon & Co. started producing a series of fourteen-page newsletters in 1885 and continued until the late 1920s. The series as a whole was known as Weldon’s Practical Needlework but it was split into separate newsletters for knitting and crochet, among others. This information made me happy, because even if I had a later newsletter, it would still date from the 1920s, which put it in an exclusive and ironically brand-new category: The Oldest Knitting Pattern I’ve Ever Found. Then I discovered this quote on the Crochet Australia website:
“By about 1915, Weldon’s had published 159 issues of Practical Crochet and 100 issues of Practical Knitting.”
My edition is 129. After engaging in some maths and wild guesswork, I was able to narrow its publication date to the start of twenties, although the typography and layout suggest a slightly earlier date. Basically, I have a knitting pattern book that’s almost a century old.
Aaah, it’s so exciting! And to top it all off, the issue is dedicated to gloves, which are pretty much my favourite thing to make at the moment. There’s no question of whether I’ll make something from this booklet; it’s simply a matter of when.
Next time you’re in an op shop and you spot something that looks like rubbish, take a second look, because it might turn out to be something absolutely amazing.