Knittings Golden Age – Well Really!! A RANT

This progamme appeared on BBC2 last Wednesday

The  programme info said

                Documentary telling the story of how knitting rose from basic craft to the height of popular fashion in the 20th century. It’s a craft that has given us scratchy jumpers, sexy bathing costumes and the infamous poodle loo cover, has sustained Britain through the hardships of war and shown a mother’s love to generations of little ones. Today, knitwear has become a staple of every wardrobe thanks to a prince’s golfing taste, the Beatles and 1980s breakfast television. Warm-hearted and surprising, this is the story of the people’s craft and a very British one at that.


This programme holds  first place in the list of  items that have made me yell at the screen.

There were several out right factual errors.:-

Knitted tea-cosyies  were  fashion household item in the thirties ( and it was a thirties pattern that they showed) although they still appeared in the forties.

Fair–isle is traditionally knitted by  weaving in the carried threads as you knit, not looping them across the back .

The poodle bottle covers  were, from memory , crocheted not knitted. In this area they could have also looked at toilet paper covers  and other items made for church bazaars.

The issue of knitted swimsuits  was covered very poorly .  You can not test out whether they sag or not  using modern yarns. Today’s yarns have been treated  so that they wash well, in other words they do not take  water up into the body of the yarn.   A quick dip in the sea  is not sufficient to soak a yarn,  even a thirties yarn. Knitted swimsuits sagged when they were wet !!!


There were a number of cases of what can only be described as infelicitous editing.  The film of the Queen at her Comfort Fund group showed  lengthy film of a sewing group.  The first extract  from  the  specialist speaking about knitting during the war stated that women knitted because it was relaxing and gave them something else to think about –  NO – they knitted because they were supplying essential items for the serving troops.  There was a long section  on  the jumpers belonging to Giles Brandreth, yet no acknowledgement that he was usually considered a bit of a joke and that his sweaters were  not fashionable.

The piece on the knitting by POWs was interesting but had little to do with the development of the argument.

There was far too much background film- for example  war footage.


And finally  the omissions.

There was a comment , quite rightly, about the fact that knitting machines were often abandoned because they were difficult to use, however no similar comment when they showed  fashion items from knitting books and women’s magazines.  Knitters  by these usually for one pattern, igno9ring the more exotic or difficult to knit patterns.

The only designer interviewed was Kaffe Fassett, who said himself that he is not interested in  garment shaping. There are a number of British Designers, both past and present who could have been interviewed  and would have given  a more balanced picture.

While talking about the knitting effort during the war there was no mention of the coupon system, or  where the yarn for the comfort fund goods came from or who paid for it,

There was no consideration of the role of knitting wool mills and these days specialist spinners , who provide the yarn for the knitters and also produce the pattern books that most knitters rely on.

There was a brief mention   of the fact that in a group  all the women had learnt to knit across the generations ( grandmother teaching daughter etc) .  This fact was passed over very quickly but it is what makes knitting as a craft different from almost all other activities.

Clearly  I could go on and on.


This was a badly  made, superficial programme.  It  did not illustrate the rise of  knitting  a Fashion item.





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