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.