The Good, the Bad, and the Knitted Knickers

Last week my friend gave me a vintage knitting book which she passed on from her husband's mum. I was delighted, as it gives an interesting glimpse into a different world of knitting. Today we're lucky that sewing and knitting are, on the whole, hobbies. We can easily buy lovely yarns and gorgeous fabrics from all over the world to make clothing, and if it works out more expensive than the equivalent purchased item, it doesn't really matter because making the item is also a hobby and it's feels extra special to have something custom made in a world of cheap high street fashion. For better or worse, clothing is so cheap that it is hardly ever cheaper to make your own clothes. But it wasn't that far in the past that there wasn't the same choice - if you wanted something new you'd often make it yourself because you couldn't afford to buy new, or because there really wasn't anything to buy in the shops (I'm thinking war time here).

Anyway - the book. It's called 'The Greenock Handbook of Knitting & Crocheting', produced by the Scotch Wool & Hosiery Stores, of which there were over 400 branches in the UK, including 20 in Glasgow alone. I found this image of their Inverness Store in the 1930s on the Highland Council's website here

Doesn't it look amazing? You can also see their shop on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow here. I'm really jealous that there were shops like this all over the country. Incidentally if you're interested in looking at Glasgow shop fronts from the past, the Virtual Mitchell Library website is well worth checking out. I looked up some of the addresses of the Glasgow shops given in the book but frustratingly most of the photos seem to have just part of the sign of the shop I'm looking for, typically.

The book contains patterns for everyday items and accessories like socks and scarves but there are some interesting and unusual pieces too. I'm guessing it's probably from the 1930s or thereabouts.

I've not seen anything like these palmless mittens before - Any ideas of the advantage of being palmless?! I think they look pretty good in any case.

These elegant gloves look like a LOT of fiddly work;

This looks really cosy. I think someone should bring the balaclava back into fashion. I don't have the confidence to try, but someone else definitely should...

Knitted knee covers! Again, odd but cosy.

This large rug looks lovely, and the pattern includes a note to say that you can bring your finished item to the store to have it brushed - I wonder if this service is still available anywhere these days?

This vest is pretty;

Tea cosies are pretty common in vintage pattern terms, but a teapot nest?! Never seen one before. Each of the cosies also has half a china figurine attached (it's listed in the pattern) so it looks like a lady's skirt, just like those classic and tacky toilet roll covers

And finally, ta dah!

I presume that these would have been worn over pants, for warmth, rather than next to the skin, just like gym knickers. (Tell me someone else had to wear these hideous items at school!)  Surely they'd have been too itchy to be worn as normal pants, but I'd love to find out some more about them.

In other news, my Advance dress is nearly finished! Just a bit of hand sewing to do and it will be complete on schedule for my birthday.

K x


  1. I would make a balaclava if I knew how to knit well! That looks awesome!

  2. Oh I WISH shops like that still existed! That book looks amazing - never heard of a teapot nest either .. and palmless mittens? Maybe for grip when driving or something, but can't imagine they'd keep you very warm! Please, you have to make something out of this book - anything! xx

  3. Molly, I agree, it looks so warm. I think it would take a lot of confidence to wear it today, though the cosiness might just compensate.

    Lucy, you might be right about driving, they're certainly more elegant than any driving gloves I've seen.

    I may well knit something when I've got some of my current projects done - if any one else fancies knitting anything they've seen I'd be happy to copy a pattern and send it to you!

  4. Hi, thanks for leaving a comment on my blog.
    What an interesting book - I think I could have done with some knitted knickers this winter- and yes, I do remember the dreaded gym knickers (navy blue with a pale blue stripe down the side - yuk. How to make already self conscious teenagers feel even worse).
    I can't wait to see your dress.
    Donna x
    PS, I'm going for Vogue 8613

  5. was intrugued by the palmless gloves! can only find lacrosse and windsurfing references to them on google, so I'll go with Lucy and say driving and / or horse riding.

    I just get the vibe they're for every day use rather than specialist gaming equipment. Would be great if they were for windsurfing though

    love the blog!

  6. sorry, anonymous is me, catherine!

  7. OMG! I am late to this party but had to comment. The knit knickers look just like the "brown bags" we had to wear at school over our "liners" we wore them for sports and regular uniform. Protecting us in case our skirts "caught the wind"..we were by the sea. HATED THEM. We were an all girls school. If only the staff could see what children wear to school now!

  8. the palmless gloves are exactly what i am looking for! i can't use my hands when my palms are covered, but the backs of my hands and fingers get so cold. i also don't like having my thumb confined, for example when driving or using a mouse. this will be fun to try!


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