To look at it, you would not think that this book of knitting patterns is 82 years old. The cover and pages are clean, the paper crisp. It feels new, even though the publication date is 1931. Compared with our other vintage knitting publications, Smiths’ ideal book of babies’ woollies is tiny: 7 inches x 4¾ inches, or 124 mm x 183 mm. The cover is elegantly elaborate, crowded with several font variations. It features an oval die cut window, showing a hand-tinted photograph of a baby’s knitted coat, made from one of the patterns inside.
All of the 33 garments, which have been ‘designed and worked’ by the authors are photographed. In knitting publications of the 1920s and 30s, illustrations rather than photographs were still common. These photographs are clustered in the centre of the booklet, and each garment is numbered and named. From this we can identify the little coat on the cover as “Billie”. It is a boy’s coat, in blue (even though the photo shows it as green) edged with white teazel, wool that has been teased or fluffed up with a small, usually wooden comb.
Most of our vintage pattern leaflets in the library’s collection are dog-eared, and flabby, with loose pages or missing covers. Their knitting instructions are littered with pencilled notes and corrections. (‘Shld be 89 st. 3rd row’; ‘ ‘Use green fr blue’) Sometimes a slip of paper with carefully written alternative instruction details, is glued on the page. They have been well-used. Smiths’ ideal book of babies’ woollies by contrast looks as though it has never been used.