Coronation Knits Interview and Giveaway

Today's the day when you can win yourself a copy of Coronation Knits, a classy and sassy new book by Susan Crawford celebrating the Queen's Jubilee. The book features fourteen stylish designs for women, men and children, inspired by the glamour and timeless elegance of the late 40s and early 50s. At this time Princess Elizabeth was wowing the UK and the world with her full skirts, cinched waists and fitted cardigans - ladylike chic just perfect for a princess.

I'm really pleased to be a part of Susan's blog tour, as I've always loved vintage clothes, especially those from the first half of the 20th century, when the crafting was often out of this world. Wearing cast-offs from another era appeals to me both aesthetically, ecologically and economically.  Today it would be impossible to find such fabulous pieces without patronising a couturier. Much vintage can be had for little more than what you'd pay for one of the badly-made rags ubiquitously offered by the high-street chains. Vintage is a leveller, making unique style at an affordable price available to all. What's great about vintage and knitting is that both empower people to create their own individual look. Why follow the pack when you can be creative and save the planet at the same time?

So... here are some of my faves from the book, which incidentally is photographed, styled and published by Susan too.
Crowning Glory
©Susan Crawford
Three crowns are always better than one...
Coronation Sleeveless Pullover
©Susan Crawford
...and why stop there, the more the merrier?
I've been to London to visit the Queen
©Susan Crawford
This lovely little coat takes me back to my own childhood when I wore a similar-styled scarlet model.
Embassy Gloves
©Susan Crawford
Embassy Gloves
©Susan Crawford
Love these images and the intricate lacy design.

I could continue but don't want to give away all of the goodies so early on in the tour. I'm always interested to hear about the lives of other designers, so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to ask Susan some questions.

Can you tell us about how your career as a designer of vintage knits began?
When I first began designing I wasn’t even really aware of the word vintage being used. I was just inspired by earlier decades and looking back to drawings as a child I always drew female characters with a very period feel to them. Then when I first tried to break into the hand knit design world I had difficulty having my designs accepted so for a short time found myself compromising and designing what I thought the market wanted. I have to say this didn’t make me happy as a creative person at all and I think had a big impact on my ultimate decision to self publish. But after trying for a few years and not breaking through I went back to my original aesthetic and began to feel much happier in myself. I had owned an original 1972 copy of Jane Waller’s original A Stitch in Time and in 2007 a chance meeting between myself and Jane sparked off a collaboration to bring the book back to life. As a trained pattern writer I was able to use my technical skills to rewrite the patterns - this was something I’d been doing since I was 15 and had never really appreciated that I had quite a unique skill being able to interpret ‘old’ patterns. And that really is what got people’s attention and which also was partly responsible for the recent interest in all things vintage. I think we were fortunate to be there at the beginning of a trend that I certainly hadn’t anticipated.

Who is your favourite royal style icon, either past or present and why?
I guess, predictably, it's the Queen and also a young Princess Margaret as well. When you look back at their clothes during the 1950s they are absolutely beautiful. But I also love how the Queen dresses when she’s just being herself. Tweed skirts, head scarves and twinsets. That’s just perfection to me! And there’s something that is so quintessentially British in that style, with the use of scottish tweeds and tartans and woollens, in colours that reflect the British countryside. She also wears great sensible shoes too and also most importantly of all, wellies.

I’ve seen the Queen knitting in photos, so if she was going to knit a piece from Coronation Knits, which one would you most like to see her wear, and why?
If it was for formal occasions it would have to be the Diamond Stole as it would work so well with evening wear and of course, a tiara;  but if it was for every day, it would be Silk Rose as this design was strongly influenced by the Queen's fondness of head scarves.
Silk Rose
©Susan Crawford
Diamond Stole
©Susan Crawford
Many of your designs look to the 40s and 50s, what is it particularly that inspires you about these decades?
I love fit, structure and shape, all of which can be seen in woven or knitted clothes from these periods. In the knitwear of the 40s and 50s, I particularly love the use of often quite un-realistic stitch patterns and slightly crazy design details. There is total freedom of expression in so many of the designs and yet in the 1940s this was done whilst yarn was rationed and colours limited and there were even style restrictions such as limiting the number of buttons that could be used, finished length of a garment etc. I really admire how such radical designs could have been created under such strict guidelines. I also love the styling of these decades and the very precise poses from each decade to the next, which can almost date a design as easily as a hair style. Also these two decades along with the 1930s intrigue me generally both as an amateur historian and as a fashion buff and also because of the movies of these decades which I watch regularly and have done since I was young.

If you were setting the mood for a catwalk show of your work, what would the story, music, food and colours be?
I have done catwalk shows with my knits but mainly when Volume 1 of A Stitch in Time was first released and these involved music from the likes of Al Bowly, a slight cheekiness from the models and lots of period styling and posing. For the first fashion show I did we had a 'faux' 1930s BBC presenter doing the commentary in fabulous clipped english. It was fantastic.

If money was no object I would love to do a catwalk show just like that in the original version of The Women starring Joan Crawford. The audience are sat either side of the runway in gilt chairs and the models pose like mannequins before gliding through the audience. The most amazing feature of this scene though is that the rest of the film is completely in black and white and then just for the section of the fashion show it seamlessly moves into colour. If I could come up with a way of recreating that, I would be very happy!

I’m interested to see that you have done the editing, styling and photography for Coronation Knits, as well as the designing. It’s great to carry the vision you have for a book all the way through to the publishing. Can you expand a little on the pros and cons of being an indie publisher?
As I’ve started to mention earlier, I struggled initially to break through into the traditional areas for hand knit designers when I was first starting out. At this point the internet was only in its infancy and selling patterns as pdf downloads had not even begun. However, within a few years the tools to enable a designer like myself to work independently became available and back in 2005 my husband Gavin and I started an online knitting magazine. I was still lecturing at our local art college and Gavin had his own full time career so it was only a part-time venture but the response it generated told us that we were heading in the right direction. Gavin is a graphic artist so when the opportunity came to recreate A Stitch in Time, I don’t think it even occurred to him or to me to look for a third party to be publisher. We knew the hours of work the project would entail would not make it an economically viable project for a commercial publisher and that we would probably lose control of the project and it could well become something we didn’t want it to be. So we made the decision that we (Gavin and I) would fund the venture, do the work ourselves, have the books printed and learn how to distribute and to be publishers! 

I wouldn’t have it any other way as I am able to work and obviously, control, all parts of the process. The styling and photography is a very important part of the process for me as the images tell the story and set the theme of the books. I also love styling and Art Direction so so much. Being an indie publisher isn’t easy though. It involves wearing so many diverse hats. In one day I am everything from designer to marketing staff to distribution to accounts then photographer. We can’t take holidays and we don’t earn enough money to keep the two of us! There are also much greater financial risks as we fund each project from conception to print and then marketing the books. This is the part that keeps me up at night and don’t enjoy at all, but I get to make the choices, take the risks that I choose to take and ultimately publish the books that I really want to write, so for me it works and I love what I do. 

Susan has kindly offered to donate a copy of Coronation Knits, so if you'd like to go into the draw just leave a comment here before next Tuesday 19th June, telling me which of the designs in this post is your favourite and also, if you could chose a design period to be born into, which one would it be?  If you're already itching to get your hands on this Jubilee treasure, it's available for sale in both print and ebook versions here.

Next stop on the tour is the lovely Jen Arnall-Culliford on 16th June.

12th June 2012   More Yarn Will Do The Trick  Jean Moss
16th June 2012 JenACKnitwear   Jen Arnall Culliford
18th June 2012 The Icelandic Knitter  Helene Magnusson
20th June 2012   Knitting Institute  Knitting Magazine
24th June 2012  
 Ingrid Murnane Investigates   Ingrid Murnane
28th June 2012   
Domestic Soundscape   Felicity Ford
29th June 2012   
Sheep To Shawl   Donna Druchunas
7th July 2012     
Fourth Edition   Karie
2nd July 2012    
The Making Spot   Simply Knitting  
6th July 2012     
rock+purl   Ruth Garcia-Alcantud
10th July 2012   
By gum, by golly!   Tasha Moss
14th July 2012   
tomofholland   Tom Van Deijnen
18th July 2012   
Woolly Wormhead   Woolly
22nd July 2012  
Crinoline Robot   Mim
25th July 2012  
Sexyknitter.com  Sarah Wilson


Comments

  1. Clearly another one of Susan's amazing books and I would love to win a copy. My favourite in this post is Crowning Glory as I simply love hats! The period I would love to have been born into purely based on the clothes and lifestyle...the 1920's/30's, all those Flapper Dresses, worn with ropes of pearls and small caps on swinging bob's. I love the music of that period too.
    Hope you are not flooded? Hugs Heike x

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  2. I love the crowning glory beret--it's lovely, and small enough that I could knit it over a weekend! If upcoming weather is anything like the Jubilee weekend I should have plenty of rain to keep me indoors and with my wool, too...:)

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  3. What a fascinating interview. I have recently started designing knitted baby wear inspired by 30s, 40s, and 50s styles so I guess I'd pick the 40s to be born into style-wise. I also knit a fair few shawls and wraps and my vote here would go to the Diamond Shawl.

    Jean I've popped a link to this giveaway in my blog's sidebar, hope that's okay :D

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    1. Thanks Annie, that's really kind of you :D

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  4. Hello,

    I just LOVE "I've been to London to See the Queen". Like you, I remember wearing a wee coat like this. What a great style it would be to scale up to an adult size.

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  5. Oh gosh, it's a tough call. There's a lot to love in Coronation Knits. But! I do love a knit with a sense of humour so I'd have to go with the sleeveless pullover. I can't wait to see it on a woman. It's playful and shows that you don't take life too seriously. Definitely what's needed in a tough economy!

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  6. PS Sorry, forgot to say 30's & 40's wartime Britain is the greatest inspiration to me. The sheer resourcefulness & fabulous fitted structure of the clothes has never been matched since.

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  7. My mother and a slew of aunts were in their teens and twenties during WWII, and were involved in many efforts. Often years later they would pull out a project and exclaim, "Time to get Knittin' for Britain!"
    I think the Crowning glory beret is lovely, it's the first thing I would make. How nice of Susan to offer some books for give aways!

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  8. Fabulous, fabulous!! As I scrolled down through the pix, I oohed and aahed over each - love them all :) The Embassy gloves are wonderful and really like the Coronation Pullover too - very much so...... thank Susan for generously giving this tour too! I think the 40's for me as a design period - love the menswear-pants-for-women a la Katherine Hepburn (sorry, wrong nationality!) yet frocks etc still had great style.

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  9. I love the Diamond Stole. I get cold easily and it would be such a stylish way to keep warm! I think I'd like to spend my teens in the 30s, my 20s in the 40s and my 30s in the 50s. I have great-aunt who got married in 1939, so pretty much I'd love to have been born when she was.

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  10. Thanks for a lovely interview, Jean! I love the old movies, too, and the styles when "ladies were ladies!" Though unfortunately I've become less built for "fitted" knits as the years go by... :) I'd have to try the Embassy Gloves for starters - at least my hands haven't changed!

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  11. I love all the patterns, of course. It's fantastic to see how Susan played with the theme and managed to come up with so many wearable, everyday patterns. But the first thing I'd have to make would probably be "I've been to London to visit the Queen." The lines and styling are just fantastic.
    As a medievalist, I shouldn't admit to this, but 40s, wartime-era Britain is absolutely the era into which I wish I'd been born. The styles and the spirit are definitely things worth emulating.

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  12. I would love to make the men's crown vest for my husband! It is so whimsical! But of course, I would also love to knit everything else for myself! I particularly love the 30's and 40's - when I wear dresses that cinch at my natural waist, I look much much better than trying to find low-slung jeans to fit my behind!

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  13. I love the Silk Rose - it's so intricate.
    If I had to pick a decade it would be the 20s. It was such an original time, when society and fashion went in directions they'd never gone before. And I'm a sucker for the elaborate trims, embroidery and details on 20s clothing.

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  14. My favorite design in this post is Crowning Glory. My favorite fashion is from the New Look era. I not sure I'd wish to have been born then (b/c e.g. the gender/race/sexuality discrimination), but I love being able to wear those fashions now.

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  15. I love Crowning Glory. I love so many eras in fashion it would be so hard to choose, I love the flared hemlines and cinched waists of the 50's and I absolutely love the Mod look of the 60's. The 20's looked way too fashionably fun....there's something for me in every era, except maybe the 80's lol:)Beautiful Book!

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  16. While I love *all* the designs, my lace addiction would have me choose the Diamond Stole as my favorite single pattern.

    As for my favorite clothing era, I would love to have been in my 20s in the 1930s - I still drool over the knitting books of the early 1930s, when a more feminine influence entered into fashion, yet there were still plenty of casual designs for more active women.

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  17. My needles want to work on the Diamond Stole. The design period I like best is the 1960's. Of course I was a teenager then so I got to make my own designs but now my DD love the 60's looks too so I get to make some for them.

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  18. I LOVE the Diamond Stole. I have been looking for the perfect red stole and this looks to fit the bill! What era would I want re-visit? IT would be the 20's for the wonderful fashions that exsisted - loved the flapper dresses and cloche hats.

    Angel Cooper
    angelcooper at hotmail dot com

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  19. I just love the 1940's knitting designs. Very very clever the way they used such a small amount of yarn to knit such creative designs. My Mother knitted many of them too. I had a Princess Anne coat very similar to the one in your post - mind was blue I think worn with leggings held in place with elastic under the foot. My fingers are at the ready to knit the Coronation Stole - I am a Coronation Baby so would feel right at home wearing it. A big thank you to you all for offering this competition....

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  20. I can't wait to see this whole book! I am enthralled with the Coronation Sleeveless Pullover, the colour choice really enhances the pattern.
    My personal choice of era, is the 50's because I find the shape of female fashion at this time, to be the most complimentary, to the largest portion of the feminine population. The wider collars of the time send the eye of the viewer upward to the wearer's face. The hourglass shape of most of the dresses covers most eveeryone faults and enhances their attributes.

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  21. Oh, it would have to be the little coat. I also had a very similar version as a child and my Mum made the same pattern for my daugheters when they were little. Brings back lots of lovely memories! Sue.

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  22. "I've been to London to visit the Queen" is absolutely wonderful! As for a design era, one of the things that's nice about right now is that you get to pick and choose bits from different times without being so strictly bound by the rules of what was acceptable when the things were originally fashionable!

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  23. I love the "Silk Rose" it reminds me of a rose comforter at my grandmothers when I was a child, I miss them both. I like the 20's and the 40's wonderful lines and ideas!

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  24. I think the Embassy Gloves looks lovely and I'm definitely putting them in the possible-projects-for-autumn-folder!
    I like the 40's and the ingenuity that wartime rations brought to fashion.

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  25. There are several that I love!
    The "I've been to London to visit the queen" coat is absolutely lovely!
    The "Crowning Glory" and "Diamond" stole are also right up there on my list of 'must make' projects!

    Fashion wise, I'd have to go with the 50's. The fashions were made to fit the woman and not the other way around as happens so often these days.

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  26. I love the Embassy gloves.

    I like 1920's/early 30s style but the 1950s silhouette is more flattering to my figure type as it is more about embracing curves!

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  27. At the moment I love Silk Rose the most. It really appeals to me so much. Also, I love the 'I went to London'-jacket, to bad I don't know any little kids to knit for.

    Designwise, the 40ies would be my favorite era. It suits my figure type, but I also just really like the styles. I can't explain how happy I was when ASIT2 advised me that indeed 40ies patterns should suit my figure more then 30ies or 50ies. Although, I also still love 30ies and before.

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  28. My favorite would be the Crowning Glory hat. So cute. I definitely have an affinity for 30's fashions, but love (almost) all the 20's to 50's looks!

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  29. What a wonderful interview! I love to get my teeth into something and you really give us so much detail; perfect. Being a costume (and garden) aesthetics researcher I would say that every period has its compelling features but I think I would opt for the 30s. Les années folles here in France are of great interest to me and my mother was a young (unhappily) married woman in Paris in that decade. Which pattern? Hmmm, the hat, I think.

    I am your newest follower!

    Stephanie

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  30. A great interview, thanks for sharing. I love the diamond shawl the most, but it is so hard to choose; I love the little coat too, I just wish it came in grown-up size! It's also difficult to choose a decade, but I think the 1950s are my favourite and suit my figure well.

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  31. What a lovely interview, thank you!

    My favourite has to be Crowning Glory. Well and my design period is the time between 1940-1950s before the American style of big skirts arrived. Pencil skirts and such. Lovely!

    Keep up the good work here, such a pleasure!

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  32. I really like the embassy gloves, they are really pretty. I think I would really enjoy being able to observe the decadent Berlin cabaret scene of the 1920s and 1930s, this period was a wonderful one for design all round.

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