‘Tell Them of Us’ – Knitting for a WW1 Film

Social media are very useful! It was through Ravelry that I was first alerted to the fact that on Facebook there was a film company wanting knitters to make costumes for a film and exhibition focusing on one name from one war memorial in one village in England.

People responded to the call from all over the UK and from North America. It turned out that the film company was WAG Screen, a community group who specialise in making films about Lincolnshire’s history and heritage. The war memorial was in Thimbleby, Lincolnshire, and the man on whom the film is focusing is Robert Crowder. There are more details on the Tell Them of Us tab here.

The knitters who responded were asked to fill in a form about what types of knitting they were familiar with. I responded and mentioned that I am used to making reproductions of garments from photographs. To cut a long story short, I was asked to recreate a jacket for Grace Crowder, Robert’s sister, who by all accounts was a resourceful woman and herself a knitter.

Pauline Loven, who is responsible for the costumes, sent me a copy of the photo, and we discussed with type of wool needed. I thought DK would be about right, and while Pauline sorted out the yarn, I began work on the pattern.

Grace original sm

As always when taking a garment from a photo, the key is to find the areas of the photo which show the true pattern up best. In this case the photo was clear, and I could see many of the stitches. The areas circled gave the best definition.

Grace close up

The lapels were definitely garter stitch, and the rest of the jacket was some sort of double moss stitch, but with a break. By looking closely at the pic, increasing and decreasing the magnification, I came up with two possible stitch patterns:

initial ideas 1initial ideas 2I then worked up a swatch in an odd bit of DK I had lying about. After 3 or 4 rows it was clear that the first idea was wrong, so I went on to the second. After half a dozen rows it was clear that this pattern was correct.

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:01:18 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resize

I then made the final chart.

Final ChartOnce this part was ready, I then spent some time working out the edgings. On first sight it looked as if there was a band of a darker colour at the cuffs, but closer inspection showed that this was just a trick of the light! The cuffs are knitted long, then folded back. Again on first sight I wondered whether the cuffs and collar were knitted in rib, but comparing them to the bottom of the jacket (which one area shows is definitely garter stitch on smaller needles) it became clear that they too were garter stitch, but on the smaller needles.

A few days ago the yarn arrived from Pauline. Rowan is one of the yarn companies sponsoring the project, and my yarn is their Pure Wool DK. I swatched the main stitch pattern in it, to get the needle size and the stitch tension. I was able to use that to start working out the numbers for the pattern.

swatch and yarn

Pauline also sent me a photo of the actress playing Grace, a woman called Victoria Rigby, and her measurements. (There is a video of Victoria playing Grace reading one of Robert’s letters from the front line in 1917 on YouTube here.) It is so much easier only having to think of designing ONE size rather than the 10 to 15 I usually have to do!


Now I have started knitting the back. I have the pattern written to the armholes, and by then I will have the row tension, so can work the next bit out.

PhotoELF Edits: 2014:01:18 --- Save - Overwrite --- resize

There will be another instalment of my progress as I go! And you can follow the progress of the film on the Orkney To Omaha blog.


23 thoughts on “‘Tell Them of Us’ – Knitting for a WW1 Film

  1. What fun! I hope you will be able to publish the pattern for your own resale. I’m going to share it on ravelry group cause combining history and knitting, well it doesn’t get much better than that!!! good luck! and have fun!

  2. Splendid, Liz! I love this sort of detective work. And having watched you pore over old photographs, I know about your facility with this type of work firsthand. Me, I’m looking at the sheep and the fleeces (and peripherally at the textiles) with the same sort of determined curiosity. I, too, hope you’ll be able to publish this pattern. Even in one size. Those who want to can figure out the other nine to fourteen options–! (Or it will give them good practice in doing so if they’re determined enough. At least for me, that’s how I figured out how to do such things.)

  3. Lovely work, Liz! I am wondering if the stitch pattern looks good on the reverse side, imagining it does. Seems like it could be a cushy pattern for a scarf. Thanks for link to blog about the whole project, very interesting.

  4. I am a 70ish lady living in the Shenandoah Valley of VA. I love all your posts on Knitted LACE list. I love everything about the place that you live – so different from here. I would love to visit there someday. Keep on writing you knitted lace list. Barbara

  5. That’s fascinating – I look forward to seeing your finished jacket. I have been looking out for the original pattern in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection – haven’t found it yet, but I’m still hopeful.

    1. It is very definitely hand knit – I can see the odd mistakes, and some finishing isn’t perfect. It would be interesting if you did find the pattern – there are bits I am having to guess at.

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