Thursday, 4 February 2010

Preparing for Gansey Class

I'm getting ready for another Gansey Class today. We are going to make an adult version this time, and because one of the ladies took the baby class, I want to find more unusual stuff, not just about Ganseys, but about the history of sweaters.

Going through my bookshelves, I came across my reprint copy of the 1901 T.Eaton Co. Catalogue. I completely forgot about this book while getting ready for the Baby Gansey Class. I wondered what the average turn of the century Canadian would have been buying in sweaters and yarns.

I investigated. Which is of course why this post is rather late. I spent several cups of coffee poring over its interesting pages.

I checked out the price of yarn, which ranged from 75 cents to $1.15 a pound for fingering weight yarn, and for the lone listing as worsted knitting yarn, (extra strong and durable) for 50 cents a pound. Names familiar to Canadian and British yarnies such as Baldwins, and Beehive appear, but Eaton's had its own yarn, branded as Eaton's Scotch. Though priced by the pound they seem to be sold as one ounce skeins.

There is a selection of things familiar to lace knitter's (if you have Victorian lace or are interested in old pattern books) noted as Berlin Wools. These are much finer, and several are noted as floss or have notations of good used for the type of yarn. Vest wool, a silk and woolen blend for edging garments. The price for these is harder to figure. Many are listed only as sold by skein. Two, Wyvern and Lady Betty, are sold by skein and pound. My guess is that skeins were an ounce here as well.

Knitting and crochet cottons sold for 5 cents a ball. How much is on a ball, I cannot say, though two brands refer to a hundred yards for the much more expensive 12 cents. The familiar names Coats and Anchor show up.

Crochet hooks were 2 for 5 cents and came in lengths up to 10 inches long. Knitting needles of steel came for the bargain price of 3 cents for a complete set (though it doesn't say what was a set), and better quality bone and rubber needles were 10 cents a pair. Wood needles, 5 cents a pair.

We are far from these prices, and yet, if you been around yarn for a while, the names are comforting and familiar.

Interesting reading, but there is so much more. I'm going to stop a little longer here, contemplating the mysteries of Braids and gimps and pages of ribbons before moving on with my day. Not really the history of sweaters, but hey, a little side trip is good for the soul.


Sandra said...

ooo, I'd be spending most of the day and a whole pot of coffee looking over something like that...

mrs.spit said...

You know what I like about old eaton's catalogues? The fact that you could buy buttons. Lots of buttons. Buttons of all sorts of variety.

A good button is hard to come by now.

Sigrun said...

Some of the inspirations for my work for the Citadel--period pieces sometimes come from old Eaton's Catalogues. They give me a picture, yarn, measurements, and away I go. Your little nostalgia trip is inspiring me to go look at my MIL's old 1930s and 1940s needlecraft leaflets and booklets.