15 May 2009

Episode 79: Stitches in Time

A brief history of the sweater, from Liverpool knitwear designer and fashion historian, Susan Crawford; plus a sweater every year, from guest writer, M Lynn Yu.

stitch-in-time1Special thanks this week to M Lynn Yu, for writing and reading her beautiful essay, and to Susan Crawford, for spearheading a worthy project, and for taking the time to speak with me this week.

A Stitch in Time – Vintage Knitting and Crochet Patterns is available via Amazon.co.uk and from Susan Crawford’s website, Knit on the Net.

There is still time to take the poll, if you haven’t already done so. Please tell me what knitting thing you most want to learn. And if one of those things was the moebius cast on, check out Cat Bordi’s excellent video of the technique on YouTube.

As always, you are welcome to leave comments here, or comments and/or voicemail in the Cast On Drop.

Wardrobe Refashion offers great inspiration for make do or make over projects.

Zauberball socks. Zowie or Zero? You decide.


KniTunes were provided by and used with the permission of:

At long last, it’s that time again! Eurovision 2009, airs on BBC 1 on Saturday 15 May, at 8:00pm GMT. Join me on Twitter for some serious snark, because that is what it’s all about.

A little trip down memory lane, with the Ukraine entry from 2007.

Insane? Yes. Now tantsevaite khorosho! (I have it on good authority, that’s Ukrainian for “Dance well!”)


  1. Barb wrote:


    First of all, I love the socks. I have a couple of balls of Zauberball that I have to use as well. But they’re a bit down the queue.

    I also wanted to tell you that I’m in love with Audible.com. I heard you talk about it, and Kelley Petkun of KnitPicks and others as well, so I joined. I’m hooked — of course, I was an easy sell, I’d been renting recorded books from years for use in the car when traveling.

    You might try the new Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes mysteries written by Laurie R King. They’re really good, too.


    Posted on 5.15.09 ·
  2. Bex wrote:

    I like the socks. Plus, they’re just socks. I also wanted to tell you that your podcast is _always_ a treat, even when you and I disagree 😉

    Posted on 5.15.09 ·
  3. meg wrote:

    Hey kiddo!
    I think the socks turned out great … of course that is because I like those colours as you know. LOL
    But I believe you made the right decision to go with plain stockinette. Nice!

    Posted on 5.15.09 ·
  4. Sarah wrote:


    I have two guys in my house that would love those socks. I’ve learned over time that all socks are wonderful when knit with love, even when the colors aren’t mine.

    I’ve been an audible user for years and continue to love the books and so do others in my family. They’ve been listen to on road trips as we traveled full time for 4 years in an RV. I also listen to them as I travel several times a month on business trips. I love knitting and listening to someone read me a story. 🙂

    Posted on 5.16.09 ·
  5. Patti wrote:

    Listening to Enter the Haggis made me realize that it’s been far too long since I tuned in to my favourite online music site http://www.celticradio.net/ If you get a chance, check out Barleyjuice, too. Love those men in kilts!

    I’ve been a fan of Wardrobe Refashioning for some time, also. Some hits – some misses – nearly always inspiring, though.

    Love your podcasts – keep ’em coming! 😀

    Posted on 5.16.09 ·
  6. Karen S wrote:

    I love the zauberball socks! Gorgeous!

    I have been looking for the link to the site you mentioned in the podcast, the multiperson blog with restyling projects. Sounds like a great site to visit for inspiration.

    Posted on 5.16.09 ·
  7. Karen, I’ve added the link to Wardrobe Refashion above. Thanks for the reminder!

    Posted on 5.16.09 ·
  8. Sanya wrote:

    LOL! I so wish Eurovision would play here in the States.

    Posted on 5.16.09 ·
  9. Sue wrote:


    The essay was so wonderful and moving – thank you. Also a particular thanks for the interview with Susan Crawford. I bought “A Stitch in Time” a couple of weeks ago — it’s fabulous. Now I understand why the underclothes were included. On another note, I need to remember to add to the button box which I inherited.

    Posted on 5.16.09 ·
  10. Beth wrote:

    This may be a once in a lifetime happening……….. With the teachers and classes offered……….
    It would be wild if you could show up too…..


    Posted on 5.16.09 ·
  11. Louise AnnBenjamin wrote:

    Brenda, I thought that I had lost you, and almost went completely over the edge. Some of my microsXXXt software ate my itunes library, and I was heartbroken. I thought I would have to start completely from scratch. I finally got my computer sorted out, and like a gift from heaven, another podcast from you! Wonderful, marvelous and stupendous.
    A Brenda Dayne podcast is a uber event in our home.
    Even my husband suggests now, that I head to the bedroom, (when my nerves are strained) listen to that “knitting lady”and knit.
    I have yet to try my first set of socks, and am encouraged to try… By the way, I’ve got the book “Mindful Knitting” coming from Ebay. Thank you very much. Also, Audible.com is a fav, but I also supplement with Itunes audiobooks. Currently listening to Stephanie Pearl McPhee’s Casts off.. Also listening to George Carlin’s When will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops. Another good one is Knitting Bones, by Monica Ferris… About a Minneapolis yarn shop owner who investigates murder.

    Thank you again for all the wonderful things you do.
    Louise Ann Benjamin

    Posted on 5.18.09 ·
  12. Lydia wrote:

    Hello Brenda
    Just loved the podcast and the very poignant knitting story.
    I also loved the interview with Susan Crawford. What a brilliant idea to stuff the buttons with waste yarn, absolutely brilliant…..

    Posted on 5.18.09 ·
  13. KP wrote:

    Hello Brenda
    I really like the socks, but then again, I enjoy variegated footwear with a passion. I just wanted to tell you how happy it made me to hear Enter the Haggis, One Last Drink, again. I first heard it in your earlier podcasts, and I got so tired of scrolling through that episode just to hear the song that I went online and bought the CD. I also let my boyfriend listen to it, and after a couple times through he got it for himself. We love the song so much we have kind of made it “our” song. We know it is about death and all that stuff, but it makes us so happy to hear it we just had to make it ours. I am glad I got a chance to let you know how much I appreciate all the effort you put into picking artists for your podcast because I enjoy hearing new music. Your podcast is one of the few places that has turned me on enough to buy the stuff for myself. Thank you!

    Posted on 5.18.09 ·
  14. Good episode today. I am glad you spelled Liesl. I thought you were saying Weasel, which suggests a very different kind of sweater, don’t you think? Thanks for making me smile!

    Posted on 5.18.09 ·
  15. Lisa wrote:

    Thank you for another wonderful episode. I particularly liked M Lynn Yu’s essay – such a wonderful and poignant story. Do we really have to wait two weeks for your next installment?

    Posted on 5.18.09 ·
  16. Thanks for another great podcast Brenda! I was so happy to hear enter the haggis again. I was also excited to hear you answer my question about being able to download the snippets. I’m off to download them now, thanks again!

    Posted on 5.19.09 ·
  17. kathleen wrote:

    HOW DO YOU DO THAT?? you always manage to talk about something that is so on point with my life, that sometimes I don’t even know it until I hear you say it, then BOOM there it is! LOL. For example:

    I listened to Stitches in Time while I was walking through golden gate park. It was the day after the infamous “Bay to Breakers” race/walk in San Francisco, this year we had about 65,000 racers. It is always a great day to look for bottle caps, given the trash situation (which is promptly cleaned up). I decided to make an art project for my vegetable beds using bottle caps found along the path and that is precisely when you starting talking about
    “make it work, make do or do without” and reusing found objects to make new things. See?

    ps – I LOVE audible.com and have been a member for about 6 years now. I’m happy that you two have found each other!

    Posted on 5.19.09 ·
  18. Pam Mulla wrote:

    I was listening to this in the car but the name Jane Waller sounded so familiar and sure enough, when I got home I realized I have the original book. I think I bought it at a flea market or overstock book store. What an amazing coincidence.

    Posted on 5.19.09 ·
  19. Vanessa wrote:

    Heh… like Pam Mulla I had a weird coincidence experience – I was going through a whole DRAWER of old paperwork (helloooo, 4 years of taxes!) and came across various souvenirs of overseas holidays. I opened a brown paper bag stamped Gatwick and found a postcard I vaguely remember buying for it’s kitsch vintage value (as well as environmentally sound values!) – it was your Make Do and Mend image.

    Go figure. There IS such a thing as coinky-dink!

    Posted on 5.21.09 ·
  20. cici wrote:

    another great show! Thank you for Katy Pfaffl…. She is my new favorite? M Lynn Yu’s essay was great

    Posted on 5.23.09 ·
  21. Kelsey wrote:

    I LOVED this episode and the last one!
    This theme is amazing. And the timing with my life is so perfect that it’s scary.
    I’m uber excited for the rest of the series.
    Thanks for doing what you do.

    Posted on 5.23.09 ·
  22. Natalie wrote:

    I actually really like those Zauberball socks. I may have to try that yarn now.

    Posted on 5.24.09 ·
  23. Carol Bateman wrote:

    Hi Brenda
    I enjoyed your interview with Susan Crawford very much.
    I inherited from my Mum- in- law , Jenny, two old knitting booklets that i have always enjoyed looking at…..
    The first is Paton and Baldwins Continental Knitting for Autumn 1954. Shot in Rome with young Liz Taylor look alikes, it features Home and Office wear as well as “Lounge-abouts” and beaded gloves and a ribboned bolero for ” Cocktails and the Theatre”. The booklet cost 2/6d and you’re right the patterns are for a more slender generation using strange yarns and piys……… can you imagine the knitting Heroine casting on 155stitches on no14 needles in Patons Lucelle Fine Ply in black to knit the
    “sleeveless, classic sweater……an essential in the well -dressed wardrobe”.
    All this in a 1950’s Mining village in NE England .
    My second booklet , I know my own Nana had a copy too, is Paton and Baldwins “Woolcraft” …” produced in complete conformity with the Authorised Economy Standards”
    A magic forty- seven pages of knitting and crochet instructions and patterns for everything and everyone in the family. And yes on page 41 , between the Lady’s cardy and the boy’s jersey, neatly folded, so as not to shock ,are Lady’s Knickers.

    Posted on 5.25.09 ·
  24. Kimberly wrote:

    As alway, a wonderful listen. Love the socks and now will have to hunt for the book. I grew up in my grandparents house and learned at an early age to reuse until it’s gone. Thanks for the reminder about that.
    Loved hearing Enter The Haggis again. I must tell you that the first time you played them, it cost me a whole lot of yarn money! I had to have that song and ended up ordering the CD directly from them (ended up LOVING it btw) and well, what with the conversion rate and taxes and shipping & handling, let’s just say it cost about a pair of socks and a shawl. But it was worth every penny and it’s one of the few CD’s I have that is still in rotation in my disc changer.
    Looking forward to the next episode.

    Posted on 5.25.09 ·
  25. Wollgudi wrote:

    Hi Brenda

    I dont see any problems with the socks, they just look great!

    Posted on 5.26.09 ·
  26. Josie Branco wrote:

    A couple of weeks ago I downloaded all episodes of all the knitting podcasts available on iTunes to my iPod. Yeah, I am behind the times. I have owned an iPod for nearly two years and generally the podcasts that I enjoy are the BBC World News and National Public Radio shows (those kinds of things). I just love knitting ever since I taught myself after moving to Chicago in 1979. With much anticipation, I started to listen to each podcaster. Generally, I could only stand to listen for one episode and then I just deleted the rest of their entries. Some lasted two or three episodes only to then be completely deleted. But your podcasts are in a league of their own. I listened to the most current podcast when I downloaded all of them and have now started from the very beginning. Last night I finished episode 18. I am guessing that we are about the same age (I am 54) and I find myself thoroughly entertained and delighted by your podcasts. The music selections are terrific, and I enjoy your musings and your friends. Thank you, Brenda. No need to respond.

    Posted on 5.26.09 ·
  27. Kathleen wrote:

    OMG! I fell for the sexy winding on this too! Had to purchase 3 @ $21 each… OUCH! But the socks are lovely and I am enjoying watching them emerge. Didn’t occur to me to rewind, but I guess I’m glad I didn’t.

    Posted on 5.28.09 ·
  28. Felix wrote:

    I love the way those socks turned out. The colours are beautiful. I too am a sucker for those earth-tone/blue/green mixes…

    I thought this week’s essay along with the thrifting tips from Susan Crawford were fantastic. So many good ideas there, and tips/resources for refashioning things. You might be interested in Rachael Matthews’ current project – the UFO Project Administration Service? She has organised this v fun interface/blog/exhibition around the idea that knitters with projects that haven’t been finished, or knitters who don’t have a project to work on, can get help from the UFO Project Administration Service! You can either finish off someone else’s UFO or submit a UFO of your own. I really like the idea, I think it is a great way to turn festering/stagnant projects into new things; artworks or finished objects… all the work will be exhibited in the Jerwood Space in London, in June.

    Just thought it might fit with the theme of make-do-and-mend, refashioning from old projects and working with existing stuff, rather than buying in new… links:


    Posted on 5.29.09 ·
  29. Felix wrote:

    …I just went a looking for info on when UFOs will be exhibited and it’s part of the Jerwood Contemporary Makers exhibition, 10th June – 19th July, link here:


    Posted on 5.29.09 ·
  30. Louise Williams wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    I’m a spinner. I love to spin, but up until recently a long-held prejudice against knitting prevented me from doing anything about the expanding stash of odd-ball handspun. It was starting to reach critical mass – I was worried the stash might topple over on top of me and my corpse would have to be excavated three weeks later by cave-divers wearing snorkels.

    Insipired by your eloquence on the subject, I’ve once again taken up the pointy sticks and am starting to enjoy the process of knitting in the same way as I enjoy the process of spinning, without hurrying to get to the end. The stash is reducing. Veeerrrrry slowly. I forsee many dodgy stocking-stitch scarves, misshapen socks and floppy hats in my future 🙂

    Thank you for your hard work. I do a lot of walking and Cast-On has become a constant on my iPod. Your speaking voice is pleasant and I appreciate that your interviewees are allowed to speak without inappropriate interruption. The podcast music doesn’t usually thrill me, but there are occiasional gems in there too. Many years listening to dance music has warped my brain, I suspect, which is probably why “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” is still on my iPod from 2007.

    Best wishes,

    Posted on 5.29.09 ·
  31. Love ALL your podcasts and really look forward to them. Question: I write a blog and am making E. Zimmerman’s Surprise Baby Jacket and would like to reference M. Lynn Yu’s essay that she read on Episode 79 since I am using all sorts of “old” yarns to make the sweater, and the essay would fit right into the blog. I Googled Yu, but could not find the essay. Thanks! Nancy

    Posted on 6.1.09 ·
  32. Nancy, M Lynn Yu’s lovely essay was written specifically for Cast On, and I don’t think she’s published it anywhere online. You’re welcome, of course, to link back to this episode of Cast On in your blog post.
    Best, Brenda

    Posted on 6.2.09 ·
  33. T2 wrote:

    I always enjoy the podcast, but this was my favorite in recent memory. By shear coincidence, I was adding even more patches to my favorite jeans as I listened to the show. I loved the mix of essays, interviews/tips and music. Speaking of music, “Things Are What You Make of Them ” has been in my head all week (maybe because I bought the single after hearing it on the show).

    I’m really excited about this series and can’t wait to see what else you have to share.

    Posted on 6.2.09 ·
  34. Thanks, Brenda. I will link back to this podcast. I am currently taking all the yarn off a sweater I knit two years ago, and it is slow going. Said sweater never fit right, so am reusing the yarn for a sweater for a child. I will listen again to M Lynn Yu’s essay, and can’t help thinking how hard it must have been for the grandmother to take apart TEN sweaters each summer and fall in anticipation for the next year’s larger sweaters. Thank you again.

    Posted on 6.9.09 ·
  35. Marta wrote:

    Hello Brenda – I’ve loved your podcast since I started listening (a few months ago). I’ve caught up, took a little break during year end and am now catching up again. What a beautiful essay. It strikes me in particular now since my father passed last spring and my sister, unexpectedly, at the end of April…those family memories seep in at the oddest moments. M Lynn Yu brought a deluge…a hanky alert next time, please, and huge thanks to her and to you. 😉 Keep recording! You remind me of my sister in many ways and I look forward to each episode.

    Thanks for all your hard work and enthusiasm – Marta

    Posted on 6.14.09 ·
  36. Evelyn wrote:

    Catching up (belatedly) last night while doing some (also belated) mending — I’m not used to this once a week pace for your podcasts!

    At any rate, as I listened, it brought to mind a couple of sentences I read in a Margaret Atwood book once, where someone who had lived through the Depression was explaining how irrevocably that had changed her generation. The character summed it up in two sentences: “We saved things. We saved string.”

    It was so brief, and so powerful, and for the first time made me understand the curious things we found neatly stacked away in my mother’s basement after she died. Like, a very large suitcase full of clean rags. ?? So that if you have to flee to Canada in the dead of night, you can take your rags with you? Dozens of immaculately clean, empty Cool Whip containers, although I don’t think the woman ever ate Cool Whip in her life, and never mind that there was a cabinet of spiffy Tupperware upstairs in the kitchen. And so on. But really, it was saving string. That’s all.

    Posted on 6.26.09 ·
  37. Malia wrote:

    Hi Brenda –

    I’m a new convert and I’m very much enjoying the show. I absolutely fell in love with the song by Katy Pfaffl, and while I can find her on itunes and cdbaby I can’t seem to find that song on any of her albums. Can you point me in the right direction?



    Posted on 6.26.09 ·
  38. Brianne wrote:


    Just wanted to thank you for the wonderful music in this episode. Who would have thought that my new favorite band would be named Enter The Haggis?



    Posted on 7.27.09 ·
  39. Nicole wrote:

    Just a quick comment on the eurovision bit…. The first time i ever watched eurovision was in 2007 and i picked ukraine and france out of the hat. To date those have been my absolute all time favorite eurovision entries! I am glad that you posted that video feature!

    Posted on 8.17.09 ·
  40. Devon Nelson wrote:

    I love the wardrobe refashion website. It is just so inspirational! I have this child’s outfit that my aunt picked up for me in Pakistan when I was a child. Since I no longer fit into it, I was thinking about making it into something else. I have so many great ideas now! I wonder where my seam ripper is…

    The Ukraine video made my night. So fantastic!

    Posted on 9.2.09 ·
  41. Marisol wrote:

    Great Podcast! I am new here but most certainly will take a listen to the many volumes you have availablle.


    Posted on 9.18.09 ·
  42. I’ve just come across the podcast where my co-author Susan Crawford talks about the new ‘A Stitch in Time’. When the first version came out in 1972, the internet wasn’t even a fantasy. Now like-minded people can share their thoughts at the click of a mouse.

    My hands are feeling sore, because I’ve just knitted 300 bobbles for a 1950s waistcoat to go in volume 2 of ‘A Stitch in Time’. I’m just about to start on the matching (equally bobbled) hat.

    best wishes to all knitters everywhere

    Jane (Waller)

    Posted on 6.8.10 ·
  43. Celeritas2 wrote:

    I’m listening to all the Cast Ons again (I think this is the third time) and I must say I just love this episode. I think its probably my favourite. I love the music and the essays its just so fantastic! You are such a talented person to put all of this together.

    Posted on 1.28.11 ·

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