Friday, 22 April 2016

'Home Fires': The Knitwear



For me, Sunday evening television has livened up with the welcome return of of 'Home Fires' - Series Two on ITV. I enjoyed the first series, but this has surpassed it in my opinion and to be honest I much prefer 'Home Fires' to 'Downton Abbey' any day - with apologies to Julian Fellowes! I have to admit to re-watching the previous three episodes just because I've found the story-lines so engrossing and also to admire both the outfits worn and easy-on-the-eye Captain Novotny!  

Kudos has to given to the programme's wardrobe department. They've managed to find plenty of authentic 1940s knitwear for this series and it probably helps that many of the actors are very slim, so easily fit into these garments. One thing that I've noticed is the knits have that worn appearence with a few having genuine-looking frayed edges that comes with wear, rather than artificial ageing by a wardrobe hand. Its great to see a WWII tv programme with a wardrobe that clearly evokes both the period and the fact that many people didn't have a lot of clothes, so the ones they did wear frequently received a lot of wear and tear. Look at farmer's lad Stan Farrow with his holey pullover...


Being a keen collector of vintage knitting patterns, I've recognised a few of them during the series; this and a recent post by Wendy of The Butterfly Balcony, gave me the idea to write a post specifically about the patterns and share them, in case anyone wants to recreate one or more of the 'Home Fires' knitwear. So here are some screen captures of the knits, which I've matched up with their corresponding patterns.


As knitting wool was so scare during WWII due to a high proportion of Britain's wool clip being used to manufacture military uniforms, patterns that eked out every last strand of yarn found favour with knitters. Fair Isle was one of the most popular of patterns due to its colourful motifs that was bright and colourful, yet economical with wool. This Fair Isle jumper worn by doctor's daughter Laura Campbell, is part of a twin set from Bestway and I recognised it immediately as I have an identical one from the 1940s knitted in the exact colourway and in a fine 3ply. 


You can find an updated pattern for this jumper available  in a wide range of sizes in A Stitch in Time, Vintage Knitting Patterns 1930-1959: Vol 2 written by Susan Crawford & Jane Waller.

By the way, keep an eye out in 'Home Fires' as you might notice that this jumper is 'recycled'; being also worn by the village busy-body.



Coming to one of my favourite characters, exchange telephonist Claire Hillman, the 'rabbit-ears' jumper that she's wearing above nattily matched with her helmet, is knitted from Weldons No 528 pattern. This has been a favoured pattern for a while and I've previously toyed with the idea of adapting it into a cardigan.

Image source
Looks like the wardrobe department have another version in a different colour-way. I think I prefer the pattern contrast against the dark blue wool.


This colourful jumper worn by vicar's wife Sarah Collingbourne, minus its neckties, was knitted from Bestway 1511 - I love the model's pose on the cover. Fancy knitting one yourself? There's a re-written version for a size 38-40" bust in Jane Waller's book Knitting Fashions of the 1940s, which uses 4ply wool.



Here's another Fair Isle design that appears to be a wardrobe staple for character, Erica Campbell. An identical pattern can be found for it in Patons Knitting Book No 262 and is featured - albeit in a different colourway - on the front cover.



The Neapolitan ice cream colours of this jumper knitted in a traditional wavy Old Shale pattern is bound to be a favourite with knitters. I can't find an identical pattern for the knit featured with its slashed neckline; however, Sirdar 1140 is a close match and the Your Victory Jumper available free from the V&A website is another variation.

The pattern shown above taken from Subversive Femme's Etsy shop is a dead-ringer for farmer Steph Farrow's jumper. The chevron pattern, colour combo and eyelet detail are really eye-catching, but not too overpowering.



One of the most feminine knits in the programme has to be the cream jumper with its lace-work yoke and embroidered flower details as worn by troubled book-keeper Alison Scotlock. I've found a pattern, which looks line an identical match on the Fab 40s Fashions website.

Here we come to the patterns that I haven't been able to find a match for, but thought I'd include them anyway...



The blue cardigan below worn by Butcher's wife, Miriam Brindsley, looks very Thirties in style, with a longer line than its waist-skimming 1940s contemporaries.

I've enjoyed pulling this post together and aim to update it if I recognise any further knits shown in the remaining programmes. If you have any ideas on the 'mystery' knits, please let me know and I'll add them to the above.

 I'm also planning to do a similar post, but on the dresses featured - so watch this space.

In the meantime, happy viewing!
If looks could kill - however, she does have a nice button detail on her shoulder!
UPDATE! In the spirit of sharing, I have added a page above - 'Vintage Patterns' - where I have included free downloads of some the patterns featured in this post. These are original versions from my personal collection, so please have a look through. Also, check out Wendy's site full of amazing vintage patterns from the 1940s and other decades, which is also freeThe Vintage Pattern Files

56 comments :

  1. They are all gorgeous aren't they? Thanks for matching the patterns; I'm planning on knitting a Fairisle number...I've discovered I really enjoy doing it now I'm not scared of all the wool!xxx

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    1. Fair Isle scared me at first but I love it now. Watching 'Home Fires' has had me trawling through ll my old patterns for more inspiration. Happy knitting! x

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  2. Thanks for putting this together, Home Fires is pure knitwear porn!! I now have so many jumpers on my to knit list :-( I really want the pattern for the mystery cream cardigan with the flowers so if you find it please let me know x

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    1. No worries - I'm glad you like it and will certainly let you know if I come across that mystery cardie ;-) x

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  3. I love knitting fairisle. My poor grandchildren all have fairisle jumpers and cardigans, but they are much admired by the other mummy's
    Julie xxxxxx

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    1. Hello Julie, yes, Fair Isle great to knit once you get over 'the fear'! Monkeychild is getting to the age where she's quite clothes conscious, so she's not wearing mmny of her Fair Isles as much now :-( xx

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  4. This is a great post. I love Home Fires, and this second series is even better than the first. Unfortunately I can't knit, so would love to find out where I could find similar knitwear for sale.

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    1. Hello and thanks for your comment. Have you tried on Etsy? I've seen new knits from vintage patterns being sold on there, also there are repro clothing websites that sell vintage-inspired knitwear. Good luck with you search :-)

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  5. Great post! I haven't watched Home Fires yet, will have to catch up on the itvplayer.

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    1. Thanks Linda, glad you like it. Yes, definitely catch up on itvplayer. Put aside a few hours and have a viewing fest! You'll love it!

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  6. Those knits are all gorgeous. Unfortunately, we don't get ITV here in Belgium, but if I'm lucky it gets picked up by one of our channels later. xxx

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    1. Fingers crossed that it does get picked up and that you get a chance to watch it. 'Home Fires' has got some super story lines in this series and I won't be giving away any spoilers either in future posts, as I wouldn't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet ;-)

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  7. I've really enjoyed reading this post and seeing the old patterns 'in the flesh'. It makes me feel that I should have a knit of one some day.
    xx

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  8. It is nice to see so much knitwear, and well done on matching up so many.

    My only gripe about it is that it is only 1940 in this series, and most of the patterns are probably later - in reality, people would still be wearing late 30s styles far more, and the 40s knits *would* be looking newer!

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    1. Thanks for your comment Simone - perhaps the wardrobe department didn't have enough original Thirties knitwear ;-)

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  9. I love all the vintage knits! I only watched a couple of episodes from the first series (oddly, I didn't really like it) but I'm thinking I should have persevered now, if only for the costumes! :)

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    1. Give Series 2 a try Elise, you might like it. The storylines are so much better than the first and the knitwear too!

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  10. I've been spotting the knits too. Well done on finding them.

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    1. Hello Clicky, yes, its quite fun spotting them istn't it?

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  11. Oh this was such a joy, thank you for putting it together! I haven't seen home fires yet but I have to see it now!

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment Renée! I had fun doing it :-D

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  12. Wow, you've done some impressive sleuthing there. That Tyrolean jumper, in particular, is really cute.

    I haven't watched Home Fires, though everyone going on about it is making me think I should give it a go...

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    1. I can definitely recommend it - just for the jumper porn if nothing else!

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  13. Fantastic post.
    Frayed edges ? I'll have my nose pressed to the screen this week on the look out haha.
    I'm lucky enough to have one of the fair isle jumpers. I think they are so flattering.
    I have to record Home Fires at the same time as watching it as I'm so busy looking at the clothes I miss the story.
    Lynn x

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    1. Ha! You're like me Lynn - Im too busy admiring the outfits too - hence re-watching on itvplayer!

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  14. Oh my word this post is FABULOUS!! What super sleuthing you've done to find the original patterns I am blown away by how many you have been able to match up! That Fair Isle jumper worn by young Laura Campbell is so striking, until I saw your original version, I was convinced it had been knitted with more modern wools as the colours are so vibrant, lesson learnt! I must say I was a little grateful most of the woolies were reused ones in this weeks episode as it gave me more of a chance to keep up with the plot! Oh and I am looking forward to the dress instalment! xx

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  15. Thanks Wendy, I thought you'd appreciate this post - searching out that pattern for you inspired me! :-D x

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  16. Great post! I wonder who knitted all the jumpers for the shows?

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    1. Thanks Nicole, yes - I bet those jumpers could tell some stories...

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  17. As a retro knitter myself I love the knits in Homes Fires. Thanks for digging out the patterns - I'm surprised that I have a couple of them myself - the Tyrollean cardigan and the Bestway Fair Isle which I've knitted in 4ply from the original pattern. I have the matching cardigan pattern too. Simone made a good point, and I wonder if the Bestway Fair Isle would've been around in 1942, as the pattern appeared in Woman's Weekly in Jan 1946, in 2 instalments - the cardigan one week, and the jumper the next (I have the original magazine too). But this isn't unusual. Miss Fisher's Mysteries (an Australian mystery drama set in the 1920s) also featured a slipover on a young boy which I had knitted from a late 1940s pattern! I shall keep a look out for the missing patterns. The plain coloured jumper is puzzling me as I'm sure I've seen it or a very similar pattern somewhere!

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    1. Thanks for your interesting comment SJB. The Tyrolean cardie and Bestway Fair Isle are lovely aren't they? I can see why you knitted them yourself. Yes, in reality there was probably more Thirties knitwear being worn in the early 1940s as they weren't a throwaway culture like today's is.

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  18. Thanks for this post, it must have taken a lot of researching. Hopefully soon I'll have finished current projects and will have time to knit one of these gorgeous jumpers. I saw series one of Home Fires and will probably binge watch series two when it comes out on dvd.

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    1. Hello Woolly, yes a binge would be a great idea. Settle down with some knitting and enjoy!

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  19. My, what super knits! I've decided to embark on my first (hats aside) item of crocheted clothing. The very idea of fair isle is scary, I get enough in a tangle with striped crochet!

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    1. Good luck with the crochet, Melanie. I hope you'll write a post about it once your project is finished. Crocheting is one thing I've yet to learn. I can do a foundation chain and that's it!

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  20. I really enjoyed this, it is lovely to get a chance to look at the knitwear in detail. You did a great job of matching up the patterns. Even more to add to the to knit list!

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    1. Thanks Kate-Em - glad you enjoyed reading it. Yes, I think my list had grown bigger too!

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  21. madebymim-1235652276977849946_47052740.jpg Patons 820 in 3 ply. Im not sure how to put links into comments, but I wonder if the un- found jumper worn by the DRs wife on the right is this pattern, I thought of it when I watched it last week, as I am thinking of knitting myself another one as I have serious jumper envy !

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    1. Oh Hum! it appers my 'link' didnt work, it is just a picture of my jumper and the pattern, but never mind the pattern is on the internet,a quick google of paton 820 should find it, I have the original pattern and really enjoyed knitting it

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    2. That's great - many thanks for your comments Mim - much appreciated. Yes, I think its serious jumper envy all round! I did a Google search like you suggested and have pasted a link below to a free version of the Patons 820 on Subversive Femme's website - that woman must have one amazing vintage pattern collection!

      http://www.subversivefemme.com/2013/10/free-pattern-1940s-split-neck-jumper.html

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  22. FANTASTIC post...I haven't seen the show yet but love the matches with vintage knitting patterns!

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    1. Thanks Debi - its lovely getting such wonderful feedback from people. Makes it all worthwhile :-D

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  23. I love Home Fired and the clothes are wonderful. I have searched for the Chevron patterned sweater that Steph wore in the programme but cannot find it. Does anybody out there know a link to it.

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Seeds. Yes, the clothes are wonderful aren't they?

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  24. I love Home Fired and the clothes are wonderful. I have searched for the Chevron patterned sweater that Steph wore in the programme but cannot find it. Does anybody out there know a link to it.

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    1. See below for the link you were asking for.

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    2. https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/291963725/home-fires-1940s-pb-182-pdf-knitting

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  25. https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/291963725/home-fires-1940s-pb-182-pdf-knitting I want to knit this myself.
    What a wonderful page this is. Thank you.

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    1. Hello Jane, many thanks for your comments and for searching out the Etsy links too - much appreciated :-D

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  26. Oh my! Thank you for all the work you put into this. I found the original size Bestway 1511 for sale here if anyone is interested :)
    http://www.fab40s.co.uk/LadiesFairIsle1.html

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    1. You're welcome Siobhan and thank you for adding the pattern link too :-D

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  27. This is such a fascinating post - I haven't been watching Home Fires, but now I feel inspired to catch up with it. As a few of the comments have said already, I think that several of the patterns you have identified are actually post-war - still 1940s, but maybe 1946 or 1947. I'll try to get some concrete evidence and let you know. We forget sometimes that clothes rationing went on until 1949, so the need to re-use yarn and use up oddments didn't go away when the war ended.

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    1. Thanks Barbara. Yes, there probably were more Thirties knits being worn then as I think Series Two of Home Fires in set in 1940 and also clothes rationing didn't start until 1941.

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  28. Oh my god this is utter heaven, I can't believe you knew which ones were which, serious knitting Queen! I adored Home Fires and wrote about it on my blog and am so sad they only did 6 episodes. I am obsessed with Fair Isle so adored all the knitting featured and am so happy to know which pattern is which now! I get my patterns from thevintageknittinglady normally, she has thousands of them so will look out for these as well. I agree, I think the costume department did an amazing job showing what it really was like in the war for women and what clothes were like, most WW2 programmes show the glamorous upper class side of it, not what it was like for real people. I can't wait for the next series of Home Fires and thanks so much about the details regarding the FairIsle jumpers & cardigans! XxxX http://thesecondhandrose.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. Happy knitting! xx

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