This is my grandmother’s school certificate for Domestic Subjects for the school year 1928-29. She was 13. I’m particularly interested in the laundrywork aspect. Until I thought about it, I had no idea that you would learn that in particular at school. I knew about the cookery and general housekeeping parts, but had imagined that you would learn about washing clothes at home. But of course, Monday was traditionally wash day and girls would have been at school for much of it.
I dread to think how I would have scored in these subjects, aged 13. How about you?
Diane was one of my subjects for a piece of research on learning to sew at school in the 1940s and ’50s. A lifelong devotee, she still sews her clothes today and is pleased that her eyesight is still good enough at 79 to handsew invisible stitches.
Diane: Gradually at school… we… did all sorts of sewing. Samplers and antimacassars and then… as we… progressed [gestures upwards here] to the senior school we made aprons to use in cookery there and [trails off] In the first year of school we made clothes for ourselves [4 second pause, gestures movements of using a hand cranked sewing machine] and that set me really for life.
Ingrid: Did you get taught to do that [sew from a pattern] at school? Is that
Diane: [both speak at same time] Well, I was taught…
Ingrid: …the basis of…
Diane: Well I was taught how to cut out… how to cut out, um, patterns at school. And… we sewed blouses and things like that… but it was in me somehow [emphasises words and concurrently clasps hands to her heart]
Diane: When I was about…I suppose I must have been about thirteen, our teacher, was getting married. And that was…[quieter voice] thirteen, so that’s, thirty, forty, what do you think…forty-nine, something like that… just after the war.
[louder once more] she brought in her trou- trousseau to be, um, sewn. [proudly] So I was the one who sewed all of the seams, by hand. She, uh, must of thought that I was good enough to do it, because… well my little hemming stitches were perfect [huge, beaming smile]
Holly Handspun Yarn by Marlana. Used under Creative Commons License.
Just when you thought that you were on top of your knitting lingo, along comes something else to learn. As a beginner knitter, you might just grab whatever yarn and needles come your way, but soon enough you will come to realise that there are differences in yarn weights and indeed in what they are called. For instance you might be using an American pattern, but be based in the UK and wonder what on earth sportweight yarn is in the first place …let alone where you find it, and why aran weight yarn won’t do instead.
The basic reason for needing to use the right weight of yarn is for sizing. If your yarn is too thick or too thin, you can’t get the right tension and your sizing will be out. Because of this, it is important to know about the differences in yarn weights, and what they are variously called.
Here are some general guidelines:
UK – 2-ply/ Lace
US – Baby / Laceweight
UK – 3-ply
US – Light Fingering
UK – 4-ply
US – Fingering
UK – (light-ish DK)
US – Sport weight
UK- Double Knitting
US – Double Knitting / Worsted
UK – (light-ish Aran weight)
US – Worsted
UK – Aran
US – Aran / Fisherman
UK – Bulky
US – Chunky
UK – Superbulky
US – Superchunky
As you can see, sometimes there isn’t a direct equivalent for the yarns, but you can generally make a near- match. Another useful thing to know is that sock weight yarn will be either 3-ply or 4-ply, depending on the manufacturer, but due to its need to wear well, it will often have nylon content or be a superwash wool, which withstands machine washing.
Each year we grow our own tomatoes in the garden. At least four plants of different varieties, if not more in a big oval pot by the sunny bit of the fence or wall. This year I had a 6′ x 4′ plastic greenhouse with staging from my parents and mother in law for my birthday, so had three extra plants too (not to mention cucumber and sweet pepper plants). I am a complete tomato snob and won’t willingly eat them out of season as they just taste of nothing, in my opinion, so am always keen to grow and eat my fill of them during the summer.
Given the fact that we grew seven tomato plants it was inevitable that we had a glut. What to do with them once we had eaten our fill and given as many away as people wanted though? Roasted tomato and garlic sauce for pastas and freezing, naturally (River Cottage recipe). But there were still more! And more! And More! We are not big fans of tomato chutney, either green or red, so we decided to make our own ‘sundried’ tomatoes. The first batch was made in the oven, using another Hugh recipe. They came out reasonably and were soon used up in sandwiches and the like. Then something exciting happened. Giles had a dehydrator for his birthday in September.
Tomatoes going into the dehydrator
We decided to cut up the rest of the tomatoes – mainly Moneymaker and the cherry variety Gardeners Delight by this point. I think that we had three trays full of them and they took about 6 hours to dry out to a crisp. Drying them in this way concentrates the flavour and gives them a real piquancy. We kept one box of them to use in salads and the like, and for rehydrating in pasta sauces.
The rest, we stuffed into little glass bottles and filled in the gaps with nice extra virgin olive oil. We have yet to try those, as they need a bit of steeping, but the other ones are lovely. I will have no qualms about growing epic numbers of tomatoes this year now!