Viyella Gauges

I have four Viyella knitting needle gauges. They are basically the same but are all different. Some differences are more obvious than others.

The same picture is on the back of three of the drums. It is of two children, in the style of Mabel Lucie Attwell but I cannot confirm that she was the artist.

The other drum has no picture. I have read that this was to save costs during WW2 but it seems unlikely that such an elaborate object would still be made only changing the printing.

All are marked as Needle Gauge and Knitting Recorder. The sizes of the holes are 1 – 7 at one end and 8 – 17 at the other. In addition to the holes for measuring the needles, the top and bottom of the drums turn to reveal the numbers 1 – 24. These are for counting the rows, or anything else you want to keep track of. The two sets of numbers are in different colours so you know which is which.

The top and bottom are held in place by screws which are joined by a strong spring, leaving the shiny parts able to rotate.

It is not possible to determine the exact date of these gauges but some were definitely made before others. The black one with the picture has nothing to suggest a date. The other black one and one of the others say Patent Pending. The fourth says Brit.Pat.No.408594

The application for the patent was made in 1932 and was accepted in 1934. This would suggest that two of these examples date from between 1932 and 1934 when the patent was still pending, one is from after 1934, the other is of an unknown date.

The application was from William Hollins and Company Limited and Horace Josiah Ball. Both of theses were from Nottingham. The final specification says:

This invention relates to improvements in number indicating devices for the use of knitters, or for use as a calendar, or for scoring points in a game, or for like purposes, and its object is to provide a convenient and inexpensive arrangement of the cylindrical type, the members of which can be more conveniently adjusted than in existing devices, and will not be likely to become accidentally displaced after being set.
According to this invention, the device comprises a hollow cylindrical casing of any convenient dimensions, with end covers of the pill box lid type which fit on the exterior of its ends These covers are angularly adjustable on the body, and numbers are disposed round either the ends of the body or the rims of the end covers, the relation of which numbers to a point on the other part being adjusted by turning !he end covers on the body.
A centrally disposed spring may be provided for holding the end covers on the body, and the several parts described are when the device is made on a small scale, preferably of thin sheet metal but a nonmetallic material may be used when the device is made of a large size.
The invention will now be more particularly described with reference to the accompanying drawing, in which Fig 1 is a front view, and Fig 2 a section of a number indicating device constructed according to our rue invention.
Fig 3 is a view of one end of the device, and Fig 4 a view of the reverse end.
Fig 5 is a front view showing an alternative arrangement
Fig 6 is a front view showing a construction which is large enough to hold a ball of yarn.
Like letters indicate like parts throughout the drawing.
Referring first to the arrangement shown in Figs 1 to 4, A is the cylindrical body, and B and C are the end covers which fit like pill box lids on the ends of the said body. If preferred, these two end covers B and C may in order to prevent them from becoming accidentally displaced, be connected by an interior spring D as shown in Fig 2. In this case each cover is formed with a central hole, studs E are located in these holes, and their inner ends are connected to the two ends of a centrally disposed spiral spring D which is in tension. In one arrangement, the rims of the covers B and C may have numbers engraved or stamped all round them, while the cylindrical body A has two points indicated thereon, that is, one near each end cover, and the two covers can be rotated to bring any of the numbers thereon into register with these points on the body and thus register the same.
In the preferred arrangement which is shown in the drawing, the numbers are engraved or stamped round the two ends of the cylindrical body A, in such a position-that they are covered by the rims of the end covers B and C, and each of the latter is formed with a single opening F so disposed, that by turning the end covers, each will expose one number on the body at a time.
In order to prevent confusion, the end covers B and C or the numbers on each end of the body A may be of different colours, and both of a different colour to the middle exposed portion of the cylindrical body A.

The provisional specification has more features for knitters but these are not included in the final, approved, patent.

The device may be used by knitters for recording the number of courses knitted, and the number of stitches knitted in the last course, or other information respecting the progress of the work, when the latter is laid down, so as to obviate the necessity for counting when the work is taken up again It can also be used for scoring points in games in which two players or two sides are taking part.
If desirable the portion of the body part between the two end covers may have narrow stripes of different colours or shades disposed thereon parallel to the axis of the body, and this part of the latter may be enclosed by an external rotary casing with a gap at one point in its circumference Each shade or colour can then be separately exposed to view by adjusting the gap in the outer casing in register with them, and the different shades or colours which can thus be seen disassociated from the remainder, may be numbered so that a record can be kept of any one, or a series of them for future reference. Other uses may be made of the device, for instance if months of the year are substituted for the colours, the device can be used as an adjustable calendar.
For the use of knitters, the end covers may be formed with a series of holes, which are graduated in size and are numbered so as to form a knitting pin gauge, and in some cases the device may be made large enough to hold a ball of yam that is being worked up, and this yarn is wound so that it can be conveniently withdrawn through an opening which is provided for the purpose, preferably in the centre of one of the end covers.
In this case the several parts constituting the device may be most conveniently constructed of a substance such as cardboard, or of composition, and owing to its increased diameter and the material g used in its construction, the end cover connecting spring is not required to prevent accidental displacement of the end covers, when they have been once set.

Viyella was a well-known company in UK. It was owned by William Hollins, who started making woven fabrics in the 1890s. It is still known today as a high-end fashion brand. There is very little information to be found about its knitting yarns but these were certainly popular in the 1930s. A few patterns and magazine adverts can be found online. The V&A has a copy of Viyella Knitting Book No 3 which includes 71 patterns. William Hollins is listed as the publisher.

A New Puppy

We get lots of requests for more baby blankets and it’s been quite a long time since the last one so Steve designed this cute little puppy blanket.

It is very difficult to photograph illusion knitting. When you look straight at the knitting you only see narrow stripes. The image appears when you look from an angle.

I knitted it using Stylecraft Special DK in Cream and Mocha. This is still my favourite yarn because it is inexpensive, easily available, washes well, and comes in a huge range of colours. I like this particular combination of colours which I also used last year to make a pair of blankest for twins, reversing the colours.

Buy the Puppy pattern on Ravelry
Buy the Teddy Bear pattern on Ravelry

We also have other illusion knit baby blankets.

The Bells

I used to collect knitting needle gauges – for a rather perverse reason.

Our first knitting book (Woolly Thoughts) was about modular knitting using any needles and any yarn to make a garment of the right size without ever having to knit a tension square (known as a gauge square, or swatch, in US). Many knitters hate tension squares, or just can’t be bothered to make them. They are vital in some garments but not always. Knitters get hung up on trying to achieve the right tension using the needles given on the pattern or ball band.

Knitting needle gauges, theoretically, tell you what size your needles are but that doesn’t help you to know what size stitches you will get. Different knitters can achieve the same result by using wildly different sized needles. Knitting is bit like handwriting and varies from person to person.

Gauges are useful for matching up needles but they are not totally reliable as they can vary from one make to another.

I have over 200 gauges. 36 of them are bells, all different. One gauge on these boards is not a bell-shape but it is the oldest gauge I have and deserves pride of place.

The Fairfax Knitting Pin and Wire Gauge
The Fairfax Registered No 278068

The Fairfax, and the two gauges next to it, date back to 1847. It is possible to roughly estimate the age of a gauge by looking at the size of needles that it was intended to measure. The oldest gauges are from the days when wool and needles were very fine. Gauges from 1847 have holes or slots for size 28 needles. In those days needles were usually referred to as knitting pins or wires.

The sizes were based on the measurement of industrial wires. It may seem contrary that the finest needles had the highest numbers but this is because they relate to how long a piece of wire was stretched out to be. A size 2 needle means that the wire was stretched twice as far as for a size 1 needle. A size 28 means the wire was stretched 28 times as far. 28 needles could be made from the same piece of wire, making a very fine needle.

The Birmingham Wire Gauge was used because many of the factories making needles and gauges were in Redditch, which is a town near Birmingham.

Some old gauges were made in very fancy shapes and these now change hands at high prices.

Bell-shaped gauges were very common. It may seem a strange shape but it was really a very practical way to produce a decorative item.

Very little metal was wasted when they were stamped out from a full sheet. The curved edges may also give a more usable perimeter.

The shape evolved slightly over time. The oldest bells had straight slits for measuring the needles. These changed to being rounded holes with slits. The reason for this is unclear and it seems as though it may only have made knitters more confused because they weren’t really sure which part to use for measuring. Later still the slits disappeared completely and there were only holes.

The history of these bells is very vague. Some were produced for big-name companies so they probably had them specially made. Others were mass-produced but if a company bought a certain number they were embossed with their own logo or other information. It is not known how many factories were producing bells. They were not all made from the same metal and some seem to be thicker and/or better quality than others.

Many people say they have a bell gauge, believing them all to be the same. The bells on the boards are all different. In many cases the differences are minimal and might only be a different metal or a different typeface. I have no idea how many more there might be that I didn’t find.

2 Chambers & Co Bell Gauge Patented 17 Sept 1847
3 Chambers & Co Bell Gauge Patented 17 Sept 1847
4 Jager
5 The Clock Knitting Pin Gauge Made in England
6 Abel Morall Redditch (Trademark: Griffin)
7 Abel Morall’s Metal Gauge (Trademark: Griffin)
8 Abel Morall’s Metal Guage (sic) (Trademark: Griffin)
9 Abel Morall’s Metal Gauge (Trademark: Griffin)
10 H Walker London Bell Gauge Patented Wire Gauge (Trademark: Lion & Unicorn)
11 H Walker London Bell Gauge (Trademark: Archer)
12 H Walker London The Archer Bell Gauge (Trademark: Archer)
13 H Walker London The Archer Bell Gauge (Trademark: Archer)
14 H Walker London The Archer Bell Gauge (Trademark: Archer)
15 Faudels London Made in England The Peacock Knitting Gauge
16 Pearsalls Ltd Knitting Pin Gauge Little Britain (Trademark: Carrier Pigeon)
17 The “Sabre” Knitting Pin Gauge Made in England
18 Alfred Shrimpton & Sons Metal Gauge Trade Mark (Trademark: Scales)
19 Vicars’ Knitting Pin Gauge
20 Vicars’ Knitting Pin Gauge
21 W Hall & Co Ltd (Trademark: Elephant)
22 Woodfields Redditch England Knitting Pin Gauge Trade Mark (Trademark: Cross)
23 No markings
24 (Trademark: Bell)
25 Rainsford Note Knitting pin size is width of slots
26 One Inch
27 Knitting Pin Gauge
28 Alfred Shrimpton & Sons Made in England Regd. No. 804915 Trade Mark Metal Knitting Pin and Tension Gauge (Trademark: Scales)
29 Alfred Shrimpton & Sons Metal Knitting Pin and Tension Gauge Trade Mark Regd. No. 804915 (Trademark: Scales)
30 Abel Morall’s “Aero” Knitting Pin and Tension Gauge Made in England Cross Fox Trade Mark (Trademark: Crossed foxes)
31 Abel Morall’s “Aero” Knitting Pin and Tension Gauge Made in England Cross Fox Trade Mark (Trademark: Crossed foxes)
32 Abel Morall’s “Aero” Knitting Pin and Tension Gauge Made in England Regd. No. 804915
33 Emu One Inch (Trademark: Emu)
34 Emu One Inch (Trademark: Emu)
35 Emu One Inch (Trademark: Emu)
36 Emu One Inch (Trademark: Emu)
37 Knitting Needle Gauge Presented with Woman’s World

I acquired several duplicates. Many have been given away. Some hang from a swift as wind chimes.

There will be further posts about my gauges in the future.

Running Repairs

Steve managed to get a hole in one of his Rule of Three slippers. It was easy to snip the knitting above the hole and unravel the sole. I picked up the stitches on a finer needle.

I changed back to the original size needles and carried on knitting as before using oddments of two grey yarns held together.

This would be a good way to add more life to a pair of worn-out slippers.

Ins and Outs of Flexagons

I have always been fascinated by flexagons and have made several over the years, some more successful than others.

These are six views of the same cushion

My first crochet hexaflexagon was about twenty years ago and, amazingly, it is still surviving. It isn’t the most comfortable cushion in the world but it is great fun. I can absolutely predict what will happen when it is presented to a group of kids (or adults!). First, it is used as a frisbee (It is quite aerodynamic.) One person will put it on their head and it isn’t long before someone discovers that a slight tug will pull it over the head and it will sit snuggly round the neck, like a ruff. Eventually they investigate its strange properties and discover that this there are six possible arrangements.

I made it for my own use but lots of people asked for a pattern. My crochet skills at that time, were fairly limited so the pattern was very basic. Perhaps that was a good thing as hundreds of people have used it since. It was in a book called Twists & Turns but it soon took on a life of its own and became a standalone pattern.

Over the years the names of these things seem to have changed. The flexagons here are now usually referred to as trihexaflexagons. They are made from nine triangles.

I was asked to make a more elaborate version, for an exhibition, so made a fluffy knitted one. (There have never been pattern instructions for this one.) It is basically the same as the crochet version but looks different because there is no ‘background colour’ in the triangles.

Eventually I made a knitted version quite similar to the crochet one – and added the instructions to the original pattern.

Another crochet variation (also included in the pattern) is the hexaflexacube. This isn’t a real mathematical thing. The construction is the same as the others but the colouring makes it look like a drawing of a cube. The crochet technique is a little more sophisticated than the earlier crochet version.

A few months ago I got ambitious when I came across a book, written by someone we worked with way back in MathsYear2000. Kjartan Poskitt published an ebook called Flexomania. It includes several different flexagons and he also has models to download, cut and fold yourself, and videos.

I have a book about polyhedra, including flexagons, that I bought about 25 years ago. I made some of them in paper but never thought about making the more complicated hexaflexagons in anything else. Kjartan’s video inspired me to think again. I think I always knew that adding extra thicknesses of knitting, crochet, and wadding, was not going to work but decided to try anyway. I learned a lot on the way that might come in useful in the future.

The flexagon, that now tends to be called a hexaflexagon, is made from 18 triangles which means that several thicknesses have to pile up on top of each other to make the hexagonal shape. (In some places you will find this one called hexahexaflexagon.)

I originally thought about making two – one knit, the other crochet – but that would have meant an awful lot of work. Plan B was to make half the triangles in knitting and half in crochet. They would have to be exactly the same size to fit together. The other complication was that they had to have a directional design because sometimes the triangles point one way, sometimes they point another, and it is important to be able to tell the difference.

Knitted Triangles

The triangles need enough space between them that they can twist and turn. That part was relatively easy but it does mean that the flexagon sometimes turns more than you want it to. The main difficulty is that the 18 triangles are sometimes (at their most extreme) three piles of five and three piles of one which makes a very uneven cushion.

Crochet Triangles

The cushion is difficult to fold – even for a person with big hands,

Recently I had reason to go back and look at the old Twists & Turns book. There were four more flexagon patterns languishing there so I decided to resurrect them. Calling them cushions is not really accurate. They are foldable, padded things that are fun to play with. They are not particularly comfortable and some of them are infuriating – hence the title of the free ebook is Frustrating Flexagon Cushions.

They are easy to make but time-consuming. They are all made from squares, rectangles, or triangles and can be knit, crochet, or fabric. Once you have made them, and start to fold, it often seems impossible to get back to where you started. Sometimes you know there is another coloured face inside there somewhere but you just can’t find it.

After playing with these ‘cushions’ again, I now think they should all be a bit smaller than the sizes in the pattern. They might not collapse quite as much. The ebook contains all four patterns plus paper versions to cut out and fold.

Face to Face is the easiest. It has fewest pieces so there is less to go wrong. It is made from 6 double-sided squares which are joined in such a way that the cushion has three different sides.

Box and Cox is made from 12 double-sided rectangles. It can be folded to reveal four different coloured faces, and also folded in half.

Flying Colours has 16 double-sided triangles. It can be folded into many different shapes and colour combinations. The photos show just a few of them.

Square-bashing is the most annoying of all. It looks as though it should be easy to manipulate but it certainly isn’t. It is made from 12 double-sided squares.

It starts with 12 squares arranged in a square and ends with a block of four squares.

There are six different plain faces to find.

Download Frustrating Flexagon Cushions

… and, to add to the fun, the ebook includes all the eggsentricities that were in the original Twists & Turns, such as these:


Puppets become avatars

The puppets are of real people from the TMRO Space webcast. At the end of each live show, there is a section which doesn’t get included in the edited version, where they interact with viewers.

Yesterday seemed like a good time for me to send them a picture of the puppets. To my relief, they recognised all 12 of the puppets and seemed quite pleased with them.

The presenters were all very excited and several of them immediately changed their Twitter avatars to the puppet version of themselves.

They then asked for some close up pictures

Tim Dodd the Everyday Astronaut

Clicking the heads in the slideshow below will take you to each person’s Twitter feed

Tim Dodd the Everyday Astronaut


The webcast was a live broadcast. Hopefully they will eventually publish it to be viewed again.

New Glasses

Ben made another puppet that needed glasses. I know a little more about 3D printing than I did a month ago so I was able to adjust the settings to get a better print.

These are puppet versions of the presenters of the TMRO Space webcast

I doubt if anyone else would want to make the glasses but, if you do need a toy-size pair of glasses, the file is available on Pinshape. It is a .stl file and needs some adjusting, such as rotating through 90 degrees, before it can be printed.

This is the show that inspired the making of the puppets
Ben’s puppets – so far

To Bias Or Not To Bias

I knitted yet another To Bias Or Not To Bias shawl. I published the pattern about two years ago and I think this is probably the sixth I have knitted for myself. I love this pattern because it is so versatile and works with any yarn.

It is an asymmetric shawl pretending it is symmetric. The rows of holes run parallel to the long edge but the rows of knitting do not.


I was given lots of this particular yarn about twenty years ago and always thought it wasn’t really my kind of thing because it was a bit sparkly. It is very dark, possibly black, with a slightly sparkly blue thread running through it.

I used the yarn recently to make some slippers and realised that when you stand a little way back it doesn’t really look sparkly at all … so I decided to use it for the shawl. It is DK thickness and I used 5.5 mm needles. I wished afterwards that I had used one size bigger to make it even softer and more cuddly.

In recent years the way of knitting shawls and scarves has changed. They used to be simple affairs in basic triangular, round, or rectangular, shapes. Nowadays the shapes are much more varied. To Bias Or Not To Bias concentrates on traditional right-angled isosceles triangles.

Triangles are often started at the bottom point with just a few stitches. The rows of knitting are parallel to the long edge. Increase at both sides and it gets wider and wider as you move up. Stop knitting when the shawl is wide enough.

Some triangles start in the middle of the back of the neck. The increases are usually done in the centre, and at the outer edges, to form the shape.

You can keep knitting until the shawl is big enough but it can be tricky to see the exact size because the knitting has to bend round the point at the bottom and can be difficult to lay flat until the stitches are off the needle.

In this style the rows of knitting are at right angles to the long edge. The triangle starts at one of the side points. Increases are done on one edge while the other edge is knitted straight. Keep knitting until the shawl is half the length you want it to be then start to decrease on the edge where you were increasing before, still keeping the other edge straight, until all the stitches are worked off.

The biased shawl starts at a point with increases at one side and a straight edge at the other side. It begins in exactly the same way as the shawl above. (The rows of knitting are shown reversed in the diagram.)

Continue until the shawl is the size you want. The sloping edge becomes the long edge of the shawl whereas the sloping edges in the previous example are the short sides..

This is the shape you get when you start knitting

… and this is what it looks like at the point of the shawl

The shawl doesn’t need to have holes … and it doesn’t need to be a shawl. The pattern includes instructions for several variations.

This scarf version was made by Connie (knitsbyconnie on Ravelry)
The photos show the front and back of her scarf
These two shawls were made by Scott
Find him as GreatScottKCMO on Ravelry
This version has no holes but has dramatic stripes of random widths
A scarf without holes, made entirely from scraps of yarn, tied together, and with the knots left showing
One knot looks like mistake, lots of knots become a ‘design feature’

The possibilities are endless

Download the free pattern
To Bias Or No To Bias

Reinventing the wheel

I printed a small toy with rotating wheels and was intrigued when I found it is possible to print something all in one go and for the wheels to be able to move. I didn’t need any wheels, and I didn’t want to use anyone else’s designs for wheels, so I experimented just to find out how it is done.

My first problem was that the bottom of the top wheel in this photo is an unsupported surface. 3D printers cannot print in mid air. They need something to fix to. The axle only supports the centre of the wheel. The rest needs to be sitting on a cone  which slopes gently outwards from the axle.

The casing for the wheel has to fit round the cone but leave a gap so the wheels can turn. The gap makes a funnel shape. A similar shape, in reverse, is needed for the other wheel. The cones and funnels are at the same angle. The angle and spaces have to be arranged so that the printer can print without filling the gaps.

The first one was too small. The pieces fused together and I couldn’t see exactly where they were fused.

I made changes to the angle and spacing then printed it at a bigger size. It was still wrong but I could begin to see where it was starting to fuse together.

More work on the angles and spacing. I printed an even bigger model and the wheels do turn. It works but doesn’t look good.

I made more small alterations and it’s definitely getting better. I decided to stop at this point.

I moved on to thinking about wheels that were not encased and would rotate just by rolling on their own axles.

I designed a wheel and an axle that should fit inside it. The axle wouldn’t fit.

Version 2: Bigger wheel  and axle. The holes in the wheel were also bigger, in comparison, to the axle. I also put a groove round the end of the axle and made a clip to fit in that groove to hold the axle in place in a model.

Version 2: The pieces need cleaning but it is obvious that the axle still won’t fit in the wheel.

Version 3: I made the holes in the wheel even bigger and made a sturdier clip.

Version 3: Once the axle would fit inside it became obvious that it was too short.

Version 4: A more robust clip, a longer axle and very slightly bigger holes in the wheel.

Version4: Assembled. It just needs cleaning.