Thursday, 22 January 2015

The knitwear of Foyle's War

The final series of Foyle's War has been and gone - if you can call three episodes a series. I very much enjoyed it but it really was far too short, and I can't help feeling it was a wasted opportunity. People seem to enjoy seeing my knitwear write-ups, so I thought I'd take a look at all three episodes from series nine. (ITV calls it nine, some other sites such as IMDB call it eight.)
I like the fact costumes are repeated in different episodes; people didn't have masses of clothes
in the 1940s. Also, this vaguely military grey is appropriate for the era.

Set immediately after the Second World War, the series straddles the end of a physical war and the growing Cold War, referring back to Nazis and forwards to tension between the West and the USSR. This was an era when rationing was still in force, and Britain took a fair old time to rebuild (derelict bomb sites were still common in large cities into the 1960s.)

Knitwear was seen as very much casualwear at this time, and so the main characters, Foyle and Sam, don't wear it for work. They mostly wear suits, though Sam wears cardigans and jumpers at home and, when undercover in the first episode, wears my favourite knitted in the whole series, a grey fitted jumper with a zigzag pattern worked in. She wears it again in episode two, and you get a better look at it. It strikes me as a little long in the body for a 1940s jumper, but it is very nice. Find a pattern for a fitted jumper and work out a zigzag chart on some graph paper and you could make a replica very easily.

EDIT: Simone tells me in the comments that the pattern is from Vintage Knitwear for Modern Knitters by Lise-Lotte Lystrup - so you don't have to go to the trouble of working it out for yourself. Thanks Simone!

I like the fact they repeated garments over this series, but wish they'd repeated some of Sam's jumpers from earlier series. A good woollie will last you for years (I've had one of mine for over two decades) so it's not unreasonable to think that characters would have carried on wearing old garments, and some of the ones in past issues were so nice it would have been lovely to see them again!
I wish we'd seen more of the colourwork jumper on the left!
The very best woollies are on the minor characters, going about their more casual business. You get a glimpse of a lovely colourwork woollie on one of Adam's constituents in episode one. I'm very impressed with that lady's outfit, and suspect she's dressed up because she's meeting her MP. Hilary Knowles is ill and sorrowful, however, and her cardigan reflects that. The clumsily embroidered flowers and baggy fit make it feel sad rather than cheerful.
This looks like an extremely fine knit - done with darning wool?
While Sam's jumper from episode one is my favourite, I suspect a lot of people will love the fair isle one on a student early in episode two. There are more younger people in this episode and so more knits; Daniel Woolf often wears a jumper or tank top over his shirts (in contrast with the older men, who mostly wear waistcoats), and Lea Fisher appears several times in a beautiful cream jumper with cable panels.
There's a simplicity and cleanness to this cable panelled jumper.
Again, the basic shape of that is simple, so you'd just need to do a bit of maths on a plain fitted jumper pattern to work out the placement for your own cables to replicate it. If you don't fancy that but like the panelled look, there's Patons and Baldwin booklet 184 over at the Vintage Pattern Files which has a couple of nice 1940s panelled patterns.
Adam and Sam, flying the flag for dull knitwear...
The men's knitwear really is quite dull. Adam's tank top has to be one of the most miserable knitted garments ever - wartime austerity in wool! Daniel wears an odd jumper at one point. It looks as though it's a really fine gauge, like a machine knit. What do you think? A bit too sweatshirty? Adam continues his parade of tedious yarn products in episode three, with a grey wide-ribbed tank top. Bizarrely, the most interesting knit in that episode is worn by an assassin, because nothing helps you blend into the crowd and be forgotten like a woollie in ALL THE COLOURS.
Yeah, they'll never remember that...
Anyway, that's it for our yarny journey through series nine. If you've seen any of the patterns anywhere, please do comment!

14 comments :

  1. Great post. I adore the costumes in Foyles War, especially the woollies, but like you, I wish they'd been less dull?

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    1. Sam has had much nicer ones in the past. I did wonder if they were trying to increase the 'edgy cold war feel' by making everything look a bit grim. Certainly there are lots of trenchcoats in this series. Spies love trenchcoats...

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  2. Great post, I so agree on the assassins fair isle jumper :)

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  3. I'm only just in the middle of watching series one so have a lot to catch up on but am looking forward to all the lovely knitwear spotting to come!

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    1. It's at its best in the earlier series, I think. It's a consistently good programme, though.

      What am I going to watch now that and Poirot are over?!

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  4. The pattern for Sam's zig zag jumper is available! It's in a book called Vintage Knitwear for Modern Knitters by Lise-Lotte Lystrup, and is described as a Riding jumper from 1949.

    I have this jumper knit up (not from this pattern but bought on Ebay years ago) in pine green and I absolutely LOVE it. So happy to have found the pattern so I can knit it up one day when mine goes to a better place. :)

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    1. YOU STAR! Thank you so much for that. I'll add it to the text and credit you.

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  5. I love this programme, but due to a real loathing of adverts I waited and bought the DVD which I am watching now.
    You are right, three episodes is nowhere near enough!
    I like that grey jumper too, and the Fair Isle one on the student, alas, I cannot knit, nor ever will.
    Have just discovered the wesewretro web site and have been having a snoop at the garments on there.

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    1. I Tivo it and watch it that way. Adverts begone!

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  6. I must catch up on watching this, especially now there is knitwear spotting to be done too! I always enjoy these write ups of yours. Three episodes does not a series make, ( neither do four, makers of Luther)!

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    1. Is it me, or are British programme-makers making ever-shorter series? I realise it's impractical to expect the 22 most American series seem to have, but I'm sure most programmes could make it to 12...

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  7. Oh, Mim..
    You too have noticed the amazing fashions in "Fole's war". :) When I wached it for the first time, I felt the burst of desire - to have the massive amount of knitwear shown over there.. ah.. but, unfortunately, I can't knit. :(

    Marija

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    1. I can knit, but I'm soooo sloooow! Still working on my fair isle cardi. It'll be too warm to wear it by the time I've finished...

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