Top knitter, Joyce Meader, and her huge historical pattern collection
Having always been a keen knitter, Joyce initially started to focus specifically on historical patterns after selling some military webbing to someone she met on eBay. “I asked him what it was for and he said he was in the Yorks and Lancs WW1 re-enactment society,” she reminisces. “He asked if I could also knit some socks for him – and the hunt for military patterns went on from there!”
What started as a new knitting interest soon turned into an absolute passion for Joyce, largely due to the exciting anticipation of what the final outcome would be. “You just never know how historical knitting patterns are going to turn out,” she explains. “Sometimes, there’s no picture, as these didn’t start until the 1890s, and then how it turns out is pot luck – I love this aspect of it. Even if there’s a hand-drawn picture, I still don’t believe it – as the finished garment often doesn’t look like that at all!”
So, how big is Joyce’s collection exactly? “I have a very, very large collection that covers all aspects of handknitting, starting from 1817,” Joyce tells us. “I believe I have the largest collection of military knitting patterns in the UK – if not the world!” Joyce’s oldest pattern is a copy of The Knitting Teacher’s Assistant, published for The National Girls’ School – dated 1817! “It was an educational booklet, written in the form of questions and answers,” she says. “It came from a lady in the USA, but there’s actually a later edition in the Richard Rutt collection which you’ll find at Winchester College of Art.”
Joyce’s rare collection isn’t her only claim to fame – her wonderful knits have even featured on the big screen! “I’ve knitted for The Wildest Dream, a film about Mallory and Irvine climbing Everest,” she says. “It came about because I’d recreated knitted garments for a project done by Lancaster University to see how they’d actually performed on the mountain.” In addition to this, her work has featured in the blockbuster film, Warhorse, for which she knitted the balaclavas and mu ers for the key actors, including the swoon-worthy Jeremy Irvine and Benedict Cumberbatch!
Joyce is very pro-active in the knitting world. As well as doing talks and lectures on historic knitting across the UK, she also takes her work to care homes and groups for people that su er with dementia. “I take my knitted bits and bobs, along with magazines, toys, household items, school bits and clothing,” she explains. “We have great fun discussing their memories of the things I bring along – my large bar of carbolic soap is one of the greatest hits, along with the knitted swimming costumes, which are my favourite things to knit! We always finish with a record or two, played on a wind-up gramophone and a sing-along.”
And what is Joyce’s greatest achievement? “This would have to be the Shackleton-style balaclava I made for the Antarctic explorer Henry Worsley,” she smiles. “He sadly passed away during his last trip to the South Pole, but he used the balaclava during all of his trips and it’s the only thing that I’ve knitted that has stood the test of the South Pole.”
Out of all of the incredible things that Joyce has collected and accomplished through her knitting, it’s a wonder she’s able to choose a favourite at all! Discover more about Joyce’s amazing collection at www.historicknit.co.uk
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Patterns from Joyce’s collection hark back to the 1800s Joyce Meader, military knitting pattern expert Some items have been knitted for films and TV Joyce takes her bits and bobs to care homes and dementia groups to show them Her hunt for military patterns was spurred on by a chat over eBay
“You just never know how the patterns are going to turn out!” Garments were also knitted for Lancaster University Knits of the past were designed to last… Joyce’s favourite pattern is this dapper two piece!