In our latest look behind the scenes of the yarn industry, we asked Emma Mychajlowskyj, sales director of Sirdar, about what sort of archive a large yarn company keeps.
How big is the Sirdar archive?
We have thousands and thousands of patterns in our archive – they date back to the 1930s, soon after the Harrap Bros decided that they wanted to branch out into hand knitting and created the Sirdar brand
How is the archive used today?
The archive is used in many ways. Our design team constantly use it for reference and inspiration. Having so many designs from so many decades at our fingertips is wonderful – the current love of vintage styles allows us to look back at what people were actually wearing at those times, and re-invent the designs to accommodate today’s needs.
We are often asked by guilds and magazines if they can visit the archive. The archive isn’t open as such but we review each request and allow people to visit sometimes. For the knitters amongst us, it is like being a kid in a candy shop.
Can you use it to help knitters with old patterns?
We are the only UK hand knit company with a dedicated knitting helpline, and the archive is a wonderful support for this.
As you know, knitters love to reknit their old patterns and we can receive calls from people who are struggling with a 50 year old pattern that they have knitted so many times that they can’t read the writing – our wonderful helpline ladies will hunt out the pattern and assist them with their queries.
Do you ever reissue vintage patterns because particular looks or styles return?
On the odd occasion we will reissue a pattern due to popular request – such as a Santa Claus pattern that we had in the range some time ago, which became very popular recently due to the surge in toy knitting. We didn’t reissue the pattern as it was, we re-knitted and re-photographed it to modernise it.
It is often difficult re reissue patterns as they are as sizes and fit do change with the times – garments in the 80s would have had much more give than patterns we produce today, so we need to take into account the knitter’s expectations, and of course going back so far, the yarns are generally discontinued so we cannot guarantee the fit, shape and look of a pattern knitted in a substituted yarn. That said, we do still have yarns in the range that have been around for almost 50 years.
We are constantly being asked to make our archive available for purchase, as the trend for vintage thrives, but have no plans to do this as yet.