Saturday, 4 June 2016

What is it ?

I recently stumbled across a photograph of an object that I had not seen before. I am sure that many of you will recognise this object immediately. 

Thinking that it just had to be craft related and with an enquiring mind I enjoyed hunting around the internet to find out more. So here we have the history of the MP Handy Guide to Knitting and Crochet

It was patented and manufactured in 1936 in Britain as a pair of rectangular flat metal plates sandwiching a paper card marked with number lists, and sliders with markers to record current row number, increase, decrease and times. 

However the metal slides did not work smoothly and could get stuck. The gadget incorporated a small ruler and needle gauge. There is an example of this counter in the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The paper instructions pasted on the back carried the following legend:

"Rows: When knitting and suddenly called away, mark off the number of rows reached.
Increase/decrease: For casting on, or casting off stitches.
Times: To mark off the pattern when doing fancy knitting, etc.
Measure: Very handy when tape measure is mislaid.
Needle gauge: For correct sizes from 6 to 12."

A paper card version of the MP Handy Guide was published with folded card sliders for the war effort under the auspices of the UK Ministry of Defence during World War II and was intended for use by people knitting gloves, socks and balaclavas for the troops.


In the 1960s, Aero Needles of Redditch, England produced the Knitters Companion, a pocket version of the complex counter, consisting of a pierced bar of black plastic containing seven knurled, white, rotary, numbered discs whose numbers would appear through the piercings in the bar. As in the MP Handy Guide, the numbers were labelled Increase, Decrease, Rows and Times. It was supplied with a soft plastic case which was intended to maintain memory of the count by preventing accidental movement of the discs. 

In 1972, UK magazine Woman's Weekly gave away its own card variation of this, with the numbers on dials with rotary paper pointers to record rows, increases or decreases, and times. Like the MP Handy Guide it incorporated a small inch-ruler and needle gauge, but now added a tension gauge measure and centimetre ruler.


In spring 2008 the UK magazine Simply Knitting no.39 gave away a green plastic version of the MP Handy Guide, without needle gauge or ruler and with a clarified version of the same instructions moulded onto the back:

"Rows: move the markers when you have completed each row.
Increase and decrease: keep count each time you need to increase or decrease stitches.
Times: use the markers when you need to make more than one set of increases or decreases."

This version illustrated the difficulty of mass-producing such a gadget cheaply: the inner card is easily displaced during assembly, thereby misplacing the numbers, and some of the sliders do not move easily.

There are some interesting vintage counters and gauges to collect.




Do you have  a vintage or antique counter or gauge?  If you so please share a photograph with us.

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