I’ve been binge watching period dramas all month, beginning with the popular “Bridgerton” on Netflix and then the less-steamy-but-still-captivating “Sanditon” from PBS on MASTERPIECE. They’re a perfect companion to catching up on my knitting and escaping quarantine.
The newest show I’m watching is “All Creatures Great and Small,” also from PBS on MASTERPIECE. And it’s a knitter’s dream.
I’m spotting 1930s knitted sweaters and vests left and right … and I’ve only watched the first two episodes! Not since “The Imitation Game” have I loved seeing the knits as much as the story.
It’s a reminder to me of how much effort is put into costume design. And when a show is set in the Yorkshire Dales in 1930s, you have to go all in on knit design, right?
Here are some of my favorite knits I’ve seen so far that really speak to each character’s personality. And if you want to join me in spotting these knits in each episode, you can watch the series Sundays at 9 p.m. on PBS MASTERPIECE or online.
We’ll start with my favorite, Helen Alderson. She’s a local farmer’s daughter who catches James’s eye immediately after arriving. And she is a perfect example of how wardrobe design tells you so much about a character. The sweater she wears when James makes his first visit to her farm is an emerald green turtleneck with a vertical zigzag pattern. Right away it tells you that she has a lot of personality and doesn’t always follow the rules. Another sweater we see her wear is a cheery, youthful colorwork piece, which really stands out against the dreary Yorkshire weather. Both of these knits show she’s a wild card, and I can’t wait to see what else she wears.
James Herriot is new to town and is trying to earn respect as a young veterinarian. He’s a by-the-book type of guy who studied hard and is determined to be a successful vet. But there’s still a young, rebellious side to him. These qualities are translated to his cable knit vests in that they don’t stand out too much but still have a youthful, busy look to them with the repetitive cables. He willing to work hard to get the job done, but hasn’t let life wear him down to wearing a plain knit vest…yet!
Mrs. Hall is the housekeeper of Skeldale House, but you can immediately tell that she also keeps veterinarian Siegfried Farnon’s life in order. She’s neat as a pin, well organized, and very welcoming. My favorite sweater that she wears displays this beautifully. It’s a basic cardigan with thick vertical ribbing separated by what appears to be either garter or seed stitch columns. This gives her a very orderly, buttoned-up appearance — everything a housekeeper is expected to be. The other blue sweater she wears almost every day is even more plain. Costume designer Ros Little said “…it’s darned and a little bit frayed, but it’s a practical garment she puts on every day.”
Tristan Farnon is Siegfried’s younger brother. When he arrives, he’s stowed away on a train and dressed in white tie, which makes me think that there are so many stories we probably won’t hear about his life back at veterinarian college. He’s also a showman, so his bright fair isle vest is a perfect match for him. He’s still very young, a trickster, and yet he comes from a very traditional upbringing, all of which you can see with this vest.
I love paying attention to the costumes in TV shows and movies — they can tell you so much about the characters. Try it next time you take a break to sit and knit with your new favorite show!