Sunday, 19 May 2013

eBay Tragic for Ella Allan - Melbourne Knitting Pattern Pioneer

This week I had a most disappointing experience on eBay. This very old knitting book of baby patterns first published in the 1920s or earlier came up for auction on eBay.

 Yes, you know what's coming, don't you. There had been 5 bids on the item with 2 days to go, and it was sitting on $6.50. I set the alarm on my phone to put in a bid at the last minute, as there were obviously at least two other people interested in the item. I always try to be disciplined on eBay, and I set my reserve price beforehand, with the intention of not exceeding it. I set the reserve for this item at $18.11.
With one minute to go, I put in my bid. The item immediately went to $20.00. I increased my bid and for about 5 seconds I was winning the bid at $25.00. Outbid again,  I threw caution to the wind and upped my reserve to $34.00 and was immediately outbid again at $38.00, at which stage I thought hang it, and retired with 5 seconds to go. Boy, was I sad. I even missed the meeting I was supposed to be at. (That part made me happy!) That woman! I may have called her some impolite names. (I assume it was a "her") Who would have believed that there were at least two other people besides myself who would bid ludicrous sums of money to get this book?

This book is by Ella Allan. Here she is, from the fly leaf of the book.

This looks to me like a much older photo than 1930, the date given for the book by the vendor. I suspect that 1930 may have been a republication date for a popular book that had been around for quite a few years. Here are some of the illustrations, with baby garments modelled on china dolls.

This looks to me like the layout used in the 1920s and World War 1 era. Books from the 30s looked much more modern.
It also reminds me of a book I have. I do not know what this book is because the cover is missing, along with the first couple of pages. But check it out. No china dolls, but of a similar era, I think.

Well, at least the patterns are similar, but the layout more modern. I suspect once again, a reprint to update some classic patterns. Here are some of my favourite patterns from this book:

Baby's first gaiter.

Baby's Mocassin

Baby's Second Set of Stays

Cotton Hat

Crochet Bib

And wasn't I delighted to find this ad in the book:

Is my mystery book an Ella Allan book after all? I would have thought that the books most likely to carry ads for her books would be her own books.
The Australian Dictionary of Biography does not mention Ella Allan. (Nor does Wikipedia, by the way, just being thorough).
However, the State Library of Victoria, bless it's little heart, holds 22 items by Ella Allan, many of which have been digitised and are available online. Trove, at the National Library of Australia, lists several other of her books at other Australian libraries, though unfortunately not yet available online. Amongst the many Ella Allan books, dating from 1917 to the early 30s, I found the auctioned book. The State Library does indeed give its publication date as 193-.

My mystery book appears to be "What to Make For Baby", part 1. (the auctioned book was part 4.) I can't find the same edition in the library, the ads are different in the library's book, and I suspect mine is not quite so old.

But best of all, this is the missing cover:

We don't get naked cherubs adorning farm machinery these days.

Her books of patterns for toddlers are even more adorable than the baby books. "Dainty Adornments for Tiny Tots", which I viewed online,  includes the following patterns:

 Silk Filet Crochet Jumper
Child's Hat
Toddler's Dress

So, I haven't got the book that was on eBay, but now I know I have another book of Ella Allan's, albeit one with a missing cover and 2 pages. But, now that I have shared this with you, I hope I don't end up bidding against you on eBay another day!

P.S. One week later...
Yesterday I bought Ella Allan's What To Make For Baby, Part 2, on eBay. I got it by bidding in the last 7 seconds of the auction, and not before. And I had to pay a lot, almost $36.00!  I'm sorry if you are the person I outbid at the last minute, but did it to me last week. So now we have one each. But I know there's a third person out there...

Update - June 2017.
Ella Grace Jane Allan lived in Melbourne from at least 1903, when she appears on the Australian Electoral Roll. She died in 1938, and this is when her books ceased to be reprinted. I now know that the first book  mentioned, with the designs modeled on dolls, is a 1930 something reprint "In New Form" of the book first published in the 1920s, or shortly before. The second book, my mystery book without a cover, is actually an older version from the 1920s. The 1930s books are dated, the earlier books are not.