Sirdar is a company with humble beginnings, deep family roots and a long standing commitment to quality and reliability. Knitters are familiar with the trusted label- SIRDAR knitting made fashionable, but few of us know the entire story that has spanned one hundred and thirty years, the heritage that stands behind some of our favorite yarns and pattern leaflets.
The original spinning mill was founded in 1880, in the tiny town of Ossett, England, by two brothers, Tom and Henry Harrap. With a small handful of employees and a strong drive for success, the two brothers aimed high, producing good quality wool products and building a solid reputation. A decade later, the company moved to its present location in Alverthorpe, a manufacturing district just outside of Wakefield. It was Tom’s son, Fred who brought about the name change when he took over the helm in the 1930’s. The new company name- Sirdar, was chosen in respect to Lord Kitchener and his appointment as Sirdar (Leader) of the Egyptian Army. With his keen foresight, it was also Fred who re-directed the company to keep up with the changing times in England. In the 1930’s Sirdar introduced handknitting yarns and pattern leaflets to the public. By 1960, Fred’s daughter had joined the company and began to introduce patterns to the rest of the country through a new and popular format, women’s magazines. The Sirdar label was now well on its way to gaining international recognition. Lets take a glimpse into the archives, and follow the remarkable journey of Sirdar, a company well-trusted by knitters far and wide, as it has evolved from one decade into the next over the past one hundred and thirty years.
The pullover sweater made its debut in England during the 1930’s. This was an era of thrift and recycling. Sweaters were unravelled instead of being discarded, and the yarn was re-knit again and again. Wool was harsh and scratchy, in a very fine fingering weight. Cardigans, sweaters sets, and skirts were all popular knitted styles, and most clothing was knit by hand, not store-bought.
The 40’s brought about wartime knitting, colours were dark and sombre, women knit with what little wool was available. The styles were refined and sensible, still in a fine fingering weight. Socks were knitted for soldiers. Handknit gloves and scarves became popular for women.
Sirdar knitting leaflets were now printed in full colour. Double knitting weight yarns started to make an appearance. During the 50’s, clothing items were knit for comfort and warmth. The styles continued to be form fitting for both men and women.
Acrylic yarns became increasingly popular in the 60’s. A well-dressed baby was often seen in handknit leggings, coats, bonnets, and booties. Children were taught how to knit in school during this time. Ski sweaters with fairisle yokes became fashionable in England, and twin sets were in demand for women of fashion.
In the 70’s, the styles loosened up, ponchos, capes, skirts, and wide leg pants were featured in knitting patterns. Crochet became a huge trend in clothing and home decor. Sirdar Snuggly and Wash n Wear yarns emerged as strong sellers and have remained all-time favorites.
The 80’s introduced the first novelty yarns, and luxurious mohair sweaters became popular. Handknitting was more about texture, sweaters became softer and fuller. Dolman sleeves were the ‘in’ thing.
The 90’s continued with a penchant for luxury knits. Sweaters, cardigans and vests were now knit with ribbons and mohairs. Picture knits became popular with children. Favorite cartoon characters and animals soon appeared on the front of pullovers.