[Lydia Sokolova and Leon Woizikovsky, 1924, by Bassano]
The National Portrait Gallery is my favourite time-killing place in London. It's central, free, and quite wonderful even if you only have a short time; the various rooms are so beautifully self-contained and full of interesting portraits, that you can visit just one for ten minutes and feel you've had a true cultural experience.
I had some time to kill yesterday. On a day when all the women I saw at Waterloo Station on their way to the Ascot races looked utterly chilled to the bone in their skimpy frocks, bare legs, and mud-sinking high heels, and could have done with wellies and a warm jumper, I sheltered from the cold and wet in Room 31 where I found all the summer knitting inspiration I could ask for.
[Lydia Sokolova, 1924, by Bassano]
Room 31 is filled with early/mid C20 portraits in a variety of styles (Patrick Heron, Vanessa Bell, Augustus John) and there is currently a display of ballet related photographs, including several by Bassano.
I was fascinated by these photos of the dancers in 'Le Train Bleu' wearing costumes designed by Coco Chanel. If you look closely, you see that this is a celebration of summer knitting; not only are the golfing sweater and socks fabulous examples, the two-piece swimming costumes are also knitted in wool.
[Sir Anton Dolin, 1924, by Bassano]
They are machine-knitted but nevertheless they are just what we need for the beach this June. I'd love to see the colours of the original knitting, but feel stripes in candyfloss-pink and shades of seaside rock would be highly appropriate for a Chanel-inspired, hand-knitted bathing suit for Blackpool or Brighton this summer.