Lost and found
Nursery nurse Jennifer Jakeman, from Birmingham, wrote to Nursery World looking for a pattern for babies’ crocheted shoes, which was printed in the magazine in December 1975.
Mrs Jakeman lost the pattern after her mother-in-law, Dorothea Adalaide Jakeman, who had used it to make shoes for all the babies in the family, died six years ago, aged 84.
‘When my mother-in-law died we found among her things one of the shoes in a paper bag along with the cotton to make the second one,’ she said. ‘I brought it home and kept it but the pattern wasn’t in there. I suppose it could easily have fallen apart, and she knew what she was doing so well she probably didn’t need it.’
The family retained warm memories of the shoes, which were made for all their new babies and regularly given out to close friends and entered into local community raffles.
‘They always looked lovely,’ Mrs Jakeman remembered. ‘They’re so tiny, about four inches, and were more for show really than to be worn properly. They were just gorgeous. My mother-in-law gave them out to lots of people, and they were all so happy with them, which is funny because they were probably the cheapest thing they ever got for their children.
‘Back then one ball of crochet cotton was very cheap, and there was never any waste from making the shoes. You might have a couple of extra buttons left over, but then you could just make more pairs. It was cheaper then to make all your clothes yourself. My husband and his sister were always in hand-knitted clothes because to buy them was completely out of financial reach.’
Jen Jakeman (top) with Dotty's husband Claude. From left to right: Dotty's sister Betty, Jen's son Matthew, and Dotty
Mrs Jakeman believes her mother-in-law made over 35 pairs of the shoes in her lifetime.
‘My sister just found my niece’s pair, which she got in January 1976, so they must have been the first pair my mother-in-law ever made. She was a genius. She could knit anything from any pattern, and could crochet without even looking.’
Now she has been reunited with the pattern, Mrs Jakeman hopes to find a friend willing to crochet a pair of the shoes in time to greet her first grandchild, who is due in July.
‘I sew but I never did get the hang of knitting or crocheting, so I’ll need to find someone who can,’ she said. ‘I’m 61 now and looking forward to retiring after 28 years at the school, so I can enjoy being a “grandmum”!’
Mrs Jakeman gave her mother-in-law the pattern when she found it in the 1975 5 December edition of the magazine, which she has fond memories of reading in her youth.
‘I used to buy Nursery World when I was training to be a nursery nurse, first over the counter and then on subscription,’ she recalls. ‘I used to get into college early and I would read it there. I remember applying for my first job with Birmingham City Council and I had to ask my tutor for a reference, and she wrote on it how wonderful it was to see Jen reading her copy of Nursery World first thing in the morning. I think I got a lot of brownie points for that!’
UPDATE: Some time after the Nursery World team found the crochet pattern and sent it to Mrs Jakeman, we received the following update from her.
‘We have been searching the loft and we found Dorothea's sewing box, and in it we found a Sirdar paper bag, and in it was THE PATTERN! One shoe, without the button sewn on, the remainder of a ball of cotton, and a crochet hook! She must have started doing a pair when she had "no knitting" and sadly never finished the second one. We felt joy and sadness at our find.
‘But look at the condition of the pattern; that is our evidence of the number of times she must have used it. Can you see that she used to fill them with cotton wool, so that they stood for exhibitions and it helped to keep their shape?
‘Also, my friend is crocheting me a pair for me to give my son when they have their baby in July, so that's the best result, and what started this off in the first place.’