January 1961: Overview

IMG_2256Happy New Year 2019! Or 1961, if you prefer. January 1961’s issue “starts with a swing” with “lots of colour” and “tip-top designs” like the gorgeous Greenlandic-style sweater on the cover.

Looking through the issue, I feel like this is the point in time where the 1960s started, fashion-wise. The closely-fitted, fine-knit, waist-length jumpers of the 1950s have made way for bulky, quick-to-knit garments, and nylon-mix wools like Rimple are more common.  Skirts are still long and hairstyles modest — we’re not in the “Swinging Sixties” yet — but colours are bolder and the whole look seems fresher, somehow.

The little girl’s outfit on the inside cover definitely embodies the new look. Yes, her legs are still going to freeze, poor child, but her little red Rimple outfit is swingy and fun. And look at that wonderful cap and muff! The decorations are made by cutting the bobbles out of a length of bobble fringe and sewing them onto a crochet chain made in contrasting green or red wool, then sewing the bobble chain onto the cap and muff. Mum and daughter can both sport the latest in “Paris Hat News”, which seems to be a sort of turret tower worn on top of your head. The loops on the bottom part of the adult hat are made by pulling loops through the knitting ridges with a bodkin or blunt tapestry needle and holding them in place with your thumb until they are all made and the wool fastened off.

Women’s and men’s fashions feature loose-fitting garments in bulky wools, either hip-length and unshaped like the Greenlandic sweater or the embroidered Viennese cardigan on the inside back cover, or “cropped and bulky” like the “slick jacket” made in thick Big Ben wool. For a more elegant look, you can knit a suit in double knitting weight and top it with a detachable fur collar.

In addition to the little girl’s sets, babies and children can enjoy a warm cape or dressing gown in Rimple yarn, or a pram blanket in brushed, bulky Big Ben wool. The brushing felts the wool for a true blanket effect. It was done with a teasel, which is a metal brush that breaks up the fibres and lifts the nap of the fabric. Readers are instructed to send the finished blanket to Patons and Baldwins in Scotland, who will brush the blanket for you “at a very reasonable charge.”

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Jacobean embroidery, stitched hall rugs, and Victorian-style chair seat tapestry remain steadily in fashion, or you can embroider pictures of a kitten and puppy to hang on your wall. I don’t know about you, but to me they look kind of melancholic! This month’s Zodiac sign is Capricorn, and you can use it to decorate a pyjama case. In the children’s features, Wag and Wendy have tea with a toadstool fairy and kids can sew a simple tea-cosy set for their mother’s birthday.

My project will be the fabulous sweater from the front cover. I’ll be modifying the fit, though, as big and bulky is not my style. Thanks for joining me for the first year of this blog, and best wishes for 1961 — er, 2019!

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December 1960: Baby’s Special Outfit

IMG_2217My December project was a warm winter dress for a baby, part of the “Baby’s Special Outfit” of dress, bootees and mittens that continued the baby set started in the November 1960 issue.

The dress has a smocked top, which I had never worked in knitting before. Of course, knit smocking is not like sewing smocking, where you gather the fabric up in regular pleats and embroider over it. Here, it’s pretty easy to do and involves taking out a long loop and knitting it back in a few stitches later — almost like cabling without a cable needle. The base pattern is 2×2 rib, which gives the same effect as gathered fabric.

dec60wipI used a lovely 100% wool that was hand-dyed by a fellow knitter in my local knitting group. She uses natural dyes from plants in her garden, or the bits of food items that are normally not eaten: walnut shells, onion skins, and so on. This green-melange wool was dyed with red onion skins! She did explain to me how that worked, but please don’t ask me, because I forgot the answer already. Anyway, it’s very nice. I was worried that it might be too scratchy for sensitive baby skin, but wash-blocking it and rinsing with hair conditioner softened it up quite a bit.

I only had 100 grams of the wool, so had to make the dress a bit smaller than in the pattern. The original pattern was for a baby up to one year or more, had a long, full skirt, measured 22 inches at the chest and had sleeves. The baby I made this for is 6 months old but still quite small, and my version of the dress measures 21 inches at the wide part of the chest, has a shorter and narrower skirt and no sleeves. In a way, that’s more practical, since it can be worn over a t-shirt and leggings and taken off if the baby gets too warm. It also won’t touch her skin, so scratchiness won’t be a problem. It buttons in the back.

And with that, I have completed one whole year of Stitchcraft projects! Goodbye 1960 and 2018, and hello 1961 and 2019. Stay tuned, and happy New Year!

 

 

December Extra: Stitchcraft Cooking, 1949

stitchcraft1949In its earlier decades, Stitchcraft included a page of easy and economical recipes in each issue, mostly for tea-time cakes or pastries. The tradition ended around 1950, so none of my 1960s issues have a recipe page, but I do have a few magazines from the late 1940s and thought this would be a fun time to try out their “Christmas Cooking” ideas.

December 1949 gave us a savoury recipe for nut pie and a very easy recipe for candy made of condensed milk, sugar and vanilla. I had some ground nuts on hand, so decided to try the nut pie. The recipe is quite simple and calls for 2 parts by weight of finely ground nuts of any kind, 1 part each of cooked rice or semolina, breadcrumbs, and sautéd onions, plus mixed herbs, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. My version had ground almonds and hazelnuts, Arborio (risotto) rice which I thought would stick together better than other sorts of rice, no breadcrumbs as I forgot to buy bread and didn’t feel like going out again in the rain, and some sunflower seeds for topping. Here’s my adaptation of the 1949 recipe:

  • 120 grams (about 1 1/3 cup, measured after grinding) finely ground nuts
  • 60 grams (about 1/2 cup) Arborio rice
  • 1 small onion
  • A small handful sunflower seeds
  • Olive oil for frying onions and greasing the pan
  • About 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 pats of butter or margarine

Cook the rice in 2 parts water to 1 part rice and let it absorb all the water. Chop the onion finely and sauté it in a bit of olive oil until soft and golden. Grease a small loaf pan with olive oil and sprinkle with sunflower seeds (they will come out on top when the pie is inverted.) Mix all ingredients except butter or margarine thoroughly with oiled hands and press the mixture evenly into the pan. Top with butter or margarine and bake in a 190°C (375°F) oven for about 30 minutes, or until slightly browned on top. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then invert onto a board or serving platter.

This is about half the amount of the original recipe and makes enough for 1-2 portions. It was hard to tell when it was “done” — after all, all the component parts had either already been cooked, or didn’t need to be — but I figured it was ready when the top began to brown a little. It didn’t hold together as well as I had hoped, so I might add a beaten egg next time I make it.

The original recipe suggests serving it with thick, brown gravy, baked potatoes, peas or stewed celery, or “apple-sauce goes well, too”. I didn’t see the need to eat potatoes with something that already had rice in it, so I made some simple sautéd carrots and fennel to go with it. Gravy or applesauce would have been a good idea, as the loaf was a little dry, but it tasted absolutely delicious.

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I imagine this recipe would make an excellent stuffing for a holiday goose, duck or turkey, as it can be cooked as long as needs be and has a nice nutty, meaty taste. You could cook a loaf of it outside of the bird for vegetarians. Nota bene: if you use margarine instead of butter, this recipe is vegan, and if you make it without breadcrumbs as I did, it is also gluten-free. Just don’t expect it to hang together in a compact loaf that you can slice, and do serve some kind of sauce to go with it. Also nota bene: I am not a food photographer and this is what it actually looked like. Bon appetit and happy holidays!

December 1960: Overview

IMG_2214This year (1960 or 2018, take your pick) draws to a close with Stitchcraft’s “Christmas Issue”, which, as you may expect, is full of holiday-themed novelties to decorate and give.

That said, the hoodies on the cover are surprisingly modern and not “Christmas sweaters” in the sense we usually think of them at all. If I just saw a photo of them without the festive vintage backdrop, or the “DEC 1960” in the cover corner, I would be hard-pressed to say from what decade they came from. You could sell them in a regular modern store today and nobody would think they were a vintage design! I love the little tuft on the kid’s hood, too. They are made in nubbly Rimple yarn, still a hit and always featured somewhere in each issue.

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There are “gay ideas” for festive party table decorations of all types: a floral tablecloth for  a tea party, a merry-go-round tea cosy for the “Nursery Party” and table sets with playing cards as napkin holders for the grown-ups. “The last minute novelties” take on a fairy-tale theme, with a Red Riding Hood doll, a Noah’s Ark nightcase, a friendly draught-stopping snake and — for your holiday Dickens bedtime reading — a tea cosy that looks like a plum pudding, complete with attached crocheted plate! More pious readers can make an appliqué wall hanging of the Three Wise Men and heathens can make an embroidered wastebasket cosy with a Sagittarius theme (this month’s astrological sign).

Of course, one never has enough time in the holiday season to make everything perfectly,  so if you are “really stumped for time” you can make the wall hanging “in bright, shiny papers” (instead of felt), “cutting out the shapes and sticking them down, then adding cut-out strips, etc., for the finishing touches.”

For those who have the time, or don’t go all-out for holiday decorations, there are the usual assortment of knitting projects, starting with a lovely warm dress-booties-mittens set for a baby. I do admire her elegant mitts, but I’m guessing that in real life, they don’t stay on a baby any longer than it takes to take a photo. Older kids can get a striped jumper in a fantastic, very modern colour combination.

Teenagers haven’t been forgotten either, and can enjoy these Italian-inspired colour designs with added embroidery on the young woman’s jumper. I really like both of these designs! The young man’s jumper is fun without being too flashy, and with a little tweaking, would work well on a woman’s figure, with the dark colour band starting just under the bust line. There’s even a little extra “how-to” lesson on embroidering knits, which is still perennially in fashion at this time.

IMG_2219Adult women, having hopefully embraced the “new length” (long) and “new sleeve style” (3/4 or 7/8) from last issue, can get ready for Paris’ “new necklines” — a high turn-down-and-rib combination or a buttoned-up turtle (polo) neck. No turn-down collars this time — are they on the way out? There’s a new yarn to go with them, Cameo Crepe, which is smooth and less “hairy” than other wools, for good stitch definition.

All this new fashion detailing can be admired in the two-colour twin set from the inside back cover, and to go under it all, why not knit yourself a lovely warm woollen vest (camisole)? I don’t mean that sarcastically — they are really the best! I made a woollen lace under-dress (slip) last year and it is heaven in a cold, damp climate.

It’s hard to decide what to make from this issue. Lots of the items are cute and fun, but nothing jumps out at me that I absolutely have to make. The plum pudding cosy is so silly that it’s cool, but I don’t use tea cosies and it would be a lot of work for a gag. The snake is cute and useful, but I don’t have odds and ends of double knitting at the moment and I do  in fact already have a stuffed snake who occasionally gets put to work plugging a “leaky” window. I also have plenty of jumpers and even wollen underclothes (s. above), so don’t need more. I do have a hundred grams of very nice, hand-dyed green fingering wool in search of a project, so maybe I’ll make the baby dress.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays to all my readers! May everything you celebrate be jolly and festive.

 

November 1960: Cloche Cap

IMG_2176November’s project was a little cloche hat, made out of leftover wool from July’s Charming blouse. I loved the little buckled brim and the sort of mushroom shape, though I found that the hat looks better if I pull it down over my forehead like a 1920s cloche hat. Either the picture in the magazine, taken from an angle over the model’s head, doesn’t really give a true impression, or our heads are differently shaped, or both.

Speaking of differently shaped, the hat is meant for an “average hat size”. That’s… not very specific. I do have a bigger head than average for modern days, but the wool (Juniper Moon Farms’ Herriot Fine) is mostly alpaca, so stretchier than the synthetic Rimple that the pattern is written for. To be safe, I made the buckle strip for the brim a little longer, but in the end that wouldn’t have been necessary. The buckle brim band (good name for a band!) is made in garter stitch, which is really not the most suitable for hat brims, as it stretches too much and doesn’t hold the hat on your head. Though of course, if you pull a hat down over your forehead, it’s not going to go anywhere.

Not that I need any more hats, but it’s cute and warm, so I’m happy.

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November 1960: Overview

IMG_2168Brrrr! November 1960’s Special Bumper Issue” brings us “Colour for the Cold Days” and an extra 16-page pull-out booklet of baby woollies. Sadly, so sadly, the booklet from my copy of this issue has been pulled out long ago and is missing.

There are still plenty of lovely cold-weather fashions and interesting homewares to make, starting with the comfortable, matching “his and hers” sweaters from the front cover. Green checks continue to be in fashion, this time made with a complicated slip-drop-and-pick-up-later stitch pattern in two colours of Rimple. The idea of the “partner look” is just starting now, but will carry on throughout the 1960s into the androgynous 1970s and even the oversized-sweaters-for-everyone 1980s. Both fashion and gender roles were still quite rigidly stratified in 1960, but I see a parallel between the gradual softening of gender-based norms and the increased interest in gender-neutral “partner” garments that both started around this time. The two sweaters in this issue are both loosely-fitted, shaped (or not shaped, as is the case) the same, and available in overlapping sizes. The only proportional differences are in the shoulder width and sleeve/overall length, and the only cosmetic difference is the collar.

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Women’s fashions without men’s versions include a “sports” sweater with coloured lines made from a bobbled two-colour stitch pattern and added embroidery, a “top-fashion” jacket with a wide collar, a belted jumper and a cute hat with a buckled brim. Waist-length and closely fitted is definitely out, and the long-line with minimal shaping and a collar is definitely in. Men’s fashions are similarly long and loose-fitting, with dolman sleeves and interesting yoke details, and there’s a fantastic twin-set for young girls aged 5-9.

IMG_2172Homewares are still in a weird phase. The working woman or baby-boom mum (and those were overlapping categories, then as now) of 1960 didn’t have the time or patience to make too many elaborate Jacobean embroidery pieces or huge, detailed tapestries, especially not right before the great rush to get Christmas presents under the tree, so the focus is on quick, easy-to-make novelties for gifts. The aesthetic sense does seem to get lost a bit, though, if you ask me.

Of course, if you do have the time and leisure, you can go ahead and make a piano-stool and cushion set in Victorian-style tapestry, or a large room-divider screen with colourful parrots. Truly modern and up-to-date novelty lovers can continue the Zodiac series with a Scorpio motif for cushions, chairbacks or waste-paper baskets.

IMG_2178(I notice that Word Press does not recognise the word “chairback”. They have been out of fashion for too many years, I guess, having fallen victim to cheaper furniture, more frequent hair-washings and less Brylcreem. Pity that no one likes them now, as they do seem kind of fun.)

In the back pages, Jill Browne is still happily endorsing Patons Big Ben wool, and a lovely new children’s serial, “Wendy and Wag in Wallpaper Land” has started. Note the printed ruler at the side of the page, included in each issue as an easy way to measure your tension swatch. Also, there’s a rug reprint, a toy pig made of pink felt, a panda-bear motif and gay pot holders. What more could you want? My project will be the cloche hat, and I’ll consider the belted jumper if I have more time.

 

 

October 1960: No Fun Fuchsia

C7C1F427-D5D1-4647-A1AD-B3CA7258E8E6I really, really liked the idea of this embroidery project. Sadly, there was no colour photo, but the design is fun and very 1960 and I imagine the colours (Plum and Magenta with Cream and Fawn shades on deep green) to be quite striking. Working with tapestry wool instead of crewel cotton was (or would have been) another first, so all in all, I was eager to try it.

Thing is, I have enough cushions. So I thought I could make a project bag — you can never have too many project bags, right? And I could order some of those really 60s cane loop handles, which I saw in a catalog at my local craft shop. Perfect, except…

Well, first of all, I had no tapestry wool and nowhere to buy any except ordering it online. I did have 4-ply knitting wool leftovers in the right colours, so I thought, why not use that? I also didn’t have any deep green evenweave linen, but I did see some great deep green wool felt at the store, so settled on that. Bad move! Wool yarn on wool felt is not a great idea — it doesn’t slide well though the fabric. And knitting wool is thicker than tapestry wool, at least the embroidery kind. Also, the handles I wanted have been discontinued.

The pattern was equally difficult to deal with. After getting a halfway symmetrical design copied out onto paper (difficult enough), I decided to try out my new embroidery transfer wax pen, since the green felt was not transparent enough to do the window-light-box trick. It didn’t work! It only transfers onto smooth cotton or linen. Dotting the tracing paper with a pin and transferring the markings with a white pencil was only marginally successful. Nothing shows up on green wool felt except chalk, which is is too imprecise and rubs off immediately. Then the wool was too thick, the pattern too small, the needle, felt and wool didn’t work together at all well mechanically, and with one thing and another, it was just a chore and no fun to make at all.

I stopped after one quarter of the (simplified) design and made it into a little zippered bag with purple floral lining. I have so many little zippered bags and don’t have enough little “stuff” to fill them. Should I give it away? Will anyone even want it? I like it in spite of itself, so maybe I just need to find the right use for it.

November will be more fun, I hope!

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October 1960: Overview

0E56629B-4509-4599-B9F4-63679CA72DCCOctober and November are really the best months for knitting. The weather has gotten cold enough that you really want to wear and make warm, woolly things, and there’s the nice “surprise” of packing the winter clothes out of storage, and so remembering what nice hand-knitted pieces you made in other years. At least, that’s my experience.

Stitchcraft also knows that knitters like to start more projects in the fall, so this month’s “bumper” issue has lots of warm clothing for adults and children as well as Christmas presents for home and family (for those who like to think ahead). And in the middle of the magazine is a special supplement of fashions in “Big Ben” — bulky triple-weight wool.

Women’s fashion features the “new length” of 23-25 inches in all jumpers, with minimal or no waist shaping, a sign that the era of waist-length sweaters and knitted blouses so popular in the 1950s is coming to an end. The sleeves have a new length, too — the “smart bracelet length” i.e. 3/4 length. I guess it lets you show off your bracelets, but I get cold forearms! Two are in 4-ply and one in an interesting “Italian waffle” slip-stitch pattern in double knitting.

There are some great fashions for men, as well, both in the regular magazine and the supplement. The long socks and lined scarf in ever-fashionable green checks are definitely cosy and “would make very acceptable presents for a grown-up son or special boy-friend“. The jumper features a shawl collar, here referred to as a „reefer neck“. Reefer neck? When I think of the 1950s or 1960s and „reefer“, a shawl-collared jumper is not what comes to mind. Perhaps that grown-up son or special boy-friend has special recreational plans to wear that sweater for? In an case, it‘s attractive and warm-looking, as is the model.

 

There are plenty of little trinkets to make for the home, „for your Church Bazaar“ or for Christmas gifts. Looking at some of them, I think more bizarre than bazaar — Peter the Pup has a very weird look in his eyes and you don’t really mentally associate an igloo with the idea of keeping tea warm, right? (Though I know, I know, the thick ice walls of real igloos make excellent insulation.)

Homewares are always fun and this month has a bathroom set with seahorses for those who like a hand-made woolly toilet seat cover (makes me think of my great-aunt, who even made those woolly extra-toilet-paper-roll covers).

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There’s also a landscape tapestry, a cushion embroidered with sprays of fuchsia and a „Chippendale“ chair seat. In home-wears, there‘s a bed-jacket that‘s pretty enough to wear as a cardigan and the start of a new embroidery series with signs of the Zodiac. I always though the interest in astrology was a 1970s phenomenon, but here we have an entire year of zodiac-themed home accessories in 1960. I personally have no interest in astrological signs, but I do absolutely love her dress — check out that lovely lacing in the front. (And be sure to wear your frilliest petticoat while ironing.)

And we haven‘t even gotten to the Big Ben supplement! It truly is a bumper issue. The Big Ben offerings are under the signs of „Continental“ and „Italian“ styling: a long, slim, mostly unshaped silhouette with square collars and nubbly stitch patterns. Toddlers get a classic „lumber style“ jacket with pockets. The Norwegian „playtops“ aren‘t from the Big Ben supplement, but they are awfully nice.

Last but not least, you can order yourself some sewing fabric from the advertisements in the back pages, and what could be better for autumn wear than gay checks? I wholeheartedly approve… and want that suit that the lady on the left is wearing. My October project will be a variation of the fuchsia embroidery. Happy autumn knitting parade, everybody!

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September 1960: An Original Cushion

fishsampleSeptember’s issue had a fantastic design of blackwork fish on a cushion. Blackwork is a type of embroidery combining counted-thread patterns (the fillings) with regular crewel embroidery stitches for outlines and details. I loved the way it looked but had never tried it before, so this was another Stitchcraft Sixties debut.

It was hard to find a proper evenweave linen for the base. The fabric stores in my area only had either heavy, fairly rustic linen in white/natural or colours I didn’t want, or cross-stitch fabric which didn’t look right for a cushion. I ended up using the same linen-viscose mix that worked so well for the leaf cushion  that I made in January and substituted a vibrant pink for the turquoise called for in the pattern. Not having a transfer, I used the same method as with the leaf cushion to pencil the lines onto the fabric (see that post for more detail).

 

I loved the fabric in itself, but the threads were really fine and close together, making the blackwork fillings time-consuming, difficult, and — I hate to say it — boring to do. At some point I stopped trying to count the threads and just tried to keep the filling pattern as even as possible without stressing over it. Of course, it was not perfectly even, but it’s amazing how the richness of the patterns draws the eye away from imperfections as soon as you move out to normal viewing distance.

 

One interesting detail: The pattern “plan” shows both the large fish in the middle and the small fish in the right-hand corner looking down to the left, and the small fish in the left-hand corner looking down to the right. That also reflects the directions, which refer to the “Fish above left” with buttonhole-stitch on its tail. But whoever worked the sample rotated the plan 90 degrees clockwise! The sample picture looks great and was obviously intended that way, i.e. I don’t think it’s an error in the photo set-up, but after some consideration, I decided to make the cushion according to the plan.

 

I ended up making some changes, especially on the big fish. I hadn’t left enough room for the black blanket-stitch edging inside the body, so I left that out, and the whole head-mouth area was tricky. The “lower lip” still looked wonky after ripping it out and redoing it twice, and I didn’t dare try a third time for fear of ripping though the fabric. White blanket-stitch or buttonhole-stitch around the eye looked weird and far too white, distracting from the rest of the picture, so I substituted some loose blanket-stitch in black. The seaweed is done in wheat-ear stitch, which was a new one for me, and easy and fun to do.

fishpanelfoThe pillow was easy to make up, as I didn’t use piping (I thought the design was bold enough that a plain edge would be nicer.) All in all, I love the look of blackwork but don’t like the effort. I guess it’s easier on a looser-weave fabric where you can really see the holes in the weave to count them. It was made as a gift for a friend who I think will really like and appreciate it, and I feel happy giving it to her, as I am quite satisfied with the final result.

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September 1960: Overview

IMG_2045September 1960 is supposedly a “Special Number” of autumn knitting fashions. I’m not sure what exactly makes it so special, since it doesn’t seem to have any more, or particularly different, projects than the average issue. I guess it’s special in that September is finally a bit cooler weather-wise, so you can start to make some nice wool garments for the colder months — very appropriate in 2018, where we had the summer to end all summers. Things have cooled down a bit now, so I’m looking forward to wearing my (still unfinished) projects from July and August soon.

But back to September 1960. “You must include some heavy-knits for the really cool days out of doors, but for the milder days, a fashion feature to note is the use of finer knitting,” Patience Horne tells us, and this month’s issue gives a good mix of finer and bulkier garments for adults and children. The 4-ply women’s sweaters (why sweaters and not jumpers? I still can’t figure out why they sometimes use one term and sometimes  the other for the exact same type of garment) have those big square collars that we’ve seen on other 1960 designs, with or without buttons. The pink sweater is made in super-fine-ply Lucelle at 10 stitches to the inch! If hand-knitting in fine yarn is too time-consuming for you, you can make a lacy cardigan on your machine.

Moving up the bulkiness scale, we’ve got the lovely skirt suit on the cover, made in Rimple, a sweater in “overblouse style” and a “raglan golf sweater” for men in green plaid. Green checks continue to be in fashion!  The “young sports fans” in the family get comfortable jackets in double knitting weight, “made to match for brother and sister.” Can you spot the difference between the boys’ and girls’ versions? (Do you remember those “can you spot the 10 differences between these pictures” puzzles in the kids’ comics section? Do they still have those?) If you can’t, I won’t tell you, but try buttoning a cardigan made for the “opposite” sex if you need a hint.

Fans of Big Ben bulky knitting can make a Viennese design with added-on embroidery in duplicate stitch, or a trio of crochet items in “crunchy Pineapple-stitch”. I love the pram cover, bound with blanket edging, but I wish I could see the bonnet from the front.

Homewares are well represented by a stool cover in Florentine tapestry, a great embroidered cushion in blackwork design, traditional and “modern” pile rugs and some interesting tablewares — tapestry table mats with pictures of “3 famous castles” and crocheted raffia drink mats for your cocktail party. Cheers, everyone! My September project will be the blackwork cushion, and I hope to finish up the knitted blouse from July and the cardigan from the August twin-set.

 

 

August 1960: Twin-set returns

IMG_1942I loved this twinset at first sight. I loved the short raglan sleeves on the pullover, the cable-and-mesh panel on the front and the very original mock-turtleneck-meets-peter-pan collar.  It’s one of the reasons I started this whole long-term Stitchcraft blog project, so I’m thrilled to have it come to life.

The yarn I used was ideal in terms of wearability: Lang Merino Bébé which is extremely soft and smooth and can be worn next to the skin with no problems at all. It is a little thicker than Patons Beehive Fingering, for which the pattern is written, so I had to work with a modified gauge (6 1/2 stitches per inch instead of 7) and ended up making a combination of the small (34-35 inch bust) and medium (36-37 inch bust) sizes to get a slightly larger size in the end. I guess in terms of actual measurements, I ended up with the second size, which fits fine.IMG_2033

Of course, the pattern is written to make in pieces and sew together, but I love making raglan-sleeve garments in one piece and working them together without seaming. It was a fun challenge to integrate the different decrease speeds of this compound raglan (the sleeves decrease every 4 rounds for quite a long time whilst the front and back decrease every other round), as the instructions are on different pages.

 

IMG_1994The cables have an interesting twist — literally. You put four stitches on the cable needle, knit the other four and then give the cable needle an extra 360 degree clockwise twist before knitting the stitches off of it. This gives them a cool extra definition. I forgot to do it once and it was almost unnoticeable — almost — but I didn’t want to rip back that far, so when everything was done I looped a little tiny thread around one of the cable stitches and just pulled it over more to the side and tacked it down by tying the thread ends in a knot on the wrong side. Look at the close-up picture above — can you tell which cable it was? I can’t on the finished garment. Good to know.

 

The collar is knitted separately in two pieces that are then knitted onto the picked-up stitches around the neckline, sort of like a three-needle bind off only without the binding off. Then you continue for an inch of mock turtleneck. The back of the pullover is open and you are supposed to put in a zipper, but I went for the keyhole effect and just added a button with a little crochet chain loop for a buttonhole. The final result is comfortable and pretty.

IMG_2081The cardigan is somewhat more plain, as it doesn’t have the cables, but it makes such a lovely set with the pullover — not to mention it’s an excellent “everyday” cardigan to go with lots of other outfits. The sleeves came out a bit long — I was obviously over-compensating for my long arms and the fact that I always have to lengthen the arms a bit — but it looks just as good with the cuffs turned back, and I can turn them down for extra warmth under a coat and gloves. I hadn’t expected the raglan sleeves to have so much armhole depth. I thought about adding facing ribbon to the button bands, but it turned out to not be necessary, as the cardigan fits fine whether buttoned or unbuttoned. In short, I am thrilled with my new twin-set and it will surely get a lot of use this winter.

 

 

 

 

 

August 1960: Overview

IMG_1942August is a weird month for knitting, as it’s often too hot to hold wool in your hands and hard to believe that autumn is around the corner. Appropriately, this month’s issue features easy embroidery and homewares, and seems to have fewer items than the average winter or “spring holiday” issue. But before we get into the contents, can we stop to admire this beautiful twinset on the front cover? I have been looking forward to making it since I started this blog! So much that I don’t care if the heat wave ever ends, or if I won’t be able to wear it until January. I am going to make it and love it.

We’ve got a few pieces in bulky Big Ben wool, which seems an odd choice to me for summer since it must be quite heavy and hot, even with September and October around the corner. The “slippy” is theoretically good for sailing, though, I’ll admit. A couple of casual sweaters for women, men and children round out the selections, plus a cute little bolero and baby dress for the little ones. Apart from the twinset, it’s basic fare.

The homeware pieces are more whimsical and probably a lot of fun to make. The three different aprons to sew and embroider are styled and decorated so differently that at first glance you would never notice that they are all made from the same fabric pattern. It’s quite a clever design, with a deep pocket in the middle. I imagine it would be just as useful as a “knitting apron” (where you put the working ball of wool in the pocket) as for sewing or kitchen work. The “charming novelty design” with little sewing birds (which remind me of the helpful birds in the Disney Cinderella movie) and the gingham “Briar Rose” are touted as “good bazaar items” and the third option can be made “from oddments”, so they are easy and useful all around.

Little mats for dining, dressing and living room tables can be very easy to make (a simple  hardanger table set with tea and egg cosy, or table mats made of raffia), a bit more elegant (cutwork for the dressing table), or finely knitted (“for the expert, but well worth the time and effort”). There’s a chairback in Assisi work and cushions with traditional designs from Czechoslovakia (still one country in 1960) done in cross-stitch or pattern darning.

The best bits are often in the back pages, and there is a great, short how-to article about making your own embroidery sampler in the “Readers’ Pages” which gives good, concise beginner’s advice on choosing motifs, calculating gauge and placement and choosing stitches. Also, there’s an advertisement for Turabast, which was a brand of ribbon straw popular from the 1950’s to 1970’s. You could knit it up into a stiff, crinkly skirt that was probably very inconvenient to sit in, but had that perfect petticoat look without the petticoat. Ribbon straw is still perfectly available in modern times, but these days people use it for crocheted flowers or home decorations. I haven’t seen anyone wearing an actual garment made from it, but I might try it someday.

My project for this month will be the wonderful twin set from the front cover.

 

July 1960: Charming blouse

IMG_1894This “charming and unusual design for larger sizes” (37-38 or 39-41 inch bust) features narrow dolman sleeves, crochet insertions, and horizontal bust darts.

I was intrigued by its construction, having made tops with bust darts from modern patterns or while working without a pattern, but never having seen vintage patterns with them. Oddly, instead of making short rows, you are supposed to cast off stitches, cast them back on again, and then sew up a seam! I guess that makes it look more like sewn fabric? Or the “editress” thought short rows would be too difficult? I can’t imagine that, though, since patterns from this time regularly call for short-rows to shape the back side of baby rompers and leggings. In any case, I made the bust darts with short rows to avoid having to make a seam. I also made the back and fronts up to the armhole shapings in one piece, again, to avoid seaming more than necessary.

IMG_1936I was interested to see how it worked out with the dolman sleeves. When I think of “dolman sleeves”, I think of those 1950s, or worse, 1980s garments with a huge triangle of fabric under the arm, which must have been very uncomfortable and inconvenient to wear. But after my April 1960 blouse with the horizontal cap sleeves worked out so well, I was willing to give this one a try. And it turned out great! There is no more extra fabric under the arms than there would be with set-in sleeves, and the horizontal construction gives plenty of room in the upper chest/back area, where I am quite wide. I guess the secret lies with the number of stitches cast on for the sleeves per row — this one had 2×8 rows and then 10×16 rows, making the sleeves narrow and more horizontal, thus less triangle-like.

IMG_2075The knitting was slow-going at 7 stitches to the inch, but of course once the body was done, so were the sleeves. Seaming was a nightmare, as the yarn (Herriot Fine from Juniper Moon Farm) curls more severely than stockinette stitch in other yarns and I had to block it well to even find the edge to sew. I was willing to put up with that, though, because the yarn is absolutely fantastic. It is warm, soft, weighs practically nothing (300 grams made the blouse with about 20 grams to spare) and it is the only alpaca I have ever worked with that I can wear directly next to my skin. It is the perfect, ideal wool for this type of knitted blouse.

(On that note, why on earth did knitted blouses go out of style? They are wonderful! The perfect garment for autumn days in a damp, chilly climate. Note to self: make more.)

IMG_2086What took longer than expected was the whole crocheted edging-collar-button-band extravaganza. The crochet bands are extremely fiddly — they are crocheted onto each other as you go, it’s difficult to make them all exactly the same size, and each one needs its own, new piece of yarn. There are a total of 50 elements, so that’s 100 yarn ends to weave in right there. Then there’s the “inner” collar, the “outer” collar and the button bands, all of which are made separately and sewn on, and somehow need to end up symmetrical and fit properly on both sides. Of course, I sewed the collar on backwards the first time, forgot to switch the right and wrong sides at the collar fold, etc, etc. It all worked out in the end, though.

My only modification (besides the short-row darts) was to make the sleeve ribbing 3 inches long, like the waist ribbing, instead of 1 1/2. The sleeves are still not full-length, nor are they supposed to be. I don’t like the idea of 3/4 or 7/8 sleeves, but it worked out better in practice than in theory.

To sum it up: Pattern was wonderful, yarn was wonderful, knitted blouses are the coolest thing ever and I am 100% satisfied with this project.

Version 2

July 1960: Overview

IMG_1879“Free and easy” is this month’s motto. Summer is here and nobody really feels like handling warm wool, so the emphasis is on “travel knits” (lightweight), “casual knits” (not too complicated) and “stroller styles” (loose and oversized). There is more embroidery and needlework than knitwear, and some easy sewing projects. Shall we relax and take a look?

The combination of dark and light green continues to be in fashion: we saw it in the great houndstooth jumper from January 1960 and it’s here again in this “casual car coat” and and the loose-fitting men’s checked shirt style on the inside back cover — “suitable for golf or to wear with beach shorts.”

IMG_1898I have to take a moment here to quote one of my favourite Roald Dahl stories, “The Boy Who Talked With Animals.” It’s about a little boy who saves a giant tortoise from the soup kettle, and Dahl’s description of the tourists waiting on the beach for the caught tortoise to be hauled in has, for some reason, stayed with me through the years:

The men were wearing those frightful Bermuda shorts that came down to the knees, and their shirts were bilious with pinks and oranges and every other clashing color you could think of. The women had better taste, and were dressed for the most part in pretty cotton dresses. Nearly everyone carried a drink in one hand.

I would hope Stitchcraft readers and their men would have had better taste, but I’m not always sure.

The other “free and easy” knits are mostly nice without being really special: a pretty cardigan with knitted-in pearls, nubbly Rimple, a short-sleeved blouse and some cute tops for teenage girls.

 

The “plus-size” (37-40 inch bust) cardigan blouse is really elegant, though, and has a feature that I have honestly never seen in any other mid-century patterns: short-row horizontal bust darts. But unlike modern methods of short-rowing where the turning stitches are wrapped or otherwise bound up with the stitch next to it, you just cast off the stitches and cast them on again, sewing the dart up afterwards as you would a sewn blouse.  IMG_1895

For the little ones, there’s a sun-suit, a fluffy top, and a waistcoat to sew and embroider. The waistcoat is a tie-in with the current comic, “The Magic Needle”, in which our tailor hero’s magic needle has just made a lovely embroidered waistcoat for Mouser the cat. In addition to the waistcoat, you can sew a stuffed toy Mouser, and while you’re at the sewing machine you can make this adorable gingham skirt to wear “over a frothy petticoat” and an amusing apron “for the needlework stall” (Stitchcraft often gives ideas for inexpensive projects that can be sold at church bazaars or other “sale of work” opportunities.)

 

IMG_1881You can also embroider a tablecloth, make tea-towels in huckaback, or attempt this fabulous tea cosy and/or evening bag in faux eighteenth-century tapestry. I so, so want to make this evening bag! I would love it and use it all the time. But I am too overwhelmed by the idea of trying to make a chart based solely on the photos — the design is fairly intricate — and having never before attempted tapestry work, I fear it would just be too much for a rank beginner. I will definitely file it away for future days when I know how to approach it better.

That’s it for free-and-easy July 1960! I’ll leave you with a parade of well-dressed cats, courtesy of Mr. Tuckett’s magic needle. My project from this month’s issue will be the lovely bust-darted cardigan blouse, and I’ll try to finish up the projects from April (!) and June.

 

 

 

 

June 1960: Fast Forward (March 1969)

IMG_1866To be honest, the June 1960 issue didn’t really have any designs that enticed me. The little summer tops were nice, but I still hadn’t finished the little summer top I started in April,  the embroidery and tapestry designs didn’t excite me, and I have plenty of hats and don’t wear stoles. However, way in the back of the issue, along with the comic, the “teaser” ad for the July issue, and the “Suggestions from Readers” there was a little motif for a knitted or embroidered parakeet. Perfect, I thought — I can make a little cross-stitch picture as a cute wedding present for two friends who are getting married in August and love budgies. A parakeet and a budgie are the same bird, right? Just the American and British names for them? But wait — Stitchcraft is a British magazine. Why would they use the American word?

IMG_1863
June 1960 issue

And then I noticed that the parakeet in the motif is not a budgie at all, but an actual wild parakeet — like a smaller parrot. It’s cute, but not quite what I wanted. I thought I could use the motif as a starting point to create my own design that looked more like a budgie, so I made a copy and thumbed through my ideas notebook to see what I could do with it.

And what do you know — at some point in time I must have thought ahead and copied out a little motif from the March 1969 issue of Stitchcraft — a “Special Request for Bird Lovers” — and forgotten about it in the notebook! There are even two birds in the motif, so I didn’t have to try and mirror-copy a modified parakeet. So this month’s project is a sort of fast-forward to March 1969 in lieu of a project from June 1960.

IMG_1867This was my first time working in counted cross-stitch and I thought it would be easy. You just have to count the squares and thread the embroidery cotton through the holes in an x, right? I was so, so wrong. First of all, I didn’t know what “gauge” fabric to buy, so I chose one that seemed medium-sized to me, where I could see the holes pretty clearly. I should have chosen a size bigger, since the holes were still absolutely tiny to my (perfectly good) eyes. Counting the holes was much more difficult than I expected, since they all looked the same and seemed to move around when I tried to count them.

To top it off, the fabric was too pale, so that the white in the blue-and-white bird didn’t have enough contrast to show up properly. Not wanting to buy more fabric, I tried dyeing the fabric slightly darker with tea. I simmered the fabric in a pot with the tea for about ten minutes, then rinsed it in hot water with vinegar to set the colour. It worked perfectly, so at least something about this project was easier than I thought it would be. Here is the original fabric (top) and the dyed fabric with practice stitches in pink and brown (bottom). The brown stitches are the beginning of the branch on which the budgies are sitting.

IMG_1877The embroidery itself was slow-going and not totally accurate, i.e. I do not think I always got the right number of threads (2×2 for each cross). Even when I did, the stitches were uneven and raggedy. (I did make sure that the stitches are all going in the same direction and the same top-bottom stitch pairing.)  Also, it was just plain no fun to work. What a pity — the idea was so good!

So I did what I had to do: quit and started over. On larger-weave fabric (Aida). Which was also too pale and had to be dyed. Where the dye didn’t take as well because the fabric was not 100% linen like the other. Where the design was obviously much larger than the first try and I actually preferred it smaller. But at least it worked! So fast, so easy! I embroidered one entire bird in a day! And it actually was fun to make.

budgiesbackAfter I finished the birds, I embroidered the initials of the happy couple underneath in simple block letters (not that it was simple to get the right stitch count and center it) and framed it in an embroidery hoop with the help of this helpful YouTube video. I just happened to have some leftover fabric for backing that had a giant bird on it — how perfect! (The buttonhole-stitch framing is not perfect, but that’s life.)

So all in all, it was a long and difficult journey, but I learned a lot and am happy with the result. Also, I think my friends will like it, which is the most important thing.

budgiesFO

June 1960: Overview

IMG_1805June, the month of leisure! Or at least, leisure knits — “Fashions for Sun and Sea.” Stitchcraft’s “editress”, Patience Horne,  reminds us that it’s important to have something to knit or sew while on holiday, as “it helps us to relax”, and points out that “A lot of knitting and embroidery is done in the deck-chair by busy housewives who never get time at home, and find it difficult to ease off suddenly.”

Honestly, I always had the impression that busy housewives were the ones who never got any time off, even when the family was on holiday. I guess it depends on where you went, what you planned on doing and what accommodations you had, but if I recall correctly, camping was quite popular in the IMG_18081950s and 1960s… meaning the housewife/mother of the family had to shop, cook and keep the tent or living space tidy just as she did at home, but in worse conditions (rain, mud, no proper grocery stores, camp stove, having to fetch water for cooking and washing up). Doesn’t sound much like leisure time to me! Of course, if you were rich enough to stay in a nice hotel and eat out for meals you might well have some time for handcrafts, but that wasn’t a possibility for all families, and Stitchcraft‘s target audience was more working-to-middle-class.

But knitting magazines have to be sold in the summer months as well, and there are some very nice things to make in this issue, cleverly categorised by activity. “Sun-seekers” can make pretty sleeveless tops (in wool or nylon) and one of the patterns has a cute fringed shoulder poncho thingy to change “from beach to promenade.” Two other tops are a bit dressier, in case you want to change again for tea. Obviously, the tops need to be lightweight, so all are made in 2- to 4-ply wool at 7 to 8 1/2 stitches per inch.

For “the young sailing fan” — or horseback riding fan — there’s the child’s cardigan pictured in the inside front cover and a horse-motif pullover, both in somewhat thicker Rimple Double Knitting. Though I don’t think the head in the riding motif looks much like a horse’s head — is it supposed to be a fox? These days, you could knit it in silver-gray with neon green eyes and call it an alien, if you wanted to. Rimple is also featured in a classic V-neck pullover for women and a stole, “for a touch of glamour.”

For “Tennis and Rowing” — the manly sports, I guess, since the girls sail and ride horses and the housewives are all too tired to do anything but sit in the deck chair and knit — there’s a pullover in double knitting with crew neck, sunglass pockets, and colour pennants where the knitter can use the wearer’s club colours. Bulky Big Ben wool makes an appearance in a slipover for men and a little cap for women.

If that’s not enough to keep you busy on your supposed holiday, you can embroider some cushions quickly in thick thread, make an intriguing circular table cloth with a peacock motive, sew a little dress for a toddler, or make lunch mats with holiday scenes on them in fantastic shades of yellow and purple. There are tapestry designs for a footstool, screen, book cover or “finger plate” as well.

Wait — what on earth is a finger plate? It looks like something you put on a door — but why? Wikipedia came to my rescue:

“A fingerplate is a plate that is fixed to a door near the handle or keyhole. It can be made of metal, plastic, ceramic or glass. It purpose is to prevent people’s fingers from smudging the door.”

This makes no sense to me, as I would think it would be easier to wipe off the door once in a while than to take a framed tapestry off of the door, wash and re-mount it, but OK.

Speaking of “what is this” and “OK” — you can also embroider a “novelty bathroom mat” where “suitable expressions” on the taps register hot or cold, and in the “Suggestions from Readers” column, we are informed that Mrs Ross of Berkhamsted cleverly adapted the tapestry townscape of Finchingfield “to bring in her husband’s interest in aeroplanes.” Behold, the Comet jet careening over Finchingfield, apparently about to make an emergency landing in the town square!

Let’s hope things end well for everyone involved.

My June project wasn’t pictured here, as it is just a little “extra” design element offered in the back pages — a little parakeet (budgie) motif for cross-stitch or knitting. I’ll turn it into something cute for two friends who are getting married in August.