July 1961: Overview

IMG_2650The motto of the July 1961 issue is “Sew through the Summer” and indeed, there are a lot more sewing projects than one would normally find in Stitchcraft, summer being a time when many people do not want to hold wool in their hands or think about colder weather to come. There’s more emphasis on homewares and small, fun projects to make and use on holiday. The farm photos were taken in Hertfordshire and the boating photos in “the heart of London’s Little Venice”. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Let’s dive in!

Our cover photo, taken at the Hertfordshire farm, featuresIMG_2654 a really pretty basketweave blouse with that V-neck-plus-collar design that we saw so much of in 1960 and the last years of the 1950s, not to mention just last month on the cover of the June 1961 issue. Personally, I love this style and I’m glad it stayed in fashion for so long. Except for the basketweave, this top is very similar to the blouse I made from the July 1960 issue, and probably not the last one of its kind that we’ll be seeing.

The other summer garments for adults are “cool in 3 and 4 ply” tops for women — one of them machine knit — and for boating or cooler outdoor nights, there’s a cardigan in double-knit Rimple, a little short-sleeved jacket in bulky Big Ben, or a man’s sweater in larger sizes in Totem double knitting. The cardigan “does duty as a sweater”.

On that note, a quick quiz:

  • What is the difference between a jumper and a sweater? (Hint: this is a British magazine that uses both terms, so “jumper is British and sweater is American” cannot be the only answer.)
  • If a jumper is a pullover in a lighter weight/more dressy style, and a sweater is bulkier/warmer/more casual, why is the elegant, fine-knit short-sleeved top on page 12 a jumper (top left photo above), the elegant, fine-knit short-sleeved top on page 13 a sweater and/or shirt (top right photo above), and many elegant, fine-knit short-sleeved tops from other issues considered to be blouses?
  • On that note: Why can a cardigan double as a sweater, but not a jumper?
  • Bonus question 1: What is the difference between a cardigan and a jacket? (Okay, this one is easier.)
  • Bonus question 2: Is the blue-and-white garment on the front cover a jumper, a sweater, or a blouse?

The answer to the first two questions is, as far as I can tell, that there is no answer. “Jumpers” per Stitchcraft tend to be long- or short-sleeved, fine-knit, elegant pullovers, while “sweaters” per Stitchcraft tend to be bulkier, more casual, long-sleeved and looser-fitting pullovers, but every time you think you’ve figured out the system, they use the word you wouldn’t expect. “Blouses” tend to be, logically enough, tops (either pullover or cardigan style) that one would wear with only undergarments underneath, and put a suit jacket or other overgarment over. Following that logic, I guess the cardigan on page 21 does duty as a sweater and not a jumper because it is warmer, heavier and meant to be worn outside without a coat and with a blouse or something underneath it. Still, there is no real consistency that I can see. I would love to be able to ask “editress” Patience Horne what system she used.

For the smaller members of the family, there’s this lovely baby’s dress, featuring the most absurd baby photo ever (previewed in the June 1961 issue). I still don’t understand just why I find this baby so goofy. She is utterly cute but somehow, her face is too old for her. That combination of lots of hair and the knowing, watchful look in her eyes makes her look like someone pasted a grandmother’s head on a baby’s body. Anyway, the dress is wonderful. Older girls get a striped jumper with a collar and “gay bobbles” to tie the neck. Let’s hear it for gay bobbles! I’m not sure what today’s 6-, 8- or 10-year-olds would think of the bobble ties, but I think it’s a cute jumper.

The emphasis of this issue is on easy-to-make, no-stress homewares, starting with felt place mats and coasters appliquéd and embroidered with traditional inn signs. Make them for your Pride celebration, for they are “as gay as possible”! Fans of easy embroidery on canvas can make a cushion with purple thistle flowers in cross-stitch or bathroom accessories featuring this month’s Zodiac sign, Cancer. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to step on a crab, even if it’s only a cross-stitch picture of one on a bathmat.

More ambitious embroiderers (I guess Stitchcraft would call them embroideresses) can make a really pretty fire screen with a modern vase-and-flower motif. I wish they had a colour photo. Even more ambitious knitters can make some beautiful lacy doily mats, and those who prefer to “sew through the Summer” can make a little laundry bag for used dusting cloths, or some easy items to sell at the “needlework stall”, church bazaar, etc. There’s a tea cosy that looks like a cottage, a beach bag with penguins, or an apron with a teakettle pocket.

I am woefully behind on projects, having not even finished my supposedly quick and easy blouse from June 1961, and with two other projects from that issue (the child’s beach dress and the embroidered-appliqué bird picture) still “in the queue”. But someone is always having a baby and that little dress is really sweet and should knit up quickly, so I’ll probably make that and try to work on the remaining June projects at the same time.

  • Bonus Answer 1: A cardigan definitely has buttons/fastenings and a knitted jacket often doesn’t. Unless it’s a suit jacket, then it does. Or whatever.
  • Bonus Answer 2: The garment on the front cover is a “cool, casual shirt-sweater”.

 

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June 1961: The Soft Texture Look

IMG_2569June’s project was this lovely sleeveless top in a leafy lace pattern, touted as a “very wearable and useful jumper to make for your holiday.” It looked pretty and elegant and suitable for my summer climate, which is generally not too hot — a lightweight wool garment in lace with no sleeves should be perfect most days.

It’s written for “smaller sizes” — 32-33 or 34-35 inch bust — which would be too small for me, but my ever-loose gauge and inability to find 3-ply wool came in handy here, as it has in the past. It worked out fine for me to make the second size according to the directions, adding a few rows to the length below the armholes.

The wool I used was an absolute winner — Concept Silky Lace by katja, made of 80% merino wool and 20% silk. It’s lightweight, soft, and warm enough yet cool enough at the same time. My local wool shop had it in colours that I don’t wear, plus dark blue or a sort of salmon orange. Dark blue is always fine but I was so intrigued by the orange that I had to give it a try. I normally wear black with black with possibly dark tweedy blues or greens, so orange was a big change, but I love it! The colour looks good on me, looks good with black (important…) and it seems to even be in fashion at the moment, since as soon as I bought it I started noticing all the other people around me wearing some shade of IMG_2631orange non-vintage clothing.
The body knitted up pretty quickly in spite of the somewhat complicated lace pattern. I charted the pattern out before knitting anything — as was usual for the time, the magazine has written instructions only, and the pattern is 36 rows long. That was not only good for learning the pattern and being able to follow it more clearly, but it allowed me to notice a couple of errors in the pattern instructions that would have been very frustrating had I discovered them while knitting.

IMG_2646Then I ran into trouble with the weather, which was suddenly 34-36 degrees Centigrade with no chance of a cooler room either at work, home or on the move. My hands were too sweaty to hold wool and I had to take a break for a few days until we returned to our regularly scheduled 18-20 degrees. Then I finished the body and moved on the the neck and armhole edgings, which took forever! It’s actually an interesting design, which I haven’t seen before: You knit a strip of stockinette stitch with 3-stitch garter stitch border on one side, then fold the strip in half lengthwise like a sort of hem under the garter-stitch bit and sew it onto the neck or sleeve edge with the garter stitch facing out. It’s a like a separate hem sewn on, and the front neck strip has some cleverly thought-out short rows to make it fit the curve of the neck. But oh does it take a long time to make the strips.

Which is all a very long apology for the fact that it was not done by the end of the month, but now it is! As usual, we tried to re-create the original photo. It’s always hard to get the exact pose angle, but I did have a matching scarf and sunglasses.

I am so, so happy with the way it turned out!

June 1961: Overview

IMG_2563I love this cover. The yellow stripes on the hats, the yellow trim on the sweaters and the yellow sans-serif lettering all harmonise perfectly with the off-white garments in the center focus. Even the models’ hair colour looks like it was chosen to match the wooden wall. And we can see that typical 1960s hairdo coming into fashion, with more volume on the top and curled ends.

The rest of the photography in this issue is amazing as IMG_2566well. Let’s start with little Georgina in her beach dress, striking a Napoleonic pose from the back of her inflatable elephant! The dress is totally cute and definitely on my project list for this month, for my friend’s kid who just turned three. Those are seahorses, in case that wasn’t clear (the ones on the front panel of the dress and matching sunsuit look weird to me — I think I’ll fill in the bodies to make the shape more clear.) Also, please note the bubbles in the photo and the matching illustration. The sunsuit and dress are made in wool-nylon blend Nylox, but I’ll be making the dress in cotton.

IMG_2585(Speaking of tiny children in goofy poses, am I the only one who finds this advertisement for next month’s Stitchcraft strangely funny? What is it about this baby that comes off looking so weird? Too much hair? The quasi-adult-looking face? The indescribable expression?)

 

Back to this month’s issue, somewhat larger children can get a pretty summer dress with an embroidered yoke. It wasn’t necessary to order a sewing pattern, as the skirt of the dress was really just a square with a little cut-out (shown with scaling grid in the issue) and the yoke outline was included with the embroidery transfer. Larger children than that (age 6-10) get a warm “Continental playtop” with a big collar in double knitting.

 

Big collars are still fashionable for adults, too, as we can see from the women’s version of the cover sweater or the “Husky Sailing Sweater” in bulky Big Ben wool. White or off-white and yellow are trending colours. The men’s garments both have round necks — I’m guessing designers assumed men would be wearing collared shirts under their pullovers no matter what they were doing, and “layering” big collars over each other didn’t happen until the 1970s. For warmer days or more elegant occasions, there’s a short-sleeved cardigan-jumper in 4-ply and a lacy cap-sleeve top in 3-ply wool. The cap-sleeve top is yellow and the buttoned blouse has a collar, so we’re right in fashion here too.

 

Homewares are fantastic this month as well, starting with some really easy garden cushions (padded with plastic foam to try and make them more damp-proof). We are still  in the year of the embroidered Zodiac signs, and June brings us a Gemini-themed beach bag.

 

IMG_2625And then there’s this incredible birds-in-a-tree number, to be worked either in wool on linen for a firescreen or in felt appliqué with wool embroidery on linen for a picture. I’m normally not so crazy about 1950s and 1960s neo-Jacobean designs, but I love this one and definitely want to make the felt appliqué version as a cushion (with a more greeny green for the tree and not quite so much brown-orange-yellow in the appliqué work.) I imagine it might be tough without a transfer, but they gave us two very clear photographs including one in full colour, so what could go wrong?

IMG_2588Last but not least, there’s a lovely, elegant two-piece suit in nubbly Rimple double knitting wool, featured in the most magnificent photo I have ever seen in any magazine, ever. If I remember correctly, I saw it in one of those Internet lists of “best/worst/weirdest knitting pattern photos” long before I started collecting vintage patterns. It’s definitely at the top of my list and if you haven’t seen it yet, you saw it here first!

There is nothing I can possibly add to that, so I’ll just get to work on that cap-sleeve jumper… and the little girl’s beach dress … and the garden cushions… and the Jacobean appliqué… Happy June, everyone!

May 1961: Tapestry Handbag

Version 2My project from the May 1961 issue of Stitchcraft was a charming tapestry handbag with a Victorian-inspired flower ribbon design. The magazine gives directions for either the handbag or a piano-stool top. As much as I would love to have a handbag that matched my piano stool, I’m just making the bag for now.

I’ve never worked in tapestry before, but for this project it’s really just IMG_2521counted cross-stitch done on tapestry net canvas with tapestry wool. The hardest part was getting all the components together! The  original pattern calls for Beehive Tapestry Canvas No. 27 and Beehive Tapestry Wool, which as far as I can see do not exist anymore — and if they did, they could very well be quite different from the same canvas and wools manufactured in 1961. Unlike cross-stitch fabric, there’s no indication of holes per inch, so I had to sort of guess from the photo of the bag (3 purple stripes across and 3 or 4 flowers vertically in the stripes) and the number of stitches in one repeat of the chart and factor in the size that I wanted the bag to be (a little smaller than the 9 inches deep and 11 inches wide given in the pattern) and the size of the modern handles.

IMG_2558I found some net that seemed about right, but tapestry wool is not to be found in a craft, knitting, wool, fabric, or notions store anywhere near me. So I had to order it online… from a mail-order Internet store whose address is in my own city, but does not have an actual brick-and-mortar store. So I couldn’t see the wool before buying and they had to ship it to me, when I could and would have gladly just gone over and picked it up. And seen it beforehand… because it is really thick! About as thick as double knitting wool. It would have been so much easier to match the size of the wool to the size of the net if I could have found both of them in the same place. It’s usable with the net I bought, but I think the bag will be rather stiff.

The handles were similarly difficult. My great knitting/notions store down the street has catalogues from a company that makes knitting needles and all sorts of related knitty-crafty stuff, including a huge selection of handles and straps and whatnot for making bags. I ordered a nice (I think?) set of handles through the store and nothing happened for weeks. Then I got a message that the handles, in fact all of the handles in that catalogue from that company, were no longer available. Now I’ve ordered some more online. We’ll see what arrives!

Modern technology is lovely and all, but I would love to be able to go to an actual store IMG_2622and buy all of this stuff together. It works for knitting, sewing and embroidery, but I guess tapestry is such an unfashionable hobby that it’s not worth using store space for the materials. I should probably be glad that they’re still manufactured at all.

The work itself is not difficult, but I have to admit, it’s a bit boring. I do like the way it’s turning out, though. May 2019 is almost over, but this project is nowhere near being finished, so I’ll update this post when I have something more to show.

Fast Forward: January 1967

IMG_2554I do have a project from the May 1961 issue and will post about it soon, but it won’t be done by the end of May. In the meantime, I made a very cute coat for a friend’s child from the January 1976 issue of Stitchcraft, using the leftover yarn from the red and blue dress I finished last month.

The pattern — “Fashion for Tots” — encompasses a single-breasted coat with patch pockets and a collar in contrasting trim, and a pixie hat with the contrast colour in the ribbing. The coat has an A-line shape and raglan sleeves and is given in three sizes, to fit a 22-23, 24-25 or 26-27 inch chest measurement. I made the smallest size, for a two-year-old with a 21 1/2 inch chest, so hopefully it will fit for a while even if it doesn’t get used very much in the summer.

IMG_2556As usual, you’re supposed to make everything in separate pieces, and for once, I almost did! That is to say, I made the back, fronts and sleeves up to the raglan underarm join in pieces, then made the raglan yoke all in one piece working back and forth. Sewn raglans always look so messy (when I make them…), so it was worth it for that, and making the rest in pieces gave the sides some stabilising seams and didn’t take any longer than making the body in one piece working back and forth would have done.

The coat has a cute mitred hem at the bottom, which makes a neat join into the button bands. The collar and pockets are made separately and sewn on, and the collar has an interesting two-piece mitred construction to get the two different colours to make clean corners. The pockets are in twisted mock-cable rib.

IMG_2557I noticed that it wasn’t quite going to work out with the total amount of yarn in the proper colour scheme, so I played with the amounts of red and blue and ended up just perfectly using up the rest of the red with a few metres left over should the coat ever need repairing. Of course, that meant I couldn’t make the hat. The project was fast and fun, though, so who knows, maybe I’ll make another one when January 1967… wait, when will that be again… January 2025 ?!? comes around. If we’re all still here! Hang in there and stick around.

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May 1961: Overview

IMG_2509Time for the Summer Forecast! “Editress” Patience Horne writes that it is “a lovely sunny day in March” as they go to press for the May issue. It’s freezing cold and pouring rain where I am on May 2nd, so my summer forecast feelings have been literally dampened.

Still, there is a lovely assortment of projects in this month’s issue, of which the prettiest (in my opinion) is featured in colour on the back cover: this beautiful summer twin-set in   “Nylox” (a synthetic, Bri-Nylon yarn) with a diagonal stripe pattern on the sleeveless top that is repeated on the lapels of the solid-colour cardigan. I love the pairing of the elegant line with the fun pattern, which reminds me of colourful rows of paper bunting strung diagonally.

Our front cover has two more of the classic, bulky, rather plain casual pullovers made in Big Ben (super-bulky) of Rimple (nubbly double knitting). For men, there’s also a classic “tennis sweater” in white with blue stripes, made fancy with a different sort of cable pattern that I don’t think I have ever seen before. It seems quite easy, as the cables never travel far and also never actually cross (so maybe technically not a “cable” pattern, but I don’t know what else to call it — you do use a cable needle to move the stitches out of line and back again.) Our model is very happy with his sweater, and his tennis game.

Besides the twin-set and the cover pullover, women’s fashions include a little short-sleeved jacket in double knitting and a cute cap in Big Ben, plus a “longline” jumper and buttoned cardigan in 4-ply wools. I love the way the pockets are integrated into the striped ribbing of the cardigan. Wide collars, shawl collars and V-necks continue to be popular.

Stitchcraft doesn’t usually have sewing patterns, but this month they’ve teamed up with Vogue to offer a flared or full-circle skirt of the type that was ubiquitous in the later 1950s and reached the end of its popularity around this time. Readers can order the Vogue pattern via Stitchcraft in their preferred size. The flared version is embroidered with “Tyrolean motifs” which can also be embroidered onto “pretty summer aprons”. How cute! Just don’t try to play the violin the way our little Tyrolean motif fiddler is doing it, or you and the instrument will both be unhappy.

(Nota bene: some folk-fiddle traditions, as well as European medieval and Renaissance vielle/violin technique, do involve holding the instrument under the shoulder on the upper chest or upper arm instead of under the chin as in modern classical violin playing. Still different from what is going on here, though.)

School-age children get some nice, basic pullovers and cardigans in washable Nylox or fun Rimple. I don’t know what’s going on with the Humpty Dumpty giant egg doll, but this seems to be a theme with Stitchcraft — I remember seeing more than one knitted or sewn or crocheted giant Humpty Dumpty mascot pattern somewhere in my collection. Check out the cute illustrations and the little castle in the air on the top right of the painted backdrop.

Homewares tend towards the fun and easy, with a “Victorian” floral ribbon design for an embroidered cushion, tapestry cushion or tapestry handbag as well as some assorted cross-stitch or drawn-thread table mats and traycloths. Oh, and also some “his and hers” bath mats. May’s Zodiac sign is Taurus the bull, which you can cross-stitch onto a fluffy-fringed lampshade. I would love to see a picture of a Stitchcraft living room with all twelve Zodiac-themed designs in one place — the lampshade, the chairbacks, the waste-paper basket cover, et cetera (spoiler: sadly, we’re not going to get one.)

That about wraps it up for May! I would love to make the twin-set, but I have such a backlog of projects that I know I won’t have time to get it done, so my project will be the tapestry handbag. I’m very excited to work with tapestry for the first time.See you soon!

Version 3

 

Inspired by Stitchcraft: Red and Blue Dress

IMG_2498This month’s project was a little bit different than usual. Instead of making something from the April 1961 issue, which didn’t have any projects that really spoke to me, I decided to finally make something I’ve been dreaming of ever since I made this little girl’s jacket from the March 1960 issue. I loved the check pattern and the bright red and blue combination. “Wouldn’t that make a great 1960s-style minidress?” I asked myself, and the idea has been percolating in my mind since then.

I chose the same yarn and colours from the child’s jacket: Schachenmayr Bravo, which is inexpensive, machine-washable and knits up quickly. It’s even historically correct for a 1960s design, which is a nice way of saying “100% acrylic.” (Though true 60s synthetic wools were more often Bri-Nylon or Orlon.)

IMG_2497I chose a typical basic construction with front, back and sleeves all made flat and separately from the bottom up and sewn together, and made a stockinette-stitch hem with the blue yarn. The dress shape is a modified A-line: flared at the hem and narrowed to the top waist, then increased slightly at the bust. I used another knit dress as a pattern, but had to deviate from it as the stitch pattern made the fabric behave differently. The sleeves are short, simple and set-in. The front piece is essentially the same as the back, but divided in half after the armhole cast-offs and rounded a bit at the neck. The button band is plain crochet.

IMG_2494After it was all done, I realised that I liked the roll of the blue stockinette stitch hems, so I decided to just leave them as is. That means the bottom hem is a little bit narrow in the blue part where it should flare out. I may or may not fix that in time, depending on my laziness levels.

It’s soft and squishy and in spite of the synthetic yarn, doesn’t feel like plastic or make me sweat uncontrollably.  The only real disadvantage is the virtual weight it puts on. It’s got negative ease everywhere and is narrower than the very svelte-looking dress that I used as a pattern, but the sponginess and three-dimensionality of the stitch pattern makes me look much bulkier than I actually am. I thought a crocheted belt in blue would help define the waist area a bit more, but the belt is curly and not heavy enough. Maybe a 1960s metal ring-chain belt would do the trick? But it’s utterly comfortable and fun to wear, so I’m happy.

April 1961: Overview

IMG_2438April showers bring May flowers, or so they say. I’ll just say that, after the last couple of weeks of March, that umbrella on the cover of this month’s issue looks really familiar. As does the model on the right — she was featured (with a more flattering haircut)  in many issues throughout the 1950s.

April’s theme is “Holidays Ahead” and if you are planningIMG_2440 to spend your holiday in April or May on the British isles or the North Sea coast, you will definitely want to wear one of the warm, bulky wool garments from this issue. “Jenny”‘s thick, double-knit Norwegian-style jumper and hat, described as “dazzling designs to cut a dash on the beach this summer”, tells you everything you need to know about that.

The adult garments continue the warm, bulky and casual trend with a men’s “crochet-knit shirt” and “country-style cardigan” in double knitting weight. Knitting pattern stitches that look like crochet crop up every once in a while and it’s certainly an intriguing idea. That said, I don’t think this jumper particularly looks like crochet — it’s yo, k2tog on every right-side row and purl on the wrong side in staggered rows, which is just a simple lace pattern. I’m guessing they thought the word “lace” was not manly enough… The cardigan is made in three-colour slip stitch and is probably very warm and “squishy”. I like the neat, almost hidden pockets and the narrow edging band.

The women’s garments offer two more elegant, but still casual blouses, the two jumpers with fun collar details featured on the front cover and a relaxed “holiday cardigan” in double knitting. Patons “Totem” crepe wool appears in 4-ply (the blouses) or in double knitting weight (the cardigan). “Crepe” in this case meant that the wool was spun very smooth and tightly plied to minimise “fuzziness” and give raised stitch patterns a crisp, precise look. The jumpers from the cover are designed for ever-popular Rimple wool, a crinkly wool-synthetic blend intended to look like towelling fabric. Fans of truly bulky knitting can make this his-n-hers set (well, not really a “set” as they are two completely different designs, but featured together in the photo spread). Her sweater is made in fisherman’s rib stitch and if it looks that bulky on the petite, fine-boned model, I can only imagine it would make anyone else look elephantine — but good for sailing and/or April beachwear, I guess.

Housewares include the continuation of the “Zodiac” theme with an Aries motif, a traycloth in cross-stitch, a cross-stitch and pile rug, “amusing” aprons for the whole family (the father looks utterly un-amused at having to participate in the washing-up), a village townscape needle etching, a cross-stitch cushion… i.e. the usual fare. You can also make a toy “Wag” puppy for fans of the children’s comic from the last few issues, “Wendy and Wag in Wallpaper Land.” I don’t mind telling you that it had a happy ending for everyone. And with that, happy April and see you next time!

P.S. There wasn’t any project in this issue that really called to me, so I’m going to finish up a project of my own design that was inspired by this Stitchcraft children’s jacket from March 1960 that I made last year and write about that. Stay tuned…

 

March 1961: Posies for Cosies

IMG_2412My Stitchcraft project this month was a simple embroidered spray of flowers, originally intended as a decoration for a cushion or traycloth. Having enough cushions and not using traycloths, I updated the design for an iPad cover similar to the one I made last year. The flowers are supposed to be daisies and fern, but the daisies have pointy, blue petals — which I set off against a bright pink background for maximum 60s effect. (The background fabric was left over from the embroidered blackwork cushion from last September.)

Of course, there was no available iron-off transfer, but this design was easy and non-geometric enough that I could copy it out onto paper freehand and then transfer it to the fabric with the “window method” and a washable embroidery marker. The stitching was easy — satin and stem-stitch for leaves and stems, slanting satin-stitch for the blue petals, Romanian stitch for the “feathery foliage” (what a lovely phrase!) and French knots for the centres of the flowers. The only (for me) unusual stitch was the double knot-stitch used to outline the large green leaves. It’s sort of like couching, except you tie a knot in the running thread with each stitch as you go along.

 

I made it up with an equally bright patterned cotton lining (peacock parade!) with an added layer of quilt batting and the same simple button-closure method I used for the “Gay Goslings”. I am not great at sewing, even or especially a really simple (!) rectangular (!) bag, so the lines are not 100% straight and the design is not perfectly centred. Still, I love the colours and the contrast of the very old-school, Grandma’s tea-cosy design with the modern technological device inside.

 

Since I don’t actually need this for myself, it will probably be given to whatever nice friend has a birthday and an iPad that needs a cosy. In the meantime, I can hold it up to a window when I want to see something that looks like Spring.

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March 1961: Overview

IMG_2399Are you ready to “Rendez-vous with Spring”? I sure am! This month’s issue has a lovely extra “centerfold” spread in colour, showing off Spring 1961’s latest fashions.

That said, no especially new looks, wools or techniques are introduced. The partner look is still going strong, as you can see from the his-n-hers Aran sweaters on the cover. They both have boatnecks, popular for a little while in the late 1950s and showing up again here. They are not shaped at the front neck at all, so I imagine them to be uncomfortable and awkward to wear.

Nubbly Rimple and thick, bulky Big Ben wools continue to be popular, featuring in almost all of this month’s adult garments. Big collars are still in, but one jumper utilises a contrast collar design in a different wool, with an interesting shape and ribbed texture. For larger sizes, there’s a cardigan skirt suit in purple plaid — bold colours and jewel tones are in fashion for all sizes and make a great centerfold picture all lined up together.

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In the homewares department, we’ve got another beautiful “peasant” design (they really love that word) for a cushion, a decorative wall tapestry with pictures of chipmunks, some flower embroideries for cushions or a tray cloth, this month’s Zodiac symbol to embroider on whatever you want (Pisces), and a really difficult-looking crocheted cushion cover.

The highlight of the homewares patterns has got to be this incredible “Willow pattern” latch-hook rug. I had heard of “willow-ware” porcelain (remember that scene from one of the Anne of Green Gables books, where Anne or Davy or someone accidentally breaks Aunt Josephine’s blue and white willow-ware platter, then Anne sees a similar one in someone’s house, climbs up on the roof of the barn or something to look at it through the window, then falls through the roof and gets stuck, having to wait in a rainstorm until the owner gets home and then explain the situation?) and I have seen this type of pattern on porcelain china, but never knew that the one was referring to the other.

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Stitchcraft‘s description of the rug refers to “the 3 figures in the Willow Pattern story.” I had also never heard of any Willow Pattern story, but my good friend Wikipedia told me all about the history of the Willow pattern and the associated legend (spoiler: the “legend”, like the pattern, was a 100% British invention made up to sell more porcelain goods, not any kind of authentic Chinese folk tale). Both the pattern and the associated story served as inspiration for further literary, media and commercial works. You can read all about it here.

Finally, it would not be Stitchcraft without a page of little items “for sale-of-work” at church bazaars etc., or to surprise your family on Easter morning. The continuation of Belinda the doll’s knitted outfit is quite cute, but what on earth were they thinking with these egg cosies?!? They look positively psychotic. If I were a child and my mother served my Easter morning Easter egg in one of those things, I would be surprised all right… and probably wouldn’t sleep for a week.

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Speaking of children, here are some who weren’t scared off by their egg cosies and were rewarded with bright, sunny “play sweaters from Vienna” in spring colours of lemon yellow and white. The caption on the page opposite is “Gay as a See-Saw!” I’m sure there are a lot of jokes one could make about gay and see-saws, but I won’t. The kid’s comic in the back pages has the usual continuing story — Wendy and her dog Wag are having some fun adventures in Wallpaper Land.

IMG_2423The ads are for the usual knitting machines and sewing fabrics… except for this one, for “Cooper’s moth proofer” spray, presumably made of DDT  or some other extremely toxic insecticide that kills “ants, beetles… these and other crawling insects die on contact — even months after spraying.” Just the thing to use in your enclosed, airless closet space!

With that, I wish you all a lovely, non-toxic, gay as a see-saw rendez-vous with spring. My March project will be some version of the flower embroidery.

 

February 1961: Tiny Cardigan

IMG_2371 3After January’s time- and labor-intensive pullover for me, I wanted to make something quick and easy in February. And there’s always a friend, colleague, or relative having a baby, so I made this simple ” Tiny Cardigan” from the cardigan and slipper set.

The wool was Lang Nova, a wonderfully fluffy and very light wool-camelhair-nylon mix. There are 180 metres in 25 grams! It is essentially made of air, but softer and warmer. I suspect it is not very hard-wearing and probably pills and breaks easily, but babies grow so fast that it will hopefully be outgrown by the time it falls apart. My swatch grew exponentially with blocking, so I converted the pattern to a larger gauge. Then the finished garment didn’t grow much at all with blocking, so it ended up more like newborn size. I hope the parents send out a birth announcement as soon as the baby arrives…

Version 2The cardigan has a basic bottom-up raglan construction with the twisted ribbing featured in January’s Snowflake Sweater. I made it in one piece from the bottom up to avoid seams, and was so busy trying to read the front, back, and sleeve directions simultaneously while working the yoke that I forgot to make the little twisted-rib sleeve insertions that would have made this otherwise very basic jacket a little bit more interesting. Whoops! But by the time I realised my mistake, it was already almost done, and I have a feeling this wool really does not like to be frogged. I pepped up the plain marble-grey colour of the jacket with some red flower buttons.

 

And there it is! I had to buy a second skein of wool to finish the cardigan and now have some left over, so I might as well make the slippers, seeing as the baby hasn’t arrived yet.

ETA: I went ahead and made the slippers, adding a flat spiral of red i-cord instead of a pom-pom.

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February 1961: Overview

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Around Christmas time, I was looking through my Stitchcraft collection to see what the new year had in store for me, and realised that the February 1961 issue was missing! Not that I had lost it, but it was one of the very few issues from the 1960s that I had not managed to find before starting this project. I buy the magazines on ebay and it is fascinating to see how some issues pop up again and again in multiple auctions, and others just never appear. But I was in luck – after searching so many times, there was February 1961, just when I needed it! Thank you, nice seller on ebay, who got this issue to me quickly and in beautiful condition.

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There’s a “Special Colour Feature” of extra colour-print pages in the middle of the issue, promising “Fashion Harmony” for “You and the Home.” With that in mind, it’s kind of a pity that they chose a neutral gray-beige melange for the three-piece outfit on the cover.

Thicker, bulky wools and quicker knits continue to dominate the knitting patterns, with Big Ben playing a prominent role. There’s a little waist-length jacket in an interesting pull-up-a-slipped-stitch-some-rows-later stitch pattern, a bulky cardigan or DK- weight pullover in diamond or rib pattern, and a his-n-hers Aran pullover set. Neutral colours of brown, beige and tweedy gray prevail.

The his-n-hers, unisex design idea shows up in the children’s patterns as well (how nice, for once!) with some warm, lightly colour-patterned pullovers. It’s nice to see a girl wearing trousers and doing something active in her sweater.

(Side note: As I was typing that sentence and got to “it’s nice to see a girl wearing”, the auto-suggest on my tablet offered me “makeup.” So yes, as nice as it is to see one single non-sexist knitting pattern in 1961, don’t be fooled — things haven’t changed nearly as much as they should. Also, spoiler: the rest of Stitchcraft has plenty of “boys need to be active! girls like to be pretty!” patterns and photo layouts in store for us.)

On that note, there are patterns for a complete set of doll clothes, as well, in case readers worried that their girl child playing with a ball once in her life might, I don’t know, make her grow up to direct a bank someday, or something.

But back to this month’s issue! Babies get a fluffly cardigan with the same twisted ribbing as January’s snowflake sweater as well as a lovely lace shawl. Fine-knitting fans can make an elegant, classic jumper at 8 1/2 stitches to the inch or a lace-panel blouse for larger sizes up to a 45 inch bust.

 

Embroidery experts can make a floral fireplace panel or a tablecloth with a “peasant” motif (not the most flattering wording, I know), a rug or a crocheted handbag. The Zodiac handcraft theme has entered the month, if not the Age, or Aquarius. Also, the turret tower look is still all the rage for hats.

And that about wraps it up! Seeing as there was so little actual colour in the designs from the special colour feature, here’s the back cover advertisement for Escorto Gold Seal striped and checked fabrics. My project will be the baby cardigan. Have a colourful February!

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January 1961: Snowflake Sweater

IMG_2256January’s project was — like August 1960’s twin-set — one of the reasons I wanted to start this whole mega-blog-project in the first place, namely, this beautiful round-yoke “snowflake” sweater in the style of traditional Greenlandic designs. I love the combination of curvy and angled shapes produced by the diamond-shaped rings on the yoke, and the dark background colour fits my style.

Traditional round-yoke sweaters made from the bottom up typically call for the body and sleeves to be made separately, then joined in the round for the yoke, casting off stitches under the arms and on the sleeve-underarm edges to add depth to the chest width and make the first few rounds easier to work.  But like all adult garments from this time period, Stitchcraft‘s version is meant to be made in separate pieces. The first part of the yoke is written with back-and-forth raglan decreases, until the patterned part of the yoke gets going, and even that is supposed to be knitted back-and-forth with an opening in the back for a zipper.

Besides being not very traditional, I find back-and-forth knitting on stranded garments not so much fun (stranded purling is annoying) and certainly not as fast to make (knitting is faster than purling, and in-the-round construction means no seams to sew later), so I was determined to make this garment completely in the round and without seams. Making the sleeves and body separately in the round was no problem, but I was at a loss as to how to do the raglan bits plus neck shaping before the patterned yoke began without completely re-writing the pattern. Also, I wanted to add in some short rows to make the front part of the neck drop a little farther down than the back.

img_2306After thinking it over, the most reasonable course was to work the little bit of pre-yoke between the armhole bind-offs and patterned yoke back and forth with raglan decreases as written, but beginning the front neck shaping (pre-yoke, concurrent with the raglan decreases) an inch or so lower than the back. That preserved the proper stitch count, let the sweater hang better, and shortened the yoke a bit. I didn’t mind shortening the yoke, as I like sweaters to be snug under the arms and not too high on the neck. I didn’t need a zipper, so I made the patterned yoke entirely in the round.

img_2311It worked out perfectly! I could hardly believe it. Raglans and round yokes may be somewhat forgiving on the body, but it is a fundamentally tricky mathematical game to make all the interdependent factors of width, depth, and pattern repeat come out right, so I was really proud of myself for making it work. My only other modifications were on the sleeves (longer) and the waist shaping (original pattern had none, I started out narrower at the waist and increased gradually at the sides to give a more figure-flattering look.)

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Don’t let the tropically-painted background fool you — it’s cold outside!

The yarn was a mixture of plain Regia 6-ply (DK) sock wool for the dark and light blues, and some of the lovely 100% wool that my knitting colleague hand-dyes with plants (the brown and green, made with onion skins/walnut shells and some kind of green reed plant, respectively.) It is very warm and has the right balance of firmness and softness.

All in all, I am 100% happy with this pullover and will probably wear it a lot this winter.

 

 

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!

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!