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.

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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!

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