August 1962: Overview

August is the end of the holiday season at Stitchcraft, featuring transitional styles for the cooler days of September as well as a few more small, easy projects that can be worked on from the deck chair or picnic table. The “Contents” column on the facing page divides the adult garment patterns into the categories “First Autumn Fashions” and “Continental Designs”.

The “Continental Designs” comprise a colour-block pullover for men “from Vienna” in graded shades of green, a simple cap-sleeve, T-shirt-style jumper with a little Norwegian motif, and an “Italian design for late Summer” with bands of red and black intarsia in a diamond pattern. I wish they had used these for the colour photos instead of the bland white pullover on the inside front cover!

Loose-fitting, casual shapes and light, sunny colours dominate, exemplified by the apple-green cardigan, collared shirt-sweater and boatneck twin-set on the front and inside covers. Notice how much less fitted the August 1962 twin set is than, for example, this one from August 1960, not to mention earlier twin-sets from the 1940s and 1950s. The concept lives on, but the line has changed completely. Everything is hipbone-length with no or hardly any shaping.

Babies get a standard, but very pretty, lacy matinee coat and bootees, the “smart teenager” has a machine-knit pullover, and her little sister gets a “gay Rimple design” in the still-popular knitted terry-cloth look, so the whole family is taken care of.

Homewares are always big in the summer months, when many readers understandably didn’t want to hold bulky warm wool in their hands in hot weather. The bedside rug is obviously an at-home project, but the smaller projects could easily be taken along on a holiday. This month’s flower in the gladiolus, but there’s also an orchid spray and some forget-me-nots, along with two sewing patterns to embroider them on: a round baby shawl or this wonderful little girl’s dress. For once, you don’t even have to send away for the patterns, as they are geometrically quite simple — the shawl is just a circle, drawn directly onto the fabric with a pencil held on a length of string, and the dress is made up of rectangles with measurements given. I would love to make the dress! I just don’t think it would get worn, since it would only be for “dress-up” occasions, of which there aren’t going to be any for a while.

The back cover shows an interesting feature which took shape in the early 1960s issues: tapestry projects specifically for church use. In this case, there’s a runner and kneeler in shades of red and blue. If anyone happens to know why or if these colours or this pattern are significant in whatever type of Christian tradition, please feel free to tell me, as I don’t know anything about it. The rug, especially, does not say “church use” to me in any way that I can recognise and I could just as easily see it in a normal hallway.

This issue doesn’t stop! The “Readers’ Pages” offer two more very simple projects: a reprint of a young man’s waistcoat from 1957 and a stash-busting baby blanket from double crochet hexagons. And just when you think you’ve come to the end of the issue, here’s this incredible Alice in Wonderland-themed wall hanging in felt appliqué and embroidery:

I’ll close with this full-page ad for Patons & Baldwins wools, showing a newly married couple decorating their home. The happy bride is instructed to

Look after him well. Find out what he likes, and why. See that his clothes are well kept and well pressed. Learn to cook his kind of food. Learn to knit his kind of sweater…

While I’m certainly not surprised that a 1962 advertisement would speak to women like that, I do find it interesting to compare the early and mid-1960s ads — which take on this type of “you exist to please your man” language more and more throughout the years — with those from the 1950s issues, with their much more independent picture of womanhood. Many of the knitting patterns in the earlier issues are explicitly designed “for the office” and most of the advertisements portray women living active, interesting lives in their comfortable shoes and unbreakable skirt zippers. In the wonderful tampon ads (that sadly disappear around the late 1950s), they don’t even let “problem days” stop them from doing anything! In contrast, the full-page P&B ads starting up around this time always feature a man or child with the woman in question and the text is inevitably some variation on “you must do this to please your man.” I had always thought of the 1950s as being a much more repressive time for women that the 1960s, when roles began to change, but judging from Stitchcraft (which, to be fair, is quite conservative both fashion- and otherwise), the earlier part of the decade is more of a backlash than a progression.

I don’t know what project to make from this issue and I still have so many WIPs, both for this blog and otherwise. Maybe a nice, easy flower embroidery on a vegetable bag?

Out of Order: June 1961

July 1962’s issue didn’t have anything in it that particularly interested me, so I took the time to go back to the June 1961 issue, which had so many nice projects in it that it was hard for me to decide which to make. (I ended up making this lacy top and later, this child’s tunic-dress.)

I loved the extremely complicated, heavily embroidered, faux-neo-Jacobean felt appliqué “birds in a tree” extravaganza featured in colour on the back cover, but it was too daunting. For one thing, of course I didn’t have the transfer or pattern for the appliqué pieces, since I would have had to have sent away for them via postal order in 1962. For another, there weren’t even any instructions in the magazine — the design was offered as either an embroidery or an appliqué project (see photo), and the instructions in the magazine only covered the embroidered version in any detail. The appliqué version just gave a list of materials, size of finished design, and the address where one could order the pattern and instructions. And when it comes right down to it, my appliqué and especially, embroidery skills are really not very well developed.

Oh yes, and while felt is easy enough to buy, the materials included tapestry wool for the embroidery, which is impossible to find in stores anywhere near me and even difficult to order online in the right weight (very fine)! Luckily, last year I happened to be in the one city I know that houses the one shop I know that actually specialises in tapestry and sells the right kind of wool, so I was able to get that, at least.

I decided to make it as a cushion, not a wall hanging. The background tree was easy enough. Technically, the white branches and leaves should have been made by cutting holes in the green tree felt and letting the (white/beige) background fabric show through, but since I chose a blue background fabric, I appliquéd them as well. It was predictably difficult to make and cut out my own patterns for the little bits of felt for the birds and leaves, and after making the first two birds, I realised it was easier to just cut the pieces freehand. Since there were no instructions to follow, I went from the photo and the instructions for the embroidered version, which obviously didn’t give much useful information.

I made two of the birds on the left first, wasn’t really happy with them, and realised why after making the first flower on the left. I liked the way the flower turned out — it’s much simpler! The birds seem overdone in comparison. I’m going to try to scale them down, if I can pick out the embroidery without leaving obvious holes in the felt.

Progress is slow and it definitely won’t be finished by the end of July 2020, but I’ll keep updating this post, so stay tuned.

July 1962: Overview

Cover photo from the magazine showing two women and a male waiter drinking cocktails.

Holiday and party seasons are both in full swing in Stitchcraft’s July 1962 issue and the more I look at this cover photo, the more I love it. Note how the foreground model is staring off into the distance while sitting on a table with a compass printed on it, as if fantasising about her faraway holiday (though, if she’s on holiday already, as the picture is implying, does that mean she can’t wait to get home?). Meanwhile, it’s a good thing that our flirty tuxedoed waiter’s drinks tray is empty, with that precarious balancing act. If anyone feels inspired to creatively augment this photo with speech- and thought-bubble captions, please do and share it with us!

Colour photo from the magazine showing a modeled, knitted ensemble and blouse

In keeping with the easy-going, summer holiday theme, the knitting projects are simple and quick to make. The two illustrated on the cover have no sleeves, minimal shaping and patterning, and are made in quick double knitting wool. Although pictured as stand-alone tops, they could easily be layered over a blouse on cooler days. There’s also a simple blue blouse with loopy flower details on the collar and a striped, sleeveless tunic-blouse with matching skirt, all in 4-ply wool. Our waiter from the cover photo has found another holiday-goer to flirt with, and sports a “Casual Italian design sweater” in the same colour as her skirt: “Water Green.” (Holiday tip: if the water actually is that colour, don’t drink it.) Speaking of Italy, doesn’t that beautiful model in the collared blouse look like she just stepped out of a Fellini film?

For cooler days, there are cardigans in “golfer” or classic, slightly bobbled styles, both made in double knitting. The golfer takes her sport very seriously! Knitters who are really in a hurry to get packing can make some simple, bulky pullovers for the kids in the family (shown here building a lovely British castle out of cardboard and sand in the Patons photo studio — I am guessing everyone had a lot of fun on this issue’s photo shoots) or a fine-knit slipover in honeycomb pattern, written for a home knitting machine.

The embroidered homewares are mostly easy and predictable: a chairback with this month’s flower, the carnation; a quickly-made “gay garden cushion” (Happy Pride!), and place mats with heat-resistant cork inserts. There’s a tapestry stool and/or project bag in Florentine pattern, knitted or crocheted cushions, some fancy knitted doilies and a trolley cloth from crocheted motifs. I didn’t photograph all of them, since they’re pretty standard fare.

For those who like to immortalise their holiday paradise in tapestry, there’s a wall hanging of the village of St. Etienne de Bougary in the lovely French Pyrenées. For your outing to that very inviting-looking lake, you can sew you own beach bags and/or an appliquéd blanket-towel-baby’s-playmat for outdoor lounging. The beach bags feature adhesive plastic lining to keep wet bathing suits from leaking into the bag. Smart and easy, indeed.

I’m kind of ambivalent about making a project from this issue. The only thing I could really use is the bobbly cardigan, but it’s not exactly necessary, and the only design that I find exceptional is this crocheted blouse (worn by my favorite Stitchcraft model, who featured in a lot of the mid-and late 1950s issues). Model and blouse are both beautiful, but the blouse is way beyond my limited crochet skills. I wish I had the “Traditional Norwegian Designs” booklets from this ad! I think I’ll take the time to finish up another long-standing WIP instead.

Blast from the Past: February 1947

The June 1962 issue didn’t have any projects that appealed to me enough to make them, so I used the time to finish up a project that I’ve been working on off and on for the last few years: a “4-coupon” twin set from Stitchcraft‘s February 1947 issue.

The “4-coupon” title refers to the clothing coupons used when purchasing rationed items during and after World War II. Rationing began for many food products in January of 1940 and extended to clothing in 1941, whereby clothing coupons could also be used for household textiles or wool. The Wikipedia article on rationing in the United Kingdom during World War II gives a sense of the coupons’ comparative value:

There were 66 points for clothing per year; in 1942 it was cut to 48, in 1943 to 36, and in 1945 to 24. This system operated through a “points” system… [ ] …Clothing rationing points could also be used for wool, cotton and household textiles… [ ] … The number of points that each piece of clothing would be valued at was determined by not only how much labor went into making it, but also how much material was used. A dress could run someone 11 coupons, whereas a pair of stockings only cost 2. Similarly, Men’s shoes cost 7 tickets, whiles women’s cost only 5. In 1945, an overcoat (wool and fully lined) was 18 coupons; a man’s suit, 26–29 (according to lining); Children aged 14–16 got 20 more coupons.

The twin-set uses 8 ounces of wool, so apparently one coupon could get you two ounces of (2-ply) knitting wool. (Just to be clear, one also had to pay for the items; the coupons only limited the amount people were allowed to buy, regardless of how much money they had at their disposal.)

The influence of rationing can be seen in almost every aspect of 1940s issues of Stitchcraft: occasionally titles of designs, such as this one, but more often in recipes and advertisements. These two, from the pages of the 4-coupon pattern, promise that the company in question is “sharing out their dress and lingerie fabrics as fairly as possible” and reassure that “it won’t be long until we can have really new lingerie” (lace and frills were banned, and nylon was needed for parachutes et. al., hence the plain, home-sewn cotton nightgowns).

Many products remained rationed after the war, including clothes rationing, which lasted until March 1949. It was only in 1954 that the last rationing measures were lifted. Since then, the only product that has been subject to rationing in the UK was petrol, briefly, during the Suez crisis of 1956-57. And yet, as the global Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage around us, there have been discussions in many countries — including wealthy countries with excellent medical infrastructures — regarding the rationing of personal protective equipment, ventilators and medical supplies. The past is not as far away as we might think.

Booklet photo, February 1947

I had plenty of time to ruminate on that while finishing this project, which I started as a “home away from home” project in 2016 (a year in which I effectively lived in two different places) and finished in home isolation in 2020. The wool — Onion Nettle Sock — is a mixture of 70% sheep wool and 30% nettle fibre. I would never have thought to knit with nettle fibre, but it works very well! It is smooth and somewhat shiny and the textured lace pattern shows up very well with it. Also, it reminds me of various fairy tales involving our heroine knitting shirts for her brothers out of nettle plants (or aster flowers, depending on the version and translation), like Die Sechs Schwäne (The Six Swans) by the brothers Grimm, or De vilde svaner (The Wild Swans) by Hans Christian Andersen.

As always, I am larger than the 34-inch-bust size for which the pattern is written, but also get a looser gauge, so it worked out for me to make the pattern almost exactly as written. I made the sleeves and the body of the jumper in the round, adjusted for length and changed the sleeve cap slightly for less puffiness, but otherwise I didn’t need to change anything. Of course, the lace pattern is stretchy and can be blocked tighter or looser.

Said pattern was the first one I had worked with that increased and decreased in the course of the pattern repetition, and I was at a loss to deal with the side-seam and sleeve increases and decreases at first. The pattern, like all vintage patterns from this period, assumes you know what you are doing, and there are no charts in any case. I learned a lot and I can see that the side increases on the cardigan are much nicer than on the jumper! (Carefully photographed as to be unnoticeable, but believe me.)

My buttonhole spacing on the cardigan was off, so I ended up sewing most of the holes closed ad carefully cutting new ones after backing the bands with ribbon (a common practice at the time, especially on tight-fitting cardigans, to keep the bands from stretching out and gapping across the chest.)

All in all, this is a wonderful design and very flattering to the figure. Nota bene, my upper body is broad and flat and I am not exactly model-thin, but this ensemble somehow manages to make me look both svelte and curvy. The wool/nettle fingering weight is perfect for fall and spring. I love the buttoned placket and collar of the jumper. Knitting this was definitely worth all the time and hard work and it will be getting a lot of wear for years to come.

June 1962: Overview

Holiday season is in full swing in this month’s issue, with featured photos taken in pretty villages in and around Buckinghamshire and Kent. All the projects are easy and fairly quick to make, and even the fit is relaxed: the close-fitting, waist-length jumpers that were still more or less in fashion in 1960 and 1961 have now completely given way to loose-fitting, hip-length sweaters and blouses. I could use some relaxation, couldn’t you? Let’s dive in… gently.

The cover sweaters check all the 1962 trend boxes: loose, easy pullovers for “him and her” in sunny lemon yellow with interesting stitch textures and contrasting collar-and-cuff accents. Soft yellows, pastel shades and white show up again in the more glamorous “holiday sweaters” made with Patons’ Fuzzy-Wuzzy yarn (55% angora, 45% wool), as well as the women’s 4-ply “golfer style” cardigan (in “gay turquoise” and white 4-ply) and men’s “shirt-style” pullover in presumably light beige “Palomino” colour with contrasting collar.

The other garments are all photographed in black and white, but the yellow/pastel/white and contrasting accent trends are clear from the colour names of the yarns: the pretty “Junior Miss” cardigan is knitted in 4-ply Nylox “Sunglint” (the same colour as the cover sweaters), the “afternoon style” blouse is “Bois de Rose” pink and the bulky, textured Big Ben sweater is “Spring Green” with a white collar.

The smaller children of the family need something fun and easy for holidays too, of course, so here are some “seashore sets for toddlers in the swim.” They’re made in Nylox (80% wool, 20% nylon) and I don’t think they would be suitable for actual swimming, but definitely cute for playing around on the beach and splashing around.

With all these lovely things to knit, it’s not surprising that the homewares section is a little boring. Fittingly enough for June, this month’s flower is the rose, featured in a pattern for a “finger panel” to attach to a door. Readers, you have been so helpful in the past with solving mysteries for me, so i ask you: Why a finger panel? It seems to be used to keep the door clean from grubby handprints, which I can certainly understand in a family home, but I don’t see why it would be easier, or preferable, to wipe those grubby prints from an embroidery panel mounted under acrylic glass than to just wipe them off of the door. What do you think? Am I missing something here?

Otherwise, we’ve got some Scandinavian tapestry cushions, a “modern” (geometric and also Scandinavian design-inspired) hall runner rug, a more complex cross-stitch tablecloth (white and green on yellow linen, to match your yellow sweaters), some unspectacular oven mitts and some genuinely cute table mats in appliquéd and embroidered felt.

I feel more relaxed already, don’t you? There’s nothing from this issue that particularly inspires me and I have many WIPs to finish up, so my June project will be a “Blast from the Past” featuring a wonderful twin-set from a 1947 issue of Stitchcraft.

May 1962: In a Cooler Trend for Summer

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EDIT June 20, 2020: Finished!

May 2020 went quickly and is already over, but (spoiler…) my May 1962 project didn’t get finished until June. It was a lightweight pullover in 3-ply wool with three-quarter sleeves and a lacy yoke, simple, elegant and “in a cooler trend for summer.”

I bought the wool — Regia 3-ply, which has long been discontinued — from a wonderful little wool shop in my town that used to sell and maintenance hand knitting machines as well. It was a tiny, one-woman operation with unpredictable business hours, whose elderly owner lived in the apartment above the shop.  She often had vintage second-hand knitting machines for sale and I always meant to buy one, but the times when she had one available and the times when I was able to actually find the store open never seemed to coincide, and sadly, she passed away last year. There were no knitting machines left in the close-out inventory sale, but still plenty of fine-ply wool, which is almost impossible to find in normal wool shops these days. RIP lovely little store and lovely lady who ran it! I will think of you whenever I wear this jumper.

In spite of the fine wool and small needles (2.5 mm), I was unable to get the required tension of 8 stitches and 10 rows to an inch, so I adapted and made the smallest size, which should come out to fit me. I say “should” because the lace pattern used on the sleeves and yoke bunches together quite a lot before blocking. I blocked both sleeves on the needles to try and measure it out (see photos…) but I still wasn’t sure if they would fit properly onto the yoke. They did, with no further alterations.

The only real alteration that I made (besides making the body in the round to save time and seaming) was to alter the decreases on the front and back after the armhole bind-offs and before the beginning of the yoke. The pattern is written with identical back and front pieces, but I wanted the yoke to hang down further on the neck on the front than on the back, so I make the back pre-yoke part longer and the front pre-yoke part shorter by decreasing more or less frequently than in the pattern.

The lace stitch refused to block out flat, no matter what I did. I wash-blocked, stretched and pinned both sleeves before making the yoke (see photo above) and they had bunched up again by the time I was done knitting. I wash-blocked, stretched and pinned the whole garment after completion and the sleeves bunched up again five minutes after I unpinned it (dry). I pinned the sleeves and steamed them, then ironed them with the same result. Did I mention that this yarn is 75% wool and 25% acrylic, which normally blocks for good when any kind of heat is applied? Well, no matter what I did, it didn’t take. The yoke stretches out naturally while worn, but the sleeves bunch up. Since they are supposed to be below-elbow-length anyway, I decided to call it a design feature and live with it.

On the whole, I’m quite happy with it, and it’s the perfect weight for cooler summer days.

May 1962: Overview

IMG_3237Handknits For Your Holiday! If you are planning on taking a holiday in 1962, that is. In that case, I would recommend going to the Algarve in southern Portugal, which, based on the pattern of the window shutters and blanket in the background, is where I am guessing this magnificent cover photo was taken. Sadly, my time machine is out of order and May 2020’s motto is (Lots Of ) Handknits For No Holidays This Year Or Probably Anytime Soon.

I bought my copy of this issue on Ebay, but apparently it originally came from “The Knitting Centre” on Field End Road in Eastcote near London. I actually checked to see if it still existed but sadly, it seems to not be there anymore, nor is there any other knitting or craft shop in the area as far as Ravelry and the digital map can tell me. It would have been fun to be able to trace a 50+-year-old knitting magazine issue back to its origin!

Like most of the late-spring or summer issues, this one has a mix of quick, warm, bulky sweaters for holidays in northern climes and some finer, dressier items for that special going-out evening. “The boy friend” can get wild in a colourful, oversized mid-weight sweater, while “you” enjoy your evening in a bobbled jumper. For casual outings, there’s a raglan polo-neck and the “latest look in twin sets” — a short-sleeved jumper in lighter-weight wool with a heavier V-neck top worn over it. (The donkey seems to like it.)

The “cooler trend for summer” includes a pretty short-sleeved blouse and a fine-knit jumper with a lacy yoke as well as a cute dress and cardigan for a small child, made in terry-cloth Rimple yarn with fluffy appliquéd chicks.

Older children get their own holiday hand knits and nothing says “1962” like this little girl sporting a spectacular up-do, thick warm cardigan, knee socks and basically nothing else on her body. How is she supposed to play badminton in a skirt that doesn’t even cover her bottom when she’s standing still? Her tomboy sister gets a much better deal in her knitted shirt and shorts. White and pale colours are always on point for summer and lemon yellow is the new colour trend.

The homewares department is quite boring this time, but there is a reason for that, as “editress” Patience Horne explains on the facing page:

After our end-of-the-year check through our embroidery and tapestry features, it is clear that designs of the more traditional type head the list — others in a modern style are way down and definitely have more limited appeal. I think this is because more traditional designs never date and seem to fit in well with most homes, whereas a completely contemporary design requires almost its own special setting.

Well, there you have it. Readers usually had to send away for the embroidery transfers, so it must have been easy enough to determine which designs were most popular, and the most popular embroidery designs of 1961 and the most popular embroidery design of 1960 were “peasant motifs” and two Jacobean cushions, so we can expect more of the same. The May 1962 Jacobean cushion is certainly very pretty and there’s also a cutwork tablecloth, other table linens and a “Chippendale” tapestry stool.

There’s also a “cushion for the car” with the cryptic motif “II3LMF” on it. I assume it must be a reference to some sort of gearstick / gearknob / automobile part code, but I can’t interpret it and Internet searches for vintage gearsticks led me nowhere. Are there any vintage car aficionados out there who can tell me what it means? EDIT: Gretchen aka Stashdragon solved the mystery for me in her comment below. The centre panel is a customisable area for the car’s registration/license plate number and the chart gives you all the letters and numbers you might need to personalise it. Guess I should have read the pattern text! Thanks, Gretchen!

That’s all for now. My May project will be the 3-ply jumper with the lacy yoke. Get well and stay well!

April 1962: For an Easter Baby

IMG_3225My April project was the cardigan jacket, a.k.a. “matinee coat” from Stitchcraft’s April 1962 layette set “for an Easter baby.” The set included a dress, the jacket, bootees, a bonnet and a blanket to use as a pram cover, plus a  sewn “pin-tidy” made out of a tiny baby doll with flannel and satin “skirts” to hold the safety pins for baby’s cloth nappies. The pin-tidy is a bit “uncanny valley” for my taste, but the knitted items are all lovely.

My knitting group has a gift exchange game every December and my prize this last year was 100 grams of Opal “Beautiful World” 4-ply sock yarn, 75% wool, 25% polyamide, multicoloured. I don’t like multicoloured yarns, but hey, a gift is a gift and I knew I would find a use for it! Sock yarn works well for baby things, being washable and non-felting, and 100 grams was the perfect amount for the jacket. IMG_3169The colour is unusually dark for a baby garment, but I don’t this the friend whose baby-to-be I knit it for will mind — they wear a lot of black themselves. (Side note: I did make an all-black baby cardigan for a black-clothed metal fan father-to-be friend once, and he was thrilled, because he knew he would never find one in a store. Take note, baby clothing designers — there is a market out there!)

The construction is a simple dolman, made in pieces from the bottom up with cast-on sleeves. The button band is made with a slip-stitch hem and the stitch pattern in the lower part is an easy broken welt:

  • Row 1: (RS) knit
  • Row 2: *k2, p 6* to last 2 sts, k2
  • Rows 3 and 4: knit

I even found seven buttons — one extra! — in my stash that fit the buttonholes and the style really well (my local stores are still closed).

My only worry is that the neck is too tight. It looks awfully small. Of course, they can just leave the top button open if they have to.

The baby will arrive in June and I will “see” my friend next week (i.e. non-contact delivery of present, perhaps we will literally see each other through a window or something). I hope everything works out for them as well as this project did for me!

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April Extra: Stitchcraft Cooking, September 1949

IMG_3207“Someone coming to tea, nothing much in the house and you are short of materials? Here are three recipes that don’t need much in the way of ingredients, don’t take long to mix and are delicious to eat.”

I’m obviously not going to have anyone over for tea anytime soon, since Covid-19 social distancing and isolation restrictions are still in full force. Not being able to go out to buy groceries very often if at all and having to use many non-perishable items that had been lingering in the back of cupboards did make me think of those recipes in earlier Stitchcraft issues, though. In Great Britain, many items were rationed even years after World War II ended, and easy, economical recipes in women’s magazines from the late 1940s reflected that situation.

IMG_3208Previously, I had made a “nut pie” from a recipe in Stitchcraft‘s December 1949 issue, and having found cashews, walnuts and almonds in the cupboard, I made it again last week. It was delicious, came out perfectly and I can really recommend that recipe with whatever combination of nuts you have on hand. Today, I felt like baking something sweet and found these recipes for a date-and-ginger cake, cheese scones and “oat crunchies” on the cooking page of the September 1949 issue. I didn’t have dates but I did have oats, margarine and dark sugar beet syrup (black treacle / molasses), so oat crunchies it was.

The recipe is simple: 3 ounces lard and 3 ounces margarine, softened in the oven and mixed with 14 tablespoons oats, 3 tablespoons syrup and 1/2 teaspoon “bi-carbonate soda” (baking soda), then baked in a greased tin, cooled and cut into squares. What could be easier? I don’t cook with lard, but I did actually have two kinds of margarine, so that was the only substitution, and I made a half recipe to try it out. The consistency of the mixture before baking should have been “fairly stiff” but it was surprisingly liquid. I guessed the margarine had softened too much, i.e. melted, so I added more oats. Then I baked it at “Regulo 4, or 375”  (190 C) for 30 minutes as specified.

Oh, dear.

It bubbled up and sort of exploded in the oven while baking, burning a little on the top but still staying quite liquid throughout. It has cooled down by now and solidified slightly, but is still nowhere near “crunchy” territory — more like mushy granola. The recipe did say 3 ounces lard and 3 ounces margarine — maybe it should have been 3 ounces total? (I did remember to halve all the measures, so I definitely didn’t use twice as much fat as I should have.) It tastes absolutely delicious, though, as you might expect from something that is essentially fat mixed with sugar and a few oats!

Moral of the story: I probably won’t make this recipe again, definitely wouldn’t serve it to company (if anybody is allowed to visit ever again), but if anyone needs some fat- and sugar-packed lockdown comfort food that can be made without leaving the house for supplies, and doesn’t need to photograph said food for a blog or be seen eating it out of the baking pan with a spoon (ahem), this will probably fit the bill.

April 1962: Overview

IMG_3168“Easter Greetings” from Stitchcraft, April 1962! According to “editress” Patience Horne, “everyone is getting that “out-of-doors” feeling”. I and my fellow compatriots from 2020 have had a very much in-doors feeling for the last few weeks, as we watch Spring unfold from our quarantine windows.

Back in 1962, the whole family can sport matching waffle-stitch pullovers and cardigan jackets for those inevitable country rambles. All three cover-photo designs are made in bulky Big Ben wool at 3 1/2 stitches to the inch. Those who prefer double-knitting weight wool can make a men’s pullover in “slip-on shirt style for sailing and tennis” (with sporty illustration!), a buttonless women’s jacket, or a “crunchy” cabled pullover. Roll-necks or rolled collars are gradually eclipsing the larger, pointier collars of the years before.

There’s also a “travel set” of jumper, cardigan and two skirts to take on your spring holiday, made in both plain green and a marled two-tone green that appears to be one of the early multi-colour yarns just starting to come onto the market around this time, but is actually made by holding one strand of each of the two colours together . The child’s striped V-neck pullover seems like a good way to use up all the leftover yarn.

Even the baby of the family, or a baby-to-be, can expect a lovely Easter present in the form of a dress, bonnet, jacket, bootee and blanket set — plus a “pin tidy” to hold all the safety pins that will fasten our 1962 baby’s cloth nappy in place. The blanket is also made in Big Ben (ensuring it will be done in time for baby’s arrival), while the other garments are made in the usual 3- or 4-ply baby fingering wool.

IMG_3173Springtime also means spring cleaning, and Easter means presents and bizarre sorry bazaar novelties (honestly, with some of the designs it’s hard to tell the difference.) Here’s an intriguing “splash panel” to hang on the bathroom wall. As with the elaborately embroidered “finger plates” for doors, its utility evades me. Why would anyone hang a hand-embroidered tapestry on the bathroom wall, for the express purpose of being splashed with soap and toothpaste and who knows what else, which would therefore need to be taken down and (hand!)-washed frequently, rather than just… wipe down the tile wall? I do like the fish design, though!

The pineapple (-ish) motif cushion, embroidered flower-of-the-month iris, latch-key and crocheted rugs are less interesting, but the Easter novelties — a stuffed polka-dot giraffe, a hedgehog pincushion (brilliant), a chicken egg cosy and a knitted lamb with mascara and eyebrows — do not disappoint. A crocheted altar cloth and a set of versatile cross-stitch animal motifs round out the homewares selection. Finally, there’s a great surprise on the inside back cover: a set of embroidered and appliquéd place mats and matching cushion with a chess-set motif! That’s actually quite a lot of fun.

I hope you are all staying sane and healthy in these unfortunate times. May you all have enough projects to keep you busy and enough non-physical-proximity games to keep you happy. Two friends of mine will be expecting babies in the summer, so my Stitchcraft project for April will be the jacket from the baby set. Hang in there, everyone!

March 1962: Twin-set jumper

Version 2Greetings from the Covid-19 lockdown! March 1962’s project sports the headline “Ready for the Easter Parade” in the magazine, but there are definitely not going to be any Easter parades in March 2020. I hope all of you, dear readers, are staying healthy and staying home.

I made the jumper from this lovely “best-dress” twin-set in an easy flattened-rib pattern with added cross-stitch embroidery. It’s written for 4-ply wool, but the child I knit it for can’t wear wool and the warmer months are coming, so I made it in cotton. And I finally found a cotton yarn that is non-mercerised and fine enough for me to get 7 stitches to the inch with it — Cotton 8/4 by the Danish brand Mayflower. It’s even organic! Sadly, there wasn’t enough yarn left in the shop to make the cardigan, said shop has decided not to re-order this yarn and Mayflower doesn’t seem to do direct sales via its website, so if I want to make the cardigan, I’ll have to see where else I can order some more.

The pattern was easy and my only modifications were to close the back neck opening with snaps and a button instead of a zipper and to forego the blanket-stitch embroidery around the neck, which I thought didn’t go well with the cross-stitch embroidery. It was a fun project and I hope the little girl for whom I made it will enjoy her birthday present.

Sorry for the very short post, but there’s really not much more I can say. Stay tuned for the year-long saga of the 1940s twin-set, which might actually be drawing to a close now that I have lots and lots of time at home to knit.

March 1962: Overview

IMG_3126There are three seasons in the Stitchcraft year: autumn, Christmas and “holidays”, which start in March and continue until about September. Of course, most people take their holidays in the summer, but the beauty of knitting (or editing a knitting magazine) is that you can technically be knitting for them any time of the year, if you knit slowly enough. And so, the March 1962 issue of Stitchcraft, (motto: “Knit for Spring”) can already promise us “the fun of holidays to plan for.”

Spring is also “the time of year to wear smart two-piece suits and dresses, which you can now knit so quickly and easily” — a nod to the double-knitting and bulkier-weight wools now available and in fashion, relieving knitters of the earlier boredom of making dresses and long-skirted suits at 8 stitches to the inch. Here is a skirt set in nubbly Rimple DK. Top-fashion colours of dull green and beige-gold (or as Stitchcraft calls them, “mustard and pheasant” — sounds delicious!) are repeated in a finer-knit bouclet sweater.

Interesting textures and colour blends are key: in addition to the Rimple and bouclet offerings, the cover jumper is made in Bracken Tweed, one of the newer marled/flecked wools. Stranded colourwork is featured in a Norwegian-style pullover for men and, in more subtle form, in a bright band across a warm women’s raglan sweater. Look at that perfect 1962 “lifestyle” photo of our knitter lounging in her beige-coloured living room and smiling seductively at her man while listening to jazz!

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“Informal sweaters” that combine colour and texture elements, as well as a lovely little twin-set for a child and granny-square bonnet and mittens for a toddler round out the collection. The homewares are varied, but predictable: another tapestry town scene, a Florentine rug (pity they didn’t get a colour photo of that), traditional cross-stitch designs and a daffodial embroidery transfer for a coffee-pot cosy or night-dress case.

And of course it wouldn’t be Stitchcraft without “novelties”, in this case, matching “boy” and “girl” egg cosies made to look like nightcaps — I’m guessing somebody must have found the egg holders with painted-on faces and had an inspiration. The back cover is another fun, if slightly “uncanny valley”, advertisement for Escorto “Gold Seal” fabrics — “easy” due to being 100% synthetic material.

My March project will be the jumper from the girl’s twin-set as well as another “blast from the past” which I have been working on for literally years and will hopefully finally finish soon. Happy Spring!

February 1962: Squirrel or Chicken?

IMG_3058No, it’s not the menu choice for tonight’s dinner, don’t worry. My February 1962 was a little embroidered… animal , originally designed for a toddler’s “feeder” and which I adapted into a bag for vegetables/small projects/”stuff”. I say “animal” in this vague way because it is referred to as a “Squirrel” in the instructions, followed by more specific instructions on how to embroider the supposed squirrel’s beak and feathers. I can maybe, maybe forgive enough poetic license to call a squirrel’s mouth a “beak”, and the creature’s fluffy tail could be mistaken for a squirrel’s, but feathers… no. It also looks suspiciously like a chicken in the photo! So, not a squirrel, but a chicken and a proofreading error.

The photo is about as vague as the animal’s species, so I followed the instructions as best I could and then, ahem, winged it from there. Obviously, I did not have a transfer, so I just drew an approximation of the shape on the fabric with a pencil.

The fabric was up-cycled from a tattered pillowcase and an old red bandana. I embroidered the chicken on one thickness of pillowcase fabric and then flat-lined that piece with another piece of the same fabric for more stability and to keep the back side of the embroidery from fraying. The embroidery floss was all leftover bits and the cord is monk’s cord made from scraps of felting yarn, so this was a 100% up-cycled / didn’t have to buy anything new project, in keeping with the environmentally friendly cloth vegetable bag idea.

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It looks quite “homemade” — my embroidery skills are still far from professional level — but cute and very 1960s. I have a friend who actually keeps chickens in her garden and gets most of her food from them, the garden or food-sharing, so obviously this will be a present for her. I think she’ll appreciate it.

Blast from the Past: April 1952

IMG_2746I hang out a lot in the “All Things Vintage” forum on Ravelry and try to participate in the make-alongs when I can. Usually, there are two of them per year, and last year’s July-December KAL/CAL (that’s “knit along”/ “crochet along” for anyone not familiar with the abbreviations) had the theme “Fabulous Fifties.” The 1950s were indeed a fabulous time for fashion and I have a small selection of 1950s knitting magazines, including some very nice issues of Stitchcraft, so the most difficult part was choosing a pattern! I went with this “Elegant jerkin for summer wear” from April 1952.

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Portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh (wearing a jerkin) by William Segar, 1598. National Gallery of Ireland. Public domain.

First of all, I hear most of you asking: What is a jerkin? I’m glad you asked. Originally, it was a short, close-fitting, buttoned or otherwise fastened jacket with short or no sleeves, worn in the Renaissance over a doublet. It was often nipped in at the waist. Modern versions of the jerkin were revived for military use in the 20th century, and Stitchcraft as well as other mid-century patterns often use the word for a women’s waistcoat with cap sleeves to wear over  a blouse, or a knitted blouse-like garment such as this one, which plays off of the historical jerkin shape.

The four-row stitch pattern was quite easy (knit 1, slip 1 on the right-side rows, knit 1, purl 1 on the wrong-side rows in one colour, then slip 1, purl one on the RS and purl 1, knit 1 on the WS in the other colour) but because of the colour change with the slip stitches, it was amazingly difficult to “read” the work and get back on track. At the same time, if just one stitch was wrong, it was immediately visible in the pattern. Of course, I had to pick blue and black, two colours that didn’t offer much contrast and which, I found, only look different in natural light. As a result, I could only work on this project during daylight hours… in the winter, which is pretty dark.

IMG_2747Adding to the frustration: as always, no matter how small the needles or how thin the wool, I could not knit tightly enough to get the minuscule gauge, which itself was only given as a “life-size” photograph in the pattern. Of course, I am also larger than the 34-35 inch bust given in the pattern, but how much larger the garment, calibrated for how much larger the gauge? Right, lots of calculations, estimations, measurements upon measurements, and just plain guesswork. Plus the thing pulled together either more or less, horizontally or vertically, as it got larger — my gauge swatch (a pocket lining) was utterly useless. I had to start three times.

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Before sewing

When I finally got it done (too late for the KAL deadline but whatever), it fit perfectly! I was so proud of myself! Then I wash-blocked it and the wool stretched about six inches in width and at least two or three in length above the waist. In desperation, I reached out to the good people of Ravelry, who told me that the yarn I used (Lang Merino 200 Bébé) was superwash and I should put it in the clothes dryer to shrink it back into shape. I did that and it actually did shrink it down, but it still ballooned a bit in the torso, so I sewed side seams into it. At the moment they are just sewn down with yarn, but the next time I get the sewing machine out, I will probably sew them down properly and (aaaaaggggh!!) cut the excess fabric away to reduce bulk

Also, I sewed that moss-stitch bottom band on twice and it still pulls in a little bit. Oh right, and the tour through the dryer dinged up the buttons, even though I turned the garment inside out.

All in all, this jerkin was a jerk. It was jerkin me around! It looks OK though, I guess, and better under a blazer. You will have to take my word for it when I tell you that I look less dumpy in it in real life than in the photo. It was an interesting project in terms of construction and stitch pattern and I’m sure I will wear it, but sadly, in the end I don’t think it was worth all the frustration.

 

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Stay tuned for the update on the really, truly, almost finished January 1962 project and the embroidered chicken squirrel (yes) that will be my February 1962 experiment catastrophe vegetable bag.

February 1962: Overview

IMG_3048Put on your best traveling suit, pack your Aeros and have your Kodak Instamatic in hand, because it’s February 1962 and Stitchcraft is going to Paris! This month’s issue  features Paris-inspired designs (whatever that means) and extra pages in colour to show off the latest knitwear against a backdrop of Parisian tourist classics.

Travel from London to Paris in the early 1960s was, of course, not on the speedy Eurostar or even quicker cheap flight of our modern times. Commercial air travel was a luxury for the well-to-do and the only way to cross the Channel by train was on the Night Ferry, which ran from London Victoria to Paris Gare du Nord and back. The overnight journey took 11 hours, of which three were spent on the water;  the entire train was loaded onto a ferry for the Channel crossing. I really recommend clicking on the link, which leads to the Wikipedia article. There’s a lot more information about the Night Ferry there, and even a short list of books and films set on or inspired by it.

So what does Paris fashion 1962 have in store for us? Dresses, strong dark colours and smooth crepe wools are all “in”, with a special trend for fringes and bobbles. The two-piece dress on the cover is made in fine bouclet wool and photographed against one of the little bookselling stands that still line the roads along the Seine today. Fine, red crepe wool is the choice for the similar two-piece outfit with fringey bobbles on the front of the jumper, photographed in Montmartre. Are the bobbles supposed to suggest the legs of the painter’s tripod, or an upside-down Eiffel Tower? The dress on the facing page (Sacre-Coeur in the background) is also made in smooth crepe wool, this time in somewhat thicker Totem Double Knitting.

Fringe makes additional appearances in a lemon-yellow jumper with the newly fashionable high neckline and extra collar (Place de l’Opéra) and in the dark green and black plaid-effect longline jumper on the inside front cover (which appears to have been photographed in a Métro station, though I can’t immediately place which one.) Even without fringe, large collars are still going strong, as seen in the belted Rimple jacket. “Chunky” bulky wool makes an appearance in the beret and oversized handbag set (Capucines). The bag is reinforced with strips of cardboard along the top edges and a woven fabric lining to prevent otherwise inevitable sagging.

With all these lovely large projects and the special Parisian focus, it’s not surprising that the rest of the designs in the issue are unspectacular. There are some easy knitted classics for men and children, the usual “Victorian” and “Jacobean” tapestries for the home, and some fun little crafty projects like these “mats with hats” coasters. In the “Little Bobby” serial comic, John and Jane both have a cold. That’s February for you!

I have so many unfinished projects, including the January 1962 jumper, that my February project will be something small and easy. Maybe not the mats with hats, but probably a little embroidered lilac sprig (flower of the month) on a vegetable or project bag. In the meantime, watch for updates on the January project — it’s knitting along quite quickly — and a special 1950s “blast from the past” post.

January 1962: Softly Fitting

IMG_3026UPDATE AND EDIT February 25, 2020: Project finished!

It was hard to decide what to make from the January 1962 issue, since more than one pattern was enticing. The most practical of all of them would have been the cabled cardigan, since I could really use a black, midweight, go-with-everything cardigan right now. However, I decided to go with the jumper from this lovely “softly fitting” twinset (“softly fitting” as opposed to the tighter, waist-length twinsets of the late 1950s). The pattern calls for “Cameo Crepe”, a smooth 4-ply wool, but I knew this project would be perfect for “Concept Silky Lace”, the merino-silk blend from the company Katia from which I made the wonderful orange sleeveless top last summer.

IMG_3025There were only two problems. Problem number one: Concept Silky Lace is only available in colours I don’t wear (shades of white and pastel) as well as orange (great, but I used it for the other project), a sort of light jeans blue (OK, but not exciting) and purple. Purple is not my best colour, but given the limited choice and the fact that I really wanted to use this specific yarn, I went with it. That led to problem number two: there were only two balls of it in the store and they had to order more.  Unsure whether the two additional balls I ordered would be from the same dye lot or if it would make a difference if they weren’t, I started by making the sleeves with the yarn I had, and waited.

And waited.

IMG_3046It took more than two weeks for the yarn to arrive, so I was woefully behind. Also, the yarn that arrived was from a different dye lot, so I wasn’t sure how to camouflage the colour changes or if I even had to. After making the ribbing for the body in the “old” yarn and the body (stockinette stitch, and I decided to do it in rounds to go faster) with the new yarn and not noticing any difference, I just used up the old yarn and moved onto the new in the fancy-yoke part. It worked fine and didn’t make a stripe — thank you Katia for your excellent colour-match dye work.

IMG_3100Once the project got started, it was finished very quickly. I was worried about the size, as it seemed to stretch quite a lot width-wise and I though it would be too wide and baggy. Once it was bound off and sewn, it was fine. I made it an inch longer in the body than it said to make it in the pattern, but I could have made it even longer — people were really short fifty years ago!?! Blocking helped stretch out the length.

It is wonderfully soft and clingy and will keep me warm and/or cool in every temperature. I like the colour and it looks good alone or under a blazer, with skirt or trousers, etc. It was easy and fun to knit, has a cool design and the pattern was well-written. A great project all around!