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.

December 1961: Star-Spangled Theatre Bag

IMG_2976Technically, it was more of a “star-spangled burlap bag”, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Happy December, everyone! The 1961 festive holiday season, as envisioned by Stitchcraft magazine, involved at least a couple of glamorous parties and evenings out, for which this white satin drawstring clutch bag could be the perfect accessory.

My holiday season was going along festively enough, but I actually have a couple of vintage evening bags and clutches, should I need one to feel glamorous, and I don’t need a white satin anything. I did love the embroidery design, which features pearls and sequins sewn into flowery “star” motifs in various shades of pink and green. The motifs look very “modern” in that 1960s way — abstract and spiky, but also dainty and bright. What could I embroider them onto?

As it turns out, a few weeks ago I found myself at an antiques fair in Hamburg, Germany, and one of the stands was selling literal moneybags — sacks of burlap linen in different sizes that had been used by the German federal bank to transport money and were then at some point taken out of circulation. The material is very sturdy, finer and more tightly woven than coffee or potato sack burlap, but with a similar feel. The bags were also in perfectly good condition in spite of their age and use — each one is printed with a date, and many of them were from the 1990s. At the very modest price of one Euro each, I went ahead and bought ten of the smaller size (approximately 18 centimetres wide by 30 long).

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So … what to make of them? (Literally.) More vegetable bags? Gift sacks? Little knitting project bags? All of the above? Whatever their use(s), at least one of the bags was going to be star-spangled. Putting fine, pretty flowery embroidery on a coarse natural-fiber sack was a fun idea for a style-mix experiment that I couldn’t resist. After thoroughly machine-washing and steam-ironing the bags (“money is dirty” as the seller said with a IMG_2998wink, and who knows if they had been treated with some kind of additional preservative chemical), I drew the motifs onto the bag with a wax embroidery-transfer pen, tracing around different sizes of button to get the circles, and embroidered them using leftover bits of pink and green embroidery cotton. I decided to forego the pearls and sequins and just made French knots instead. I also didn’t care too much about perfect symmetry or absolutely “clean” lines — I wanted it to look a little bit rough and homemade.

Originally, I wanted to put in a zipper at the top, but didn’t have one to upcycle, so I just made a buttonhole and found a button from the “singles” jar. I might change the button over to the back side of the bag to make a fold-over top closure if stuff falls out, but I preferred the way the bag looked from the front with the single button.

And that was it! I like the result. It’s goofy and incongruous and has a vintage feel in a few different ways. I had already used a few of the other bags as non-embroidered gift bags, so I’ll keep this one for myself as a project bag for small projects, or possibly a vegetable bag. Star-spangled Brussels sprouts, anyone?

 

 

December 1961: Overview

IMG_2973It’s that time of year again and December 1961’s issue has a lovely festive cover photo featuring matching father-son jumpers and a freshly-cut-down Christmas tree with holly branches. The jumpers are meant to be made in flat pieces with only the yoke worked in the round, but everything about them other than that is in the traditional Norwegian style, with a small snowflake pattern on the body and sleeves and a round yoke with tree and star patterns. I like that the jumpers’ pattern theme and colour choice are not so very specifically Christmas-y that they couldn’t be worn at any other time, or by people in our more diverse and modern times who don’t celebrate or don’t care much for Christmas and would just like a nice warm jumper with a wintery flair.

1961 Stitchcraft, of course, celebrates Christmas in a big way. Most of the projects are either glamorous party-wear for the ladies or gifts of all sizes and sorts for family and friends, while the fashionable housewife can do her Christmas shopping in a flecked-tweed cardigan suit similar to the ones in the November 1961 issue, or keep warm on casual days with bulkier sweaters. Tweed and contrasting polo-neck collars are in fashion all around.

For those fancy parties and evenings out, there’s a cocktail jumper in popcorn stitch, an angora stole, and an embroidered and sequinned evening bag. The jumper is knitted with wool and Lurex yarn held together, giving it a bit of sparkle. The stole is absolutely timeless and modern as well as easy to make (a rectangle in simple lace pattern with garter-stitch borders) and probably quite warm and cosy to wear over your strapless evening gown at the theatre. The bag is fancy, yet inexpensive to make, with a very 1960s “modern” look. Even after the party and the night out are over, you can still look glamorous in a knitted pink bedcape.

IMG_2982Children of all ages can look forward to practical, yet stylish winter garments — a knitted outdoor play-suit for toddlers in warm, bulky Big Ben, a smart fine-knit twin-set for girls of varying ages (sizes from 26-30 inch chest) and a wonderful knitted dress in a two-colour slip-stitch pattern that fits right into the tweed trend. The photo caption claims that Alison (the young model) is “warm as toast” but of course, her legs are going to be cold! She still seems pretty happy, though.IMG_2981

For me, the best, and sometimes goofiest, projects of every December Stitchcraft issue are the homewares and “novelty gifts”. This year, some are quite normal, like the snowflake-pattern table mats “for a supper party” pictured above, a cutwork tablecloth, or the tapestry stool cover in a diagonal Florentine pattern. Some are specifically winter- or Christmas-themed, such as the knitted cushion and a framed tapestry picture of angels. Two are very classic and beautiful and have nothing to do with “the season” — a typical Jacobean chairback and a very pretty tray cloth embroidered with anemones. They are all quite nice, if not particularly special.

And then there are the novelty gift ideas, or, as they are titled here, “gay mascots.”

The knitted teddy bear is nice enough, but looks quite stern with its unsmiling mouth and sharp, downward-pointing eyebrows. The snowman egg cosy… well, if you really feel the need to use an egg cosy, fine, it looks cheerful enough. Ivy-leaf pincushion, OK. The bear cub, though, looks like it’s about to attack! Something about its half-smile and the glint in its eye makes it look malicious. And the Father Christmas egg cosy… it’s hard for me to express exactly what’s wrong with it, but if I woke up on Christmas morning and found him on my breakfast place, I would expect to be getting coal in my stocking. Give me a gay mascot any day, but maybe not exactly these ones?!?

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I guess it shows just how difficult it is to embroider faces.

Our “Readers’ Pages” have the usual ads for fabric remnants and sewing machines as well as an extra pattern for a little knitted and embroidered scarf, some traditional Swedish pattern motifs and review of the exhibition of Swedish embroidery recently held at the Embroiderers’ Guild, and a comic in which Little Bobby gets a skiing lesson from a friendly snowman.

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it and happy winter days to all! My December project will be to finish some of the many WIPs lying around (including the November blazer, I swear it is almost done) and use the evening-bag embroidery motifs on something fun and small like dinner napkins or a vegetable bag.

 

 

November 1961: Blazer with the Boutique Look

IMG_2931Post updated on December 28, 2019: Finished!

November 2019’s project was the blazer from this wonderful tweed check suit in the November 1961 issue. As it says in the description, “separates in the height of fashion illustrate why hand-knitting is chosen for today’s couture look.” The blazer, especially, is really a timeless, classic piece.

The stitch pattern is very clever and simple: k 1, sl 1, p 1 on the right-side rows, moved one stitch to the left every time, and purl back on the wrong side rows, with 2 rows in each colour. This makes a firm, structured fabric with minimal curling at the edges (which are finished with wool braid binding).

IMG_2920The pattern calls for Patons Rimple DK (nubbly wool with synthetic) in black and Patons Totem DK (smooth “crepe” wool) in “Oakapple”. I admit I had never heard of an an oak apple before and looking at the black-and-white photo, it’s it’s hard to tell what exact colour was used — but it’s obviously some kind of whitish-beige. Which, as it turns out, is pretty much the colour of at least some kind of real oak apple, which, as it also turns out, is not any kind of apple at all, but a wasp gall. My choice of wool, Jamieson’s Double Knitting, was clear from the beginning and I was lucky enough to be able to buy it “in person” at the wonderful Shetland Wool Week. Both the “black” (Mirrydancers)  and “white” (Sand) yarns are ever so subtly tweedy, which gives a beautiful depth to the colour.

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Why did I even bother?

Calculating the amounts was a nightmare, though. I had thought ahead and written it all out on paper: how many yards of Totem and Rimple there were in an ounce (thank you, Ravelry, for listing discontinued yarns with useful information about them), how many yards I would then need for each colour if making just the blazer, just the skirt or both, then comparing that with the number of metres per gram of Jamieson’s DK, dividing for number of 25 gram skeins, checking it all through and of course adding at least a few skeins of each colour for swatching, making full-length sleeves, extra security, and knowing that I wouldn’t be in Shetland again anytime soon. It was just barely enough! As I learned the other way around while making the green crocheted rug a little while ago, you can calculate all you want, (even with the help of a professional mathematician who knows extra-special secret formulas with Greek letters), or weight your swatches or whatever, but the only real way to know how much wool you are going to need is by making the thing. Argh.

IMG_2968The knitting itself was a dream, though — so nice to work in DK after the fingering-weight projects of recent months past. It knitted up fast and easily and the fabric feels good in the hands. The pattern is quite clear and simple. Even the set-in pockets with flaps and the buttonholes (such a nightmare, always) were successful and the buttonholes evenly spaced. (I used the method that Stitchcraft always suggests: make the side without buttonholes first, then mark the button positions with pins and make the buttonholes to correspond. With a repeating pattern like this one, you can count the rows between buttonholes quite accurately.)

I added a bit of waist shaping for a more tailored look, using a well-fitting blazer from my closet for a guide. I also made full-length sleeves. Originally I thought to make the sleeves from the top down for a better sleeve-cap fit and to make sure I didn’t run out of yarn, but I realised that that would reverse the direction of the diagonal pattern and I wasn’t sure if that would be a problem or not. I made them in the normal way from the cuff up, but made them narrower.

IMG_2932After putting it together and blocking, the back piece had stretched width-wise, the sleeves had stretched length-wise and the sleeve cap didn’t fit well. Also, the shoulders were too wide. What to do? I didn’t want to cut the knitted fabric, nor do everything over. My solution: I re-sewed the sleeve caps in where the shoulder and sleeve line should have fallen, then tucked the resulting extra fabric in towards the neck on the front piece to make a sort of built-in shoulder pad. I normally hate shoulder pads and rip them out of everything I buy, but in this case it turned the droopy, sloppy-looking shoulder into a crisp, tailored-looking one. I’m so sorry I forgot to take a “before” picture — the change was pretty dramatic.

IMG_3018To fix the back width, I added two vertical darts. That wasn’t as elegant as it could have been if I had knitted them in, but it was fine. The sleeve-cap changes pulled the sleeves in a little shorter, so I just finished the cuffs with the same binding that I used for the rest. The buttons are modern, but aren’t they perfect? I even remembered to buy a few extra.

It took a lot of finicky finishing work, but in the end, I was very happy. The blazer is warm, elegant, comfortable and fun to wear. It looks good as part of a retro-style outfit or a modern one. What more could I want? I don’t feel the need to make the skirt. I’m just happy with my blazer the way it is.

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November 1961: Overview

IMG_2927November is such a grey month, so it’s nice to see that Stitchcraft‘s November 1961 issue has the theme “Colour Flair”, featuring speckled yarns and a center page in colour. The issue showcases “Bracken Tweed”, Patons’ new double knitting wool. Bracken Tweed was one of the early multicolour yarns, mixing flecks of a lighter colour in with main strands of a darker colour to achieve a tweed effect. At its debut in 1961, it was 100% wool;  with the change from ounces to grams in the late 1960s, the fiber content was changed to 60% wool and 40% acrylic.

IMG_2931The Bracken two-piece dress on the cover is one of two ideas for “Separates with the BOUTIQUE LOOK”; the other is this wonderful suit, made with regular Patons Double Knitting and familiar nubbly Rimple. Note the deliberately too-short sleeves, designed to show off your gloves and bracelets! The slip-stitch pattern gives it a firm texture for more shape.

 

Then we’ve got “Colour Flair” from Vienna (a fancifully patterned pullover in brown and yellow) and Paris (a shirt-style pullover with front buttons). Large collars are still in, but are tending towards rounder shapes, as can be seen in the Vienna pullover and the rolled collar of the Bracken outfit. Bracken is also featured in the “young-style look” pullover with a cute bobble tie, while “his colour-panel pullover” is made in Moorland Double Knitting, also a tweedy-flecked wool.

Younger girls get their own “Continental Look” with a bright blue and red outfit of skirt, cardigan and stockings. Finally, warm legs! Tights would be better, of course, but at least her poor legs aren’t bare in the November cold. Babies get bootee slippers and a lovely lace shawl. With the exception of the baby shawl, all the garments in the issue are designed for double-knitting weight wool, so that everyone can be warm and get their Christmas presents on time.

With that in mind, the colour page insert shows a “Display of Gifts to make yourself” — quick, easy-to-make toys and small household items for family and friends. The baby’s slippers are on the top shelf, along with a “Circus Jumbo” stuffed felt elephant and a cross-stitch pot holder (?) that I cannot find anywhere in this issue. There’s a crocheted tea cosy and a magnificent knitted coffee-pot cosy made to look like a pineapple, as well as two felt pot holders on the second shelf. The bottom shelf has knitted poodle and bunny toys and doll clothes (the bunny is also dress-able). Not pictured in the colour photo are a calendar cover and waste-paper bin cover in felts, with a Swedish design of trees and reindeer.

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With all of that, the regular homewares in this issue are not particularly exciting — standard chairsets in counted darning and cutwork. There is one impressive larger project: this cross-stitch rug and stool top in a Victorian design, also printed in colour.

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Finally, the back cover has a fabulous advertisement for “fabulous Pfaff” sewing machines — I love the expressions on the models’ faces! May all your homes be well-dressed.

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My project for this month will be the jacket from the checked suit.

October 1961: Baby’s cardigan

IMG_2837There’s always somebody having a baby, and I do try to make something nice for all my friends’ and colleagues’ newborns. Sometimes I don’t manage to finish something until they are out of the newborn stage, which is why it’s nice to have patterns for larger babies! This dolman-sleeve cardigan, made in the smaller size, should fit a 22 inch chest, which should be fine for this particular eight- or nine-month old.

I wasn’t and am not convinced that dolman sleeves are good for babies or anyone else (so much fabric flappage) and originally I thought about converting the pattern to set-in sleeves, but in the end I was just too lazy, so dolman sleeves it was. I guess it does have the advantage of being wide enough no matter what, and easy to get the baby’s arms into the sleeves. Given that, I’m surprised it’s so short! If it were made longer, it would fit longer without the baby getting a cold belly.

IMG_2918The little leaf motifs up the front sides are quite easy and don’t require any cabling or special fuss. You just work into one stitch 5 times on one row, then work those 5 stitches in stockinette (on the reverse-stockinette background) for a few rows before closing off the leaf with decreases. The lace strips on the sides are plain yo, k2tog alternating with k2tog tbl, yo, worked on the right-side rows.

IMG_2834I used Jamieson’s wonderful Shetland Spindrift from a multicoloured stash that I had bought from a nice person on Ravelry. Some may say that Shetland wool is too tough for babies, but it does get softer with washing and since it won’t be worn against the skin, I think it will be fine. The colour — Buttermilk — is really beautiful, a pale yellow ever-so-slightly marled with shades of pink and winter white.

If I remember correctly, the buttons came from a Christmas fair somewhere some years ago and hadn’t found the right garment yet. I only had three and the pattern calls for five, but I preferred the buttons I had to any new ones I might find.

All in all, a quick and easy project that will hopefully keep the baby warm and make its parents happy.

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October 1961: Overview

IMG_2820October 1961 gives us “Colour for autumn” with “special fashion features” and a great center spread with colour photos. “I always think October is a nice friendly month,” writes “editress” Patience Horne on the facing page, and I have to agree.

Bulky Big Ben wool and different kinds of textured ribIMG_2821 stitches play a prominent role in this month’s issue, starting with the partner-look pullover and cardigan on the front cover. Both are made in the same drop-stitch rib pattern — basically 2×2 ribbing, but you drop a stitch down 3 rows every 4th row and pick it up again in the next row to make a long vertical rib. Children get twisted-rib raglan pullovers to keep their upper bodies nice and warm while their legs freeze in tiny shorts and mini-skirts, typical for the era.

Nubbly Rimple wool may be easing out of fashion, as there’s only one pattern for it in this issue: a simple, yet elegant dress with “the new horseshoe neckline.” Other women’s garments include a cabled cardigan with colour accents and matching cap, a long-line pullover with a wide collar (still in fashion) and saddle-stitching detail, and a cardigan jacket in a wonderfully ornate Florentine stitch that involves a lot of slipping, dropping and pulling stitches up and around in two colours. The finished effect is a lot like a trellis, accentuated here by posing the model in a green skirt and holding on to a plant. Autumn colours of gold, orange, and beige prevail.

There are some additions to the “Stitchcraft Layette” for the smallest member of the family, but we’ve moved on from the bramble-stitch pattern in the last few issues to a mix of cables and flower motifs. Both cardigan and blanket are  pretty and useful, but I don’t like the huge dolman sleeves on the cardigan —  I can see a baby getting their arm stuck inside it. The bottle cover with a fuzzy knitted kitten on it is great, though! If it were made somewhat smaller or larger, I could imagine it as a phone or tablet cover.

In the homewares and accessories department, we’ve got the usual teapot cosies (how many can one household have??), a knitted donkey named “Ned”, and a pair of “mitts for a scooter fan” — with separate thumb and first finger. There are tapestry patterns for a piano stool and a chair seat, and did you honestly think we were finished with the Zodiac theme, just because all the months had had their patterns already? Of course not! Now you can order the complete chart and embroider them all one more time on a tablecloth.

The back cover illustration shows two hand-made rugs using different techniques: flat crossed stitches for a woven effect, or stitching combined with pile knotting (latch hook), which was apparently the latest thing in Sweden at the time.

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The highlight of the home art section, for me, is this sequinned, glittered appliqué wall hanging of some of Great Britain’s famous kings and queens. I don’t think I would hang it in my own home, but what a wild idea and the appliqué and embroidery work is certainly stunning. Look the detail on Queen Elizabeth (I)’s face! And they definitely found a wall with the perfect wallpaper to hang the sample piece on.

The “Readers Pages” have the usual ads, kiddy comic (Sally in Sampler Land), a preview of the next issue, and some easy counted-stitch ideas for borders on towels, pillowcases, etc. I love this ad for the latest Coats crochet booklet — it has flower-arranging lessons in addition to the crochet patterns.

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That’s all for now! My October project will be the baby cardigan (with modified sleeves) and maybe some kind of phone-cover version of the kitten bottle cover.

 

September 1961: Circular Rug to Crochet

IMG_2785September’s project (finished only one day late) was this extremely 1960s crocheted green rug with black, white and orange embroidered spots (they “add a modern touch”) and fringe. Loved it!

Before I could start, I had to figure out what kind of wool to use. Rug wool, such as the Patons Turkey Rug Wool in the pattern, was available in the 1960s in large skeins by weight and rugs could be made using tapestry stitches on canvas, crocheting, tufting or using the latch-hook method. Latch-hook rug makers had to cut the wool themselves and there were ingenious little tools to help them do that, like this Patwin rug-wool cutter or this “strip slitter” from Bliss. Later in the decade, “cut packs” were introduced for latch-hook use and it is now very difficult to find rug wool in skeins.

IMG_2763Felting wool, like rug wool, is bulky, mostly unprocessed, coarse and strong, so that was my first thought… but would it felt with use or washing? I decided to take the chance, since it’s easy to find, inexpensive and there happened to be some in the perfect colour at my local yarn shop. It’s the exact same shade of green as the embroidered cushion from 1960 that I made last year! It even possibly matches the original colour from the pattern, “Green Haze”.

I had to order more wool than they had in the store. To figure out how much wool I needed, I asked a better mathematician than me if he could work it out using the diameter of the swatch, finished diameter of the rug (29 inches without fringe) and the amount of wool per skein. Then I calculated it myself based on the number of stitches in one skein’s worth of wool and the total number of stitches in the rug. We were both a bit off — he thought I would need 11 skeins (65 grams) and I thought I would need 9, when in fact I only needed 8. Then again, the 8 skeins made a slightly smaller rug when done by the pattern, so I kept on for a few more rounds and used one more skein to get the proper size.

IMG_2802The crochet part was easy — just rounds of double crochet with regular increases — and went very quickly. You can see that the wool I ordered was from a different dye lot than the first skeins from the store, but I don’t mind. The embroidery was a bit tedious and the fringe posed a new problem: this type of old-fashioned cotton sew-on fringe is very much not in fashion and hard to find in stores these days. I hate buying things on the Internet, so I asked my friendly wool-shop owner from the store where I bought the wool  what she thought, or if it could be ordered through the store. She suggested hand-knotting the fringe with cotton yarn in a similar colour to the rug. (the fringe in the original seems to be white or a lighter colour). I was eager to get the thing done and not wait for more elements to arrive, so I did it. I like the result! It’s stringier than the original, of course, but it makes the rug look like a sort of friendly amoeba. I like that.

IMG_2810Wash-blocking it gently in cold water worked well and did not felt the wool. Also, it is going to live under my coffee table where it won’t get much foot traffic, so I’m not worried.

A good friend saw it and said, “Wow, it’s so ugly, I love it!” Which stung a bit, but I know what they meant. It’s really 1960s! But it also really goes well with my retro/vintage living room decor and I don’t think it’s ugly at all, just goofy. I’m very happy with the way it turned out.

 

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September 1961: Overview

IMG_2772“Knitting with an Autumn Theme” is the motto of this month’s Stitchcraft from September, 1961. Knowing that September is the month where many knitters take up their needles again after not wanting to handle wool in the hot summer, I would have expected a “bumper issue” with extra ideas, new fashions from Paris, more colour photographs and so on. Not the case! It has more or less the same mix of “chunky”, bulky garments and easy homewares that we saw in the summer issues.

Not that that’s bad, of course (though bulky is not andIMG_2773 probably will never be my style). The kid’s coat looks cosy and fun to wear, and the “gay sweaters for him and her” in a Norwegian-style pattern are warm, practical and unisex. I imagine the boatneck collar on an unshaped front must scratch horribly across the neck, though.

There are more men’s garments than usual: a wide-collared “sports sweater” and an elegant crossed-front pullover with twisted-rib details on the pockets and borders. The former is meant to be worn for “golf, country walks and all the week-end jobs in the garden”. I’m guessing the plants in the garden will grow better if you wear a shirt and tie under your sweater while working on those week-end jobs, as it will make them feel important and worth dressing up for. Maybe I should try it — I’m terrible with plants.

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Collars, V-necks and checked patterns are still in fashion, as seen on the comfortable, yet elegant cardigan suit and the cardigan in a familiar three-colour slip stitch pattern. Terry-towel-like Rimple is still going strong, featured here in a cardigan for larger sizes.

Babies get a bonnet and jacket in the same bramble stitch pattern as last month’s coat and July’s dress (“Part 3 of our Layette”) as well as a vest and pilch (underpants/diaper cover) and small children get machine-knit slacks to match the blazer. Hooray for warm legs, finally!

If all of that sounds underwhelming, we haven’t even gotten to the housewares… The knitting and crochet projects focus on using up scraps and “leftovers” to make either a cushion, a stuffed puppy toy or some utterly goofy egg cosies. Needlewomen (sadly, they don’t write “embroideresses”, which would be more entertaining) can make floral cutwork mats or a cushion, or a “Vintage Parade” of early-20th-century automobiles. There’s a tapestry hassock for church-goers and the last of the Zodiac-themed projects — this month’s sign is Virgo.

I almost gave up on this issue, as there just wasn’t anything that inspired me… but then there was this rug! This utterly 1960s, easy enough for me to crochet, fringed and polka-dotted rug that would look marvellous underneath my vintage, Danish Modern coffee table and, if made in the right colour, would perfectly match my embroidered cushion from the January 1960 issue. I love it! Rug wool in skeins isn’t really sold anywhere these days, but I’ve got a solution for that that I think will work.

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Stay tuned for the result… and the “special bumper issues” with “extra features in colour” that are promised for October and November.

August 1961: Dainty Rose sprays

IMG_2721Stitchcraft‘s August 1961 “Late Summer” issue had multiple cute, easy embroidery and tapestry projects. Mine was this little set of rose sprays. To show the versatility of the designs, the magazine usually had directions for and photos of the designs made on different items: a cushion and/or tray cloth, for example. Overall, there was a huge range of homewares that could potentially be embroidered: an apron, a place mat, a chair-back, a wall hanging, a “nightie case”, a project bag, a finger plate, a fire screen, even a room divider or a waste-paper basket cover. This issue added a new idea to the mix: the rose-spray design on a lampshade, complete with a pattern to cut out, sew and fringe the lampshade cover itself.

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Close-up photo from the magazine. Sadly, there was no colour photo.

I don’t need an embroidered lampshade (or finger plate, or fire screen, or tray cloth, or chair-back, or waste-paper basket cover etc. etc.) and I have plenty of cushions and project bags, so I’m often at a loss when I see a nice embroidery pattern and don’t know what to put it on. I’ve made a couple of tablet cosies for myself or for presents for friends, or useful little bags to store “stuff”, but there are limits. I guess I could sell whatever I don’t need, but haven’t gone that route yet. So what to make?

Vegetable bags.

I stopped using plastic bags for vegetables long ago, which wasn’t difficult as I pretty much only buy vegetables at the farmer’s market or organic supermarket, both of which put vegetables in little paper bags (for small or sandy things like mushrooms, potatoes or little tomatoes) or don’t package them at all (I just put them into my basket/cloth shopping bag loose). I try to re-use the paper bags, but my best bag of all is a little linen drawstring sack that originally held soapberry nuts for washing laundry. It’s tough, washable and the perfect size for holding the right amount of potatoes or green beans or whatever. And both the organic supermarket and, incredibly, the regular supermarket in my neighbourhood have now stopped offering even little paper bags for vegetables, so time to make more bags!

IMG_2749Of course, they don’t have to be embroidered, but why not? Cotton embroidery floss is machine-washable even at high temperatures and I have plenty of scraps and bits of plain linen or cotton materials that can be put to good purpose. The bag I made for this August project was made from a piece of linen from shoes, yes, shoes that a friend bought (the shoes came wrapped in this piece of fabric in the shoe box instead of in paper.) I had enough embroidery floss on hand, so this was an almost 100% up-cycled / didn’t have to buy anything new project. (I say almost because I bought the cord for the drawstrings — then realised I could have made monks’ cord or i-cord from leftover cotton yarn. Next time…)

IMG_2756The design is of blue roses, which don’t exist in the natural world but can be created by putting white roses in blue-tinted water for a few days. (Interestingly, this low-tech process is much more successful than trying to create blue roses via genetic engineering, which so far has only made purplish-lavender roses.) I think blue is an interesting colour choice for embroidered roses, because of course when you see blue flowers you don’t automatically think of roses. I love how the colours turned out though. The stitches are easy stem-stitch, satin stitch and long-and-short stitch. Of course I didn’t have the transfer, but the design was easy enough to copy onto the fabric freehand.

I’m really, really happy with this and look forward to making more unnecessarily pretty, but necessarily environmentally friendly vegetable bags in the future.

IMG_2757

Out of Order: Beach dress, June 1961

IMG_2566June 1961 was the issue with too many great projects in it and not enough time to make them all. My “official” project was this wonderful knitted blouse  which took up the whole month, but there was also a very intricate appliquéd and embroidered cushion that will probably become a long-term learning experience project, as well as a great beach dress for a small child. Summer is waning, but I got the beach dress done.

There’s so much I love about this design: the sea horses, the buttoned straps in the back, not to mention the ridiculous poses and strange inflated? stuffed? animals that the kids in the photos are riding. Also: illustrations in the magazine, done by hand, with bubbles.IMG_2566 2

The pattern is for a 23-24 inch chest, with an 8 1/2 inch long skirt. The child I knit it for is a little thinner, but taller, so I made the width from the pattern and added 1 1/2 inches to the skirt length and made longer straps with multiple buttonholes for different length options/growing room.

Version 2I decided to make it in cotton instead of Nylox (Patons wool-nylon mix from the 1960s) or a modern equivalent. It is always, always a problem to find non-mercerised cotton that is fine enough to give 7 stitches to the inch. Thick, mercerised dishcloth cotton is always available, mercerised crochet cotton is always available, but what passes as 4-ply or  fingering weight non-mercerised cotton is just too thick. I decided on Natura “Just Cotton” which is non-mercerised, soft, pretty and supposedly free of harmful substances (Oeko-Tex certification). The label says it gets 27 stitches in 4 inches but that is illusory. The yarn is 8-ply! I don’t know why they don’t use 4 strands, thus making it a true 4-ply fine cotton for soft, light garments. I got 6 1/2 stitches to the inch with some effort, but the resulting fabric is a bit stiffer than I would have liked.

On the first try, the first ball of turquoise ran out shortly after the bottom sea-horse band and I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough, so I started over and made the skirt less full. Of course, the skirt lost a lot of its swing and I ended up with a ball and a half left over at the end… I used some of the rest to make a little kerchief that the kid can wear on her head for extra sun protection and cuteness. Let’s just hope it stays warm enough for her to still wear it this year.

August 1961: Overview

IMG_2709“August is an issue that needs special thought and planning” writes Stitchcraft‘s “editress”, Patience Horne, in the introduction to the August issue, pointing out that it is “rather an “in-between” month for needleworkers” — often too hot to want to wear or make heavy sweaters and too late in the year for fine-knits. At the same time, reminding people that “Autumn is around the corner” can be “a little depressing” to people enjoying their late-summer holiday.

I get this! It’s one of the … hazards? “joys”? features? of living in a temperate/oceanic climate zone like the UK: August, and in fact the entire summer, can be so hot that you can’t even imagine holding wool in your hands or performing any excess movement (thus the small, easy embroidery projects in cotton thread on linen), or 10 degrees Celsius with unending rain (just ask Edinburgh, or the Bretagne), or anywhere in between.

Stitchcraft‘s answer is to offer casual, “all-year-round” knit styles that could work either on a (cold, wet…) holiday or back home in the autumn and lots of little needlepoint and embroidery projects that fit in a suitcase and can be done easily in the heat. The adult garments are thick and warm and serve as outerwear on a summer evening or Atlantic boat trip: the cardigan on the cover, “chunky” pullovers for women (one knitted, one crocheted), and a man’s pullover in “that typical man-appeal style which will make it a winner.” All are made in double knitting-weight or bulky Big Ben wool and both the knitted pullover and cover cardigan feature slip-stitch patterns which make the finished garment that much thicker and warmer. Golden or orange tones and white continue to be popular colours.

 

There are sleeker, finer-knit short-sleeve tops for girls in their “early teens” (the models seem to be young, slender adults, but OK) with high necklines and an interesting mitred collar on one. Smaller girls (or boys, I guess? this garment doesn’t seem to be heavily socially gendered, but the instructions only have options for buttons on the “girl’s side”) get a fine-knit cardigan with a border of “Scotties chatting to a friendly Cockerel.” Babies get the newest addition to their “Stitchcraft Layette” with a matinee coat and bootees in bramble-stitch to match last month’s dress.

 

The real fun is in the homewares, where there is a huge selection of projects and needlecrafts to choose from: embroidered ivy borders for tablecloths, traycloths or cushions, a tapestry footstool or “needle etching” picture of a “typical Cornish quayside”, a crocheted rug, blue rose sprigs to embroider on a cushion or a fringed lampshade, a weird crocheted and embroidered tea cosy in Turabast (which I can’t imagine would have good insulating properties), or “Fluff”, a somewhat psychotic-looking, yet endearing knitted kitten. Also, I thought the Zodiac year theme had to be finished by now but no, it’s Leo the lion’s month.

 

IMG_2723My favourite, though, is this sewing project: a head cushion that lets you recline charmingly in bed with your hair and makeup perfectly done, your satin nightie on, a book on your lap and your telephone on your ear. It’s glamorous  leisure and lifestyle advertising personified, and though they say it’s an “idea for your bazaar”, I would bet the Stitchcraft readers who made this in 1961 did not make it to sell.

IMG_2725Apropos lifestyle advertising, the early 1960s Stitchcrafts show a rise in full-page ads for Patons and Baldwins wools. That’s obviously not surprising considering the magazine was published for the Patons wool company, but the full-page ads that “tell a story” are a new trend: the late 1950s and 1960s issues up to now had little celebrity testimonials. This one caters to grandmothers and the message is clear: Knitting is not only a rewarding pastime on its own, but earns you the love and affection of the grandchildren for whom you knit. (But only if the kid likes it, and that’s only guaranteed if you use P&B wools, of course.) The 1950s and 1960s saw a huge shift in advertising methods towards a psychologically-based system, which is a huge topic that I won’t start with here, but suffice to say there will be more of these ads, and that they are representative of changing advertising styles.

That’s it for today! I have lots of unfinished projects lying around, so my August project will be something small, definitely not the Turabast tea cosy, but very probably the blue rose sprigs on a little bag, or tablet cosy, or something.

 

 

July 1961: 1st Size Dress

IMG_2661In 1961, Stitchcraft had a nice running feature they called “Stitchcraft Layette”: a set of matching baby clothes and accessories with a pattern in each issue for a few months running. The first was a light, warm dress in 3-ply Beehive Baby Wool which is “often asked for and it is really sensible for baby to wear on those in-between days when the wind is cold.” Still can’t get over how goofy that baby looks in the photo! The dress is made in stripes of stockinette stitch and a pretty “bramble stitch” lace pattern, fastens in the back and has a ribbon “belt”. There are patterns for a matinee coat and bootees on the August issue.

 

The bramble stitch itself is quite simple and effective:

  • Row 1: (RS) knit
  • Row 2: (WS) k1, *(k1, p1, k1 in the same stitch), sl1-k2tog-psso*
  • Row 3: knit
  • Row 4: k1, *sl1-k2tog-psso, (k1, p1, k1 in the same stitch),*

over a multiple of 4 plus 2 for the selvedge stitches. It makes a firm openwork lace that doesn’t roll or curl and so is good for borders and edges.

IMG_2705I made the project in Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, which I had a good stash of in a pretty colour called “Sand”. I generally don’t like variegated-colour wools, but if all of them were like this, I would love them. The colour accents are ever so subtle and just enough to give a light marbling effect without pools or splotches. Of course, it’s is a little too scratchy for a baby’s dress and the tension was not quite the same as in the pattern (8 stitches to the inch for the 3-ply, I get 7 or at most 7 1/2 with Spindrift depending on needles.)

So I did what I always do: changed the pattern around to make it fit the wool. Instead of a long, flared, beribboned, short-sleeved dress it became a medium-length, flared, ribbonless long-sleeved coat that fastens with buttons in the front. I adjusted stitch counts to fit the larger gauge but in the end I wish I hadn’t, as it turned out a bit smaller than expected. OK, so it will fit a smaller baby.

april1960I was happy with the result and it reminded me of another pattern I had seen somewhere… in another Stitchcraft... oh right, it was this “Sunday Best” from April 1960! Bramble and stockinette stitch: always a good choice for baby stuff.

There’s no particular baby I needed to knit this for, but somebody will always have one at some point, so I’m prepared — and happy with how this turned out.

IMG_2704

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”.

 

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 well. Let’s start with little Georgina in her beach dress, striking a Napoleonic pose from the back of her inflatableIMG_2566 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.)  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!