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.

 

 

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March 1961: Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

October 1960: Overview

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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August 1960: Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

April 1960: Overview

coverapr60“Already there is talk of holidays” says the introduction to the April 1960 issue, “and whether it’s to be the sea, country, sight-seeing or sailing, you can’t go without your holiday hand-knits.” At the same time, spring and April mean Easter, with lots of opportunities for hand-made accessories and knickknacks.

For knitters, there is a larger variety of wool weights and styles than in the last couple of issues. Houndstooth and checked patterns are still going strong — look at that great jacket on the front cover! — but lace and Rimple designs are offered too, and garments for babies, toddlers, and adult men and women.

For the patient, there is a cute 3-ply top and a shirt in cotton crochet yarn at 12 stitches to the inch. (This is the only type of cotton yarn I’ve ever seen featured in Stitchcraft, but usually it’s used for making doilies or other fine crochet items.)

For those who prefer to actually get their garment finished before the summer holidays start, there are “partner look” sailing sweaters, the houndstooth jacket on the cover, and pullovers in Rimple and Big Ben yarns. Rimple will continue to not be my taste in terms of texture, but isn’t the model cute?

Easter embroidery is big, and around this time, Stitchcraft started to include designs for church accessories — hassocks and kneelers in tapestry or cross-stitch. For those for whom Easter is less of a religious experience, there are some great “Easter novelties” (cosies for teapots and toilets) and who could resist those gay kitchen ideas? Standard needlework ideas for the home include a fitted chairback and a lovely Persian-inspired cushion.

One thing that is really different in this issue is a sewing pattern, common in 1940s and 50s Stitchcraft but rare in the 1960s. It’s a very simple nightdress (for Easter and/or your holidays, of course) that is recommended to be made in “one of the easily laundered non-iron materials”, i.e. nylon or early synthetics.

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April’s celebrity “plug” is given to us by Jill Browne, the actress who played Nurse Carole Young on the soap opera Emergency – Ward 10, which aired on ITV from 1957 to 1967.  I have to admit I have never seen it, but it seems to have been quite progressive for its time, with Joan Hooley playing a female surgeon in an interracial relationship that was sealed with a kiss onscreen.

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On the back pages, it is the end of adventures for Good Teddy Bear and Naughty Teddy Bear, but they got two gay jerseys knitted for them in the end, so I think everyone was happy. Plus you can make your very own teddy bear to commemorate the series! The ads are for the usual things, except for this gem of a potty-training stool called “Bambino”, appearing for the first time.

My projects from this issue will be the 3-ply top and the appliqué goslings on a tea cosy. Happy Spring, everyone!

 

 

 

 

March 1960: Overview

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March 1960 promises “Spring Magic” and a special pull-out supplement with designs in “Big Ben”, Patons’ new Aran-weight wool that promises to knit up especially quickly, so you can have your thick, warm woolies finished in time for the summer holidays. (Anyone who lives in Northern Europe or who has taken a holiday on the northern Atlantic or North Sea coast will understand perfectly.) Fine-gauge knitting is right out: the designs not written for Big Ben, like the excellent yellow pullover and sleeveless waistcoat for men, the “Young Style Designs” for teenage girls, or the fabulous checkered coat for a toddler, are all in DK-weight wool. The only exception is “John’s new pullover” in 4-ply.

 

 

The embroidery and homecraft projects focus on springtime and Easter, with a floral tablecloth and a cushion and chairback in traditional Hungarian design. It’s a pity nobody uses chairbacks these days, as they are a nice decoration and certainly prolong the life and cleanliness of a chair or sofa. The stitched rug is a “quick and easy modern design” and there are tapestry and needle-etching pictures of quaint-looking English town streets.

 

In comic land, Good Ted and Naughty Ted (two teddy bears) and their human friends Beth and Bill take a balloon ride to Magic Way, where a fairy turns Beth and Bill into animals in order for them to visit Noah’s Ark. As usual, the ads are for Lux soap, Opti-Lon zippers, Cow & Gate baby formula and various sewing and knitting machines.

 

One older style of ad is the Patons and Baldwin’s testimonial, in which a famous personage shows off their favorite hand-knit garment made from P&B wool. Here we have Russ Conway, the popular music pianist, at the peak of his career and wearing a lumber jacket in “man-weight wool”. Russ Conway was a multi-talented, self-taught piano player and composer who enjoyed enormous success, producing multiple No.1 hits and playing in a distinctive “honky-tonk” style. Though plagued by serious health conditions, he continued to compose, produce, and fund-raise for charity until his death in 2000 at the age of 75. You can read more about his life and career and hear some of his music on his tribute website .

IMG_1560I will be making two children’s designs: the fabulous checkered coat for a toddler, and “John’s new pullover” for a soon-to-be six-year-old.

January 1960: Overview

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January 1960 wishes us a Happy New Year with designs for “fashion” and “casual” knitting, a machine-knitted jumper, children’s and baby clothing to knit, a matching rug and cushion, and “something completely different in embroidery” — cushions and wall hangings with Victorian-era train, carriage and bicycle motifs.  I find it strangely appropriate that Stitchcraft started a new and, one would expect, exciting decade with a look to an even more conservative past — the magazine was not exactly innovative, and its readership enjoyed patterns that give a nod to current styles without being all too forward-thinking.

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Dashing away!

The jumpers (or sweaters: Stitchcraft appears to use the two words interchangeably) continue the trend for somewhat thicker yarn — as Patience Horne writes in the introduction to this issue, “we all seem to get busier and busier these days” and the 9-stitches-to-an-inch creations of the 40s and 50s were slowly getting rarer. Five of the eight adult garments in this issue use double knitting yarn.

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On the embroidery front, there is a lovely design for a glass-topped coffee table, an adaptable Jacobean design in colour on the back cover, and a simple “leaf” cushion.

 

The Victorian cushions are “gay”, as are the children’s gloves. One of Stitchcraft‘s endearing qualities is its use of the word “gay” to mean charming, colourful, sprightly et. al. long after the word’s more modern meaning eclipsed its original one. It’s not yet quite so funny in 1960, but the word still appears in post-Stonewall issues up into the early 1970s. Yet another sign that Stitchcraft did not move with the times! I love all things gay no matter what sense of the word, so will be sure to point out this charming feature whenever it appears.

The ads feature Lux soap flakes, Wearwell facing ribbon and a Tru-Matic knitting machine  — all repeat customers.  There is always a little comic for the kiddies, and we’re already at part 3 of this one, “A Tale of Two Bears.”

I will be making the leaf cushion and the “green check jumper”, shown in colour on the inside back cover.