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.

 

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”.

 

May 1960: “Summer Song”

cosyThis is definitely a “cosy of unusual charm”! (Despite the ripped corner on the back cover photo.) It features appliqué and embroidery with different designs on each side and instructions to make it up into either a regular cosy to put over the teapot, or a “nest” to put the teapot into.

My version isn’t a teapot cosy of any kind, since I don’t use them or know anyone who does. Everyone needs a pretty little zippered bag or two, though, to put current projects in, or materials for crafting, or pencils or any kind of small “stuff”, so that is what this project is going to be.

I started with the “bird and strawberries” side. As always, the first question is “how to get the pattern onto the fabric and cut-out bits, since there is no existent transfer.” Remember, back in the day you had to write to Stitchcraft to get the iron-on transfer as a supplement! I used the same graph square technique previously used on the  leaf cushion  and the gay goslings. It was trickier in this case, since the only good photo was taken at an angle, but I got it to work somehow.

 

 

Then I copied the pencil sketch, cut out the individual shapes by pinning them to the felt bits, and pinned them out on the base fabric.

 

 

Stitchcraft gives pretty good instructions for the embroidery — which colours for what parts of the appliqué and how many strands. The embroidery work itself was not too difficult, using stem-stitch, Romanian stitch, loop stitches and French knots as well as a bird_straw_embbit of herringbone and the tiny straight stitches in the strawberries. Still, it was more ambitious than any embroidery I have tried up until now. It doesn’t look quite like the picture and I did take a little bit of licence, but on the whole I was pretty satisfied… except for the legs. Oh dear, oh my, oh no, the legs. I did them three times and they still look weird. Either the angle is wrong, or the thickness, or I don’t know what, but I figured doing it again would only chew up the fabric more, so it is what it is.

 

Creating the template for the second side, “Bird and Blossom” presented an extra challenge, as there was only a tiny black-and-white photograph in the magazine, where the tea cosy “nest” was open and made the design appear at an angle. I am definitely getting the hang of this copy-grid-paste-and-cut method though, because it went quite quickly and easily and I think I matched the design pretty well — or at least made a decent interpretation of it.

Again, I sewed the pieces down (noticing along the way that I had forgotten one leaf, and adding it) and then did the embroidery as outlined in the instructions. Well, that was the plan at least, but the picture was so tiny and “unreadable” that I ended up doing most of the embroidery freehand. Winging it, so to speak…

Making the finished embroidered panels up into little bags should have been the easiest step, but it was oddly frustrating and nothing worked properly the first time around. The zippers are a mess. The lining of the “Bird and Blossom” catches and the ends of both zippers are not properly sewn into the top seam. Also, the embroidery is not bad considering my level of (in)experience, but I’m not as happy with it as I could have been. So I’m still deciding whether to keep both of the bags for myself, or give one or both away. What do you think? Here are the finished objects!

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May 1960: Overview

Apr1960coverIs it already May? Nothing makes time fly like writing monthly blog posts! May 1960 is a “Roundabout of Holiday Knitting” (complete with a little circus-fair logo that fills up any little dead space in the page formatting, how cute) where in “today’s story”, “no one thinks of going away without 2 or 3 brand-new woollies packed away in their luggage.”  So let’s get started…

Check patterns are still in, this time in a “gingham” (two-colour slip stitch) pattern for the woman’s jumper on the cover and a “firm stitch to weather the water” (also two-colour slip stitch) for a toddler boy’s swim trunks. totsbeachI am quite sure no small child wants to swim in hand-knitted wool trunks with a belt these days, but I imagine the sun-suit on the opposite page would be fun and practical for beach wear if made in cotton. The baby and older girls of the family get pretty cardigans or a tunic “to wear with her jeans.” I’m glad to see activewear for girls, since generally one is assumed to make pretty, decorative stuff for girls and strong, “manly” stuff for boys — sexism that is not surprising in 1960, but which always depresses me to see in today’s knitwear patterns for children.

For adults, there is a “Trio of Summer Fashions” (“Two to look pretty and one for sports”) and a great cable pullover in bright yellow.  The “sports” pullover is machine-knitted.

There’s still plenty of stuff to make for the home, too (just in case your holidays are too relaxing). Table mats to match your willow-ware platter are actually really cute, and look at that beautiful appliqué tea cosy! Cross-stitch is popular as always for chair-backs and tea-tray ideas, or you can crochet yourself a bedside mat. But what on earth is this “contemporary screen” that uses your scraps?

In the comics pages, we are introduced to Mr. Tuckett, a tailor who receives a magic needle from his friend the wizard. What will the magic needle do? Stay tuned…

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My projects for this month will be the baby’s jacket and a modified version of the tea cosy.

Enjoy your holiday roundabouts!

 

April 1960: Gay Goslings

Version 2“Cheerful goslings make gay kitchen ideas” — who could resist? There are patterns for a serving glove and a felt tea cosy, neither of which I particularly needed, but the tea-cosy pattern is just about the right size for an iPad case. So this became the modern version.

As always, the pattern came from a transfer that is no longer commercially available, but since the appliqué was so simple, it wasn’t a problem. I used the good old pencil-grid-transfer method that had already worked so well with January’s leaf cushion, and it worked fine.

 

 

I had never done appliqué before, but it was really quite easy, especially with felt, so this was a great beginner project. The eyes, wings and feet are embroidered in simple satin stitch and blanket stitch. There were supposed to be yellow stem-stitch outlines around the eyes, but I tried it and it made my poor innocent gosling look kind of demonic, so I stuck with plain black dots. I made it up with a scrap of fun blue cotton print for lining (Geese… In… Space…!) and a simple closure made out of a bit of twisted yarn cord and a sparkly white button.

 

 

Everything worked great and the whole thing took only about 5 hours total to make, including sewing all the seams by hand, as I didn’t have my sewing machine on hand at the time.  Definitely a change from the never-ending John’s new pullover! Now I have the gayest, warmest, best-dressed, space-age spring fever iPad that anyone could wish for and am very happy.

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