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!

June 1960: Fast Forward (March 1969)

IMG_1866To be honest, the June 1960 issue didn’t really have any designs that enticed me. The little summer tops were nice, but I still hadn’t finished the little summer top I started in April,  the embroidery and tapestry designs didn’t excite me, and I have plenty of hats and don’t wear stoles. However, way in the back of the issue, along with the comic, the “teaser” ad for the July issue, and the “Suggestions from Readers” there was a little motif for a knitted or embroidered parakeet. Perfect, I thought — I can make a little cross-stitch picture as a cute wedding present for two friends who are getting married in August and love budgies. A parakeet and a budgie are the same bird, right? Just the American and British names for them? But wait — Stitchcraft is a British magazine. Why would they use the American word?

IMG_1863
June 1960 issue

And then I noticed that the parakeet in the motif is not a budgie at all, but an actual wild parakeet — like a smaller parrot. It’s cute, but not quite what I wanted. I thought I could use the motif as a starting point to create my own design that looked more like a budgie, so I made a copy and thumbed through my ideas notebook to see what I could do with it.

And what do you know — at some point in time I must have thought ahead and copied out a little motif from the March 1969 issue of Stitchcraft — a “Special Request for Bird Lovers” — and forgotten about it in the notebook! There are even two birds in the motif, so I didn’t have to try and mirror-copy a modified parakeet. So this month’s project is a sort of fast-forward to March 1969 in lieu of a project from June 1960.

IMG_1867This was my first time working in counted cross-stitch and I thought it would be easy. You just have to count the squares and thread the embroidery cotton through the holes in an x, right? I was so, so wrong. First of all, I didn’t know what “gauge” fabric to buy, so I chose one that seemed medium-sized to me, where I could see the holes pretty clearly. I should have chosen a size bigger, since the holes were still absolutely tiny to my (perfectly good) eyes. Counting the holes was much more difficult than I expected, since they all looked the same and seemed to move around when I tried to count them.

To top it off, the fabric was too pale, so that the white in the blue-and-white bird didn’t have enough contrast to show up properly. Not wanting to buy more fabric, I tried dyeing the fabric slightly darker with tea. I simmered the fabric in a pot with the tea for about ten minutes, then rinsed it in hot water with vinegar to set the colour. It worked perfectly, so at least something about this project was easier than I thought it would be. Here is the original fabric (top) and the dyed fabric with practice stitches in pink and brown (bottom). The brown stitches are the beginning of the branch on which the budgies are sitting.

IMG_1877The embroidery itself was slow-going and not totally accurate, i.e. I do not think I always got the right number of threads (2×2 for each cross). Even when I did, the stitches were uneven and raggedy. (I did make sure that the stitches are all going in the same direction and the same top-bottom stitch pairing.)  Also, it was just plain no fun to work. What a pity — the idea was so good!

So I did what I had to do: quit and started over. On larger-weave fabric (Aida). Which was also too pale and had to be dyed. Where the dye didn’t take as well because the fabric was not 100% linen like the other. Where the design was obviously much larger than the first try and I actually preferred it smaller. But at least it worked! So fast, so easy! I embroidered one entire bird in a day! And it actually was fun to make.

budgiesbackAfter I finished the birds, I embroidered the initials of the happy couple underneath in simple block letters (not that it was simple to get the right stitch count and center it) and framed it in an embroidery hoop with the help of this helpful YouTube video. I just happened to have some leftover fabric for backing that had a giant bird on it — how perfect! (The buttonhole-stitch framing is not perfect, but that’s life.)

So all in all, it was a long and difficult journey, but I learned a lot and am happy with the result. Also, I think my friends will like it, which is the most important thing.

budgiesFO

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!

BirdStrawFO

BlossomFO