Repeat Performance: Charming Blouse

It was very difficult to get a project going this month. The October 1962 issue of Stitchcraft didn’t have any designs that interested me and I’ve been trying to finish up some larger, non-vintage projects in time for the cold-weather season. But inspiration came from a good friend of mine, who politely reminded me that, way back when I made this “charming blouse”, I had casually offered to knit one for her if she ever wanted one, and wouldn’t this be a good time to make it for her? I agreed! So this month’s project will echo the one I made then. Here are photos from that issue and the finished project:

The original blouse, from the July 1960 issue, was designed for “larger” figures (37-38 or 39-41 inch bust) and featured horizontal bust darts, which was very unusual for knitting patterns of the time. I was intrigued to see how the bust darts would turn out, since I don’t usually make them on garments for myself. As I probably could have guessed, the bust darts were not only unnecessary for me, but actually negatively impacted the fit — since I am not busty enough to fill out the darts, the front of the blouse was too long compared to the back. That didn’t particularly bother me, but I did note it for future projects.

My friend has a more suitable figure for this design, so I think this version will turn out even better. I’m using the same wool (Juniper Moon Farm Herriot Fine) in a lovely tweedy green colour, and (by request) without a collar or contrasting colour bands along the front. It will definitely not be finished before the end of this October, but I’ll edit this post when there are updates.

January 1962: Softly Fitting

IMG_3026UPDATE AND EDIT February 25, 2020: Project finished!

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

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

And waited.

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

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

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

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!

July 1960: Charming blouse

IMG_1894This “charming and unusual design for larger sizes” (37-38 or 39-41 inch bust) features narrow dolman sleeves, crochet insertions, and horizontal bust darts.

I was intrigued by its construction, having made tops with bust darts from modern patterns or while working without a pattern, but never having seen vintage patterns with them. Oddly, instead of making short rows, you are supposed to cast off stitches, cast them back on again, and then sew up a seam! I guess that makes it look more like sewn fabric? Or the “editress” thought short rows would be too difficult? I can’t imagine that, though, since patterns from this time regularly call for short-rows to shape the back side of baby rompers and leggings. In any case, I made the bust darts with short rows to avoid having to make a seam. I also made the back and fronts up to the armhole shapings in one piece, again, to avoid seaming more than necessary.

IMG_1936I was interested to see how it worked out with the dolman sleeves. When I think of “dolman sleeves”, I think of those 1950s, or worse, 1980s garments with a huge triangle of fabric under the arm, which must have been very uncomfortable and inconvenient to wear. But after my April 1960 blouse with the horizontal cap sleeves worked out so well, I was willing to give this one a try. And it turned out great! There is no more extra fabric under the arms than there would be with set-in sleeves, and the horizontal construction gives plenty of room in the upper chest/back area, where I am quite wide. I guess the secret lies with the number of stitches cast on for the sleeves per row — this one had 2×8 rows and then 10×16 rows, making the sleeves narrow and more horizontal, thus less triangle-like.

IMG_2075The knitting was slow-going at 7 stitches to the inch, but of course once the body was done, so were the sleeves. Seaming was a nightmare, as the yarn (Herriot Fine from Juniper Moon Farm) curls more severely than stockinette stitch in other yarns and I had to block it well to even find the edge to sew. I was willing to put up with that, though, because the yarn is absolutely fantastic. It is warm, soft, weighs practically nothing (300 grams made the blouse with about 20 grams to spare) and it is the only alpaca I have ever worked with that I can wear directly next to my skin. It is the perfect, ideal wool for this type of knitted blouse.

(On that note, why on earth did knitted blouses go out of style? They are wonderful! The perfect garment for autumn days in a damp, chilly climate. Note to self: make more.)

IMG_2086What took longer than expected was the whole crocheted edging-collar-button-band extravaganza. The crochet bands are extremely fiddly — they are crocheted onto each other as you go, it’s difficult to make them all exactly the same size, and each one needs its own, new piece of yarn. There are a total of 50 elements, so that’s 100 yarn ends to weave in right there. Then there’s the “inner” collar, the “outer” collar and the button bands, all of which are made separately and sewn on, and somehow need to end up symmetrical and fit properly on both sides. Of course, I sewed the collar on backwards the first time, forgot to switch the right and wrong sides at the collar fold, etc, etc. It all worked out in the end, though.

My only modification (besides the short-row darts) was to make the sleeve ribbing 3 inches long, like the waist ribbing, instead of 1 1/2. The sleeves are still not full-length, nor are they supposed to be. I don’t like the idea of 3/4 or 7/8 sleeves, but it worked out better in practice than in theory.

To sum it up: Pattern was wonderful, yarn was wonderful, knitted blouses are the coolest thing ever and I am 100% satisfied with this project.

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