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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May 1961: Overview

IMG_2509Time for the Summer Forecast! “Editress” Patience Horne writes that it is “a lovely sunny day in March” as they go to press for the May issue. It’s freezing cold and pouring rain where I am on May 2nd, so my summer forecast feelings have been literally dampened.

Still, there is a lovely assortment of projects in this month’s issue, of which the prettiest (in my opinion) is featured in colour on the back cover: this beautiful summer twin-set in   “Nylox” (a synthetic, Bri-Nylon yarn) with a diagonal stripe pattern on the sleeveless top that is repeated on the lapels of the solid-colour cardigan. I love the pairing of the elegant line with the fun pattern, which reminds me of colourful rows of paper bunting strung diagonally.

Our front cover has two more of the classic, bulky, rather plain casual pullovers made in Big Ben (super-bulky) of Rimple (nubbly double knitting). For men, there’s also a classic “tennis sweater” in white with blue stripes, made fancy with a different sort of cable pattern that I don’t think I have ever seen before. It seems quite easy, as the cables never travel far and also never actually cross (so maybe technically not a “cable” pattern, but I don’t know what else to call it — you do use a cable needle to move the stitches out of line and back again.) Our model is very happy with his sweater, and his tennis game.

Besides the twin-set and the cover pullover, women’s fashions include a little short-sleeved jacket in double knitting and a cute cap in Big Ben, plus a “longline” jumper and buttoned cardigan in 4-ply wools. I love the way the pockets are integrated into the striped ribbing of the cardigan. Wide collars, shawl collars and V-necks continue to be popular.

Stitchcraft doesn’t usually have sewing patterns, but this month they’ve teamed up with Vogue to offer a flared or full-circle skirt of the type that was ubiquitous in the later 1950s and reached the end of its popularity around this time. Readers can order the Vogue pattern via Stitchcraft in their preferred size. The flared version is embroidered with “Tyrolean motifs” which can also be embroidered onto “pretty summer aprons”. How cute! Just don’t try to play the violin the way our little Tyrolean motif fiddler is doing it, or you and the instrument will both be unhappy.

(Nota bene: some folk-fiddle traditions, as well as European medieval and Renaissance vielle/violin technique, do involve holding the instrument under the shoulder on the upper chest or upper arm instead of under the chin as in modern classical violin playing. Still different from what is going on here, though.)

School-age children get some nice, basic pullovers and cardigans in washable Nylox or fun Rimple. I don’t know what’s going on with the Humpty Dumpty giant egg doll, but this seems to be a theme with Stitchcraft — I remember seeing more than one knitted or sewn or crocheted giant Humpty Dumpty mascot pattern somewhere in my collection. Check out the cute illustrations and the little castle in the air on the top right of the painted backdrop.

Homewares tend towards the fun and easy, with a “Victorian” floral ribbon design for an embroidered cushion, tapestry cushion or tapestry handbag as well as some assorted cross-stitch or drawn-thread table mats and traycloths. Oh, and also some “his and hers” bath mats. May’s Zodiac sign is Taurus the bull, which you can cross-stitch onto a fluffy-fringed lampshade. I would love to see a picture of a Stitchcraft living room with all twelve Zodiac-themed designs in one place — the lampshade, the chairbacks, the waste-paper basket cover, et cetera (spoiler: sadly, we’re not going to get one.)

That about wraps it up for May! I would love to make the twin-set, but I have such a backlog of projects that I know I won’t have time to get it done, so my project will be the tapestry handbag. I’m very excited to work with tapestry for the first time.See you soon!

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February 1961: Overview

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Around Christmas time, I was looking through my Stitchcraft collection to see what the new year had in store for me, and realised that the February 1961 issue was missing! Not that I had lost it, but it was one of the very few issues from the 1960s that I had not managed to find before starting this project. I buy the magazines on ebay and it is fascinating to see how some issues pop up again and again in multiple auctions, and others just never appear. But I was in luck – after searching so many times, there was February 1961, just when I needed it! Thank you, nice seller on ebay, who got this issue to me quickly and in beautiful condition.

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There’s a “Special Colour Feature” of extra colour-print pages in the middle of the issue, promising “Fashion Harmony” for “You and the Home.” With that in mind, it’s kind of a pity that they chose a neutral gray-beige melange for the three-piece outfit on the cover.

Thicker, bulky wools and quicker knits continue to dominate the knitting patterns, with Big Ben playing a prominent role. There’s a little waist-length jacket in an interesting pull-up-a-slipped-stitch-some-rows-later stitch pattern, a bulky cardigan or DK- weight pullover in diamond or rib pattern, and a his-n-hers Aran pullover set. Neutral colours of brown, beige and tweedy gray prevail.

The his-n-hers, unisex design idea shows up in the children’s patterns as well (how nice, for once!) with some warm, lightly colour-patterned pullovers. It’s nice to see a girl wearing trousers and doing something active in her sweater.

(Side note: As I was typing that sentence and got to “it’s nice to see a girl wearing”, the auto-suggest on my tablet offered me “makeup.” So yes, as nice as it is to see one single non-sexist knitting pattern in 1961, don’t be fooled — things haven’t changed nearly as much as they should. Also, spoiler: the rest of Stitchcraft has plenty of “boys need to be active! girls like to be pretty!” patterns and photo layouts in store for us.)

On that note, there are patterns for a complete set of doll clothes, as well, in case readers worried that their girl child playing with a ball once in her life might, I don’t know, make her grow up to direct a bank someday, or something.

But back to this month’s issue! Babies get a fluffly cardigan with the same twisted ribbing as January’s snowflake sweater as well as a lovely lace shawl. Fine-knitting fans can make an elegant, classic jumper at 8 1/2 stitches to the inch or a lace-panel blouse for larger sizes up to a 45 inch bust.

 

Embroidery experts can make a floral fireplace panel or a tablecloth with a “peasant” motif (not the most flattering wording, I know), a rug or a crocheted handbag. The Zodiac handcraft theme has entered the month, if not the Age, or Aquarius. Also, the turret tower look is still all the rage for hats.

And that about wraps it up! Seeing as there was so little actual colour in the designs from the special colour feature, here’s the back cover advertisement for Escorto Gold Seal striped and checked fabrics. My project will be the baby cardigan. Have a colourful February!

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January 1961: Overview

IMG_2256Happy New Year 2019! Or 1961, if you prefer. January 1961’s issue “starts with a swing” with “lots of colour” and “tip-top designs” like the gorgeous Greenlandic-style sweater on the cover.

Looking through the issue, I feel like this is the point in time where the 1960s started, fashion-wise. The closely-fitted, fine-knit, waist-length jumpers of the 1950s have made way for bulky, quick-to-knit garments, and nylon-mix wools like Rimple are more common.  Skirts are still long and hairstyles modest — we’re not in the “Swinging Sixties” yet — but colours are bolder and the whole look seems fresher, somehow.

The little girl’s outfit on the inside cover definitely embodies the new look. Yes, her legs are still going to freeze, poor child, but her little red Rimple outfit is swingy and fun. And look at that wonderful cap and muff! The decorations are made by cutting the bobbles out of a length of bobble fringe and sewing them onto a crochet chain made in contrasting green or red wool, then sewing the bobble chain onto the cap and muff. Mum and daughter can both sport the latest in “Paris Hat News”, which seems to be a sort of turret tower worn on top of your head. The loops on the bottom part of the adult hat are made by pulling loops through the knitting ridges with a bodkin or blunt tapestry needle and holding them in place with your thumb until they are all made and the wool fastened off.

Women’s and men’s fashions feature loose-fitting garments in bulky wools, either hip-length and unshaped like the Greenlandic sweater or the embroidered Viennese cardigan on the inside back cover, or “cropped and bulky” like the “slick jacket” made in thick Big Ben wool. For a more elegant look, you can knit a suit in double knitting weight and top it with a detachable fur collar.

In addition to the little girl’s sets, babies and children can enjoy a warm cape or dressing gown in Rimple yarn, or a pram blanket in brushed, bulky Big Ben wool. The brushing felts the wool for a true blanket effect. It was done with a teasel, which is a metal brush that breaks up the fibres and lifts the nap of the fabric. Readers are instructed to send the finished blanket to Patons and Baldwins in Scotland, who will brush the blanket for you “at a very reasonable charge.”

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Jacobean embroidery, stitched hall rugs, and Victorian-style chair seat tapestry remain steadily in fashion, or you can embroider pictures of a kitten and puppy to hang on your wall. I don’t know about you, but to me they look kind of melancholic! This month’s Zodiac sign is Capricorn, and you can use it to decorate a pyjama case. In the children’s features, Wag and Wendy have tea with a toadstool fairy and kids can sew a simple tea-cosy set for their mother’s birthday.

My project will be the fabulous sweater from the front cover. I’ll be modifying the fit, though, as big and bulky is not my style. Thanks for joining me for the first year of this blog, and best wishes for 1961 — er, 2019!

December 1960: Overview

IMG_2214This year (1960 or 2018, take your pick) draws to a close with Stitchcraft’s “Christmas Issue”, which, as you may expect, is full of holiday-themed novelties to decorate and give.

That said, the hoodies on the cover are surprisingly modern and not “Christmas sweaters” in the sense we usually think of them at all. If I just saw a photo of them without the festive vintage backdrop, or the “DEC 1960” in the cover corner, I would be hard-pressed to say from what decade they came from. You could sell them in a regular modern store today and nobody would think they were a vintage design! I love the little tuft on the kid’s hood, too. They are made in nubbly Rimple yarn, still a hit and always featured somewhere in each issue.

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There are “gay ideas” for festive party table decorations of all types: a floral tablecloth for  a tea party, a merry-go-round tea cosy for the “Nursery Party” and table sets with playing cards as napkin holders for the grown-ups. “The last minute novelties” take on a fairy-tale theme, with a Red Riding Hood doll, a Noah’s Ark nightcase, a friendly draught-stopping snake and — for your holiday Dickens bedtime reading — a tea cosy that looks like a plum pudding, complete with attached crocheted plate! More pious readers can make an appliqué wall hanging of the Three Wise Men and heathens can make an embroidered wastebasket cosy with a Sagittarius theme (this month’s astrological sign).

Of course, one never has enough time in the holiday season to make everything perfectly,  so if you are “really stumped for time” you can make the wall hanging “in bright, shiny papers” (instead of felt), “cutting out the shapes and sticking them down, then adding cut-out strips, etc., for the finishing touches.”

For those who have the time, or don’t go all-out for holiday decorations, there are the usual assortment of knitting projects, starting with a lovely warm dress-booties-mittens set for a baby. I do admire her elegant mitts, but I’m guessing that in real life, they don’t stay on a baby any longer than it takes to take a photo. Older kids can get a striped jumper in a fantastic, very modern colour combination.

Teenagers haven’t been forgotten either, and can enjoy these Italian-inspired colour designs with added embroidery on the young woman’s jumper. I really like both of these designs! The young man’s jumper is fun without being too flashy, and with a little tweaking, would work well on a woman’s figure, with the dark colour band starting just under the bust line. There’s even a little extra “how-to” lesson on embroidering knits, which is still perennially in fashion at this time.

IMG_2219Adult women, having hopefully embraced the “new length” (long) and “new sleeve style” (3/4 or 7/8) from last issue, can get ready for Paris’ “new necklines” — a high turn-down-and-rib combination or a buttoned-up turtle (polo) neck. No turn-down collars this time — are they on the way out? There’s a new yarn to go with them, Cameo Crepe, which is smooth and less “hairy” than other wools, for good stitch definition.

All this new fashion detailing can be admired in the two-colour twin set from the inside back cover, and to go under it all, why not knit yourself a lovely warm woollen vest (camisole)? I don’t mean that sarcastically — they are really the best! I made a woollen lace under-dress (slip) last year and it is heaven in a cold, damp climate.

It’s hard to decide what to make from this issue. Lots of the items are cute and fun, but nothing jumps out at me that I absolutely have to make. The plum pudding cosy is so silly that it’s cool, but I don’t use tea cosies and it would be a lot of work for a gag. The snake is cute and useful, but I don’t have odds and ends of double knitting at the moment and I do  in fact already have a stuffed snake who occasionally gets put to work plugging a “leaky” window. I also have plenty of jumpers and even wollen underclothes (s. above), so don’t need more. I do have a hundred grams of very nice, hand-dyed green fingering wool in search of a project, so maybe I’ll make the baby dress.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays to all my readers! May everything you celebrate be jolly and festive.

 

November 1960: Overview

IMG_2168Brrrr! November 1960’s Special Bumper Issue” brings us “Colour for the Cold Days” and an extra 16-page pull-out booklet of baby woollies. Sadly, so sadly, the booklet from my copy of this issue has been pulled out long ago and is missing.

There are still plenty of lovely cold-weather fashions and interesting homewares to make, starting with the comfortable, matching “his and hers” sweaters from the front cover. Green checks continue to be in fashion, this time made with a complicated slip-drop-and-pick-up-later stitch pattern in two colours of Rimple. The idea of the “partner look” is just starting now, but will carry on throughout the 1960s into the androgynous 1970s and even the oversized-sweaters-for-everyone 1980s. Both fashion and gender roles were still quite rigidly stratified in 1960, but I see a parallel between the gradual softening of gender-based norms and the increased interest in gender-neutral “partner” garments that both started around this time. The two sweaters in this issue are both loosely-fitted, shaped (or not shaped, as is the case) the same, and available in overlapping sizes. The only proportional differences are in the shoulder width and sleeve/overall length, and the only cosmetic difference is the collar.

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Women’s fashions without men’s versions include a “sports” sweater with coloured lines made from a bobbled two-colour stitch pattern and added embroidery, a “top-fashion” jacket with a wide collar, a belted jumper and a cute hat with a buckled brim. Waist-length and closely fitted is definitely out, and the long-line with minimal shaping and a collar is definitely in. Men’s fashions are similarly long and loose-fitting, with dolman sleeves and interesting yoke details, and there’s a fantastic twin-set for young girls aged 5-9.

IMG_2172Homewares are still in a weird phase. The working woman or baby-boom mum (and those were overlapping categories, then as now) of 1960 didn’t have the time or patience to make too many elaborate Jacobean embroidery pieces or huge, detailed tapestries, especially not right before the great rush to get Christmas presents under the tree, so the focus is on quick, easy-to-make novelties for gifts. The aesthetic sense does seem to get lost a bit, though, if you ask me.

Of course, if you do have the time and leisure, you can go ahead and make a piano-stool and cushion set in Victorian-style tapestry, or a large room-divider screen with colourful parrots. Truly modern and up-to-date novelty lovers can continue the Zodiac series with a Scorpio motif for cushions, chairbacks or waste-paper baskets.

IMG_2178(I notice that Word Press does not recognise the word “chairback”. They have been out of fashion for too many years, I guess, having fallen victim to cheaper furniture, more frequent hair-washings and less Brylcreem. Pity that no one likes them now, as they do seem kind of fun.)

In the back pages, Jill Browne is still happily endorsing Patons Big Ben wool, and a lovely new children’s serial, “Wendy and Wag in Wallpaper Land” has started. Note the printed ruler at the side of the page, included in each issue as an easy way to measure your tension swatch. Also, there’s a rug reprint, a toy pig made of pink felt, a panda-bear motif and gay pot holders. What more could you want? My project will be the cloche hat, and I’ll consider the belted jumper if I have more time.

 

 

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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September 1960: Overview

IMG_2045September 1960 is supposedly a “Special Number” of autumn knitting fashions. I’m not sure what exactly makes it so special, since it doesn’t seem to have any more, or particularly different, projects than the average issue. I guess it’s special in that September is finally a bit cooler weather-wise, so you can start to make some nice wool garments for the colder months — very appropriate in 2018, where we had the summer to end all summers. Things have cooled down a bit now, so I’m looking forward to wearing my (still unfinished) projects from July and August soon.

But back to September 1960. “You must include some heavy-knits for the really cool days out of doors, but for the milder days, a fashion feature to note is the use of finer knitting,” Patience Horne tells us, and this month’s issue gives a good mix of finer and bulkier garments for adults and children. The 4-ply women’s sweaters (why sweaters and not jumpers? I still can’t figure out why they sometimes use one term and sometimes  the other for the exact same type of garment) have those big square collars that we’ve seen on other 1960 designs, with or without buttons. The pink sweater is made in super-fine-ply Lucelle at 10 stitches to the inch! If hand-knitting in fine yarn is too time-consuming for you, you can make a lacy cardigan on your machine.

Moving up the bulkiness scale, we’ve got the lovely skirt suit on the cover, made in Rimple, a sweater in “overblouse style” and a “raglan golf sweater” for men in green plaid. Green checks continue to be in fashion!  The “young sports fans” in the family get comfortable jackets in double knitting weight, “made to match for brother and sister.” Can you spot the difference between the boys’ and girls’ versions? (Do you remember those “can you spot the 10 differences between these pictures” puzzles in the kids’ comics section? Do they still have those?) If you can’t, I won’t tell you, but try buttoning a cardigan made for the “opposite” sex if you need a hint.

Fans of Big Ben bulky knitting can make a Viennese design with added-on embroidery in duplicate stitch, or a trio of crochet items in “crunchy Pineapple-stitch”. I love the pram cover, bound with blanket edging, but I wish I could see the bonnet from the front.

Homewares are well represented by a stool cover in Florentine tapestry, a great embroidered cushion in blackwork design, traditional and “modern” pile rugs and some interesting tablewares — tapestry table mats with pictures of “3 famous castles” and crocheted raffia drink mats for your cocktail party. Cheers, everyone! My September project will be the blackwork cushion, and I hope to finish up the knitted blouse from July and the cardigan from the August twin-set.

 

 

July 1960: Overview

IMG_1879“Free and easy” is this month’s motto. Summer is here and nobody really feels like handling warm wool, so the emphasis is on “travel knits” (lightweight), “casual knits” (not too complicated) and “stroller styles” (loose and oversized). There is more embroidery and needlework than knitwear, and some easy sewing projects. Shall we relax and take a look?

The combination of dark and light green continues to be in fashion: we saw it in the great houndstooth jumper from January 1960 and it’s here again in this “casual car coat” and and the loose-fitting men’s checked shirt style on the inside back cover — “suitable for golf or to wear with beach shorts.”

IMG_1898I have to take a moment here to quote one of my favourite Roald Dahl stories, “The Boy Who Talked With Animals.” It’s about a little boy who saves a giant tortoise from the soup kettle, and Dahl’s description of the tourists waiting on the beach for the caught tortoise to be hauled in has, for some reason, stayed with me through the years:

The men were wearing those frightful Bermuda shorts that came down to the knees, and their shirts were bilious with pinks and oranges and every other clashing color you could think of. The women had better taste, and were dressed for the most part in pretty cotton dresses. Nearly everyone carried a drink in one hand.

I would hope Stitchcraft readers and their men would have had better taste, but I’m not always sure.

The other “free and easy” knits are mostly nice without being really special: a pretty cardigan with knitted-in pearls, nubbly Rimple, a short-sleeved blouse and some cute tops for teenage girls.

 

The “plus-size” (37-40 inch bust) cardigan blouse is really elegant, though, and has a feature that I have honestly never seen in any other mid-century patterns: short-row horizontal bust darts. But unlike modern methods of short-rowing where the turning stitches are wrapped or otherwise bound up with the stitch next to it, you just cast off the stitches and cast them on again, sewing the dart up afterwards as you would a sewn blouse.  IMG_1895

For the little ones, there’s a sun-suit, a fluffy top, and a waistcoat to sew and embroider. The waistcoat is a tie-in with the current comic, “The Magic Needle”, in which our tailor hero’s magic needle has just made a lovely embroidered waistcoat for Mouser the cat. In addition to the waistcoat, you can sew a stuffed toy Mouser, and while you’re at the sewing machine you can make this adorable gingham skirt to wear “over a frothy petticoat” and an amusing apron “for the needlework stall” (Stitchcraft often gives ideas for inexpensive projects that can be sold at church bazaars or other “sale of work” opportunities.)

 

IMG_1881You can also embroider a tablecloth, make tea-towels in huckaback, or attempt this fabulous tea cosy and/or evening bag in faux eighteenth-century tapestry. I so, so want to make this evening bag! I would love it and use it all the time. But I am too overwhelmed by the idea of trying to make a chart based solely on the photos — the design is fairly intricate — and having never before attempted tapestry work, I fear it would just be too much for a rank beginner. I will definitely file it away for future days when I know how to approach it better.

That’s it for free-and-easy July 1960! I’ll leave you with a parade of well-dressed cats, courtesy of Mr. Tuckett’s magic needle. My project from this month’s issue will be the lovely bust-darted cardigan blouse, and I’ll try to finish up the projects from April (!) and June.

 

 

 

 

June 1960: Overview

IMG_1805June, the month of leisure! Or at least, leisure knits — “Fashions for Sun and Sea.” Stitchcraft’s “editress”, Patience Horne,  reminds us that it’s important to have something to knit or sew while on holiday, as “it helps us to relax”, and points out that “A lot of knitting and embroidery is done in the deck-chair by busy housewives who never get time at home, and find it difficult to ease off suddenly.”

Honestly, I always had the impression that busy housewives were the ones who never got any time off, even when the family was on holiday. I guess it depends on where you went, what you planned on doing and what accommodations you had, but if I recall correctly, camping was quite popular in the IMG_18081950s and 1960s… meaning the housewife/mother of the family had to shop, cook and keep the tent or living space tidy just as she did at home, but in worse conditions (rain, mud, no proper grocery stores, camp stove, having to fetch water for cooking and washing up). Doesn’t sound much like leisure time to me! Of course, if you were rich enough to stay in a nice hotel and eat out for meals you might well have some time for handcrafts, but that wasn’t a possibility for all families, and Stitchcraft‘s target audience was more working-to-middle-class.

But knitting magazines have to be sold in the summer months as well, and there are some very nice things to make in this issue, cleverly categorised by activity. “Sun-seekers” can make pretty sleeveless tops (in wool or nylon) and one of the patterns has a cute fringed shoulder poncho thingy to change “from beach to promenade.” Two other tops are a bit dressier, in case you want to change again for tea. Obviously, the tops need to be lightweight, so all are made in 2- to 4-ply wool at 7 to 8 1/2 stitches per inch.

For “the young sailing fan” — or horseback riding fan — there’s the child’s cardigan pictured in the inside front cover and a horse-motif pullover, both in somewhat thicker Rimple Double Knitting. Though I don’t think the head in the riding motif looks much like a horse’s head — is it supposed to be a fox? These days, you could knit it in silver-gray with neon green eyes and call it an alien, if you wanted to. Rimple is also featured in a classic V-neck pullover for women and a stole, “for a touch of glamour.”

For “Tennis and Rowing” — the manly sports, I guess, since the girls sail and ride horses and the housewives are all too tired to do anything but sit in the deck chair and knit — there’s a pullover in double knitting with crew neck, sunglass pockets, and colour pennants where the knitter can use the wearer’s club colours. Bulky Big Ben wool makes an appearance in a slipover for men and a little cap for women.

If that’s not enough to keep you busy on your supposed holiday, you can embroider some cushions quickly in thick thread, make an intriguing circular table cloth with a peacock motive, sew a little dress for a toddler, or make lunch mats with holiday scenes on them in fantastic shades of yellow and purple. There are tapestry designs for a footstool, screen, book cover or “finger plate” as well.

Wait — what on earth is a finger plate? It looks like something you put on a door — but why? Wikipedia came to my rescue:

“A fingerplate is a plate that is fixed to a door near the handle or keyhole. It can be made of metal, plastic, ceramic or glass. It purpose is to prevent people’s fingers from smudging the door.”

This makes no sense to me, as I would think it would be easier to wipe off the door once in a while than to take a framed tapestry off of the door, wash and re-mount it, but OK.

Speaking of “what is this” and “OK” — you can also embroider a “novelty bathroom mat” where “suitable expressions” on the taps register hot or cold, and in the “Suggestions from Readers” column, we are informed that Mrs Ross of Berkhamsted cleverly adapted the tapestry townscape of Finchingfield “to bring in her husband’s interest in aeroplanes.” Behold, the Comet jet careening over Finchingfield, apparently about to make an emergency landing in the town square!

Let’s hope things end well for everyone involved.

My June project wasn’t pictured here, as it is just a little “extra” design element offered in the back pages — a little parakeet (budgie) motif for cross-stitch or knitting. I’ll turn it into something cute for two friends who are getting married in August.

 

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…

roundabout

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: 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.

nightdress

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.

starad

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

IMG_1544

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

jan1960cover

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.

victorian
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.

coldweatherlineup

 

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.