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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Inspired by Stitchcraft: Red and Blue Dress

IMG_2498This month’s project was a little bit different than usual. Instead of making something from the April 1961 issue, which didn’t have any projects that really spoke to me, I decided to finally make something I’ve been dreaming of ever since I made this little girl’s jacket from the March 1960 issue. I loved the check pattern and the bright red and blue combination. “Wouldn’t that make a great 1960s-style minidress?” I asked myself, and the idea has been percolating in my mind since then.

I chose the same yarn and colours from the child’s jacket: Schachenmayr Bravo, which is inexpensive, machine-washable and knits up quickly. It’s even historically correct for a 1960s design, which is a nice way of saying “100% acrylic.” (Though true 60s synthetic wools were more often Bri-Nylon or Orlon.)

IMG_2497I chose a typical basic construction with front, back and sleeves all made flat and separately from the bottom up and sewn together, and made a stockinette-stitch hem with the blue yarn. The dress shape is a modified A-line: flared at the hem and narrowed to the top waist, then increased slightly at the bust. I used another knit dress as a pattern, but had to deviate from it as the stitch pattern made the fabric behave differently. The sleeves are short, simple and set-in. The front piece is essentially the same as the back, but divided in half after the armhole cast-offs and rounded a bit at the neck. The button band is plain crochet.

IMG_2494After it was all done, I realised that I liked the roll of the blue stockinette stitch hems, so I decided to just leave them as is. That means the bottom hem is a little bit narrow in the blue part where it should flare out. I may or may not fix that in time, depending on my laziness levels.

It’s soft and squishy and in spite of the synthetic yarn, doesn’t feel like plastic or make me sweat uncontrollably.  The only real disadvantage is the virtual weight it puts on. It’s got negative ease everywhere and is narrower than the very svelte-looking dress that I used as a pattern, but the sponginess and three-dimensionality of the stitch pattern makes me look much bulkier than I actually am. I thought a crocheted belt in blue would help define the waist area a bit more, but the belt is curly and not heavy enough. Maybe a 1960s metal ring-chain belt would do the trick? But it’s utterly comfortable and fun to wear, so I’m happy.

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.

 

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.

 

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: 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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February 1960: Chic cap and mitts

Feb1960_capmittsFebruary’s project was pretty simple: a crocheted cap and “mitts” with a cute bobble pattern. I couldn’t decide on the colour (lavender or purple) and didn’t have quite enough of either to make both cap and mitts, so I ended up making the cap twice and using up leftovers of both colours plus a little extra of a different purple yarn to finish the mittens.

Apropos “mitts” and “mittens”… Stitchcraft calls them mitts, though I guess these days most people would call them mittens. What we now call mitts, i.e. fingerless gloves, were not in fashion in the mid-20th century.

The cap is made in the round from the top down with double crochet and bobbles, then stranded with fringe around the crown, which in turn is held down by a plait (braid). The crocheting was easy even for a non-crocheter like me, but the fringe was really difficult to hold in place with the proper tension.

The mitt(ens) have a really interesting construction — back and palm done separately from the middle out. You make a chain and work on both sides of it, back and forth and back and forth until it is wide enough. The thumb is a sort of loop of chain stitch added on and worked in double crochet with the rest of the palm, then sewn up.

I used contrasting dark purple wool for the wrist and the making-up (the lavender was used up) and crocheted palm and back together on the right side for a decorative effect.

Here are the finished caps — both slightly different, both fairly imperfect, but I think the intended wearer will like them. Modeled photo to come when she receives them!

February 1960: Overview

Feb1960_coverFebruary 1960, the “Spring Knitting Number”, features an extra 16-page pull-out booklet with garments in Patons Rimple, a nubbly wool-with-a-bit-of-nylon yarn that looks like terrycloth toweling when worked up. The Ravelry yarn database has more information with pictures and modern projects. The wool itself gives so much texture that it would be pointless to knit intricate patterns or multi-colour pieces with it, so the “zippy designs” in the supplement are made on very classic lines: V-neck pullovers, a plain cardigan, a child’s cap and mittens.

The only slightly more ambitious design is this double-breasted A-line coat for a child.IMG_1488 The model, like all children of the 1960’s and earlier, must have very cold legs. Why children of earlier times didn’t wear trousers or warm stockings or tights is a mystery that an older person will have to explain to me someday. It’s particularly strange to see in a knitting magazine, as often the child will be wearing a thick wool jumper or even a wool pullover under a wool sleeveless dress with a knitted wool coat over it, plus a hat and mittens if outside… but nothing on their poor bare legs.

The non-Rimple knitted garments are long, like this “Fashionable Dress” in 4-ply fingering at 7 stitches to the inch, or the long coat in a two-colour slip stitch pattern. Even the dolman cardigan is hip-length. The embroidery and needlepoint projects cover various traditional styles with a Victorian ribbon-band pattern for a stool top, a cushion with Tudor-inspired pears and acorns, and a very zig-zaggy “modern” Swedish rug and cushion set. The Swedish rug has a neat three-dimensional effect thanks to tufting.

 

 

As the focus of the issue is the Rimple supplement, the other projects in the issue are fairly basic: cardigans for men and boys, a crocheted cap and mitts, an embroidered wall panel and counted-stitch cushions. The ads are for fabric, knitting and sewing machines, and “Cow and Gate” baby formula — all standards — and the two teddy bears in the comic are heading off on Magic Way in their enchanted toy village.

Rimple is not my style, so I’ll be making a small project this month: the crocheted cap and mitts with an intriguing bobble pattern and plaited crown.Feb1960_2