November 1961: Overview

IMG_2927November is such a grey month, so it’s nice to see that Stitchcraft‘s November 1961 issue has the theme “Colour Flair”, featuring speckled yarns and a center page in colour. The issue showcases “Bracken Tweed”, Patons’ new double knitting wool. Bracken Tweed was one of the early multicolour yarns, mixing flecks of a lighter colour in with main strands of a darker colour to achieve a tweed effect. At its debut in 1961, it was 100% wool;  with the change from ounces to grams in the late 1960s, the fiber content was changed to 60% wool and 40% acrylic.

IMG_2931The Bracken two-piece dress on the cover is one of two ideas for “Separates with the BOUTIQUE LOOK”; the other is this wonderful suit, made with regular Patons Double Knitting and familiar nubbly Rimple. Note the deliberately too-short sleeves, designed to show off your gloves and bracelets! The slip-stitch pattern gives it a firm texture for more shape.

 

Then we’ve got “Colour Flair” from Vienna (a fancifully patterned pullover in brown and yellow) and Paris (a shirt-style pullover with front buttons). Large collars are still in, but are tending towards rounder shapes, as can be seen in the Vienna pullover and the rolled collar of the Bracken outfit. Bracken is also featured in the “young-style look” pullover with a cute bobble tie, while “his colour-panel pullover” is made in Moorland Double Knitting, also a tweedy-flecked wool.

Younger girls get their own “Continental Look” with a bright blue and red outfit of skirt, cardigan and stockings. Finally, warm legs! Tights would be better, of course, but at least her poor legs aren’t bare in the November cold. Babies get bootee slippers and a lovely lace shawl. With the exception of the baby shawl, all the garments in the issue are designed for double-knitting weight wool, so that everyone can be warm and get their Christmas presents on time.

With that in mind, the colour page insert shows a “Display of Gifts to make yourself” — quick, easy-to-make toys and small household items for family and friends. The baby’s slippers are on the top shelf, along with a “Circus Jumbo” stuffed felt elephant and a cross-stitch pot holder (?) that I cannot find anywhere in this issue. There’s a crocheted tea cosy and a magnificent knitted coffee-pot cosy made to look like a pineapple, as well as two felt pot holders on the second shelf. The bottom shelf has knitted poodle and bunny toys and doll clothes (the bunny is also dress-able). Not pictured in the colour photo are a calendar cover and waste-paper bin cover in felts, with a Swedish design of trees and reindeer.

IMG_2942

With all of that, the regular homewares in this issue are not particularly exciting — standard chairsets in counted darning and cutwork. There is one impressive larger project: this cross-stitch rug and stool top in a Victorian design, also printed in colour.

IMG_2943

Finally, the back cover has a fabulous advertisement for “fabulous Pfaff” sewing machines — I love the expressions on the models’ faces! May all your homes be well-dressed.

IMG_2946

My project for this month will be the jacket from the checked suit.

April 1961: Overview

IMG_2438April showers bring May flowers, or so they say. I’ll just say that, after the last couple of weeks of March, that umbrella on the cover of this month’s issue looks really familiar. As does the model on the right — she was featured (with a more flattering haircut)  in many issues throughout the 1950s.

April’s theme is “Holidays Ahead” and if you are planningIMG_2440 to spend your holiday in April or May on the British isles or the North Sea coast, you will definitely want to wear one of the warm, bulky wool garments from this issue. “Jenny”‘s thick, double-knit Norwegian-style jumper and hat, described as “dazzling designs to cut a dash on the beach this summer”, tells you everything you need to know about that.

The adult garments continue the warm, bulky and casual trend with a men’s “crochet-knit shirt” and “country-style cardigan” in double knitting weight. Knitting pattern stitches that look like crochet crop up every once in a while and it’s certainly an intriguing idea. That said, I don’t think this jumper particularly looks like crochet — it’s yo, k2tog on every right-side row and purl on the wrong side in staggered rows, which is just a simple lace pattern. I’m guessing they thought the word “lace” was not manly enough… The cardigan is made in three-colour slip stitch and is probably very warm and “squishy”. I like the neat, almost hidden pockets and the narrow edging band.

The women’s garments offer two more elegant, but still casual blouses, the two jumpers with fun collar details featured on the front cover and a relaxed “holiday cardigan” in double knitting. Patons “Totem” crepe wool appears in 4-ply (the blouses) or in double knitting weight (the cardigan). “Crepe” in this case meant that the wool was spun very smooth and tightly plied to minimise “fuzziness” and give raised stitch patterns a crisp, precise look. The jumpers from the cover are designed for ever-popular Rimple wool, a crinkly wool-synthetic blend intended to look like towelling fabric. Fans of truly bulky knitting can make this his-n-hers set (well, not really a “set” as they are two completely different designs, but featured together in the photo spread). Her sweater is made in fisherman’s rib stitch and if it looks that bulky on the petite, fine-boned model, I can only imagine it would make anyone else look elephantine — but good for sailing and/or April beachwear, I guess.

Housewares include the continuation of the “Zodiac” theme with an Aries motif, a traycloth in cross-stitch, a cross-stitch and pile rug, “amusing” aprons for the whole family (the father looks utterly un-amused at having to participate in the washing-up), a village townscape needle etching, a cross-stitch cushion… i.e. the usual fare. You can also make a toy “Wag” puppy for fans of the children’s comic from the last few issues, “Wendy and Wag in Wallpaper Land.” I don’t mind telling you that it had a happy ending for everyone. And with that, happy April and see you next time!

P.S. There wasn’t any project in this issue that really called to me, so I’m going to finish up a project of my own design that was inspired by this Stitchcraft children’s jacket from March 1960 that I made last year and write about that. Stay tuned…

 

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