July 1961: Overview

IMG_2650The motto of the July 1961 issue is “Sew through the Summer” and indeed, there are a lot more sewing projects than one would normally find in Stitchcraft, summer being a time when many people do not want to hold wool in their hands or think about colder weather to come. There’s more emphasis on homewares and small, fun projects to make and use on holiday. The farm photos were taken in Hertfordshire and the boating photos in “the heart of London’s Little Venice”. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Let’s dive in!

Our cover photo, taken at the Hertfordshire farm, featuresIMG_2654 a really pretty basketweave blouse with that V-neck-plus-collar design that we saw so much of in 1960 and the last years of the 1950s, not to mention just last month on the cover of the June 1961 issue. Personally, I love this style and I’m glad it stayed in fashion for so long. Except for the basketweave, this top is very similar to the blouse I made from the July 1960 issue, and probably not the last one of its kind that we’ll be seeing.

The other summer garments for adults are “cool in 3 and 4 ply” tops for women — one of them machine knit — and for boating or cooler outdoor nights, there’s a cardigan in double-knit Rimple, a little short-sleeved jacket in bulky Big Ben, or a man’s sweater in larger sizes in Totem double knitting. The cardigan “does duty as a sweater”.

On that note, a quick quiz:

  • What is the difference between a jumper and a sweater? (Hint: this is a British magazine that uses both terms, so “jumper is British and sweater is American” cannot be the only answer.)
  • If a jumper is a pullover in a lighter weight/more dressy style, and a sweater is bulkier/warmer/more casual, why is the elegant, fine-knit short-sleeved top on page 12 a jumper (top left photo above), the elegant, fine-knit short-sleeved top on page 13 a sweater and/or shirt (top right photo above), and many elegant, fine-knit short-sleeved tops from other issues considered to be blouses?
  • On that note: Why can a cardigan double as a sweater, but not a jumper?
  • Bonus question 1: What is the difference between a cardigan and a jacket? (Okay, this one is easier.)
  • Bonus question 2: Is the blue-and-white garment on the front cover a jumper, a sweater, or a blouse?

The answer to the first two questions is, as far as I can tell, that there is no answer. “Jumpers” per Stitchcraft tend to be long- or short-sleeved, fine-knit, elegant pullovers, while “sweaters” per Stitchcraft tend to be bulkier, more casual, long-sleeved and looser-fitting pullovers, but every time you think you’ve figured out the system, they use the word you wouldn’t expect. “Blouses” tend to be, logically enough, tops (either pullover or cardigan style) that one would wear with only undergarments underneath, and put a suit jacket or other overgarment over. Following that logic, I guess the cardigan on page 21 does duty as a sweater and not a jumper because it is warmer, heavier and meant to be worn outside without a coat and with a blouse or something underneath it. Still, there is no real consistency that I can see. I would love to be able to ask “editress” Patience Horne what system she used.

For the smaller members of the family, there’s this lovely baby’s dress, featuring the most absurd baby photo ever (previewed in the June 1961 issue). I still don’t understand just why I find this baby so goofy. She is utterly cute but somehow, her face is too old for her. That combination of lots of hair and the knowing, watchful look in her eyes makes her look like someone pasted a grandmother’s head on a baby’s body. Anyway, the dress is wonderful. Older girls get a striped jumper with a collar and “gay bobbles” to tie the neck. Let’s hear it for gay bobbles! I’m not sure what today’s 6-, 8- or 10-year-olds would think of the bobble ties, but I think it’s a cute jumper.

The emphasis of this issue is on easy-to-make, no-stress homewares, starting with felt place mats and coasters appliquéd and embroidered with traditional inn signs. Make them for your Pride celebration, for they are “as gay as possible”! Fans of easy embroidery on canvas can make a cushion with purple thistle flowers in cross-stitch or bathroom accessories featuring this month’s Zodiac sign, Cancer. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to step on a crab, even if it’s only a cross-stitch picture of one on a bathmat.

More ambitious embroiderers (I guess Stitchcraft would call them embroideresses) can make a really pretty fire screen with a modern vase-and-flower motif. I wish they had a colour photo. Even more ambitious knitters can make some beautiful lacy doily mats, and those who prefer to “sew through the Summer” can make a little laundry bag for used dusting cloths, or some easy items to sell at the “needlework stall”, church bazaar, etc. There’s a tea cosy that looks like a cottage, a beach bag with penguins, or an apron with a teakettle pocket.

I am woefully behind on projects, having not even finished my supposedly quick and easy blouse from June 1961, and with two other projects from that issue (the child’s beach dress and the embroidered-appliqué bird picture) still “in the queue”. But someone is always having a baby and that little dress is really sweet and should knit up quickly, so I’ll probably make that and try to work on the remaining June projects at the same time.

  • Bonus Answer 1: A cardigan definitely has buttons/fastenings and a knitted jacket often doesn’t. Unless it’s a suit jacket, then it does. Or whatever.
  • Bonus Answer 2: The garment on the front cover is a “cool, casual shirt-sweater”.

 

June 1961: Overview

IMG_2563I love this cover. The yellow stripes on the hats, the yellow trim on the sweaters and the yellow sans-serif lettering all harmonise perfectly with the off-white garments in the center focus. Even the models’ hair colour looks like it was chosen to match the wooden wall. And we can see that typical 1960s hairdo coming into fashion, with more volume on the top and curled ends.

The rest of the photography in this issue is amazing as well. Let’s start with little Georgina in her beach dress, striking a Napoleonic pose from the back of her inflatableIMG_2566 elephant! The dress is totally cute and definitely on my project list for this month, for my friend’s kid who just turned three. Those are seahorses, in case that wasn’t clear (the ones on the front panel of the dress and matching sunsuit look weird to me — I think I’ll fill in the bodies to make the shape more clear.)  The sunsuit and dress are made in wool-nylon blend Nylox, but I’ll be making the dress in cotton.

IMG_2585(Speaking of tiny children in goofy poses, am I the only one who finds this advertisement for next month’s Stitchcraft strangely funny? What is it about this baby that comes off looking so weird? Too much hair? The quasi-adult-looking face? The indescribable expression?)

 

Back to this month’s issue, somewhat larger children can get a pretty summer dress with an embroidered yoke. It wasn’t necessary to order a sewing pattern, as the skirt of the dress was really just a square with a little cut-out (shown with scaling grid in the issue) and the yoke outline was included with the embroidery transfer. Larger children than that (age 6-10) get a warm “Continental playtop” with a big collar in double knitting.

 

 

Big collars are still fashionable for adults, too, as we can see from the women’s version of the cover sweater or the “Husky Sailing Sweater” in bulky Big Ben wool. White or off-white and yellow are trending colours. The men’s garments both have round necks — I’m guessing designers assumed men would be wearing collared shirts under their pullovers no matter what they were doing, and “layering” big collars over each other didn’t happen until the 1970s. For warmer days or more elegant occasions, there’s a short-sleeved cardigan-jumper in 4-ply and a lacy cap-sleeve top in 3-ply wool. The cap-sleeve top is yellow and the buttoned blouse has a collar, so we’re right in fashion here too.

 

 

Homewares are fantastic this month as well, starting with some really easy garden cushions (padded with plastic foam to try and make them more damp-proof). We are still  in the year of the embroidered Zodiac signs, and June brings us a Gemini-themed beach bag.

 

 

IMG_2625And then there’s this incredible birds-in-a-tree number, to be worked either in wool on linen for a firescreen or in felt appliqué with wool embroidery on linen for a picture. I’m normally not so crazy about 1950s and 1960s neo-Jacobean designs, but I love this one and definitely want to make the felt appliqué version as a cushion (with a more greeny green for the tree and not quite so much brown-orange-yellow in the appliqué work.) I imagine it might be tough without a transfer, but they gave us two very clear photographs including one in full colour, so what could go wrong?

IMG_2588Last but not least, there’s a lovely, elegant two-piece suit in nubbly Rimple double knitting wool, featured in the most magnificent photo I have ever seen in any magazine, ever. If I remember correctly, I saw it in one of those Internet lists of “best/worst/weirdest knitting pattern photos” long before I started collecting vintage patterns. It’s definitely at the top of my list and if you haven’t seen it yet, you saw it here first!

There is nothing I can possibly add to that, so I’ll just get to work on that cap-sleeve jumper… and the little girl’s beach dress … and the garden cushions… and the Jacobean appliqué… Happy June, everyone!

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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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.

 

October 1960: No Fun Fuchsia

C7C1F427-D5D1-4647-A1AD-B3CA7258E8E6I really, really liked the idea of this embroidery project. Sadly, there was no colour photo, but the design is fun and very 1960 and I imagine the colours (Plum and Magenta with Cream and Fawn shades on deep green) to be quite striking. Working with tapestry wool instead of crewel cotton was (or would have been) another first, so all in all, I was eager to try it.

Thing is, I have enough cushions. So I thought I could make a project bag — you can never have too many project bags, right? And I could order some of those really 60s cane loop handles, which I saw in a catalog at my local craft shop. Perfect, except…

Well, first of all, I had no tapestry wool and nowhere to buy any except ordering it online. I did have 4-ply knitting wool leftovers in the right colours, so I thought, why not use that? I also didn’t have any deep green evenweave linen, but I did see some great deep green wool felt at the store, so settled on that. Bad move! Wool yarn on wool felt is not a great idea — it doesn’t slide well though the fabric. And knitting wool is thicker than tapestry wool, at least the embroidery kind. Also, the handles I wanted have been discontinued.

The pattern was equally difficult to deal with. After getting a halfway symmetrical design copied out onto paper (difficult enough), I decided to try out my new embroidery transfer wax pen, since the green felt was not transparent enough to do the window-light-box trick. It didn’t work! It only transfers onto smooth cotton or linen. Dotting the tracing paper with a pin and transferring the markings with a white pencil was only marginally successful. Nothing shows up on green wool felt except chalk, which is is too imprecise and rubs off immediately. Then the wool was too thick, the pattern too small, the needle, felt and wool didn’t work together at all well mechanically, and with one thing and another, it was just a chore and no fun to make at all.

I stopped after one quarter of the (simplified) design and made it into a little zippered bag with purple floral lining. I have so many little zippered bags and don’t have enough little “stuff” to fill them. Should I give it away? Will anyone even want it? I like it in spite of itself, so maybe I just need to find the right use for it.

November will be more fun, I hope!

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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!

AFBB9680-EB48-4119-AADE-8D7F92D38520

September 1960: An Original Cushion

fishsampleSeptember’s issue had a fantastic design of blackwork fish on a cushion. Blackwork is a type of embroidery combining counted-thread patterns (the fillings) with regular crewel embroidery stitches for outlines and details. I loved the way it looked but had never tried it before, so this was another Stitchcraft Sixties debut.

It was hard to find a proper evenweave linen for the base. The fabric stores in my area only had either heavy, fairly rustic linen in white/natural or colours I didn’t want, or cross-stitch fabric which didn’t look right for a cushion. I ended up using the same linen-viscose mix that worked so well for the leaf cushion  that I made in January and substituted a vibrant pink for the turquoise called for in the pattern. Not having a transfer, I used the same method as with the leaf cushion to pencil the lines onto the fabric (see that post for more detail).

 

I loved the fabric in itself, but the threads were really fine and close together, making the blackwork fillings time-consuming, difficult, and — I hate to say it — boring to do. At some point I stopped trying to count the threads and just tried to keep the filling pattern as even as possible without stressing over it. Of course, it was not perfectly even, but it’s amazing how the richness of the patterns draws the eye away from imperfections as soon as you move out to normal viewing distance.

 

One interesting detail: The pattern “plan” shows both the large fish in the middle and the small fish in the right-hand corner looking down to the left, and the small fish in the left-hand corner looking down to the right. That also reflects the directions, which refer to the “Fish above left” with buttonhole-stitch on its tail. But whoever worked the sample rotated the plan 90 degrees clockwise! The sample picture looks great and was obviously intended that way, i.e. I don’t think it’s an error in the photo set-up, but after some consideration, I decided to make the cushion according to the plan.

 

I ended up making some changes, especially on the big fish. I hadn’t left enough room for the black blanket-stitch edging inside the body, so I left that out, and the whole head-mouth area was tricky. The “lower lip” still looked wonky after ripping it out and redoing it twice, and I didn’t dare try a third time for fear of ripping though the fabric. White blanket-stitch or buttonhole-stitch around the eye looked weird and far too white, distracting from the rest of the picture, so I substituted some loose blanket-stitch in black. The seaweed is done in wheat-ear stitch, which was a new one for me, and easy and fun to do.

fishpanelfoThe pillow was easy to make up, as I didn’t use piping (I thought the design was bold enough that a plain edge would be nicer.) All in all, I love the look of blackwork but don’t like the effort. I guess it’s easier on a looser-weave fabric where you can really see the holes in the weave to count them. It was made as a gift for a friend who I think will really like and appreciate it, and I feel happy giving it to her, as I am quite satisfied with the final result.

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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.

 

 

August 1960: Overview

IMG_1942August is a weird month for knitting, as it’s often too hot to hold wool in your hands and hard to believe that autumn is around the corner. Appropriately, this month’s issue features easy embroidery and homewares, and seems to have fewer items than the average winter or “spring holiday” issue. But before we get into the contents, can we stop to admire this beautiful twinset on the front cover? I have been looking forward to making it since I started this blog! So much that I don’t care if the heat wave ever ends, or if I won’t be able to wear it until January. I am going to make it and love it.

We’ve got a few pieces in bulky Big Ben wool, which seems an odd choice to me for summer since it must be quite heavy and hot, even with September and October around the corner. The “slippy” is theoretically good for sailing, though, I’ll admit. A couple of casual sweaters for women, men and children round out the selections, plus a cute little bolero and baby dress for the little ones. Apart from the twinset, it’s basic fare.

The homeware pieces are more whimsical and probably a lot of fun to make. The three different aprons to sew and embroider are styled and decorated so differently that at first glance you would never notice that they are all made from the same fabric pattern. It’s quite a clever design, with a deep pocket in the middle. I imagine it would be just as useful as a “knitting apron” (where you put the working ball of wool in the pocket) as for sewing or kitchen work. The “charming novelty design” with little sewing birds (which remind me of the helpful birds in the Disney Cinderella movie) and the gingham “Briar Rose” are touted as “good bazaar items” and the third option can be made “from oddments”, so they are easy and useful all around.

Little mats for dining, dressing and living room tables can be very easy to make (a simple  hardanger table set with tea and egg cosy, or table mats made of raffia), a bit more elegant (cutwork for the dressing table), or finely knitted (“for the expert, but well worth the time and effort”). There’s a chairback in Assisi work and cushions with traditional designs from Czechoslovakia (still one country in 1960) done in cross-stitch or pattern darning.

The best bits are often in the back pages, and there is a great, short how-to article about making your own embroidery sampler in the “Readers’ Pages” which gives good, concise beginner’s advice on choosing motifs, calculating gauge and placement and choosing stitches. Also, there’s an advertisement for Turabast, which was a brand of ribbon straw popular from the 1950’s to 1970’s. You could knit it up into a stiff, crinkly skirt that was probably very inconvenient to sit in, but had that perfect petticoat look without the petticoat. Ribbon straw is still perfectly available in modern times, but these days people use it for crocheted flowers or home decorations. I haven’t seen anyone wearing an actual garment made from it, but I might try it someday.

My project for this month will be the wonderful twin set from the front cover.

 

January 1960: Leaf cushion

leafcushion_issuefotoMy second project from January 1960 was a sewn and embroidered cushion featuring “black and white leaves on bright red fabric”. One is encouraged to “keep to the black and white embroidery but choose background linen to match your room” and I chose a medium green. (The fact that it matches the houndstooth jumper is just a happy coincidence.)

Finding appropriate fabric was not easy, as I’m not experienced with embroidery or needlepoint and can’t always “translate” the brands and fabric types called for into something I can buy now.  This pattern, like many in Stitchcraft, calls for “Glenshee Embroidery Fabric 212” which does not seem to exist (anymore?) as a specific brand, but this very useful website told me that “Glenshee” is a general name for a certain kind of evenweave linen available in “various counts”. That description matches my fabric pretty well, which is an evenly woven linen-viscose mix that seems to have a similar texture to the fabric shown in the picture.

The biggest challenge, of course, was getting the design onto the fabric. At the time, one ordered a transfer from Stitchcraft for a small sum, which was then sent by post. Sometimes an issue contained a free transfer, and these days, vintage Stitchcraft transfers are sometimes available on Ebay, but good luck finding one for a specific project at the time you want to make it! There are surely computer programs for embroidery transfer design these days, but I did it the old-fashioned way:

First I made a paper pattern by taping pieces of ordinary white paper together to the correct size, then marked both a photocopy of the booklet pattern and my paper pattern with a grid to get the correct placement of the leaves:

 

 

I made a little leaf stencil out of cardboard, measured the proper placements for the leaves and pencilled around the stencil to get the shapes, then traced them in thick black marker:

 

 

I used the paper pattern to cut out the green fabric and the inner cushion fabric (plain white cotton-polyester decorating material), then taped the paper pattern to a window, taped the green fabric over it, and traced the leaves with dressmaker’s chalk — luckily, it was a sunny day, as the green fabric is not naturally very transparent. Then I added the inner details freehand:

 

 

And it worked! A washable marker would have been better, but I didn’t have one.

The embroidery itself is stem-stitch with a couple of loop-stitch and satin-stitch details, which was within my limited ability. Still, it was difficult to get the stitches even and the shapes symmetrical. Here are two photos from the work-in-progress — the leaves in the bottom row are quite wobbly, and the double leaves are very uneven, but I am happy with the spotted leaf in the next row up from that.

 

After the embroidery was finished, it was time to make the piping! Stitchcraft didn’t give specific instructions how to do that, just to “make up piping using extra fabric.” Luckily, I have this wonderful book that I borrowed from a friend, which not only helped me with the embroidery, but has a page on making up piping. You have to make a long bias strip and sew it around the cord… not as complicated as I thought.

 

And that was it! I made a simple cushion of cheap cotton/polyester fabric stuffed with fluffy stuff and made up the cover with the piping and a zipper.

Seeing that this was my first time really embroidering, first time making piping, and even the first time making a cushion, I am very happy with the results.

leaf_final