November 1962: Overview

For 1960s Stitchcraft readers, November means holiday planning, so this month’s issue is full of quick homewares for decorating and small, easy projects for gift-giving. The garments are warm and bulky, featuring Patons’ new “Ariel” wool. Warm autumn tones of brown and orange as well as bright, cheerful holiday reds and blues are the colours of the season. Christmas Plans and Winter Fashions ahoy!

Our cover garment is a bulky, yet elegant coat in Big Ben wool, weighing in at a hefty 52-56 ounces (up to 3 1/2 pounds, or about 1500 grams). The mock cable/twisted rib pattern certainly won’t curl at the bottom edge, which is why I guess it’s designed without a hem or ribbing, but at that weight and in that pattern, I suspect the coat would grow ever longer and ever narrower (just in time for holiday weight gain). Still, it looks lovely! I especially like the buttoned collar. Also, I just might try to re-create the model’s hairdo with my long lockdown hair.

The outdoor photography was taken near historical buildings in York, whose grey-beige stone walls give a nice background to the bright red and blue sweaters made with “Ariel” a bulky, yet “feather-light” (well… 20-24 ounces for a sweater, so lighter than Big Ben, at least) wool-synthetic mix. I really like the red chevron sweater and it doesn’t look bulky at all to me, just fluffy and cosy. Father and daughter also get warm, cheerful garments, and look at this amazing mini-dress for a young miss! That is going on my list of patterns to adapt for myself.

Older teens and young lovers can make “the ‘sweater-match’ theme with girl-friend and boy-friend” – classic pullovers with cable ribs in double-knitting weight and identical except for slightly different shoulder width and back length proportions. That’s all for the knitted garments in this issue, since the real focus is on Christmas preparations with little gifts and housewares.

For children’s gifts, there’s a doll, clothes for another doll (pattern in last month’s issue), and a night case in the form of a puppy. This last was especially popular around the late 1950s and early 1960s – I have a different magazine with a poodle nightcase on the cover, and Stitchcraft also had some kind of poodle nightcase in the later 1950s. Poodle or puppy or not, I don’t know why a person would want to put their nightgown in a special case in or on the bed. If you don’t want other people who might be using the room to see your nightdress lying around, you could just… put it under the pillow?

There’s an intriguing “Byzantine” cushion, a firescreen with this month’s embroidered flower (chrysanthemum) and some little gifts sewn in felt, but the more interesting projects are displayed nicely in the large colour photo in the middle of the issue. We’ve got an embroidered farm scene for the nursery wall, a “hostess set” of apron and coasters featuring international drinking mottos, the usual cross-stitch cushion, and a tray cloth/tea cosy design that I would love to adapt to an iPad/tablet cover. Crocheters can use up all their scraps with medallions or a … cute? eerie? not sure what to say about it? pixie doll and patchwork fans, generally ignored by Stitchcraft, finally have a little bag as a starter project.

There are even rugs in Scandinavian designs (is that basket pattern from Denmark or from Sweden?), one stitched, the other done with a latch-hook.

What an issue! There are so many projects I would like to make from it: the girl’s dress in my size, an embroidered tea-cosy for the digitalised world, the little girl’s bulky red sweater, even the green latch-hook rug. Sadly, pandemic and lockdown have thrown a monkey wrench into my current knitting plans, it’s hard to get supplies, and I’m trying to finish or even start multiple other large projects that were planned or promised or have been lying in the WIP pile for ever. One of those WIPs was a (non-vintage) garment that I will have to frog anyway (ran out of wool and can’t make it work), so the plan is to frog that project and use the wool to make “Father’s cardigan” from this issue. Said project and I are geographically separated at the moment, though, so long story short: I do not know when I will be able to post a November project. Take heart, though: there will be some more Stitchcraft cooking fun in December as well as a special surprise next week.

October 1962: Overview

“There are several “special” things about this issue” writes Stitchcraft’s “editress” on the facing page, and I’m glad she put the word “special” in quotes, because this month’s issue is definitely a mixed bag. On the plus side, it has extra pages in colour and introduces a new yarn: Patons Ariel, designed to be “triple-knit” bulky and therefore quick to knit, but still lightweight. On the minus side… we’ll get to that later in the post.

The new wool, Ariel, is listed on Ravelry as bulky weight (97 yards in a 2-ounce ball) and composed of 80% wool and 20% “other” (synthetic fibres). According to the person who wrote the Ravelry entry, it may or may not have been waterproof! It appears to be quite fluffy, thus the name and the “light as a feather” claim. It’s used for the two-colour, slip-stitch-patterned garments in the cover photo as well as the identical boatneck pullovers for men or women. The partner-look idea is still going strong.

Tweed looks and suits are always popular in the fall, and this month’s issue gives us a loose-fitting suit with a short-sleeved jumper to wear underneath, all in double knitting weight. Nubbly Rimple yarn is also DK weight and still a fashionable choice for this sweater with a contrasting bow-tie. The purple pullover with the big collar (still in fashion after two years!) is made in bulky Big Ben wool. Greens, browns and yellows dominate the colour palette and go with the autumn theme.

Embroidery and tapestry take a backseat to the autumn knits in this issue, with typical floral chair-back, apron, and traycloth designs. There’s a tapestry of four famous castles, a cross-stitch wall hanging with a poem about what type of wood to burn in a fireplace (I had never heard this rhyme, have any of you?) and a more complexly embroidered cushion of “Indian design”. I cannot vouch for its cultural authenticity, but the woven and latticed stitches are certainly striking and effective.

Speaking of cultural history, remember our little model Judy with her “trim Outfit” from 1960? (Of course you don’t, and I wouldn’t have recognised her either if her name weren’t in the caption.) Here she is, two years older, cutting a dash in her warm 3-piece play suit and all set to play with…

Ah, right. Her “Golly”, who “steals the show” and whom readers can also knit from a pattern in this issue. “He’s favourite”, writes our editress, and “everyone in the nursery loves Golly.” Who is he?

In 1895, the English-American cartoonist and illustrator Florence Kate Upton produced her first children’s book, titled The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg. Over the next fourteen years, she and her mother Bertha collaborated on twelve more books starring the same characters. The books, and particularly the “Golliwog” character, enjoyed enormous popularity for at least sixty years afterwards and “Golly” dolls and toys as well as “golliwog” images on brand names and household products were practically ubiquitous in popular culture — particularly children’s culture — in the UK and elsewhere throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Though Upton intended the Golliwog(g) to be a positive character and the hero of the story, it can’t be denied that his representation is a racist caricature born of the blackface minstrel tradition in the United States. According to Upton herself, her inspiration for the character was a Black minstrel doll found in her house, and typical “Golly” representations show him with exaggerated, distorted features and wearing an outfit typical of minstrel performers in the early 20th century. Later literary and cultural depictions of “golliwogs” often portrayed them as animalistic, uncultured or criminal, thus reflecting and perpetuating negative racial stereotypes about Black people. Over time, the word “golliwog” and shortened forms of it became used and recognised as demeaning racial slurs.

Though many white Britons, Americans and Australians who grew up with golliwog dolls continue to claim that they are inoffensive (and capitalise on their popularity via Internet auctions and collectors’ organisations), it should be pretty obvious that they, and their related imagery, are problematic. For a more in-depth understanding of why, I encourage further reading, starting with this excellent article from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Michigan (US).

It’s not the first or only time that Stitchcraft (like just about every other knitting/craft publication of its time) has featured patterns for toys or dolls that reflect stereotypes of particular ethnic groups or portray them as an “exotic Other”, even if those representations are supposed to be positive. Many patterns from the 1940s and 1950s are particularly offensive (take my word for it, I don’t want to show them here), as is the use, up until the late 1950s in some cases, of racial slurs as colour names for certain shades of wool (ditto). By the way, I have issues of Stitchcraft and many other vintage knitting magazines up to the mid-1970s and nowhere, in any of them, have I ever seen a model who was not white — the caricatures were also the only representation to be found. Let’s remember that, for all their fantastic fashions, the mid-century decades were definitely not the “good old days”.

On top of all that, there’s no pattern in this issue that I particularly want to make, so I’ll either embroider some anemones on a vegetable bag or finish up something from the WIP pile.

September 1962: Overview

Autumn is the nicest season for knitting, and 1960s Stitchcraft usually gave it a little push with extra pull-out supplements, extra colour photo pages, or “bumper issues” full of the latest developments in home-knitting fashion. The September 1962 issue doesn’t have any of these extra features, but it does have a wide variety of designs in mid-weight and warmer wools, starting with the chunky twisted-bobble sweater on the cover. Made in bulky Big Ben wool, it weighs in at a whopping 38 (for the smallest of three sizes, 35-36 inch bust), 40 or 42 ounces (the largest size, for 39-40 inch bust), i.e. about two and a half pounds or 1190 grams. I am guessing the model is quite slender and even she looks bulky in it!

The dresses and separates, made with the same loose fit but in double knitting wool, show a smoother look with minimal patterning. The orange dress in the colour photo and the charcoal-grey dress with the colour-pattern border (“for those who like something really eye-catching”) are the same design, but the pattern-border version is only available in one size, “for the younger girl.” I guess that pattern was just too exciting for doddering middle-aged matrons! The blue and white ensemble, also made in double knitting weight, has three pieces: a simple sleeveless blouse in white k2, p2 rib, a plain blue skirt and a back-fastening cardigan with white vertical stripes on the front. Tops continue to be hipbone-length and hemlines are firmly anchored just below the knee.

Other garments feature interesting colour and texture effects: the man’s “smart weekend sweater” has been treated with a teasel brush to achieve a fuzzy, felted effect. The knitter was not expected to do the brushing herself, but was instructed to “take all pieces at this stage [after knitting all the separate pieces, but before making the garment up] to your usual wool shop who can arrange to quote a price and send them away to be brushed for you.”

There’s also a striped jumper for “young and carefree” women with a fringed collar and hem, similar to the one in the February 1962 issue (yes, it is more or less the same pattern in different colours and with a split collar) and a pullover in an intriguing striped and dotted slip-stitch pattern. Stripes and/or slip-stitches also feature in the three-colour pullover for older children and the toddlers’ dungarees. Colours are navy blue or charcoal grey contrasted with white and neutral pastels, as we saw with the patterned-hem dress and three-piece ensemble.

There is the usual variety of homeware designs, mostly with floral patterns: this month’s flower is the dahlia, or you can sew and embroider and apron with lilac sprays. The leftover gingham fabric from “your” workaday apron can be used for cute animal appliqués on aprons for the children (unsurprisingly, Father seems to be exempted from the washing-up.) There’s also the usual floral cutwork tablecloth and tray cloth and a coffeepot set made in Hardanger embroidery.

Needlepoint fans can make a stool top or a whimsical cross-stitch rug and/or wall panel for the nursery, featuring characters from nursery rhymes. The motifs are separate and interchangeable and can be adapted for different sizes and purposes.

In the children’s serial comic, Peter the puppet has been freed from his marionette strings and is traveling throughout the countryside writing a play about his adventures. Cyril the squirrel helps out by painting illustrations, using his tail as a brush. (But how will Peter get home?) There’s the usual advertisement for Lux washing soap, guaranteed to leave your woollies soft and fluffy, and the latest instalment of the Patons and Baldwins’ “knit to please your man” series of ads, junior version: a teenage girl knits a “nice, husky sweater” for her boyfriend with her own loving hands to show everyone that he’s the “special one.” The young woman on the back cover ad is presumably also trying to catch a man, but she looks more polished in her snappy red dress and white gloves. You can really see 1960s style coming into its own in the straight or A-line sleeveless dress with low contrasting belt, the bobbed and fringed hairstyle and the edgy, off-angle mirror pose. Compared to the designs in this issue, it also shows how fashion-conservative Stitchcraft is.

I’m not sure what I want to make from this issue. I imagine the embroidered dahlias would make a great design for a laptop or tablet sleeve, but I already have a fine home-made laptop cover, not to mention this wonderful gay-geese-in-space tablet cosy. Also, I have probably done enough embroidery for the time being and still haven’t made much progress on this appliqué masterpiece that I started in July. The knit projects are all so bulky and loose-fitting, which is not my style, and I’m not sure I know an appropriately-aged child for the interesting slip-stitch pullover. There was also a perfectly nice, if not exciting baby cardigan (not pictured) in the issue which I could make quickly from stash, which would be useful enough (somebody’s always having a baby) and maybe the best choice for my uninspired mood. Stay tuned and find out!

August 1962: Gladioli

August was a pretty blah month this year, what with the never-ending Covid-19 pandemic and associated long-term isolation, illness and unemployment. My knitting motivation is sub-par and the August 1962 issue of Stitchcraft didn’t have any projects in it that really inspired me. Still, I’ve been trying to turn the situation into an “opportunity” to save money and free up space by finishing WIPS and making new projects from stash.

This month’s embroidery flower was the gladiolus, with a special extra design of wild orchids. I chose the gladioli and embroidered them on another one of the recycled moneybags that I bought at an antique market last year. They really do make excellent sturdy little bags for buying small amounts of potatoes, mushrooms or other vegetable items, and with a zipper on the top they would even be good for buying and storing things like beans and lentils in bulk. They also work well as small project bags — I kept this WIP in the bag that I made in December.

The colours that I had in the embroidery-thread scrap box were more or less accurate to the pattern (mauve, mid-mauve, violet, yellow, gold, dark green and light green.) Also, the stitches are technically not very hard to do: the petals are long-and-short buttonhole (blanket) stitch outlined in stem stitch with straight-stitch center lines and satin stitch centres, the buds are satin stitch, the stems are stem stitch and the leaves are fishbone stitch. I like the effect of the dainty flower embroidery on the rough burlap fabric, too.

On the critical side… I am really not that great at embroidery, especially when I don’t have a transfer and I’m working with fabric like this, on which I can’t draw a design outline very well. I drew a few straight lines and dots with a pencil and improvised from there. Also, since the fabric is already made up into a bag, it’s difficult to use a hoop properly or work on the lower edge. The buttonhole/blanket stitch is a strange choice for the flowers, if you ask me — they look very scraggly! (Just like my real plants at home, ha ha.)

I left the top edge unfinished for now, as I couldn’t decide whether to make a simple button closure like on the other embroidered money bag, a fold-over buttoned closure, or a drawstring. (I don’t have a zipper of the right length on hand and I’d like to stay on the “no-buy” wagon for as long as possible, but it would be the most practical solution.)

I still have plenty more of the bags, so I can keep making one every time a little embroidery project presents itself.

August 1962: Overview

August is the end of the holiday season at Stitchcraft, featuring transitional styles for the cooler days of September as well as a few more small, easy projects that can be worked on from the deck chair or picnic table. The “Contents” column on the facing page divides the adult garment patterns into the categories “First Autumn Fashions” and “Continental Designs”.

The “Continental Designs” comprise a colour-block pullover for men “from Vienna” in graded shades of green, a simple cap-sleeve, T-shirt-style jumper with a little Norwegian motif, and an “Italian design for late Summer” with bands of red and black intarsia in a diamond pattern. I wish they had used these for the colour photos instead of the bland white pullover on the inside front cover!

Loose-fitting, casual shapes and light, sunny colours dominate, exemplified by the apple-green cardigan, collared shirt-sweater and boatneck twin-set on the front and inside covers. Notice how much less fitted the August 1962 twin set is than, for example, this one from August 1960, not to mention earlier twin-sets from the 1940s and 1950s. The concept lives on, but the line has changed completely. Everything is hipbone-length with no or hardly any shaping.

Babies get a standard, but very pretty, lacy matinee coat and bootees, the “smart teenager” has a machine-knit pullover, and her little sister gets a “gay Rimple design” in the still-popular knitted terry-cloth look, so the whole family is taken care of.

Homewares are always big in the summer months, when many readers understandably didn’t want to hold bulky warm wool in their hands in hot weather. The bedside rug is obviously an at-home project, but the smaller projects could easily be taken along on a holiday. This month’s flower in the gladiolus, but there’s also an orchid spray and some forget-me-nots, along with two sewing patterns to embroider them on: a round baby shawl or this wonderful little girl’s dress. For once, you don’t even have to send away for the patterns, as they are geometrically quite simple — the shawl is just a circle, drawn directly onto the fabric with a pencil held on a length of string, and the dress is made up of rectangles with measurements given. I would love to make the dress! I just don’t think it would get worn, since it would only be for “dress-up” occasions, of which there aren’t going to be any for a while.

The back cover shows an interesting feature which took shape in the early 1960s issues: tapestry projects specifically for church use. In this case, there’s a runner and kneeler in shades of red and blue. If anyone happens to know why or if these colours or this pattern are significant in whatever type of Christian tradition, please feel free to tell me, as I don’t know anything about it. The rug, especially, does not say “church use” to me in any way that I can recognise and I could just as easily see it in a normal hallway.

This issue doesn’t stop! The “Readers’ Pages” offer two more very simple projects: a reprint of a young man’s waistcoat from 1957 and a stash-busting baby blanket from double crochet hexagons. And just when you think you’ve come to the end of the issue, here’s this incredible Alice in Wonderland-themed wall hanging in felt appliqué and embroidery:

I’ll close with this full-page ad for Patons & Baldwins wools, showing a newly married couple decorating their home. The happy bride is instructed to

Look after him well. Find out what he likes, and why. See that his clothes are well kept and well pressed. Learn to cook his kind of food. Learn to knit his kind of sweater…

While I’m certainly not surprised that a 1962 advertisement would speak to women like that, I do find it interesting to compare the early and mid-1960s ads — which take on this type of “you exist to please your man” language more and more throughout the years — with those from the 1950s issues, with their much more independent picture of womanhood. Many of the knitting patterns in the earlier issues are explicitly designed “for the office” and most of the advertisements portray women living active, interesting lives in their comfortable shoes and unbreakable skirt zippers. In the wonderful tampon ads (that sadly disappear around the late 1950s), they don’t even let “problem days” stop them from doing anything! In contrast, the full-page P&B ads starting up around this time always feature a man or child with the woman in question and the text is inevitably some variation on “you must do this to please your man.” I had always thought of the 1950s as being a much more repressive time for women that the 1960s, when roles began to change, but judging from Stitchcraft (which, to be fair, is quite conservative both fashion- and otherwise), the earlier part of the decade is more of a backlash than a progression.

I don’t know what project to make from this issue and I still have so many WIPs, both for this blog and otherwise. Maybe a nice, easy flower embroidery on a vegetable bag?

Out of Order: June 1961

July 1962’s issue didn’t have anything in it that particularly interested me, so I took the time to go back to the June 1961 issue, which had so many nice projects in it that it was hard for me to decide which to make. (I ended up making this lacy top and later, this child’s tunic-dress.)

I loved the extremely complicated, heavily embroidered, faux-neo-Jacobean felt appliqué “birds in a tree” extravaganza featured in colour on the back cover, but it was too daunting. For one thing, of course I didn’t have the transfer or pattern for the appliqué pieces, since I would have had to have sent away for them via postal order in 1962. For another, there weren’t even any instructions in the magazine — the design was offered as either an embroidery or an appliqué project (see photo), and the instructions in the magazine only covered the embroidered version in any detail. The appliqué version just gave a list of materials, size of finished design, and the address where one could order the pattern and instructions. And when it comes right down to it, my appliqué and especially, embroidery skills are really not very well developed.

Oh yes, and while felt is easy enough to buy, the materials included tapestry wool for the embroidery, which is impossible to find in stores anywhere near me and even difficult to order online in the right weight (very fine)! Luckily, last year I happened to be in the one city I know that houses the one shop I know that actually specialises in tapestry and sells the right kind of wool, so I was able to get that, at least.

I decided to make it as a cushion, not a wall hanging. The background tree was easy enough. Technically, the white branches and leaves should have been made by cutting holes in the green tree felt and letting the (white/beige) background fabric show through, but since I chose a blue background fabric, I appliquéd them as well. It was predictably difficult to make and cut out my own patterns for the little bits of felt for the birds and leaves, and after making the first two birds, I realised it was easier to just cut the pieces freehand. Since there were no instructions to follow, I went from the photo and the instructions for the embroidered version, which obviously didn’t give much useful information.

I made two of the birds on the left first, wasn’t really happy with them, and realised why after making the first flower on the left. I liked the way the flower turned out — it’s much simpler! The birds seem overdone in comparison. I’m going to try to scale them down, if I can pick out the embroidery without leaving obvious holes in the felt.

Progress is slow and it definitely won’t be finished by the end of July 2020, but I’ll keep updating this post, so stay tuned.

July 1962: Overview

Cover photo from the magazine showing two women and a male waiter drinking cocktails.

Holiday and party seasons are both in full swing in Stitchcraft’s July 1962 issue and the more I look at this cover photo, the more I love it. Note how the foreground model is staring off into the distance while sitting on a table with a compass printed on it, as if fantasising about her faraway holiday (though, if she’s on holiday already, as the picture is implying, does that mean she can’t wait to get home?). Meanwhile, it’s a good thing that our flirty tuxedoed waiter’s drinks tray is empty, with that precarious balancing act. If anyone feels inspired to creatively augment this photo with speech- and thought-bubble captions, please do and share it with us!

Colour photo from the magazine showing a modeled, knitted ensemble and blouse

In keeping with the easy-going, summer holiday theme, the knitting projects are simple and quick to make. The two illustrated on the cover have no sleeves, minimal shaping and patterning, and are made in quick double knitting wool. Although pictured as stand-alone tops, they could easily be layered over a blouse on cooler days. There’s also a simple blue blouse with loopy flower details on the collar and a striped, sleeveless tunic-blouse with matching skirt, all in 4-ply wool. Our waiter from the cover photo has found another holiday-goer to flirt with, and sports a “Casual Italian design sweater” in the same colour as her skirt: “Water Green.” (Holiday tip: if the water actually is that colour, don’t drink it.) Speaking of Italy, doesn’t that beautiful model in the collared blouse look like she just stepped out of a Fellini film?

For cooler days, there are cardigans in “golfer” or classic, slightly bobbled styles, both made in double knitting. The golfer takes her sport very seriously! Knitters who are really in a hurry to get packing can make some simple, bulky pullovers for the kids in the family (shown here building a lovely British castle out of cardboard and sand in the Patons photo studio — I am guessing everyone had a lot of fun on this issue’s photo shoots) or a fine-knit slipover in honeycomb pattern, written for a home knitting machine.

The embroidered homewares are mostly easy and predictable: a chairback with this month’s flower, the carnation; a quickly-made “gay garden cushion” (Happy Pride!), and place mats with heat-resistant cork inserts. There’s a tapestry stool and/or project bag in Florentine pattern, knitted or crocheted cushions, some fancy knitted doilies and a trolley cloth from crocheted motifs. I didn’t photograph all of them, since they’re pretty standard fare.

For those who like to immortalise their holiday paradise in tapestry, there’s a wall hanging of the village of St. Etienne de Bougary in the lovely French Pyrenées. For your outing to that very inviting-looking lake, you can sew you own beach bags and/or an appliquéd blanket-towel-baby’s-playmat for outdoor lounging. The beach bags feature adhesive plastic lining to keep wet bathing suits from leaking into the bag. Smart and easy, indeed.

I’m kind of ambivalent about making a project from this issue. The only thing I could really use is the bobbly cardigan, but it’s not exactly necessary, and the only design that I find exceptional is this crocheted blouse (worn by my favorite Stitchcraft model, who featured in a lot of the mid-and late 1950s issues). Model and blouse are both beautiful, but the blouse is way beyond my limited crochet skills. I wish I had the “Traditional Norwegian Designs” booklets from this ad! I think I’ll take the time to finish up another long-standing WIP instead.

June 1962: Overview

Holiday season is in full swing in this month’s issue, with featured photos taken in pretty villages in and around Buckinghamshire and Kent. All the projects are easy and fairly quick to make, and even the fit is relaxed: the close-fitting, waist-length jumpers that were still more or less in fashion in 1960 and 1961 have now completely given way to loose-fitting, hip-length sweaters and blouses. I could use some relaxation, couldn’t you? Let’s dive in… gently.

The cover sweaters check all the 1962 trend boxes: loose, easy pullovers for “him and her” in sunny lemon yellow with interesting stitch textures and contrasting collar-and-cuff accents. Soft yellows, pastel shades and white show up again in the more glamorous “holiday sweaters” made with Patons’ Fuzzy-Wuzzy yarn (55% angora, 45% wool), as well as the women’s 4-ply “golfer style” cardigan (in “gay turquoise” and white 4-ply) and men’s “shirt-style” pullover in presumably light beige “Palomino” colour with contrasting collar.

The other garments are all photographed in black and white, but the yellow/pastel/white and contrasting accent trends are clear from the colour names of the yarns: the pretty “Junior Miss” cardigan is knitted in 4-ply Nylox “Sunglint” (the same colour as the cover sweaters), the “afternoon style” blouse is “Bois de Rose” pink and the bulky, textured Big Ben sweater is “Spring Green” with a white collar.

The smaller children of the family need something fun and easy for holidays too, of course, so here are some “seashore sets for toddlers in the swim.” They’re made in Nylox (80% wool, 20% nylon) and I don’t think they would be suitable for actual swimming, but definitely cute for playing around on the beach and splashing around.

With all these lovely things to knit, it’s not surprising that the homewares section is a little boring. Fittingly enough for June, this month’s flower is the rose, featured in a pattern for a “finger panel” to attach to a door. Readers, you have been so helpful in the past with solving mysteries for me, so i ask you: Why a finger panel? It seems to be used to keep the door clean from grubby handprints, which I can certainly understand in a family home, but I don’t see why it would be easier, or preferable, to wipe those grubby prints from an embroidery panel mounted under acrylic glass than to just wipe them off of the door. What do you think? Am I missing something here?

Otherwise, we’ve got some Scandinavian tapestry cushions, a “modern” (geometric and also Scandinavian design-inspired) hall runner rug, a more complex cross-stitch tablecloth (white and green on yellow linen, to match your yellow sweaters), some unspectacular oven mitts and some genuinely cute table mats in appliquéd and embroidered felt.

I feel more relaxed already, don’t you? There’s nothing from this issue that particularly inspires me and I have many WIPs to finish up, so my June project will be a “Blast from the Past” featuring a wonderful twin-set from a 1947 issue of Stitchcraft.

May 1962: Overview

IMG_3237Handknits For Your Holiday! If you are planning on taking a holiday in 1962, that is. In that case, I would recommend going to the Algarve in southern Portugal, which, based on the pattern of the window shutters and blanket in the background, is where I am guessing this magnificent cover photo was taken. Sadly, my time machine is out of order and May 2020’s motto is (Lots Of ) Handknits For No Holidays This Year Or Probably Anytime Soon.

I bought my copy of this issue on Ebay, but apparently it originally came from “The Knitting Centre” on Field End Road in Eastcote near London. I actually checked to see if it still existed but sadly, it seems to not be there anymore, nor is there any other knitting or craft shop in the area as far as Ravelry and the digital map can tell me. It would have been fun to be able to trace a 50+-year-old knitting magazine issue back to its origin!

Like most of the late-spring or summer issues, this one has a mix of quick, warm, bulky sweaters for holidays in northern climes and some finer, dressier items for that special going-out evening. “The boy friend” can get wild in a colourful, oversized mid-weight sweater, while “you” enjoy your evening in a bobbled jumper. For casual outings, there’s a raglan polo-neck and the “latest look in twin sets” — a short-sleeved jumper in lighter-weight wool with a heavier V-neck top worn over it. (The donkey seems to like it.)

The “cooler trend for summer” includes a pretty short-sleeved blouse and a fine-knit jumper with a lacy yoke as well as a cute dress and cardigan for a small child, made in terry-cloth Rimple yarn with fluffy appliquéd chicks.

Older children get their own holiday hand knits and nothing says “1962” like this little girl sporting a spectacular up-do, thick warm cardigan, knee socks and basically nothing else on her body. How is she supposed to play badminton in a skirt that doesn’t even cover her bottom when she’s standing still? Her tomboy sister gets a much better deal in her knitted shirt and shorts. White and pale colours are always on point for summer and lemon yellow is the new colour trend.

The homewares department is quite boring this time, but there is a reason for that, as “editress” Patience Horne explains on the facing page:

After our end-of-the-year check through our embroidery and tapestry features, it is clear that designs of the more traditional type head the list — others in a modern style are way down and definitely have more limited appeal. I think this is because more traditional designs never date and seem to fit in well with most homes, whereas a completely contemporary design requires almost its own special setting.

Well, there you have it. Readers usually had to send away for the embroidery transfers, so it must have been easy enough to determine which designs were most popular, and the most popular embroidery designs of 1961 and the most popular embroidery design of 1960 were “peasant motifs” and two Jacobean cushions, so we can expect more of the same. The May 1962 Jacobean cushion is certainly very pretty and there’s also a cutwork tablecloth, other table linens and a “Chippendale” tapestry stool.

There’s also a “cushion for the car” with the cryptic motif “II3LMF” on it. I assume it must be a reference to some sort of gearstick / gearknob / automobile part code, but I can’t interpret it and Internet searches for vintage gearsticks led me nowhere. Are there any vintage car aficionados out there who can tell me what it means? EDIT: Gretchen aka Stashdragon solved the mystery for me in her comment below. The centre panel is a customisable area for the car’s registration/license plate number and the chart gives you all the letters and numbers you might need to personalise it. Guess I should have read the pattern text! Thanks, Gretchen!

That’s all for now. My May project will be the 3-ply jumper with the lacy yoke. Get well and stay well!

April 1962: Overview

IMG_3168“Easter Greetings” from Stitchcraft, April 1962! According to “editress” Patience Horne, “everyone is getting that “out-of-doors” feeling”. I and my fellow compatriots from 2020 have had a very much in-doors feeling for the last few weeks, as we watch Spring unfold from our quarantine windows.

Back in 1962, the whole family can sport matching waffle-stitch pullovers and cardigan jackets for those inevitable country rambles. All three cover-photo designs are made in bulky Big Ben wool at 3 1/2 stitches to the inch. Those who prefer double-knitting weight wool can make a men’s pullover in “slip-on shirt style for sailing and tennis” (with sporty illustration!), a buttonless women’s jacket, or a “crunchy” cabled pullover. Roll-necks or rolled collars are gradually eclipsing the larger, pointier collars of the years before.

There’s also a “travel set” of jumper, cardigan and two skirts to take on your spring holiday, made in both plain green and a marled two-tone green that appears to be one of the early multi-colour yarns just starting to come onto the market around this time, but is actually made by holding one strand of each of the two colours together . The child’s striped V-neck pullover seems like a good way to use up all the leftover yarn.

Even the baby of the family, or a baby-to-be, can expect a lovely Easter present in the form of a dress, bonnet, jacket, bootee and blanket set — plus a “pin tidy” to hold all the safety pins that will fasten our 1962 baby’s cloth nappy in place. The blanket is also made in Big Ben (ensuring it will be done in time for baby’s arrival), while the other garments are made in the usual 3- or 4-ply baby fingering wool.

IMG_3173Springtime also means spring cleaning, and Easter means presents and bizarre sorry bazaar novelties (honestly, with some of the designs it’s hard to tell the difference.) Here’s an intriguing “splash panel” to hang on the bathroom wall. As with the elaborately embroidered “finger plates” for doors, its utility evades me. Why would anyone hang a hand-embroidered tapestry on the bathroom wall, for the express purpose of being splashed with soap and toothpaste and who knows what else, which would therefore need to be taken down and (hand!)-washed frequently, rather than just… wipe down the tile wall? I do like the fish design, though!

The pineapple (-ish) motif cushion, embroidered flower-of-the-month iris, latch-key and crocheted rugs are less interesting, but the Easter novelties — a stuffed polka-dot giraffe, a hedgehog pincushion (brilliant), a chicken egg cosy and a knitted lamb with mascara and eyebrows — do not disappoint. A crocheted altar cloth and a set of versatile cross-stitch animal motifs round out the homewares selection. Finally, there’s a great surprise on the inside back cover: a set of embroidered and appliquéd place mats and matching cushion with a chess-set motif! That’s actually quite a lot of fun.

I hope you are all staying sane and healthy in these unfortunate times. May you all have enough projects to keep you busy and enough non-physical-proximity games to keep you happy. Two friends of mine will be expecting babies in the summer, so my Stitchcraft project for April will be the jacket from the baby set. Hang in there, everyone!

March 1962: Twin-set jumper

Version 2Greetings from the Covid-19 lockdown! March 1962’s project sports the headline “Ready for the Easter Parade” in the magazine, but there are definitely not going to be any Easter parades in March 2020. I hope all of you, dear readers, are staying healthy and staying home.

I made the jumper from this lovely “best-dress” twin-set in an easy flattened-rib pattern with added cross-stitch embroidery. It’s written for 4-ply wool, but the child I knit it for can’t wear wool and the warmer months are coming, so I made it in cotton. And I finally found a cotton yarn that is non-mercerised and fine enough for me to get 7 stitches to the inch with it — Cotton 8/4 by the Danish brand Mayflower. It’s even organic! Sadly, there wasn’t enough yarn left in the shop to make the cardigan, said shop has decided not to re-order this yarn and Mayflower doesn’t seem to do direct sales via its website, so if I want to make the cardigan, I’ll have to see where else I can order some more.

The pattern was easy and my only modifications were to close the back neck opening with snaps and a button instead of a zipper and to forego the blanket-stitch embroidery around the neck, which I thought didn’t go well with the cross-stitch embroidery. It was a fun project and I hope the little girl for whom I made it will enjoy her birthday present.

Sorry for the very short post, but there’s really not much more I can say. Stay tuned for the year-long saga of the 1940s twin-set, which might actually be drawing to a close now that I have lots and lots of time at home to knit.

February 1962: Squirrel or Chicken?

IMG_3058No, it’s not the menu choice for tonight’s dinner, don’t worry. My February 1962 was a little embroidered… animal , originally designed for a toddler’s “feeder” and which I adapted into a bag for vegetables/small projects/”stuff”. I say “animal” in this vague way because it is referred to as a “Squirrel” in the instructions, followed by more specific instructions on how to embroider the supposed squirrel’s beak and feathers. I can maybe, maybe forgive enough poetic license to call a squirrel’s mouth a “beak”, and the creature’s fluffy tail could be mistaken for a squirrel’s, but feathers… no. It also looks suspiciously like a chicken in the photo! So, not a squirrel, but a chicken and a proofreading error.

The photo is about as vague as the animal’s species, so I followed the instructions as best I could and then, ahem, winged it from there. Obviously, I did not have a transfer, so I just drew an approximation of the shape on the fabric with a pencil.

The fabric was up-cycled from a tattered pillowcase and an old red bandana. I embroidered the chicken on one thickness of pillowcase fabric and then flat-lined that piece with another piece of the same fabric for more stability and to keep the back side of the embroidery from fraying. The embroidery floss was all leftover bits and the cord is monk’s cord made from scraps of felting yarn, so this was a 100% up-cycled / didn’t have to buy anything new project, in keeping with the environmentally friendly cloth vegetable bag idea.

IMG_3124

It looks quite “homemade” — my embroidery skills are still far from professional level — but cute and very 1960s. I have a friend who actually keeps chickens in her garden and gets most of her food from them, the garden or food-sharing, so obviously this will be a present for her. I think she’ll appreciate it.

January 1962: Overview

IMG_3019Happy New Year, everyone! It’s 2020 in my real world and 1962 in my blog world. Where will Stitchcraft take us?

… Not very far, fashion-wise. The “Swinging Sixties” started later in the decade; 1962 was still definitely part of the “early” 1960s aesthetic, i.e. more of a continuation of 1950s styles. At the same time, new trends are pushing fashion in new directions, and Stitchcraft is (slowly) moving with the tide.  Fine-knit wool blouses have become rare and the bulky look is definitely in. Knitted suits are loose-fitting and give a rectangular silhouette. Accessories are becoming more experimental and fun, with “turret” and loop-stitch hats and oversized knitted or crocheted bags.

So, what does January 1962 offer us? The cabled sweaters on the front (and yes, that is the word that this British magazine uses: for Stitchcraft, a “jumper” is generally more form-fitting and finely knit, while a “sweater” is bulkier and more casual) can be made in Big Ben wool for the truly bulky effect in a pullover, or in double knitting for a more streamlined cardigan. The casual “his and hers” sweaters with a diagonal “v” stitch pattern are made in double knitting wool, but oversized and loose-fitting. There’s a “big and bold” shortie dolman for teenage girls and you can knit matching, you guessed it, bulky, oversized pullovers for “the menfolk” of the family.

There’s a casual suit in Bracken Tweed wool, highlighting the new fashion for multicolour, heathery tweed yarns. It too is meant to hang loosely, and the collars, cuffs and borders are knitted in a complementary colour that picks up one of the tweed undertones. The only fine-knit garment in the issue is a lovely twin set in 4-ply Cameo crepe wool, and even it is mostly unshaped — quite unlike the twin sets of the 1950s. Children can get a nice warm play-suit in stranded colourwork.

In the early 1960s, Stitchcraft liked “year-round” embroidery themes, with a different versatile small design each month. At the end of the year, all the transfers were made available as a set to be used together on a tablecloth or larger project. 1962’s theme is “flowers” — more conservative and less original than the previous “Zodiac” theme. Still. the narcissus design is pretty and elegant. The bathroom mat, flowery “peasant design” tablecloth, Victorian tapestry and knitted doilies are pretty standard fare and the knitted clown with flags stuck in it like a voodoo doll is predictably terrifying — seriously, do not look at the photo if you have a clown phobia, it will give you nightmares.

To clear your head of that image, you can make a wall hanging — a still life of fruits and vegetables done in padded appliqué for a three-dimensional effect.

IMG_3027

All in all, Stitchcraft‘s 1962 starts with a whimper, not a bang. Still, there are enough nice designs that it’s hard to pick one. I love the twin set, but could also use a nice, normal cabled V-neck cardigan in double knitting, and the toddler’s playsuit is probably fun to knit. I’ll let my local yarn shop decide, i.e. see what they have in stock that says, “Use me for this project.”

 

 

December 1961: Star-Spangled Theatre Bag

IMG_2976Technically, it was more of a “star-spangled burlap bag”, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Happy December, everyone! The 1961 festive holiday season, as envisioned by Stitchcraft magazine, involved at least a couple of glamorous parties and evenings out, for which this white satin drawstring clutch bag could be the perfect accessory.

My holiday season was going along festively enough, but I actually have a couple of vintage evening bags and clutches, should I need one to feel glamorous, and I don’t need a white satin anything. I did love the embroidery design, which features pearls and sequins sewn into flowery “star” motifs in various shades of pink and green. The motifs look very “modern” in that 1960s way — abstract and spiky, but also dainty and bright. What could I embroider them onto?

As it turns out, a few weeks ago I found myself at an antiques fair in Hamburg, Germany, and one of the stands was selling literal moneybags — sacks of burlap linen in different sizes that had been used by the German federal bank to transport money and were then at some point taken out of circulation. The material is very sturdy, finer and more tightly woven than coffee or potato sack burlap, but with a similar feel. The bags were also in perfectly good condition in spite of their age and use — each one is printed with a date, and many of them were from the 1990s. At the very modest price of one Euro each, I went ahead and bought ten of the smaller size (approximately 18 centimetres wide by 30 long).

IMG_3011

So … what to make of them? (Literally.) More vegetable bags? Gift sacks? Little knitting project bags? All of the above? Whatever their use(s), at least one of the bags was going to be star-spangled. Putting fine, pretty flowery embroidery on a coarse natural-fiber sack was a fun idea for a style-mix experiment that I couldn’t resist. After thoroughly machine-washing and steam-ironing the bags (“money is dirty” as the seller said with a IMG_2998wink, and who knows if they had been treated with some kind of additional preservative chemical), I drew the motifs onto the bag with a wax embroidery-transfer pen, tracing around different sizes of button to get the circles, and embroidered them using leftover bits of pink and green embroidery cotton. I decided to forego the pearls and sequins and just made French knots instead. I also didn’t care too much about perfect symmetry or absolutely “clean” lines — I wanted it to look a little bit rough and homemade.

Originally, I wanted to put in a zipper at the top, but didn’t have one to upcycle, so I just made a buttonhole and found a button from the “singles” jar. I might change the button over to the back side of the bag to make a fold-over top closure if stuff falls out, but I preferred the way the bag looked from the front with the single button.

And that was it! I like the result. It’s goofy and incongruous and has a vintage feel in a few different ways. I had already used a few of the other bags as non-embroidered gift bags, so I’ll keep this one for myself as a project bag for small projects, or possibly a vegetable bag. Star-spangled Brussels sprouts, anyone?

 

 

December 1961: Overview

IMG_2973It’s that time of year again and December 1961’s issue has a lovely festive cover photo featuring matching father-son jumpers and a freshly-cut-down Christmas tree with holly branches. The jumpers are meant to be made in flat pieces with only the yoke worked in the round, but everything about them other than that is in the traditional Norwegian style, with a small snowflake pattern on the body and sleeves and a round yoke with tree and star patterns. I like that the jumpers’ pattern theme and colour choice are not so very specifically Christmas-y that they couldn’t be worn at any other time, or by people in our more diverse and modern times who don’t celebrate or don’t care much for Christmas and would just like a nice warm jumper with a wintery flair.

1961 Stitchcraft, of course, celebrates Christmas in a big way. Most of the projects are either glamorous party-wear for the ladies or gifts of all sizes and sorts for family and friends, while the fashionable housewife can do her Christmas shopping in a flecked-tweed cardigan suit similar to the ones in the November 1961 issue, or keep warm on casual days with bulkier sweaters. Tweed and contrasting polo-neck collars are in fashion all around.

For those fancy parties and evenings out, there’s a cocktail jumper in popcorn stitch, an angora stole, and an embroidered and sequinned evening bag. The jumper is knitted with wool and Lurex yarn held together, giving it a bit of sparkle. The stole is absolutely timeless and modern as well as easy to make (a rectangle in simple lace pattern with garter-stitch borders) and probably quite warm and cosy to wear over your strapless evening gown at the theatre. The bag is fancy, yet inexpensive to make, with a very 1960s “modern” look. Even after the party and the night out are over, you can still look glamorous in a knitted pink bedcape.

IMG_2982Children of all ages can look forward to practical, yet stylish winter garments — a knitted outdoor play-suit for toddlers in warm, bulky Big Ben, a smart fine-knit twin-set for girls of varying ages (sizes from 26-30 inch chest) and a wonderful knitted dress in a two-colour slip-stitch pattern that fits right into the tweed trend. The photo caption claims that Alison (the young model) is “warm as toast” but of course, her legs are going to be cold! She still seems pretty happy, though.IMG_2981

For me, the best, and sometimes goofiest, projects of every December Stitchcraft issue are the homewares and “novelty gifts”. This year, some are quite normal, like the snowflake-pattern table mats “for a supper party” pictured above, a cutwork tablecloth, or the tapestry stool cover in a diagonal Florentine pattern. Some are specifically winter- or Christmas-themed, such as the knitted cushion and a framed tapestry picture of angels. Two are very classic and beautiful and have nothing to do with “the season” — a typical Jacobean chairback and a very pretty tray cloth embroidered with anemones. They are all quite nice, if not particularly special.

And then there are the novelty gift ideas, or, as they are titled here, “gay mascots.”

The knitted teddy bear is nice enough, but looks quite stern with its unsmiling mouth and sharp, downward-pointing eyebrows. The snowman egg cosy… well, if you really feel the need to use an egg cosy, fine, it looks cheerful enough. Ivy-leaf pincushion, OK. The bear cub, though, looks like it’s about to attack! Something about its half-smile and the glint in its eye makes it look malicious. And the Father Christmas egg cosy… it’s hard for me to express exactly what’s wrong with it, but if I woke up on Christmas morning and found him on my breakfast place, I would expect to be getting coal in my stocking. Give me a gay mascot any day, but maybe not exactly these ones?!?

IMG_2980

I guess it shows just how difficult it is to embroider faces.

Our “Readers’ Pages” have the usual ads for fabric remnants and sewing machines as well as an extra pattern for a little knitted and embroidered scarf, some traditional Swedish pattern motifs and review of the exhibition of Swedish embroidery recently held at the Embroiderers’ Guild, and a comic in which Little Bobby gets a skiing lesson from a friendly snowman.

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it and happy winter days to all! My December project will be to finish some of the many WIPs lying around (including the November blazer, I swear it is almost done) and use the evening-bag embroidery motifs on something fun and small like dinner napkins or a vegetable bag.

 

 

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.