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.

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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.

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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).

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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?!?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

September 1961: Circular Rug to Crochet

IMG_2785September’s project (finished only one day late) was this extremely 1960s crocheted green rug with black, white and orange embroidered spots (they “add a modern touch”) and fringe. Loved it!

Before I could start, I had to figure out what kind of wool to use. Rug wool, such as the Patons Turkey Rug Wool in the pattern, was available in the 1960s in large skeins by weight and rugs could be made using tapestry stitches on canvas, crocheting, tufting or using the latch-hook method. Latch-hook rug makers had to cut the wool themselves and there were ingenious little tools to help them do that, like this Patwin rug-wool cutter or this “strip slitter” from Bliss. Later in the decade, “cut packs” were introduced for latch-hook use and it is now very difficult to find rug wool in skeins.

IMG_2763Felting wool, like rug wool, is bulky, mostly unprocessed, coarse and strong, so that was my first thought… but would it felt with use or washing? I decided to take the chance, since it’s easy to find, inexpensive and there happened to be some in the perfect colour at my local yarn shop. It’s the exact same shade of green as the embroidered cushion from 1960 that I made last year! It even possibly matches the original colour from the pattern, “Green Haze”.

I had to order more wool than they had in the store. To figure out how much wool I needed, I asked a better mathematician than me if he could work it out using the diameter of the swatch, finished diameter of the rug (29 inches without fringe) and the amount of wool per skein. Then I calculated it myself based on the number of stitches in one skein’s worth of wool and the total number of stitches in the rug. We were both a bit off — he thought I would need 11 skeins (65 grams) and I thought I would need 9, when in fact I only needed 8. Then again, the 8 skeins made a slightly smaller rug when done by the pattern, so I kept on for a few more rounds and used one more skein to get the proper size.

IMG_2802The crochet part was easy — just rounds of double crochet with regular increases — and went very quickly. You can see that the wool I ordered was from a different dye lot than the first skeins from the store, but I don’t mind. The embroidery was a bit tedious and the fringe posed a new problem: this type of old-fashioned cotton sew-on fringe is very much not in fashion and hard to find in stores these days. I hate buying things on the Internet, so I asked my friendly wool-shop owner from the store where I bought the wool  what she thought, or if it could be ordered through the store. She suggested hand-knotting the fringe with cotton yarn in a similar colour to the rug. (the fringe in the original seems to be white or a lighter colour). I was eager to get the thing done and not wait for more elements to arrive, so I did it. I like the result! It’s stringier than the original, of course, but it makes the rug look like a sort of friendly amoeba. I like that.

IMG_2810Wash-blocking it gently in cold water worked well and did not felt the wool. Also, it is going to live under my coffee table where it won’t get much foot traffic, so I’m not worried.

A good friend saw it and said, “Wow, it’s so ugly, I love it!” Which stung a bit, but I know what they meant. It’s really 1960s! But it also really goes well with my retro/vintage living room decor and I don’t think it’s ugly at all, just goofy. I’m very happy with the way it turned out.

 

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September 1961: Overview

IMG_2772“Knitting with an Autumn Theme” is the motto of this month’s Stitchcraft from September, 1961. Knowing that September is the month where many knitters take up their needles again after not wanting to handle wool in the hot summer, I would have expected a “bumper issue” with extra ideas, new fashions from Paris, more colour photographs and so on. Not the case! It has more or less the same mix of “chunky”, bulky garments and easy homewares that we saw in the summer issues.

Not that that’s bad, of course (though bulky is not andIMG_2773 probably will never be my style). The kid’s coat looks cosy and fun to wear, and the “gay sweaters for him and her” in a Norwegian-style pattern are warm, practical and unisex. I imagine the boatneck collar on an unshaped front must scratch horribly across the neck, though.

There are more men’s garments than usual: a wide-collared “sports sweater” and an elegant crossed-front pullover with twisted-rib details on the pockets and borders. The former is meant to be worn for “golf, country walks and all the week-end jobs in the garden”. I’m guessing the plants in the garden will grow better if you wear a shirt and tie under your sweater while working on those week-end jobs, as it will make them feel important and worth dressing up for. Maybe I should try it — I’m terrible with plants.

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Collars, V-necks and checked patterns are still in fashion, as seen on the comfortable, yet elegant cardigan suit and the cardigan in a familiar three-colour slip stitch pattern. Terry-towel-like Rimple is still going strong, featured here in a cardigan for larger sizes.

Babies get a bonnet and jacket in the same bramble stitch pattern as last month’s coat and July’s dress (“Part 3 of our Layette”) as well as a vest and pilch (underpants/diaper cover) and small children get machine-knit slacks to match the blazer. Hooray for warm legs, finally!

If all of that sounds underwhelming, we haven’t even gotten to the housewares… The knitting and crochet projects focus on using up scraps and “leftovers” to make either a cushion, a stuffed puppy toy or some utterly goofy egg cosies. Needlewomen (sadly, they don’t write “embroideresses”, which would be more entertaining) can make floral cutwork mats or a cushion, or a “Vintage Parade” of early-20th-century automobiles. There’s a tapestry hassock for church-goers and the last of the Zodiac-themed projects — this month’s sign is Virgo.

I almost gave up on this issue, as there just wasn’t anything that inspired me… but then there was this rug! This utterly 1960s, easy enough for me to crochet, fringed and polka-dotted rug that would look marvellous underneath my vintage, Danish Modern coffee table and, if made in the right colour, would perfectly match my embroidered cushion from the January 1960 issue. I love it! Rug wool in skeins isn’t really sold anywhere these days, but I’ve got a solution for that that I think will work.

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Stay tuned for the result… and the “special bumper issues” with “extra features in colour” that are promised for October and November.

August 1961: Dainty Rose sprays

IMG_2721Stitchcraft‘s August 1961 “Late Summer” issue had multiple cute, easy embroidery and tapestry projects. Mine was this little set of rose sprays. To show the versatility of the designs, the magazine usually had directions for and photos of the designs made on different items: a cushion and/or tray cloth, for example. Overall, there was a huge range of homewares that could potentially be embroidered: an apron, a place mat, a chair-back, a wall hanging, a “nightie case”, a project bag, a finger plate, a fire screen, even a room divider or a waste-paper basket cover. This issue added a new idea to the mix: the rose-spray design on a lampshade, complete with a pattern to cut out, sew and fringe the lampshade cover itself.

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Close-up photo from the magazine. Sadly, there was no colour photo.

I don’t need an embroidered lampshade (or finger plate, or fire screen, or tray cloth, or chair-back, or waste-paper basket cover etc. etc.) and I have plenty of cushions and project bags, so I’m often at a loss when I see a nice embroidery pattern and don’t know what to put it on. I’ve made a couple of tablet cosies for myself or for presents for friends, or useful little bags to store “stuff”, but there are limits. I guess I could sell whatever I don’t need, but haven’t gone that route yet. So what to make?

Vegetable bags.

I stopped using plastic bags for vegetables long ago, which wasn’t difficult as I pretty much only buy vegetables at the farmer’s market or organic supermarket, both of which put vegetables in little paper bags (for small or sandy things like mushrooms, potatoes or little tomatoes) or don’t package them at all (I just put them into my basket/cloth shopping bag loose). I try to re-use the paper bags, but my best bag of all is a little linen drawstring sack that originally held soapberry nuts for washing laundry. It’s tough, washable and the perfect size for holding the right amount of potatoes or green beans or whatever. And both the organic supermarket and, incredibly, the regular supermarket in my neighbourhood have now stopped offering even little paper bags for vegetables, so time to make more bags!

IMG_2749Of course, they don’t have to be embroidered, but why not? Cotton embroidery floss is machine-washable even at high temperatures and I have plenty of scraps and bits of plain linen or cotton materials that can be put to good purpose. The bag I made for this August project was made from a piece of linen from shoes, yes, shoes that a friend bought (the shoes came wrapped in this piece of fabric in the shoe box instead of in paper.) I had enough embroidery floss on hand, so this was an almost 100% up-cycled / didn’t have to buy anything new project. (I say almost because I bought the cord for the drawstrings — then realised I could have made monks’ cord or i-cord from leftover cotton yarn. Next time…)

IMG_2756The design is of blue roses, which don’t exist in the natural world but can be created by putting white roses in blue-tinted water for a few days. (Interestingly, this low-tech process is much more successful than trying to create blue roses via genetic engineering, which so far has only made purplish-lavender roses.) I think blue is an interesting colour choice for embroidered roses, because of course when you see blue flowers you don’t automatically think of roses. I love how the colours turned out though. The stitches are easy stem-stitch, satin stitch and long-and-short stitch. Of course I didn’t have the transfer, but the design was easy enough to copy onto the fabric freehand.

I’m really, really happy with this and look forward to making more unnecessarily pretty, but necessarily environmentally friendly vegetable bags in the future.

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August 1961: Overview

IMG_2709“August is an issue that needs special thought and planning” writes Stitchcraft‘s “editress”, Patience Horne, in the introduction to the August issue, pointing out that it is “rather an “in-between” month for needleworkers” — often too hot to want to wear or make heavy sweaters and too late in the year for fine-knits. At the same time, reminding people that “Autumn is around the corner” can be “a little depressing” to people enjoying their late-summer holiday.

I get this! It’s one of the … hazards? “joys”? features? of living in a temperate/oceanic climate zone like the UK: August, and in fact the entire summer, can be so hot that you can’t even imagine holding wool in your hands or performing any excess movement (thus the small, easy embroidery projects in cotton thread on linen), or 10 degrees Celsius with unending rain (just ask Edinburgh, or the Bretagne), or anywhere in between.

Stitchcraft‘s answer is to offer casual, “all-year-round” knit styles that could work either on a (cold, wet…) holiday or back home in the autumn and lots of little needlepoint and embroidery projects that fit in a suitcase and can be done easily in the heat. The adult garments are thick and warm and serve as outerwear on a summer evening or Atlantic boat trip: the cardigan on the cover, “chunky” pullovers for women (one knitted, one crocheted), and a man’s pullover in “that typical man-appeal style which will make it a winner.” All are made in double knitting-weight or bulky Big Ben wool and both the knitted pullover and cover cardigan feature slip-stitch patterns which make the finished garment that much thicker and warmer. Golden or orange tones and white continue to be popular colours.

 

There are sleeker, finer-knit short-sleeve tops for girls in their “early teens” (the models seem to be young, slender adults, but OK) with high necklines and an interesting mitred collar on one. Smaller girls (or boys, I guess? this garment doesn’t seem to be heavily socially gendered, but the instructions only have options for buttons on the “girl’s side”) get a fine-knit cardigan with a border of “Scotties chatting to a friendly Cockerel.” Babies get the newest addition to their “Stitchcraft Layette” with a matinee coat and bootees in bramble-stitch to match last month’s dress.

 

The real fun is in the homewares, where there is a huge selection of projects and needlecrafts to choose from: embroidered ivy borders for tablecloths, traycloths or cushions, a tapestry footstool or “needle etching” picture of a “typical Cornish quayside”, a crocheted rug, blue rose sprigs to embroider on a cushion or a fringed lampshade, a weird crocheted and embroidered tea cosy in Turabast (which I can’t imagine would have good insulating properties), or “Fluff”, a somewhat psychotic-looking, yet endearing knitted kitten. Also, I thought the Zodiac year theme had to be finished by now but no, it’s Leo the lion’s month.

 

IMG_2723My favourite, though, is this sewing project: a head cushion that lets you recline charmingly in bed with your hair and makeup perfectly done, your satin nightie on, a book on your lap and your telephone on your ear. It’s glamorous  leisure and lifestyle advertising personified, and though they say it’s an “idea for your bazaar”, I would bet the Stitchcraft readers who made this in 1961 did not make it to sell.

IMG_2725Apropos lifestyle advertising, the early 1960s Stitchcrafts show a rise in full-page ads for Patons and Baldwins wools. That’s obviously not surprising considering the magazine was published for the Patons wool company, but the full-page ads that “tell a story” are a new trend: the late 1950s and 1960s issues up to now had little celebrity testimonials. This one caters to grandmothers and the message is clear: Knitting is not only a rewarding pastime on its own, but earns you the love and affection of the grandchildren for whom you knit. (But only if the kid likes it, and that’s only guaranteed if you use P&B wools, of course.) The 1950s and 1960s saw a huge shift in advertising methods towards a psychologically-based system, which is a huge topic that I won’t start with here, but suffice to say there will be more of these ads, and that they are representative of changing advertising styles.

That’s it for today! I have lots of unfinished projects lying around, so my August project will be something small, definitely not the Turabast tea cosy, but very probably the blue rose sprigs on a little bag, or tablet cosy, or something.