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.

 

 

July 1961: Overview

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

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

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

On that note, a quick quiz:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

June 1961: Overview

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

May 1961: Overview

IMG_2509Time for the Summer Forecast! “Editress” Patience Horne writes that it is “a lovely sunny day in March” as they go to press for the May issue. It’s freezing cold and pouring rain where I am on May 2nd, so my summer forecast feelings have been literally dampened.

Still, there is a lovely assortment of projects in this month’s issue, of which the prettiest (in my opinion) is featured in colour on the back cover: this beautiful summer twin-set in   “Nylox” (a synthetic, Bri-Nylon yarn) with a diagonal stripe pattern on the sleeveless top that is repeated on the lapels of the solid-colour cardigan. I love the pairing of the elegant line with the fun pattern, which reminds me of colourful rows of paper bunting strung diagonally.

Our front cover has two more of the classic, bulky, rather plain casual pullovers made in Big Ben (super-bulky) of Rimple (nubbly double knitting). For men, there’s also a classic “tennis sweater” in white with blue stripes, made fancy with a different sort of cable pattern that I don’t think I have ever seen before. It seems quite easy, as the cables never travel far and also never actually cross (so maybe technically not a “cable” pattern, but I don’t know what else to call it — you do use a cable needle to move the stitches out of line and back again.) Our model is very happy with his sweater, and his tennis game.

Besides the twin-set and the cover pullover, women’s fashions include a little short-sleeved jacket in double knitting and a cute cap in Big Ben, plus a “longline” jumper and buttoned cardigan in 4-ply wools. I love the way the pockets are integrated into the striped ribbing of the cardigan. Wide collars, shawl collars and V-necks continue to be popular.

Stitchcraft doesn’t usually have sewing patterns, but this month they’ve teamed up with Vogue to offer a flared or full-circle skirt of the type that was ubiquitous in the later 1950s and reached the end of its popularity around this time. Readers can order the Vogue pattern via Stitchcraft in their preferred size. The flared version is embroidered with “Tyrolean motifs” which can also be embroidered onto “pretty summer aprons”. How cute! Just don’t try to play the violin the way our little Tyrolean motif fiddler is doing it, or you and the instrument will both be unhappy.

(Nota bene: some folk-fiddle traditions, as well as European medieval and Renaissance vielle/violin technique, do involve holding the instrument under the shoulder on the upper chest or upper arm instead of under the chin as in modern classical violin playing. Still different from what is going on here, though.)

School-age children get some nice, basic pullovers and cardigans in washable Nylox or fun Rimple. I don’t know what’s going on with the Humpty Dumpty giant egg doll, but this seems to be a theme with Stitchcraft — I remember seeing more than one knitted or sewn or crocheted giant Humpty Dumpty mascot pattern somewhere in my collection. Check out the cute illustrations and the little castle in the air on the top right of the painted backdrop.

Homewares tend towards the fun and easy, with a “Victorian” floral ribbon design for an embroidered cushion, tapestry cushion or tapestry handbag as well as some assorted cross-stitch or drawn-thread table mats and traycloths. Oh, and also some “his and hers” bath mats. May’s Zodiac sign is Taurus the bull, which you can cross-stitch onto a fluffy-fringed lampshade. I would love to see a picture of a Stitchcraft living room with all twelve Zodiac-themed designs in one place — the lampshade, the chairbacks, the waste-paper basket cover, et cetera (spoiler: sadly, we’re not going to get one.)

That about wraps it up for May! I would love to make the twin-set, but I have such a backlog of projects that I know I won’t have time to get it done, so my project will be the tapestry handbag. I’m very excited to work with tapestry for the first time.See you soon!

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April 1961: Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

March 1961: Posies for Cosies

IMG_2412My Stitchcraft project this month was a simple embroidered spray of flowers, originally intended as a decoration for a cushion or traycloth. Having enough cushions and not using traycloths, I updated the design for an iPad cover similar to the one I made last year. The flowers are supposed to be daisies and fern, but the daisies have pointy, blue petals — which I set off against a bright pink background for maximum 60s effect. (The background fabric was left over from the embroidered blackwork cushion from last September.)

Of course, there was no available iron-off transfer, but this design was easy and non-geometric enough that I could copy it out onto paper freehand and then transfer it to the fabric with the “window method” and a washable embroidery marker. The stitching was easy — satin and stem-stitch for leaves and stems, slanting satin-stitch for the blue petals, Romanian stitch for the “feathery foliage” (what a lovely phrase!) and French knots for the centres of the flowers. The only (for me) unusual stitch was the double knot-stitch used to outline the large green leaves. It’s sort of like couching, except you tie a knot in the running thread with each stitch as you go along.

 

I made it up with an equally bright patterned cotton lining (peacock parade!) with an added layer of quilt batting and the same simple button-closure method I used for the “Gay Goslings”. I am not great at sewing, even or especially a really simple (!) rectangular (!) bag, so the lines are not 100% straight and the design is not perfectly centred. Still, I love the colours and the contrast of the very old-school, Grandma’s tea-cosy design with the modern technological device inside.

 

Since I don’t actually need this for myself, it will probably be given to whatever nice friend has a birthday and an iPad that needs a cosy. In the meantime, I can hold it up to a window when I want to see something that looks like Spring.

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March 1961: Overview

IMG_2399Are you ready to “Rendez-vous with Spring”? I sure am! This month’s issue has a lovely extra “centerfold” spread in colour, showing off Spring 1961’s latest fashions.

That said, no especially new looks, wools or techniques are introduced. The partner look is still going strong, as you can see from the his-n-hers Aran sweaters on the cover. They both have boatnecks, popular for a little while in the late 1950s and showing up again here. They are not shaped at the front neck at all, so I imagine them to be uncomfortable and awkward to wear.

Nubbly Rimple and thick, bulky Big Ben wools continue to be popular, featuring in almost all of this month’s adult garments. Big collars are still in, but one jumper utilises a contrast collar design in a different wool, with an interesting shape and ribbed texture. For larger sizes, there’s a cardigan skirt suit in purple plaid — bold colours and jewel tones are in fashion for all sizes and make a great centerfold picture all lined up together.

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In the homewares department, we’ve got another beautiful “peasant” design (they really love that word) for a cushion, a decorative wall tapestry with pictures of chipmunks, some flower embroideries for cushions or a tray cloth, this month’s Zodiac symbol to embroider on whatever you want (Pisces), and a really difficult-looking crocheted cushion cover.

The highlight of the homewares patterns has got to be this incredible “Willow pattern” latch-hook rug. I had heard of “willow-ware” porcelain (remember that scene from one of the Anne of Green Gables books, where Anne or Davy or someone accidentally breaks Aunt Josephine’s blue and white willow-ware platter, then Anne sees a similar one in someone’s house, climbs up on the roof of the barn or something to look at it through the window, then falls through the roof and gets stuck, having to wait in a rainstorm until the owner gets home and then explain the situation?) and I have seen this type of pattern on porcelain china, but never knew that the one was referring to the other.

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Stitchcraft‘s description of the rug refers to “the 3 figures in the Willow Pattern story.” I had also never heard of any Willow Pattern story, but my good friend Wikipedia told me all about the history of the Willow pattern and the associated legend (spoiler: the “legend”, like the pattern, was a 100% British invention made up to sell more porcelain goods, not any kind of authentic Chinese folk tale). Both the pattern and the associated story served as inspiration for further literary, media and commercial works. You can read all about it here.

Finally, it would not be Stitchcraft without a page of little items “for sale-of-work” at church bazaars etc., or to surprise your family on Easter morning. The continuation of Belinda the doll’s knitted outfit is quite cute, but what on earth were they thinking with these egg cosies?!? They look positively psychotic. If I were a child and my mother served my Easter morning Easter egg in one of those things, I would be surprised all right… and probably wouldn’t sleep for a week.

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Speaking of children, here are some who weren’t scared off by their egg cosies and were rewarded with bright, sunny “play sweaters from Vienna” in spring colours of lemon yellow and white. The caption on the page opposite is “Gay as a See-Saw!” I’m sure there are a lot of jokes one could make about gay and see-saws, but I won’t. The kid’s comic in the back pages has the usual continuing story — Wendy and her dog Wag are having some fun adventures in Wallpaper Land.

IMG_2423The ads are for the usual knitting machines and sewing fabrics… except for this one, for “Cooper’s moth proofer” spray, presumably made of DDT  or some other extremely toxic insecticide that kills “ants, beetles… these and other crawling insects die on contact — even months after spraying.” Just the thing to use in your enclosed, airless closet space!

With that, I wish you all a lovely, non-toxic, gay as a see-saw rendez-vous with spring. My March project will be some version of the flower embroidery.

 

February 1961: Overview

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Around Christmas time, I was looking through my Stitchcraft collection to see what the new year had in store for me, and realised that the February 1961 issue was missing! Not that I had lost it, but it was one of the very few issues from the 1960s that I had not managed to find before starting this project. I buy the magazines on ebay and it is fascinating to see how some issues pop up again and again in multiple auctions, and others just never appear. But I was in luck – after searching so many times, there was February 1961, just when I needed it! Thank you, nice seller on ebay, who got this issue to me quickly and in beautiful condition.

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There’s a “Special Colour Feature” of extra colour-print pages in the middle of the issue, promising “Fashion Harmony” for “You and the Home.” With that in mind, it’s kind of a pity that they chose a neutral gray-beige melange for the three-piece outfit on the cover.

Thicker, bulky wools and quicker knits continue to dominate the knitting patterns, with Big Ben playing a prominent role. There’s a little waist-length jacket in an interesting pull-up-a-slipped-stitch-some-rows-later stitch pattern, a bulky cardigan or DK- weight pullover in diamond or rib pattern, and a his-n-hers Aran pullover set. Neutral colours of brown, beige and tweedy gray prevail.

The his-n-hers, unisex design idea shows up in the children’s patterns as well (how nice, for once!) with some warm, lightly colour-patterned pullovers. It’s nice to see a girl wearing trousers and doing something active in her sweater.

(Side note: As I was typing that sentence and got to “it’s nice to see a girl wearing”, the auto-suggest on my tablet offered me “makeup.” So yes, as nice as it is to see one single non-sexist knitting pattern in 1961, don’t be fooled — things haven’t changed nearly as much as they should. Also, spoiler: the rest of Stitchcraft has plenty of “boys need to be active! girls like to be pretty!” patterns and photo layouts in store for us.)

On that note, there are patterns for a complete set of doll clothes, as well, in case readers worried that their girl child playing with a ball once in her life might, I don’t know, make her grow up to direct a bank someday, or something.

But back to this month’s issue! Babies get a fluffly cardigan with the same twisted ribbing as January’s snowflake sweater as well as a lovely lace shawl. Fine-knitting fans can make an elegant, classic jumper at 8 1/2 stitches to the inch or a lace-panel blouse for larger sizes up to a 45 inch bust.

 

Embroidery experts can make a floral fireplace panel or a tablecloth with a “peasant” motif (not the most flattering wording, I know), a rug or a crocheted handbag. The Zodiac handcraft theme has entered the month, if not the Age, or Aquarius. Also, the turret tower look is still all the rage for hats.

And that about wraps it up! Seeing as there was so little actual colour in the designs from the special colour feature, here’s the back cover advertisement for Escorto Gold Seal striped and checked fabrics. My project will be the baby cardigan. Have a colourful February!

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January 1961: Overview

IMG_2256Happy New Year 2019! Or 1961, if you prefer. January 1961’s issue “starts with a swing” with “lots of colour” and “tip-top designs” like the gorgeous Greenlandic-style sweater on the cover.

Looking through the issue, I feel like this is the point in time where the 1960s started, fashion-wise. The closely-fitted, fine-knit, waist-length jumpers of the 1950s have made way for bulky, quick-to-knit garments, and nylon-mix wools like Rimple are more common.  Skirts are still long and hairstyles modest — we’re not in the “Swinging Sixties” yet — but colours are bolder and the whole look seems fresher, somehow.

The little girl’s outfit on the inside cover definitely embodies the new look. Yes, her legs are still going to freeze, poor child, but her little red Rimple outfit is swingy and fun. And look at that wonderful cap and muff! The decorations are made by cutting the bobbles out of a length of bobble fringe and sewing them onto a crochet chain made in contrasting green or red wool, then sewing the bobble chain onto the cap and muff. Mum and daughter can both sport the latest in “Paris Hat News”, which seems to be a sort of turret tower worn on top of your head. The loops on the bottom part of the adult hat are made by pulling loops through the knitting ridges with a bodkin or blunt tapestry needle and holding them in place with your thumb until they are all made and the wool fastened off.

Women’s and men’s fashions feature loose-fitting garments in bulky wools, either hip-length and unshaped like the Greenlandic sweater or the embroidered Viennese cardigan on the inside back cover, or “cropped and bulky” like the “slick jacket” made in thick Big Ben wool. For a more elegant look, you can knit a suit in double knitting weight and top it with a detachable fur collar.

In addition to the little girl’s sets, babies and children can enjoy a warm cape or dressing gown in Rimple yarn, or a pram blanket in brushed, bulky Big Ben wool. The brushing felts the wool for a true blanket effect. It was done with a teasel, which is a metal brush that breaks up the fibres and lifts the nap of the fabric. Readers are instructed to send the finished blanket to Patons and Baldwins in Scotland, who will brush the blanket for you “at a very reasonable charge.”

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Jacobean embroidery, stitched hall rugs, and Victorian-style chair seat tapestry remain steadily in fashion, or you can embroider pictures of a kitten and puppy to hang on your wall. I don’t know about you, but to me they look kind of melancholic! This month’s Zodiac sign is Capricorn, and you can use it to decorate a pyjama case. In the children’s features, Wag and Wendy have tea with a toadstool fairy and kids can sew a simple tea-cosy set for their mother’s birthday.

My project will be the fabulous sweater from the front cover. I’ll be modifying the fit, though, as big and bulky is not my style. Thanks for joining me for the first year of this blog, and best wishes for 1961 — er, 2019!