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?

 

 

November 1961: Blazer with the Boutique Look

IMG_2931Post updated on December 28, 2019: Finished!

November 2019’s project was the blazer from this wonderful tweed check suit in the November 1961 issue. As it says in the description, “separates in the height of fashion illustrate why hand-knitting is chosen for today’s couture look.” The blazer, especially, is really a timeless, classic piece.

The stitch pattern is very clever and simple: k 1, sl 1, p 1 on the right-side rows, moved one stitch to the left every time, and purl back on the wrong side rows, with 2 rows in each colour. This makes a firm, structured fabric with minimal curling at the edges (which are finished with wool braid binding).

IMG_2920The pattern calls for Patons Rimple DK (nubbly wool with synthetic) in black and Patons Totem DK (smooth “crepe” wool) in “Oakapple”. I admit I had never heard of an an oak apple before and looking at the black-and-white photo, it’s it’s hard to tell what exact colour was used — but it’s obviously some kind of whitish-beige. Which, as it turns out, is pretty much the colour of at least some kind of real oak apple, which, as it also turns out, is not any kind of apple at all, but a wasp gall. My choice of wool, Jamieson’s Double Knitting, was clear from the beginning and I was lucky enough to be able to buy it “in person” at the wonderful Shetland Wool Week. Both the “black” (Mirrydancers)  and “white” (Sand) yarns are ever so subtly tweedy, which gives a beautiful depth to the colour.

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Why did I even bother?

Calculating the amounts was a nightmare, though. I had thought ahead and written it all out on paper: how many yards of Totem and Rimple there were in an ounce (thank you, Ravelry, for listing discontinued yarns with useful information about them), how many yards I would then need for each colour if making just the blazer, just the skirt or both, then comparing that with the number of metres per gram of Jamieson’s DK, dividing for number of 25 gram skeins, checking it all through and of course adding at least a few skeins of each colour for swatching, making full-length sleeves, extra security, and knowing that I wouldn’t be in Shetland again anytime soon. It was just barely enough! As I learned the other way around while making the green crocheted rug a little while ago, you can calculate all you want, (even with the help of a professional mathematician who knows extra-special secret formulas with Greek letters), or weight your swatches or whatever, but the only real way to know how much wool you are going to need is by making the thing. Argh.

IMG_2968The knitting itself was a dream, though — so nice to work in DK after the fingering-weight projects of recent months past. It knitted up fast and easily and the fabric feels good in the hands. The pattern is quite clear and simple. Even the set-in pockets with flaps and the buttonholes (such a nightmare, always) were successful and the buttonholes evenly spaced. (I used the method that Stitchcraft always suggests: make the side without buttonholes first, then mark the button positions with pins and make the buttonholes to correspond. With a repeating pattern like this one, you can count the rows between buttonholes quite accurately.)

I added a bit of waist shaping for a more tailored look, using a well-fitting blazer from my closet for a guide. I also made full-length sleeves. Originally I thought to make the sleeves from the top down for a better sleeve-cap fit and to make sure I didn’t run out of yarn, but I realised that that would reverse the direction of the diagonal pattern and I wasn’t sure if that would be a problem or not. I made them in the normal way from the cuff up, but made them narrower.

IMG_2932After putting it together and blocking, the back piece had stretched width-wise, the sleeves had stretched length-wise and the sleeve cap didn’t fit well. Also, the shoulders were too wide. What to do? I didn’t want to cut the knitted fabric, nor do everything over. My solution: I re-sewed the sleeve caps in where the shoulder and sleeve line should have fallen, then tucked the resulting extra fabric in towards the neck on the front piece to make a sort of built-in shoulder pad. I normally hate shoulder pads and rip them out of everything I buy, but in this case it turned the droopy, sloppy-looking shoulder into a crisp, tailored-looking one. I’m so sorry I forgot to take a “before” picture — the change was pretty dramatic.

IMG_3018To fix the back width, I added two vertical darts. That wasn’t as elegant as it could have been if I had knitted them in, but it was fine. The sleeve-cap changes pulled the sleeves in a little shorter, so I just finished the cuffs with the same binding that I used for the rest. The buttons are modern, but aren’t they perfect? I even remembered to buy a few extra.

It took a lot of finicky finishing work, but in the end, I was very happy. The blazer is warm, elegant, comfortable and fun to wear. It looks good as part of a retro-style outfit or a modern one. What more could I want? I don’t feel the need to make the skirt. I’m just happy with my blazer the way it is.

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October 1961: Baby’s cardigan

IMG_2837There’s always somebody having a baby, and I do try to make something nice for all my friends’ and colleagues’ newborns. Sometimes I don’t manage to finish something until they are out of the newborn stage, which is why it’s nice to have patterns for larger babies! This dolman-sleeve cardigan, made in the smaller size, should fit a 22 inch chest, which should be fine for this particular eight- or nine-month old.

I wasn’t and am not convinced that dolman sleeves are good for babies or anyone else (so much fabric flappage) and originally I thought about converting the pattern to set-in sleeves, but in the end I was just too lazy, so dolman sleeves it was. I guess it does have the advantage of being wide enough no matter what, and easy to get the baby’s arms into the sleeves. Given that, I’m surprised it’s so short! If it were made longer, it would fit longer without the baby getting a cold belly.

IMG_2918The little leaf motifs up the front sides are quite easy and don’t require any cabling or special fuss. You just work into one stitch 5 times on one row, then work those 5 stitches in stockinette (on the reverse-stockinette background) for a few rows before closing off the leaf with decreases. The lace strips on the sides are plain yo, k2tog alternating with k2tog tbl, yo, worked on the right-side rows.

IMG_2834I used Jamieson’s wonderful Shetland Spindrift from a multicoloured stash that I had bought from a nice person on Ravelry. Some may say that Shetland wool is too tough for babies, but it does get softer with washing and since it won’t be worn against the skin, I think it will be fine. The colour — Buttermilk — is really beautiful, a pale yellow ever-so-slightly marled with shades of pink and winter white.

If I remember correctly, the buttons came from a Christmas fair somewhere some years ago and hadn’t found the right garment yet. I only had three and the pattern calls for five, but I preferred the buttons I had to any new ones I might find.

All in all, a quick and easy project that will hopefully keep the baby warm and make its parents happy.

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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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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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Out of Order: Beach dress, June 1961

IMG_2566June 1961 was the issue with too many great projects in it and not enough time to make them all. My “official” project was this wonderful knitted blouse  which took up the whole month, but there was also a very intricate appliquéd and embroidered cushion that will probably become a long-term learning experience project, as well as a great beach dress for a small child. Summer is waning, but I got the beach dress done.

There’s so much I love about this design: the sea horses, the buttoned straps in the back, not to mention the ridiculous poses and strange inflated? stuffed? animals that the kids in the photos are riding. Also: illustrations in the magazine, done by hand, with bubbles.IMG_2566 2

The pattern is for a 23-24 inch chest, with an 8 1/2 inch long skirt. The child I knit it for is a little thinner, but taller, so I made the width from the pattern and added 1 1/2 inches to the skirt length and made longer straps with multiple buttonholes for different length options/growing room.

Version 2I decided to make it in cotton instead of Nylox (Patons wool-nylon mix from the 1960s) or a modern equivalent. It is always, always a problem to find non-mercerised cotton that is fine enough to give 7 stitches to the inch. Thick, mercerised dishcloth cotton is always available, mercerised crochet cotton is always available, but what passes as 4-ply or  fingering weight non-mercerised cotton is just too thick. I decided on Natura “Just Cotton” which is non-mercerised, soft, pretty and supposedly free of harmful substances (Oeko-Tex certification). The label says it gets 27 stitches in 4 inches but that is illusory. The yarn is 8-ply! I don’t know why they don’t use 4 strands, thus making it a true 4-ply fine cotton for soft, light garments. I got 6 1/2 stitches to the inch with some effort, but the resulting fabric is a bit stiffer than I would have liked.

On the first try, the first ball of turquoise ran out shortly after the bottom sea-horse band and I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough, so I started over and made the skirt less full. Of course, the skirt lost a lot of its swing and I ended up with a ball and a half left over at the end… I used some of the rest to make a little kerchief that the kid can wear on her head for extra sun protection and cuteness. Let’s just hope it stays warm enough for her to still wear it this year.

July 1961: 1st Size Dress

IMG_2661In 1961, Stitchcraft had a nice running feature they called “Stitchcraft Layette”: a set of matching baby clothes and accessories with a pattern in each issue for a few months running. The first was a light, warm dress in 3-ply Beehive Baby Wool which is “often asked for and it is really sensible for baby to wear on those in-between days when the wind is cold.” Still can’t get over how goofy that baby looks in the photo! The dress is made in stripes of stockinette stitch and a pretty “bramble stitch” lace pattern, fastens in the back and has a ribbon “belt”. There are patterns for a matinee coat and bootees on the August issue.

 

The bramble stitch itself is quite simple and effective:

  • Row 1: (RS) knit
  • Row 2: (WS) k1, *(k1, p1, k1 in the same stitch), sl1-k2tog-psso*
  • Row 3: knit
  • Row 4: k1, *sl1-k2tog-psso, (k1, p1, k1 in the same stitch),*

over a multiple of 4 plus 2 for the selvedge stitches. It makes a firm openwork lace that doesn’t roll or curl and so is good for borders and edges.

IMG_2705I made the project in Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, which I had a good stash of in a pretty colour called “Sand”. I generally don’t like variegated-colour wools, but if all of them were like this, I would love them. The colour accents are ever so subtle and just enough to give a light marbling effect without pools or splotches. Of course, it’s is a little too scratchy for a baby’s dress and the tension was not quite the same as in the pattern (8 stitches to the inch for the 3-ply, I get 7 or at most 7 1/2 with Spindrift depending on needles.)

So I did what I always do: changed the pattern around to make it fit the wool. Instead of a long, flared, beribboned, short-sleeved dress it became a medium-length, flared, ribbonless long-sleeved coat that fastens with buttons in the front. I adjusted stitch counts to fit the larger gauge but in the end I wish I hadn’t, as it turned out a bit smaller than expected. OK, so it will fit a smaller baby.

april1960I was happy with the result and it reminded me of another pattern I had seen somewhere… in another Stitchcraft... oh right, it was this “Sunday Best” from April 1960! Bramble and stockinette stitch: always a good choice for baby stuff.

There’s no particular baby I needed to knit this for, but somebody will always have one at some point, so I’m prepared — and happy with how this turned out.

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June 1961: The Soft Texture Look

IMG_2569June’s project was this lovely sleeveless top in a leafy lace pattern, touted as a “very wearable and useful jumper to make for your holiday.” It looked pretty and elegant and suitable for my summer climate, which is generally not too hot — a lightweight wool garment in lace with no sleeves should be perfect most days.

It’s written for “smaller sizes” — 32-33 or 34-35 inch bust — which would be too small for me, but my ever-loose gauge and inability to find 3-ply wool came in handy here, as it has in the past. It worked out fine for me to make the second size according to the directions, adding a few rows to the length below the armholes.

The wool I used was an absolute winner — Concept Silky Lace by katja, made of 80% merino wool and 20% silk. It’s lightweight, soft, and warm enough yet cool enough at the same time. My local wool shop had it in colours that I don’t wear, plus dark blue or a sort of salmon orange. Dark blue is always fine but I was so intrigued by the orange that I had to give it a try. I normally wear black with black with possibly dark tweedy blues or greens, so orange was a big change, but I love it! The colour looks good on me, looks good with black (important…) and it seems to even be in fashion at the moment, since as soon as I bought it I started noticing all the other people around me wearing some shade of IMG_2631orange non-vintage clothing.
The body knitted up pretty quickly in spite of the somewhat complicated lace pattern. I charted the pattern out before knitting anything — as was usual for the time, the magazine has written instructions only, and the pattern is 36 rows long. That was not only good for learning the pattern and being able to follow it more clearly, but it allowed me to notice a couple of errors in the pattern instructions that would have been very frustrating had I discovered them while knitting.

IMG_2646Then I ran into trouble with the weather, which was suddenly 34-36 degrees Centigrade with no chance of a cooler room either at work, home or on the move. My hands were too sweaty to hold wool and I had to take a break for a few days until we returned to our regularly scheduled 18-20 degrees. Then I finished the body and moved on the the neck and armhole edgings, which took forever! It’s actually an interesting design, which I haven’t seen before: You knit a strip of stockinette stitch with 3-stitch garter stitch border on one side, then fold the strip in half lengthwise like a sort of hem under the garter-stitch bit and sew it onto the neck or sleeve edge with the garter stitch facing out. It’s a like a separate hem sewn on, and the front neck strip has some cleverly thought-out short rows to make it fit the curve of the neck. But oh does it take a long time to make the strips.

Which is all a very long apology for the fact that it was not done by the end of the month, but now it is! As usual, we tried to re-create the original photo. It’s always hard to get the exact pose angle, but I did have a matching scarf and sunglasses.

I am so, so happy with the way it turned out!

Fast Forward: January 1967

IMG_2554I do have a project from the May 1961 issue and will post about it soon, but it won’t be done by the end of May. In the meantime, I made a very cute coat for a friend’s child from the January 1976 issue of Stitchcraft, using the leftover yarn from the red and blue dress I finished last month.

The pattern — “Fashion for Tots” — encompasses a single-breasted coat with patch pockets and a collar in contrasting trim, and a pixie hat with the contrast colour in the ribbing. The coat has an A-line shape and raglan sleeves and is given in three sizes, to fit a 22-23, 24-25 or 26-27 inch chest measurement. I made the smallest size, for a two-year-old with a 21 1/2 inch chest, so hopefully it will fit for a while even if it doesn’t get used very much in the summer.

IMG_2556As usual, you’re supposed to make everything in separate pieces, and for once, I almost did! That is to say, I made the back, fronts and sleeves up to the raglan underarm join in pieces, then made the raglan yoke all in one piece working back and forth. Sewn raglans always look so messy (when I make them…), so it was worth it for that, and making the rest in pieces gave the sides some stabilising seams and didn’t take any longer than making the body in one piece working back and forth would have done.

The coat has a cute mitred hem at the bottom, which makes a neat join into the button bands. The collar and pockets are made separately and sewn on, and the collar has an interesting two-piece mitred construction to get the two different colours to make clean corners. The pockets are in twisted mock-cable rib.

IMG_2557I noticed that it wasn’t quite going to work out with the total amount of yarn in the proper colour scheme, so I played with the amounts of red and blue and ended up just perfectly using up the rest of the red with a few metres left over should the coat ever need repairing. Of course, that meant I couldn’t make the hat. The project was fast and fun, though, so who knows, maybe I’ll make another one when January 1967… wait, when will that be again… January 2025 ?!? comes around. If we’re all still here! Hang in there and stick around.

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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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February 1961: Tiny Cardigan

IMG_2371 3After January’s time- and labor-intensive pullover for me, I wanted to make something quick and easy in February. And there’s always a friend, colleague, or relative having a baby, so I made this simple ” Tiny Cardigan” from the cardigan and slipper set.

The wool was Lang Nova, a wonderfully fluffy and very light wool-camelhair-nylon mix. There are 180 metres in 25 grams! It is essentially made of air, but softer and warmer. I suspect it is not very hard-wearing and probably pills and breaks easily, but babies grow so fast that it will hopefully be outgrown by the time it falls apart. My swatch grew exponentially with blocking, so I converted the pattern to a larger gauge. Then the finished garment didn’t grow much at all with blocking, so it ended up more like newborn size. I hope the parents send out a birth announcement as soon as the baby arrives…

Version 2The cardigan has a basic bottom-up raglan construction with the twisted ribbing featured in January’s Snowflake Sweater. I made it in one piece from the bottom up to avoid seams, and was so busy trying to read the front, back, and sleeve directions simultaneously while working the yoke that I forgot to make the little twisted-rib sleeve insertions that would have made this otherwise very basic jacket a little bit more interesting. Whoops! But by the time I realised my mistake, it was already almost done, and I have a feeling this wool really does not like to be frogged. I pepped up the plain marble-grey colour of the jacket with some red flower buttons.

 

And there it is! I had to buy a second skein of wool to finish the cardigan and now have some left over, so I might as well make the slippers, seeing as the baby hasn’t arrived yet.

ETA: I went ahead and made the slippers, adding a flat spiral of red i-cord instead of a pom-pom.

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January 1961: Snowflake Sweater

IMG_2256January’s project was — like August 1960’s twin-set — one of the reasons I wanted to start this whole mega-blog-project in the first place, namely, this beautiful round-yoke “snowflake” sweater in the style of traditional Greenlandic designs. I love the combination of curvy and angled shapes produced by the diamond-shaped rings on the yoke, and the dark background colour fits my style.

Traditional round-yoke sweaters made from the bottom up typically call for the body and sleeves to be made separately, then joined in the round for the yoke, casting off stitches under the arms and on the sleeve-underarm edges to add depth to the chest width and make the first few rounds easier to work.  But like all adult garments from this time period, Stitchcraft‘s version is meant to be made in separate pieces. The first part of the yoke is written with back-and-forth raglan decreases, until the patterned part of the yoke gets going, and even that is supposed to be knitted back-and-forth with an opening in the back for a zipper.

Besides being not very traditional, I find back-and-forth knitting on stranded garments not so much fun (stranded purling is annoying) and certainly not as fast to make (knitting is faster than purling, and in-the-round construction means no seams to sew later), so I was determined to make this garment completely in the round and without seams. Making the sleeves and body separately in the round was no problem, but I was at a loss as to how to do the raglan bits plus neck shaping before the patterned yoke began without completely re-writing the pattern. Also, I wanted to add in some short rows to make the front part of the neck drop a little farther down than the back.

img_2306After thinking it over, the most reasonable course was to work the little bit of pre-yoke between the armhole bind-offs and patterned yoke back and forth with raglan decreases as written, but beginning the front neck shaping (pre-yoke, concurrent with the raglan decreases) an inch or so lower than the back. That preserved the proper stitch count, let the sweater hang better, and shortened the yoke a bit. I didn’t mind shortening the yoke, as I like sweaters to be snug under the arms and not too high on the neck. I didn’t need a zipper, so I made the patterned yoke entirely in the round.

img_2311It worked out perfectly! I could hardly believe it. Raglans and round yokes may be somewhat forgiving on the body, but it is a fundamentally tricky mathematical game to make all the interdependent factors of width, depth, and pattern repeat come out right, so I was really proud of myself for making it work. My only other modifications were on the sleeves (longer) and the waist shaping (original pattern had none, I started out narrower at the waist and increased gradually at the sides to give a more figure-flattering look.)

Version 2
Don’t let the tropically-painted background fool you — it’s cold outside!

The yarn was a mixture of plain Regia 6-ply (DK) sock wool for the dark and light blues, and some of the lovely 100% wool that my knitting colleague hand-dyes with plants (the brown and green, made with onion skins/walnut shells and some kind of green reed plant, respectively.) It is very warm and has the right balance of firmness and softness.

All in all, I am 100% happy with this pullover and will probably wear it a lot this winter.

 

 

December 1960: Baby’s Special Outfit

IMG_2217My December project was a warm winter dress for a baby, part of the “Baby’s Special Outfit” of dress, bootees and mittens that continued the baby set started in the November 1960 issue.

The dress has a smocked top, which I had never worked in knitting before. Of course, knit smocking is not like sewing smocking, where you gather the fabric up in regular pleats and embroider over it. Here, it’s pretty easy to do and involves taking out a long loop and knitting it back in a few stitches later — almost like cabling without a cable needle. The base pattern is 2×2 rib, which gives the same effect as gathered fabric.

dec60wipI used a lovely 100% wool that was hand-dyed by a fellow knitter in my local knitting group. She uses natural dyes from plants in her garden, or the bits of food items that are normally not eaten: walnut shells, onion skins, and so on. This green-melange wool was dyed with red onion skins! She did explain to me how that worked, but please don’t ask me, because I forgot the answer already. Anyway, it’s very nice. I was worried that it might be too scratchy for sensitive baby skin, but wash-blocking it and rinsing with hair conditioner softened it up quite a bit.

I only had 100 grams of the wool, so had to make the dress a bit smaller than in the pattern. The original pattern was for a baby up to one year or more, had a long, full skirt, measured 22 inches at the chest and had sleeves. The baby I made this for is 6 months old but still quite small, and my version of the dress measures 21 inches at the wide part of the chest, has a shorter and narrower skirt and no sleeves. In a way, that’s more practical, since it can be worn over a t-shirt and leggings and taken off if the baby gets too warm. It also won’t touch her skin, so scratchiness won’t be a problem. It buttons in the back.

And with that, I have completed one whole year of Stitchcraft projects! Goodbye 1960 and 2018, and hello 1961 and 2019. Stay tuned, and happy New Year!

 

 

November 1960: Cloche Cap

IMG_2176November’s project was a little cloche hat, made out of leftover wool from July’s Charming blouse. I loved the little buckled brim and the sort of mushroom shape, though I found that the hat looks better if I pull it down over my forehead like a 1920s cloche hat. Either the picture in the magazine, taken from an angle over the model’s head, doesn’t really give a true impression, or our heads are differently shaped, or both.

Speaking of differently shaped, the hat is meant for an “average hat size”. That’s… not very specific. I do have a bigger head than average for modern days, but the wool (Juniper Moon Farms’ Herriot Fine) is mostly alpaca, so stretchier than the synthetic Rimple that the pattern is written for. To be safe, I made the buckle strip for the brim a little longer, but in the end that wouldn’t have been necessary. The buckle brim band (good name for a band!) is made in garter stitch, which is really not the most suitable for hat brims, as it stretches too much and doesn’t hold the hat on your head. Though of course, if you pull a hat down over your forehead, it’s not going to go anywhere.

Not that I need any more hats, but it’s cute and warm, so I’m happy.

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October 1960: No Fun Fuchsia

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

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

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

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

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

November will be more fun, I hope!

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September 1960: An Original Cushion

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

fishfo1