September 1962: Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 1962: Overview

IMG_3048Put on your best traveling suit, pack your Aeros and have your Kodak Instamatic in hand, because it’s February 1962 and Stitchcraft is going to Paris! This month’s issue  features Paris-inspired designs (whatever that means) and extra pages in colour to show off the latest knitwear against a backdrop of Parisian tourist classics.

Travel from London to Paris in the early 1960s was, of course, not on the speedy Eurostar or even quicker cheap flight of our modern times. Commercial air travel was a luxury for the well-to-do and the only way to cross the Channel by train was on the Night Ferry, which ran from London Victoria to Paris Gare du Nord and back. The overnight journey took 11 hours, of which three were spent on the water;  the entire train was loaded onto a ferry for the Channel crossing. I really recommend clicking on the link, which leads to the Wikipedia article. There’s a lot more information about the Night Ferry there, and even a short list of books and films set on or inspired by it.

So what does Paris fashion 1962 have in store for us? Dresses, strong dark colours and smooth crepe wools are all “in”, with a special trend for fringes and bobbles. The two-piece dress on the cover is made in fine bouclet wool and photographed against one of the little bookselling stands that still line the roads along the Seine today. Fine, red crepe wool is the choice for the similar two-piece outfit with fringey bobbles on the front of the jumper, photographed in Montmartre. Are the bobbles supposed to suggest the legs of the painter’s tripod, or an upside-down Eiffel Tower? The dress on the facing page (Sacre-Coeur in the background) is also made in smooth crepe wool, this time in somewhat thicker Totem Double Knitting.

Fringe makes additional appearances in a lemon-yellow jumper with the newly fashionable high neckline and extra collar (Place de l’Opéra) and in the dark green and black plaid-effect longline jumper on the inside front cover (which appears to have been photographed in a Métro station, though I can’t immediately place which one.) Even without fringe, large collars are still going strong, as seen in the belted Rimple jacket. “Chunky” bulky wool makes an appearance in the beret and oversized handbag set (Capucines). The bag is reinforced with strips of cardboard along the top edges and a woven fabric lining to prevent otherwise inevitable sagging.

With all these lovely large projects and the special Parisian focus, it’s not surprising that the rest of the designs in the issue are unspectacular. There are some easy knitted classics for men and children, the usual “Victorian” and “Jacobean” tapestries for the home, and some fun little crafty projects like these “mats with hats” coasters. In the “Little Bobby” serial comic, John and Jane both have a cold. That’s February for you!

I have so many unfinished projects, including the January 1962 jumper, that my February project will be something small and easy. Maybe not the mats with hats, but probably a little embroidered lilac sprig (flower of the month) on a vegetable or project bag. In the meantime, watch for updates on the January project — it’s knitting along quite quickly — and a special 1950s “blast from the past” post.

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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