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”.

 

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…

 

July 1960: Overview

IMG_1879“Free and easy” is this month’s motto. Summer is here and nobody really feels like handling warm wool, so the emphasis is on “travel knits” (lightweight), “casual knits” (not too complicated) and “stroller styles” (loose and oversized). There is more embroidery and needlework than knitwear, and some easy sewing projects. Shall we relax and take a look?

The combination of dark and light green continues to be in fashion: we saw it in the great houndstooth jumper from January 1960 and it’s here again in this “casual car coat” and and the loose-fitting men’s checked shirt style on the inside back cover — “suitable for golf or to wear with beach shorts.”

IMG_1898I have to take a moment here to quote one of my favourite Roald Dahl stories, “The Boy Who Talked With Animals.” It’s about a little boy who saves a giant tortoise from the soup kettle, and Dahl’s description of the tourists waiting on the beach for the caught tortoise to be hauled in has, for some reason, stayed with me through the years:

The men were wearing those frightful Bermuda shorts that came down to the knees, and their shirts were bilious with pinks and oranges and every other clashing color you could think of. The women had better taste, and were dressed for the most part in pretty cotton dresses. Nearly everyone carried a drink in one hand.

I would hope Stitchcraft readers and their men would have had better taste, but I’m not always sure.

The other “free and easy” knits are mostly nice without being really special: a pretty cardigan with knitted-in pearls, nubbly Rimple, a short-sleeved blouse and some cute tops for teenage girls.

 

The “plus-size” (37-40 inch bust) cardigan blouse is really elegant, though, and has a feature that I have honestly never seen in any other mid-century patterns: short-row horizontal bust darts. But unlike modern methods of short-rowing where the turning stitches are wrapped or otherwise bound up with the stitch next to it, you just cast off the stitches and cast them on again, sewing the dart up afterwards as you would a sewn blouse.  IMG_1895

For the little ones, there’s a sun-suit, a fluffy top, and a waistcoat to sew and embroider. The waistcoat is a tie-in with the current comic, “The Magic Needle”, in which our tailor hero’s magic needle has just made a lovely embroidered waistcoat for Mouser the cat. In addition to the waistcoat, you can sew a stuffed toy Mouser, and while you’re at the sewing machine you can make this adorable gingham skirt to wear “over a frothy petticoat” and an amusing apron “for the needlework stall” (Stitchcraft often gives ideas for inexpensive projects that can be sold at church bazaars or other “sale of work” opportunities.)

 

IMG_1881You can also embroider a tablecloth, make tea-towels in huckaback, or attempt this fabulous tea cosy and/or evening bag in faux eighteenth-century tapestry. I so, so want to make this evening bag! I would love it and use it all the time. But I am too overwhelmed by the idea of trying to make a chart based solely on the photos — the design is fairly intricate — and having never before attempted tapestry work, I fear it would just be too much for a rank beginner. I will definitely file it away for future days when I know how to approach it better.

That’s it for free-and-easy July 1960! I’ll leave you with a parade of well-dressed cats, courtesy of Mr. Tuckett’s magic needle. My project from this month’s issue will be the lovely bust-darted cardigan blouse, and I’ll try to finish up the projects from April (!) and June.

 

 

 

June 1960: Overview

IMG_1805June, the month of leisure! Or at least, leisure knits — “Fashions for Sun and Sea.” Stitchcraft’s “editress”, Patience Horne,  reminds us that it’s important to have something to knit or sew while on holiday, as “it helps us to relax”, and points out that “A lot of knitting and embroidery is done in the deck-chair by busy housewives who never get time at home, and find it difficult to ease off suddenly.”

Honestly, I always had the impression that busy housewives were the ones who never got any time off, even when the family was on holiday. I guess it depends on where you went, what you planned on doing and what accommodations you had, but if I recall correctly, camping was quite popular in the IMG_18081950s and 1960s… meaning the housewife/mother of the family had to shop, cook and keep the tent or living space tidy just as she did at home, but in worse conditions (rain, mud, no proper grocery stores, camp stove, having to fetch water for cooking and washing up). Doesn’t sound much like leisure time to me! Of course, if you were rich enough to stay in a nice hotel and eat out for meals you might well have some time for handcrafts, but that wasn’t a possibility for all families, and Stitchcraft‘s target audience was more working-to-middle-class.

But knitting magazines have to be sold in the summer months as well, and there are some very nice things to make in this issue, cleverly categorised by activity. “Sun-seekers” can make pretty sleeveless tops (in wool or nylon) and one of the patterns has a cute fringed shoulder poncho thingy to change “from beach to promenade.” Two other tops are a bit dressier, in case you want to change again for tea. Obviously, the tops need to be lightweight, so all are made in 2- to 4-ply wool at 7 to 8 1/2 stitches per inch.

For “the young sailing fan” — or horseback riding fan — there’s the child’s cardigan pictured in the inside front cover and a horse-motif pullover, both in somewhat thicker Rimple Double Knitting. Though I don’t think the head in the riding motif looks much like a horse’s head — is it supposed to be a fox? These days, you could knit it in silver-gray with neon green eyes and call it an alien, if you wanted to. Rimple is also featured in a classic V-neck pullover for women and a stole, “for a touch of glamour.”

For “Tennis and Rowing” — the manly sports, I guess, since the girls sail and ride horses and the housewives are all too tired to do anything but sit in the deck chair and knit — there’s a pullover in double knitting with crew neck, sunglass pockets, and colour pennants where the knitter can use the wearer’s club colours. Bulky Big Ben wool makes an appearance in a slipover for men and a little cap for women.

If that’s not enough to keep you busy on your supposed holiday, you can embroider some cushions quickly in thick thread, make an intriguing circular table cloth with a peacock motive, sew a little dress for a toddler, or make lunch mats with holiday scenes on them in fantastic shades of yellow and purple. There are tapestry designs for a footstool, screen, book cover or “finger plate” as well.

Wait — what on earth is a finger plate? It looks like something you put on a door — but why? Wikipedia came to my rescue:

“A fingerplate is a plate that is fixed to a door near the handle or keyhole. It can be made of metal, plastic, ceramic or glass. It purpose is to prevent people’s fingers from smudging the door.”

This makes no sense to me, as I would think it would be easier to wipe off the door once in a while than to take a framed tapestry off of the door, wash and re-mount it, but OK.

Speaking of “what is this” and “OK” — you can also embroider a “novelty bathroom mat” where “suitable expressions” on the taps register hot or cold, and in the “Suggestions from Readers” column, we are informed that Mrs Ross of Berkhamsted cleverly adapted the tapestry townscape of Finchingfield “to bring in her husband’s interest in aeroplanes.” Behold, the Comet jet careening over Finchingfield, apparently about to make an emergency landing in the town square!

Let’s hope things end well for everyone involved.

My June project wasn’t pictured here, as it is just a little “extra” design element offered in the back pages — a little parakeet (budgie) motif for cross-stitch or knitting. I’ll turn it into something cute for two friends who are getting married in August.

 

May 1960: Overview

Apr1960coverIs it already May? Nothing makes time fly like writing monthly blog posts! May 1960 is a “Roundabout of Holiday Knitting” (complete with a little circus-fair logo that fills up any little dead space in the page formatting, how cute) where in “today’s story”, “no one thinks of going away without 2 or 3 brand-new woollies packed away in their luggage.”  So let’s get started…

Check patterns are still in, this time in a “gingham” (two-colour slip stitch) pattern for the woman’s jumper on the cover and a “firm stitch to weather the water” (also two-colour slip stitch) for a toddler boy’s swim trunks. totsbeachI am quite sure no small child wants to swim in hand-knitted wool trunks with a belt these days, but I imagine the sun-suit on the opposite page would be fun and practical for beach wear if made in cotton. The baby and older girls of the family get pretty cardigans or a tunic “to wear with her jeans.” I’m glad to see activewear for girls, since generally one is assumed to make pretty, decorative stuff for girls and strong, “manly” stuff for boys — sexism that is not surprising in 1960, but which always depresses me to see in today’s knitwear patterns for children.

For adults, there is a “Trio of Summer Fashions” (“Two to look pretty and one for sports”) and a great cable pullover in bright yellow.  The “sports” pullover is machine-knitted.

There’s still plenty of stuff to make for the home, too (just in case your holidays are too relaxing). Table mats to match your willow-ware platter are actually really cute, and look at that beautiful appliqué tea cosy! Cross-stitch is popular as always for chair-backs and tea-tray ideas, or you can crochet yourself a bedside mat. But what on earth is this “contemporary screen” that uses your scraps?

In the comics pages, we are introduced to Mr. Tuckett, a tailor who receives a magic needle from his friend the wizard. What will the magic needle do? Stay tuned…

roundabout

My projects for this month will be the baby’s jacket and a modified version of the tea cosy.

Enjoy your holiday roundabouts!

 

April 1960: Overview

coverapr60“Already there is talk of holidays” says the introduction to the April 1960 issue, “and whether it’s to be the sea, country, sight-seeing or sailing, you can’t go without your holiday hand-knits.” At the same time, spring and April mean Easter, with lots of opportunities for hand-made accessories and knickknacks.

For knitters, there is a larger variety of wool weights and styles than in the last couple of issues. Houndstooth and checked patterns are still going strong — look at that great jacket on the front cover! — but lace and Rimple designs are offered too, and garments for babies, toddlers, and adult men and women.

For the patient, there is a cute 3-ply top and a shirt in cotton crochet yarn at 12 stitches to the inch. (This is the only type of cotton yarn I’ve ever seen featured in Stitchcraft, but usually it’s used for making doilies or other fine crochet items.)

For those who prefer to actually get their garment finished before the summer holidays start, there are “partner look” sailing sweaters, the houndstooth jacket on the cover, and pullovers in Rimple and Big Ben yarns. Rimple will continue to not be my taste in terms of texture, but isn’t the model cute?

Easter embroidery is big, and around this time, Stitchcraft started to include designs for church accessories — hassocks and kneelers in tapestry or cross-stitch. For those for whom Easter is less of a religious experience, there are some great “Easter novelties” (cosies for teapots and toilets) and who could resist those gay kitchen ideas? Standard needlework ideas for the home include a fitted chairback and a lovely Persian-inspired cushion.

One thing that is really different in this issue is a sewing pattern, common in 1940s and 50s Stitchcraft but rare in the 1960s. It’s a very simple nightdress (for Easter and/or your holidays, of course) that is recommended to be made in “one of the easily laundered non-iron materials”, i.e. nylon or early synthetics.

nightdress

April’s celebrity “plug” is given to us by Jill Browne, the actress who played Nurse Carole Young on the soap opera Emergency – Ward 10, which aired on ITV from 1957 to 1967.  I have to admit I have never seen it, but it seems to have been quite progressive for its time, with Joan Hooley playing a female surgeon in an interracial relationship that was sealed with a kiss onscreen.

starad

On the back pages, it is the end of adventures for Good Teddy Bear and Naughty Teddy Bear, but they got two gay jerseys knitted for them in the end, so I think everyone was happy. Plus you can make your very own teddy bear to commemorate the series! The ads are for the usual things, except for this gem of a potty-training stool called “Bambino”, appearing for the first time.

My projects from this issue will be the 3-ply top and the appliqué goslings on a tea cosy. Happy Spring, everyone!