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.

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!

January 1960: Overview

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January 1960 wishes us a Happy New Year with designs for “fashion” and “casual” knitting, a machine-knitted jumper, children’s and baby clothing to knit, a matching rug and cushion, and “something completely different in embroidery” — cushions and wall hangings with Victorian-era train, carriage and bicycle motifs.  I find it strangely appropriate that Stitchcraft started a new and, one would expect, exciting decade with a look to an even more conservative past — the magazine was not exactly innovative, and its readership enjoyed patterns that give a nod to current styles without being all too forward-thinking.

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Dashing away!

The jumpers (or sweaters: Stitchcraft appears to use the two words interchangeably) continue the trend for somewhat thicker yarn — as Patience Horne writes in the introduction to this issue, “we all seem to get busier and busier these days” and the 9-stitches-to-an-inch creations of the 40s and 50s were slowly getting rarer. Five of the eight adult garments in this issue use double knitting yarn.

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On the embroidery front, there is a lovely design for a glass-topped coffee table, an adaptable Jacobean design in colour on the back cover, and a simple “leaf” cushion.

 

The Victorian cushions are “gay”, as are the children’s gloves. One of Stitchcraft‘s endearing qualities is its use of the word “gay” to mean charming, colourful, sprightly et. al. long after the word’s more modern meaning eclipsed its original one. It’s not yet quite so funny in 1960, but the word still appears in post-Stonewall issues up into the early 1970s. Yet another sign that Stitchcraft did not move with the times! I love all things gay no matter what sense of the word, so will be sure to point out this charming feature whenever it appears.

The ads feature Lux soap flakes, Wearwell facing ribbon and a Tru-Matic knitting machine  — all repeat customers.  There is always a little comic for the kiddies, and we’re already at part 3 of this one, “A Tale of Two Bears.”

I will be making the leaf cushion and the “green check jumper”, shown in colour on the inside back cover.