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!

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April 1960: Popular neckline

Version 2My second project for April (obviously not finished before the end of the month, seeing that I started it two days before) was this cute lace blouse with a “Popular neckline.” I do love the neckline, and the leaf pattern.

The pattern is written for wool, of course, but I made it in cotton for summer. It is very, very difficult for me to find any kind of yarn, especially cotton, that is fine enough to get the pattern gauge of 8 stitches to the inch in stockinette stitch. I can hardly even get 8 stitches to the inch on lace-weight wool on 2 mm needles! But crochet cotton thread would be too thin, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in black. So I found a cotton that gets me 7 stitches to the inch on 2 – 2 1/2 mm needles and fiddled with making the middle size and having it come out as the large size.

popneck_wipThe biggest problem was making the side-seam increases. The lace pattern has a repeat of 12 stitches, but a sort of varying number of edge stitches. I honestly had no idea where to fit in the extra stitches, or how to keep them in pattern when the increases and decreases within the pattern are broadly spaced. Time to hit the Ravelry forums! I did try charting it out (the pattern has written instructions only) and at first it made it easier to “read” the knitting, but didn’t give me any fundamental technical answers. I realised I had to chart out  not just the pattern itself but all of the increases and decreases, with the changes that had to be made row by row. That worked, but by then I had already made the back piece, so those increases on the sides weren’t perfect. But everything else was!

The fit is incredible. I was wary of the horizontal cap sleeves, which are really just made by casting on extra stitches instead of decreasing under the arms. I thought it would make a lot of baggy fabric under the arms, like those 1950s (or 1980s) dolman-sleeve fashions that must be extremely inconvenient to wear. But no! The armholes are snug without being too tight, and I appreciated the extra width and give in the upper chest and back, where I am quite wide.

All in all, it is wonderful and I am very happy. Here I am having fun “recreating” the original picture. The bag is from a Stitchcraft pattern, too!IMG_1929