Out of Order: June 1961

July 1962’s issue didn’t have anything in it that particularly interested me, so I took the time to go back to the June 1961 issue, which had so many nice projects in it that it was hard for me to decide which to make. (I ended up making this lacy top and later, this child’s tunic-dress.)

I loved the extremely complicated, heavily embroidered, faux-neo-Jacobean felt appliqué “birds in a tree” extravaganza featured in colour on the back cover, but it was too daunting. For one thing, of course I didn’t have the transfer or pattern for the appliqué pieces, since I would have had to have sent away for them via postal order in 1962. For another, there weren’t even any instructions in the magazine — the design was offered as either an embroidery or an appliqué project (see photo), and the instructions in the magazine only covered the embroidered version in any detail. The appliqué version just gave a list of materials, size of finished design, and the address where one could order the pattern and instructions. And when it comes right down to it, my appliqué and especially, embroidery skills are really not very well developed.

Oh yes, and while felt is easy enough to buy, the materials included tapestry wool for the embroidery, which is impossible to find in stores anywhere near me and even difficult to order online in the right weight (very fine)! Luckily, last year I happened to be in the one city I know that houses the one shop I know that actually specialises in tapestry and sells the right kind of wool, so I was able to get that, at least.

I decided to make it as a cushion, not a wall hanging. The background tree was easy enough. Technically, the white branches and leaves should have been made by cutting holes in the green tree felt and letting the (white/beige) background fabric show through, but since I chose a blue background fabric, I appliquéd them as well. It was predictably difficult to make and cut out my own patterns for the little bits of felt for the birds and leaves, and after making the first two birds, I realised it was easier to just cut the pieces freehand. Since there were no instructions to follow, I went from the photo and the instructions for the embroidered version, which obviously didn’t give much useful information.

I made two of the birds on the left first, wasn’t really happy with them, and realised why after making the first flower on the left. I liked the way the flower turned out — it’s much simpler! The birds seem overdone in comparison. I’m going to try to scale them down, if I can pick out the embroidery without leaving obvious holes in the felt.

Progress is slow and it definitely won’t be finished by the end of July 2020, but I’ll keep updating this post, so stay tuned.

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.

IMG_2921

 

August 1961: Overview

IMG_2709“August is an issue that needs special thought and planning” writes Stitchcraft‘s “editress”, Patience Horne, in the introduction to the August issue, pointing out that it is “rather an “in-between” month for needleworkers” — often too hot to want to wear or make heavy sweaters and too late in the year for fine-knits. At the same time, reminding people that “Autumn is around the corner” can be “a little depressing” to people enjoying their late-summer holiday.

I get this! It’s one of the … hazards? “joys”? features? of living in a temperate/oceanic climate zone like the UK: August, and in fact the entire summer, can be so hot that you can’t even imagine holding wool in your hands or performing any excess movement (thus the small, easy embroidery projects in cotton thread on linen), or 10 degrees Celsius with unending rain (just ask Edinburgh, or the Bretagne), or anywhere in between.

Stitchcraft‘s answer is to offer casual, “all-year-round” knit styles that could work either on a (cold, wet…) holiday or back home in the autumn and lots of little needlepoint and embroidery projects that fit in a suitcase and can be done easily in the heat. The adult garments are thick and warm and serve as outerwear on a summer evening or Atlantic boat trip: the cardigan on the cover, “chunky” pullovers for women (one knitted, one crocheted), and a man’s pullover in “that typical man-appeal style which will make it a winner.” All are made in double knitting-weight or bulky Big Ben wool and both the knitted pullover and cover cardigan feature slip-stitch patterns which make the finished garment that much thicker and warmer. Golden or orange tones and white continue to be popular colours.

 

There are sleeker, finer-knit short-sleeve tops for girls in their “early teens” (the models seem to be young, slender adults, but OK) with high necklines and an interesting mitred collar on one. Smaller girls (or boys, I guess? this garment doesn’t seem to be heavily socially gendered, but the instructions only have options for buttons on the “girl’s side”) get a fine-knit cardigan with a border of “Scotties chatting to a friendly Cockerel.” Babies get the newest addition to their “Stitchcraft Layette” with a matinee coat and bootees in bramble-stitch to match last month’s dress.

 

The real fun is in the homewares, where there is a huge selection of projects and needlecrafts to choose from: embroidered ivy borders for tablecloths, traycloths or cushions, a tapestry footstool or “needle etching” picture of a “typical Cornish quayside”, a crocheted rug, blue rose sprigs to embroider on a cushion or a fringed lampshade, a weird crocheted and embroidered tea cosy in Turabast (which I can’t imagine would have good insulating properties), or “Fluff”, a somewhat psychotic-looking, yet endearing knitted kitten. Also, I thought the Zodiac year theme had to be finished by now but no, it’s Leo the lion’s month.

 

IMG_2723My favourite, though, is this sewing project: a head cushion that lets you recline charmingly in bed with your hair and makeup perfectly done, your satin nightie on, a book on your lap and your telephone on your ear. It’s glamorous  leisure and lifestyle advertising personified, and though they say it’s an “idea for your bazaar”, I would bet the Stitchcraft readers who made this in 1961 did not make it to sell.

IMG_2725Apropos lifestyle advertising, the early 1960s Stitchcrafts show a rise in full-page ads for Patons and Baldwins wools. That’s obviously not surprising considering the magazine was published for the Patons wool company, but the full-page ads that “tell a story” are a new trend: the late 1950s and 1960s issues up to now had little celebrity testimonials. This one caters to grandmothers and the message is clear: Knitting is not only a rewarding pastime on its own, but earns you the love and affection of the grandchildren for whom you knit. (But only if the kid likes it, and that’s only guaranteed if you use P&B wools, of course.) The 1950s and 1960s saw a huge shift in advertising methods towards a psychologically-based system, which is a huge topic that I won’t start with here, but suffice to say there will be more of these ads, and that they are representative of changing advertising styles.

That’s it for today! I have lots of unfinished projects lying around, so my August project will be something small, definitely not the Turabast tea cosy, but very probably the blue rose sprigs on a little bag, or tablet cosy, or something.

 

 

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!

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.

IMG_2429

 

May 1960: “Summer Song”

cosyThis is definitely a “cosy of unusual charm”! (Despite the ripped corner on the back cover photo.) It features appliqué and embroidery with different designs on each side and instructions to make it up into either a regular cosy to put over the teapot, or a “nest” to put the teapot into.

My version isn’t a teapot cosy of any kind, since I don’t use them or know anyone who does. Everyone needs a pretty little zippered bag or two, though, to put current projects in, or materials for crafting, or pencils or any kind of small “stuff”, so that is what this project is going to be.

I started with the “bird and strawberries” side. As always, the first question is “how to get the pattern onto the fabric and cut-out bits, since there is no existent transfer.” Remember, back in the day you had to write to Stitchcraft to get the iron-on transfer as a supplement! I used the same graph square technique previously used on the  leaf cushion  and the gay goslings. It was trickier in this case, since the only good photo was taken at an angle, but I got it to work somehow.

 

 

Then I copied the pencil sketch, cut out the individual shapes by pinning them to the felt bits, and pinned them out on the base fabric.

 

 

Stitchcraft gives pretty good instructions for the embroidery — which colours for what parts of the appliqué and how many strands. The embroidery work itself was not too difficult, using stem-stitch, Romanian stitch, loop stitches and French knots as well as a bird_straw_embbit of herringbone and the tiny straight stitches in the strawberries. Still, it was more ambitious than any embroidery I have tried up until now. It doesn’t look quite like the picture and I did take a little bit of licence, but on the whole I was pretty satisfied… except for the legs. Oh dear, oh my, oh no, the legs. I did them three times and they still look weird. Either the angle is wrong, or the thickness, or I don’t know what, but I figured doing it again would only chew up the fabric more, so it is what it is.

 

Creating the template for the second side, “Bird and Blossom” presented an extra challenge, as there was only a tiny black-and-white photograph in the magazine, where the tea cosy “nest” was open and made the design appear at an angle. I am definitely getting the hang of this copy-grid-paste-and-cut method though, because it went quite quickly and easily and I think I matched the design pretty well — or at least made a decent interpretation of it.

Again, I sewed the pieces down (noticing along the way that I had forgotten one leaf, and adding it) and then did the embroidery as outlined in the instructions. Well, that was the plan at least, but the picture was so tiny and “unreadable” that I ended up doing most of the embroidery freehand. Winging it, so to speak…

Making the finished embroidered panels up into little bags should have been the easiest step, but it was oddly frustrating and nothing worked properly the first time around. The zippers are a mess. The lining of the “Bird and Blossom” catches and the ends of both zippers are not properly sewn into the top seam. Also, the embroidery is not bad considering my level of (in)experience, but I’m not as happy with it as I could have been. So I’m still deciding whether to keep both of the bags for myself, or give one or both away. What do you think? Here are the finished objects!

BirdStrawFO

BlossomFO

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

January 1960: Leaf cushion

leafcushion_issuefotoMy second project from January 1960 was a sewn and embroidered cushion featuring “black and white leaves on bright red fabric”. One is encouraged to “keep to the black and white embroidery but choose background linen to match your room” and I chose a medium green. (The fact that it matches the houndstooth jumper is just a happy coincidence.)

Finding appropriate fabric was not easy, as I’m not experienced with embroidery or needlepoint and can’t always “translate” the brands and fabric types called for into something I can buy now.  This pattern, like many in Stitchcraft, calls for “Glenshee Embroidery Fabric 212” which does not seem to exist (anymore?) as a specific brand, but this very useful website told me that “Glenshee” is a general name for a certain kind of evenweave linen available in “various counts”. That description matches my fabric pretty well, which is an evenly woven linen-viscose mix that seems to have a similar texture to the fabric shown in the picture.

The biggest challenge, of course, was getting the design onto the fabric. At the time, one ordered a transfer from Stitchcraft for a small sum, which was then sent by post. Sometimes an issue contained a free transfer, and these days, vintage Stitchcraft transfers are sometimes available on Ebay, but good luck finding one for a specific project at the time you want to make it! There are surely computer programs for embroidery transfer design these days, but I did it the old-fashioned way:

First I made a paper pattern by taping pieces of ordinary white paper together to the correct size, then marked both a photocopy of the booklet pattern and my paper pattern with a grid to get the correct placement of the leaves:

 

 

I made a little leaf stencil out of cardboard, measured the proper placements for the leaves and pencilled around the stencil to get the shapes, then traced them in thick black marker:

 

 

I used the paper pattern to cut out the green fabric and the inner cushion fabric (plain white cotton-polyester decorating material), then taped the paper pattern to a window, taped the green fabric over it, and traced the leaves with dressmaker’s chalk — luckily, it was a sunny day, as the green fabric is not naturally very transparent. Then I added the inner details freehand:

 

 

And it worked! A washable marker would have been better, but I didn’t have one.

The embroidery itself is stem-stitch with a couple of loop-stitch and satin-stitch details, which was within my limited ability. Still, it was difficult to get the stitches even and the shapes symmetrical. Here are two photos from the work-in-progress — the leaves in the bottom row are quite wobbly, and the double leaves are very uneven, but I am happy with the spotted leaf in the next row up from that.

 

After the embroidery was finished, it was time to make the piping! Stitchcraft didn’t give specific instructions how to do that, just to “make up piping using extra fabric.” Luckily, I have this wonderful book that I borrowed from a friend, which not only helped me with the embroidery, but has a page on making up piping. You have to make a long bias strip and sew it around the cord… not as complicated as I thought.

 

And that was it! I made a simple cushion of cheap cotton/polyester fabric stuffed with fluffy stuff and made up the cover with the piping and a zipper.

Seeing that this was my first time really embroidering, first time making piping, and even the first time making a cushion, I am very happy with the results.

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