April 1962: Overview

IMG_3168“Easter Greetings” from Stitchcraft, April 1962! According to “editress” Patience Horne, “everyone is getting that “out-of-doors” feeling”. I and my fellow compatriots from 2020 have had a very much in-doors feeling for the last few weeks, as we watch Spring unfold from our quarantine windows.

Back in 1962, the whole family can sport matching waffle-stitch pullovers and cardigan jackets for those inevitable country rambles. All three cover-photo designs are made in bulky Big Ben wool at 3 1/2 stitches to the inch. Those who prefer double-knitting weight wool can make a men’s pullover in “slip-on shirt style for sailing and tennis” (with sporty illustration!), a buttonless women’s jacket, or a “crunchy” cabled pullover. Roll-necks or rolled collars are gradually eclipsing the larger, pointier collars of the years before.

There’s also a “travel set” of jumper, cardigan and two skirts to take on your spring holiday, made in both plain green and a marled two-tone green that appears to be one of the early multi-colour yarns just starting to come onto the market around this time, but is actually made by holding one strand of each of the two colours together . The child’s striped V-neck pullover seems like a good way to use up all the leftover yarn.

Even the baby of the family, or a baby-to-be, can expect a lovely Easter present in the form of a dress, bonnet, jacket, bootee and blanket set — plus a “pin tidy” to hold all the safety pins that will fasten our 1962 baby’s cloth nappy in place. The blanket is also made in Big Ben (ensuring it will be done in time for baby’s arrival), while the other garments are made in the usual 3- or 4-ply baby fingering wool.

IMG_3173Springtime also means spring cleaning, and Easter means presents and bizarre sorry bazaar novelties (honestly, with some of the designs it’s hard to tell the difference.) Here’s an intriguing “splash panel” to hang on the bathroom wall. As with the elaborately embroidered “finger plates” for doors, its utility evades me. Why would anyone hang a hand-embroidered tapestry on the bathroom wall, for the express purpose of being splashed with soap and toothpaste and who knows what else, which would therefore need to be taken down and (hand!)-washed frequently, rather than just… wipe down the tile wall? I do like the fish design, though!

The pineapple (-ish) motif cushion, embroidered flower-of-the-month iris, latch-key and crocheted rugs are less interesting, but the Easter novelties — a stuffed polka-dot giraffe, a hedgehog pincushion (brilliant), a chicken egg cosy and a knitted lamb with mascara and eyebrows — do not disappoint. A crocheted altar cloth and a set of versatile cross-stitch animal motifs round out the homewares selection. Finally, there’s a great surprise on the inside back cover: a set of embroidered and appliquéd place mats and matching cushion with a chess-set motif! That’s actually quite a lot of fun.

I hope you are all staying sane and healthy in these unfortunate times. May you all have enough projects to keep you busy and enough non-physical-proximity games to keep you happy. Two friends of mine will be expecting babies in the summer, so my Stitchcraft project for April will be the jacket from the baby set. Hang in there, everyone!

March 1962: Overview

IMG_3126There are three seasons in the Stitchcraft year: autumn, Christmas and “holidays”, which start in March and continue until about September. Of course, most people take their holidays in the summer, but the beauty of knitting (or editing a knitting magazine) is that you can technically be knitting for them any time of the year, if you knit slowly enough. And so, the March 1962 issue of Stitchcraft, (motto: “Knit for Spring”) can already promise us “the fun of holidays to plan for.”

Spring is also “the time of year to wear smart two-piece suits and dresses, which you can now knit so quickly and easily” — a nod to the double-knitting and bulkier-weight wools now available and in fashion, relieving knitters of the earlier boredom of making dresses and long-skirted suits at 8 stitches to the inch. Here is a skirt set in nubbly Rimple DK. Top-fashion colours of dull green and beige-gold (or as Stitchcraft calls them, “mustard and pheasant” — sounds delicious!) are repeated in a finer-knit bouclet sweater.

Interesting textures and colour blends are key: in addition to the Rimple and bouclet offerings, the cover jumper is made in Bracken Tweed, one of the newer marled/flecked wools. Stranded colourwork is featured in a Norwegian-style pullover for men and, in more subtle form, in a bright band across a warm women’s raglan sweater. Look at that perfect 1962 “lifestyle” photo of our knitter lounging in her beige-coloured living room and smiling seductively at her man while listening to jazz!

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“Informal sweaters” that combine colour and texture elements, as well as a lovely little twin-set for a child and granny-square bonnet and mittens for a toddler round out the collection. The homewares are varied, but predictable: another tapestry town scene, a Florentine rug (pity they didn’t get a colour photo of that), traditional cross-stitch designs and a daffodial embroidery transfer for a coffee-pot cosy or night-dress case.

And of course it wouldn’t be Stitchcraft without “novelties”, in this case, matching “boy” and “girl” egg cosies made to look like nightcaps — I’m guessing somebody must have found the egg holders with painted-on faces and had an inspiration. The back cover is another fun, if slightly “uncanny valley”, advertisement for Escorto “Gold Seal” fabrics — “easy” due to being 100% synthetic material.

My March project will be the jumper from the girl’s twin-set as well as another “blast from the past” which I have been working on for literally years and will hopefully finally finish soon. Happy Spring!

December 1961: Overview

IMG_2973It’s that time of year again and December 1961’s issue has a lovely festive cover photo featuring matching father-son jumpers and a freshly-cut-down Christmas tree with holly branches. The jumpers are meant to be made in flat pieces with only the yoke worked in the round, but everything about them other than that is in the traditional Norwegian style, with a small snowflake pattern on the body and sleeves and a round yoke with tree and star patterns. I like that the jumpers’ pattern theme and colour choice are not so very specifically Christmas-y that they couldn’t be worn at any other time, or by people in our more diverse and modern times who don’t celebrate or don’t care much for Christmas and would just like a nice warm jumper with a wintery flair.

1961 Stitchcraft, of course, celebrates Christmas in a big way. Most of the projects are either glamorous party-wear for the ladies or gifts of all sizes and sorts for family and friends, while the fashionable housewife can do her Christmas shopping in a flecked-tweed cardigan suit similar to the ones in the November 1961 issue, or keep warm on casual days with bulkier sweaters. Tweed and contrasting polo-neck collars are in fashion all around.

For those fancy parties and evenings out, there’s a cocktail jumper in popcorn stitch, an angora stole, and an embroidered and sequinned evening bag. The jumper is knitted with wool and Lurex yarn held together, giving it a bit of sparkle. The stole is absolutely timeless and modern as well as easy to make (a rectangle in simple lace pattern with garter-stitch borders) and probably quite warm and cosy to wear over your strapless evening gown at the theatre. The bag is fancy, yet inexpensive to make, with a very 1960s “modern” look. Even after the party and the night out are over, you can still look glamorous in a knitted pink bedcape.

IMG_2982Children of all ages can look forward to practical, yet stylish winter garments — a knitted outdoor play-suit for toddlers in warm, bulky Big Ben, a smart fine-knit twin-set for girls of varying ages (sizes from 26-30 inch chest) and a wonderful knitted dress in a two-colour slip-stitch pattern that fits right into the tweed trend. The photo caption claims that Alison (the young model) is “warm as toast” but of course, her legs are going to be cold! She still seems pretty happy, though.IMG_2981

For me, the best, and sometimes goofiest, projects of every December Stitchcraft issue are the homewares and “novelty gifts”. This year, some are quite normal, like the snowflake-pattern table mats “for a supper party” pictured above, a cutwork tablecloth, or the tapestry stool cover in a diagonal Florentine pattern. Some are specifically winter- or Christmas-themed, such as the knitted cushion and a framed tapestry picture of angels. Two are very classic and beautiful and have nothing to do with “the season” — a typical Jacobean chairback and a very pretty tray cloth embroidered with anemones. They are all quite nice, if not particularly special.

And then there are the novelty gift ideas, or, as they are titled here, “gay mascots.”

The knitted teddy bear is nice enough, but looks quite stern with its unsmiling mouth and sharp, downward-pointing eyebrows. The snowman egg cosy… well, if you really feel the need to use an egg cosy, fine, it looks cheerful enough. Ivy-leaf pincushion, OK. The bear cub, though, looks like it’s about to attack! Something about its half-smile and the glint in its eye makes it look malicious. And the Father Christmas egg cosy… it’s hard for me to express exactly what’s wrong with it, but if I woke up on Christmas morning and found him on my breakfast place, I would expect to be getting coal in my stocking. Give me a gay mascot any day, but maybe not exactly these ones?!?

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I guess it shows just how difficult it is to embroider faces.

Our “Readers’ Pages” have the usual ads for fabric remnants and sewing machines as well as an extra pattern for a little knitted and embroidered scarf, some traditional Swedish pattern motifs and review of the exhibition of Swedish embroidery recently held at the Embroiderers’ Guild, and a comic in which Little Bobby gets a skiing lesson from a friendly snowman.

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it and happy winter days to all! My December project will be to finish some of the many WIPs lying around (including the November blazer, I swear it is almost done) and use the evening-bag embroidery motifs on something fun and small like dinner napkins or a vegetable bag.

 

 

March 1961: Overview

IMG_2399Are you ready to “Rendez-vous with Spring”? I sure am! This month’s issue has a lovely extra “centerfold” spread in colour, showing off Spring 1961’s latest fashions.

That said, no especially new looks, wools or techniques are introduced. The partner look is still going strong, as you can see from the his-n-hers Aran sweaters on the cover. They both have boatnecks, popular for a little while in the late 1950s and showing up again here. They are not shaped at the front neck at all, so I imagine them to be uncomfortable and awkward to wear.

Nubbly Rimple and thick, bulky Big Ben wools continue to be popular, featuring in almost all of this month’s adult garments. Big collars are still in, but one jumper utilises a contrast collar design in a different wool, with an interesting shape and ribbed texture. For larger sizes, there’s a cardigan skirt suit in purple plaid — bold colours and jewel tones are in fashion for all sizes and make a great centerfold picture all lined up together.

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In the homewares department, we’ve got another beautiful “peasant” design (they really love that word) for a cushion, a decorative wall tapestry with pictures of chipmunks, some flower embroideries for cushions or a tray cloth, this month’s Zodiac symbol to embroider on whatever you want (Pisces), and a really difficult-looking crocheted cushion cover.

The highlight of the homewares patterns has got to be this incredible “Willow pattern” latch-hook rug. I had heard of “willow-ware” porcelain (remember that scene from one of the Anne of Green Gables books, where Anne or Davy or someone accidentally breaks Aunt Josephine’s blue and white willow-ware platter, then Anne sees a similar one in someone’s house, climbs up on the roof of the barn or something to look at it through the window, then falls through the roof and gets stuck, having to wait in a rainstorm until the owner gets home and then explain the situation?) and I have seen this type of pattern on porcelain china, but never knew that the one was referring to the other.

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Stitchcraft‘s description of the rug refers to “the 3 figures in the Willow Pattern story.” I had also never heard of any Willow Pattern story, but my good friend Wikipedia told me all about the history of the Willow pattern and the associated legend (spoiler: the “legend”, like the pattern, was a 100% British invention made up to sell more porcelain goods, not any kind of authentic Chinese folk tale). Both the pattern and the associated story served as inspiration for further literary, media and commercial works. You can read all about it here.

Finally, it would not be Stitchcraft without a page of little items “for sale-of-work” at church bazaars etc., or to surprise your family on Easter morning. The continuation of Belinda the doll’s knitted outfit is quite cute, but what on earth were they thinking with these egg cosies?!? They look positively psychotic. If I were a child and my mother served my Easter morning Easter egg in one of those things, I would be surprised all right… and probably wouldn’t sleep for a week.

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Speaking of children, here are some who weren’t scared off by their egg cosies and were rewarded with bright, sunny “play sweaters from Vienna” in spring colours of lemon yellow and white. The caption on the page opposite is “Gay as a See-Saw!” I’m sure there are a lot of jokes one could make about gay and see-saws, but I won’t. The kid’s comic in the back pages has the usual continuing story — Wendy and her dog Wag are having some fun adventures in Wallpaper Land.

IMG_2423The ads are for the usual knitting machines and sewing fabrics… except for this one, for “Cooper’s moth proofer” spray, presumably made of DDT  or some other extremely toxic insecticide that kills “ants, beetles… these and other crawling insects die on contact — even months after spraying.” Just the thing to use in your enclosed, airless closet space!

With that, I wish you all a lovely, non-toxic, gay as a see-saw rendez-vous with spring. My March project will be some version of the flower embroidery.

 

December 1960: Overview

IMG_2214This year (1960 or 2018, take your pick) draws to a close with Stitchcraft’s “Christmas Issue”, which, as you may expect, is full of holiday-themed novelties to decorate and give.

That said, the hoodies on the cover are surprisingly modern and not “Christmas sweaters” in the sense we usually think of them at all. If I just saw a photo of them without the festive vintage backdrop, or the “DEC 1960” in the cover corner, I would be hard-pressed to say from what decade they came from. You could sell them in a regular modern store today and nobody would think they were a vintage design! I love the little tuft on the kid’s hood, too. They are made in nubbly Rimple yarn, still a hit and always featured somewhere in each issue.

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There are “gay ideas” for festive party table decorations of all types: a floral tablecloth for  a tea party, a merry-go-round tea cosy for the “Nursery Party” and table sets with playing cards as napkin holders for the grown-ups. “The last minute novelties” take on a fairy-tale theme, with a Red Riding Hood doll, a Noah’s Ark nightcase, a friendly draught-stopping snake and — for your holiday Dickens bedtime reading — a tea cosy that looks like a plum pudding, complete with attached crocheted plate! More pious readers can make an appliqué wall hanging of the Three Wise Men and heathens can make an embroidered wastebasket cosy with a Sagittarius theme (this month’s astrological sign).

Of course, one never has enough time in the holiday season to make everything perfectly,  so if you are “really stumped for time” you can make the wall hanging “in bright, shiny papers” (instead of felt), “cutting out the shapes and sticking them down, then adding cut-out strips, etc., for the finishing touches.”

For those who have the time, or don’t go all-out for holiday decorations, there are the usual assortment of knitting projects, starting with a lovely warm dress-booties-mittens set for a baby. I do admire her elegant mitts, but I’m guessing that in real life, they don’t stay on a baby any longer than it takes to take a photo. Older kids can get a striped jumper in a fantastic, very modern colour combination.

Teenagers haven’t been forgotten either, and can enjoy these Italian-inspired colour designs with added embroidery on the young woman’s jumper. I really like both of these designs! The young man’s jumper is fun without being too flashy, and with a little tweaking, would work well on a woman’s figure, with the dark colour band starting just under the bust line. There’s even a little extra “how-to” lesson on embroidering knits, which is still perennially in fashion at this time.

IMG_2219Adult women, having hopefully embraced the “new length” (long) and “new sleeve style” (3/4 or 7/8) from last issue, can get ready for Paris’ “new necklines” — a high turn-down-and-rib combination or a buttoned-up turtle (polo) neck. No turn-down collars this time — are they on the way out? There’s a new yarn to go with them, Cameo Crepe, which is smooth and less “hairy” than other wools, for good stitch definition.

All this new fashion detailing can be admired in the two-colour twin set from the inside back cover, and to go under it all, why not knit yourself a lovely warm woollen vest (camisole)? I don’t mean that sarcastically — they are really the best! I made a woollen lace under-dress (slip) last year and it is heaven in a cold, damp climate.

It’s hard to decide what to make from this issue. Lots of the items are cute and fun, but nothing jumps out at me that I absolutely have to make. The plum pudding cosy is so silly that it’s cool, but I don’t use tea cosies and it would be a lot of work for a gag. The snake is cute and useful, but I don’t have odds and ends of double knitting at the moment and I do  in fact already have a stuffed snake who occasionally gets put to work plugging a “leaky” window. I also have plenty of jumpers and even wollen underclothes (s. above), so don’t need more. I do have a hundred grams of very nice, hand-dyed green fingering wool in search of a project, so maybe I’ll make the baby dress.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays to all my readers! May everything you celebrate be jolly and festive.