Out of Order: Beach dress, June 1961

IMG_2566June 1961 was the issue with too many great projects in it and not enough time to make them all. My “official” project was this wonderful knitted blouse  which took up the whole month, but there was also a very intricate appliquéd and embroidered cushion that will probably become a long-term learning experience project, as well as a great beach dress for a small child. Summer is waning, but I got the beach dress done.

There’s so much I love about this design: the sea horses, the buttoned straps in the back, not to mention the ridiculous poses and strange inflated? stuffed? animals that the kids in the photos are riding. Also: illustrations in the magazine, done by hand, with bubbles.IMG_2566 2

The pattern is for a 23-24 inch chest, with an 8 1/2 inch long skirt. The child I knit it for is a little thinner, but taller, so I made the width from the pattern and added 1 1/2 inches to the skirt length and made longer straps with multiple buttonholes for different length options/growing room.

Version 2I decided to make it in cotton instead of Nylox (Patons wool-nylon mix from the 1960s) or a modern equivalent. It is always, always a problem to find non-mercerised cotton that is fine enough to give 7 stitches to the inch. Thick, mercerised dishcloth cotton is always available, mercerised crochet cotton is always available, but what passes as 4-ply or  fingering weight non-mercerised cotton is just too thick. I decided on Natura “Just Cotton” which is non-mercerised, soft, pretty and supposedly free of harmful substances (Oeko-Tex certification). The label says it gets 27 stitches in 4 inches but that is illusory. The yarn is 8-ply! I don’t know why they don’t use 4 strands, thus making it a true 4-ply fine cotton for soft, light garments. I got 6 1/2 stitches to the inch with some effort, but the resulting fabric is a bit stiffer than I would have liked.

On the first try, the first ball of turquoise ran out shortly after the bottom sea-horse band and I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough, so I started over and made the skirt less full. Of course, the skirt lost a lot of its swing and I ended up with a ball and a half left over at the end… I used some of the rest to make a little kerchief that the kid can wear on her head for extra sun protection and cuteness. Let’s just hope it stays warm enough for her to still wear it this year.

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.