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.

 

July 1960: Charming blouse

IMG_1894This “charming and unusual design for larger sizes” (37-38 or 39-41 inch bust) features narrow dolman sleeves, crochet insertions, and horizontal bust darts.

I was intrigued by its construction, having made tops with bust darts from modern patterns or while working without a pattern, but never having seen vintage patterns with them. Oddly, instead of making short rows, you are supposed to cast off stitches, cast them back on again, and then sew up a seam! I guess that makes it look more like sewn fabric? Or the “editress” thought short rows would be too difficult? I can’t imagine that, though, since patterns from this time regularly call for short-rows to shape the back side of baby rompers and leggings. In any case, I made the bust darts with short rows to avoid having to make a seam. I also made the back and fronts up to the armhole shapings in one piece, again, to avoid seaming more than necessary.

IMG_1936I was interested to see how it worked out with the dolman sleeves. When I think of “dolman sleeves”, I think of those 1950s, or worse, 1980s garments with a huge triangle of fabric under the arm, which must have been very uncomfortable and inconvenient to wear. But after my April 1960 blouse with the horizontal cap sleeves worked out so well, I was willing to give this one a try. And it turned out great! There is no more extra fabric under the arms than there would be with set-in sleeves, and the horizontal construction gives plenty of room in the upper chest/back area, where I am quite wide. I guess the secret lies with the number of stitches cast on for the sleeves per row — this one had 2×8 rows and then 10×16 rows, making the sleeves narrow and more horizontal, thus less triangle-like.

IMG_2075The knitting was slow-going at 7 stitches to the inch, but of course once the body was done, so were the sleeves. Seaming was a nightmare, as the yarn (Herriot Fine from Juniper Moon Farm) curls more severely than stockinette stitch in other yarns and I had to block it well to even find the edge to sew. I was willing to put up with that, though, because the yarn is absolutely fantastic. It is warm, soft, weighs practically nothing (300 grams made the blouse with about 20 grams to spare) and it is the only alpaca I have ever worked with that I can wear directly next to my skin. It is the perfect, ideal wool for this type of knitted blouse.

(On that note, why on earth did knitted blouses go out of style? They are wonderful! The perfect garment for autumn days in a damp, chilly climate. Note to self: make more.)

IMG_2086What took longer than expected was the whole crocheted edging-collar-button-band extravaganza. The crochet bands are extremely fiddly — they are crocheted onto each other as you go, it’s difficult to make them all exactly the same size, and each one needs its own, new piece of yarn. There are a total of 50 elements, so that’s 100 yarn ends to weave in right there. Then there’s the “inner” collar, the “outer” collar and the button bands, all of which are made separately and sewn on, and somehow need to end up symmetrical and fit properly on both sides. Of course, I sewed the collar on backwards the first time, forgot to switch the right and wrong sides at the collar fold, etc, etc. It all worked out in the end, though.

My only modification (besides the short-row darts) was to make the sleeve ribbing 3 inches long, like the waist ribbing, instead of 1 1/2. The sleeves are still not full-length, nor are they supposed to be. I don’t like the idea of 3/4 or 7/8 sleeves, but it worked out better in practice than in theory.

To sum it up: Pattern was wonderful, yarn was wonderful, knitted blouses are the coolest thing ever and I am 100% satisfied with this project.

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July 1960: Overview

IMG_1879“Free and easy” is this month’s motto. Summer is here and nobody really feels like handling warm wool, so the emphasis is on “travel knits” (lightweight), “casual knits” (not too complicated) and “stroller styles” (loose and oversized). There is more embroidery and needlework than knitwear, and some easy sewing projects. Shall we relax and take a look?

The combination of dark and light green continues to be in fashion: we saw it in the great houndstooth jumper from January 1960 and it’s here again in this “casual car coat” and and the loose-fitting men’s checked shirt style on the inside back cover — “suitable for golf or to wear with beach shorts.”

IMG_1898I have to take a moment here to quote one of my favourite Roald Dahl stories, “The Boy Who Talked With Animals.” It’s about a little boy who saves a giant tortoise from the soup kettle, and Dahl’s description of the tourists waiting on the beach for the caught tortoise to be hauled in has, for some reason, stayed with me through the years:

The men were wearing those frightful Bermuda shorts that came down to the knees, and their shirts were bilious with pinks and oranges and every other clashing color you could think of. The women had better taste, and were dressed for the most part in pretty cotton dresses. Nearly everyone carried a drink in one hand.

I would hope Stitchcraft readers and their men would have had better taste, but I’m not always sure.

The other “free and easy” knits are mostly nice without being really special: a pretty cardigan with knitted-in pearls, nubbly Rimple, a short-sleeved blouse and some cute tops for teenage girls.

 

The “plus-size” (37-40 inch bust) cardigan blouse is really elegant, though, and has a feature that I have honestly never seen in any other mid-century patterns: short-row horizontal bust darts. But unlike modern methods of short-rowing where the turning stitches are wrapped or otherwise bound up with the stitch next to it, you just cast off the stitches and cast them on again, sewing the dart up afterwards as you would a sewn blouse.  IMG_1895

For the little ones, there’s a sun-suit, a fluffy top, and a waistcoat to sew and embroider. The waistcoat is a tie-in with the current comic, “The Magic Needle”, in which our tailor hero’s magic needle has just made a lovely embroidered waistcoat for Mouser the cat. In addition to the waistcoat, you can sew a stuffed toy Mouser, and while you’re at the sewing machine you can make this adorable gingham skirt to wear “over a frothy petticoat” and an amusing apron “for the needlework stall” (Stitchcraft often gives ideas for inexpensive projects that can be sold at church bazaars or other “sale of work” opportunities.)

 

IMG_1881You can also embroider a tablecloth, make tea-towels in huckaback, or attempt this fabulous tea cosy and/or evening bag in faux eighteenth-century tapestry. I so, so want to make this evening bag! I would love it and use it all the time. But I am too overwhelmed by the idea of trying to make a chart based solely on the photos — the design is fairly intricate — and having never before attempted tapestry work, I fear it would just be too much for a rank beginner. I will definitely file it away for future days when I know how to approach it better.

That’s it for free-and-easy July 1960! I’ll leave you with a parade of well-dressed cats, courtesy of Mr. Tuckett’s magic needle. My project from this month’s issue will be the lovely bust-darted cardigan blouse, and I’ll try to finish up the projects from April (!) and June.