November 1962: Overview

For 1960s Stitchcraft readers, November means holiday planning, so this month’s issue is full of quick homewares for decorating and small, easy projects for gift-giving. The garments are warm and bulky, featuring Patons’ new “Ariel” wool. Warm autumn tones of brown and orange as well as bright, cheerful holiday reds and blues are the colours of the season. Christmas Plans and Winter Fashions ahoy!

Our cover garment is a bulky, yet elegant coat in Big Ben wool, weighing in at a hefty 52-56 ounces (up to 3 1/2 pounds, or about 1500 grams). The mock cable/twisted rib pattern certainly won’t curl at the bottom edge, which is why I guess it’s designed without a hem or ribbing, but at that weight and in that pattern, I suspect the coat would grow ever longer and ever narrower (just in time for holiday weight gain). Still, it looks lovely! I especially like the buttoned collar. Also, I just might try to re-create the model’s hairdo with my long lockdown hair.

The outdoor photography was taken near historical buildings in York, whose grey-beige stone walls give a nice background to the bright red and blue sweaters made with “Ariel” a bulky, yet “feather-light” (well… 20-24 ounces for a sweater, so lighter than Big Ben, at least) wool-synthetic mix. I really like the red chevron sweater and it doesn’t look bulky at all to me, just fluffy and cosy. Father and daughter also get warm, cheerful garments, and look at this amazing mini-dress for a young miss! That is going on my list of patterns to adapt for myself.

Older teens and young lovers can make “the ‘sweater-match’ theme with girl-friend and boy-friend” – classic pullovers with cable ribs in double-knitting weight and identical except for slightly different shoulder width and back length proportions. That’s all for the knitted garments in this issue, since the real focus is on Christmas preparations with little gifts and housewares.

For children’s gifts, there’s a doll, clothes for another doll (pattern in last month’s issue), and a night case in the form of a puppy. This last was especially popular around the late 1950s and early 1960s – I have a different magazine with a poodle nightcase on the cover, and Stitchcraft also had some kind of poodle nightcase in the later 1950s. Poodle or puppy or not, I don’t know why a person would want to put their nightgown in a special case in or on the bed. If you don’t want other people who might be using the room to see your nightdress lying around, you could just… put it under the pillow?

There’s an intriguing “Byzantine” cushion, a firescreen with this month’s embroidered flower (chrysanthemum) and some little gifts sewn in felt, but the more interesting projects are displayed nicely in the large colour photo in the middle of the issue. We’ve got an embroidered farm scene for the nursery wall, a “hostess set” of apron and coasters featuring international drinking mottos, the usual cross-stitch cushion, and a tray cloth/tea cosy design that I would love to adapt to an iPad/tablet cover. Crocheters can use up all their scraps with medallions or a … cute? eerie? not sure what to say about it? pixie doll and patchwork fans, generally ignored by Stitchcraft, finally have a little bag as a starter project.

There are even rugs in Scandinavian designs (is that basket pattern from Denmark or from Sweden?), one stitched, the other done with a latch-hook.

What an issue! There are so many projects I would like to make from it: the girl’s dress in my size, an embroidered tea-cosy for the digitalised world, the little girl’s bulky red sweater, even the green latch-hook rug. Sadly, pandemic and lockdown have thrown a monkey wrench into my current knitting plans, it’s hard to get supplies, and I’m trying to finish or even start multiple other large projects that were planned or promised or have been lying in the WIP pile for ever. One of those WIPs was a (non-vintage) garment that I will have to frog anyway (ran out of wool and can’t make it work), so the plan is to frog that project and use the wool to make “Father’s cardigan” from this issue. Said project and I are geographically separated at the moment, though, so long story short: I do not know when I will be able to post a November project. Take heart, though: there will be some more Stitchcraft cooking fun in December as well as a special surprise next week.

June 1962: Overview

Holiday season is in full swing in this month’s issue, with featured photos taken in pretty villages in and around Buckinghamshire and Kent. All the projects are easy and fairly quick to make, and even the fit is relaxed: the close-fitting, waist-length jumpers that were still more or less in fashion in 1960 and 1961 have now completely given way to loose-fitting, hip-length sweaters and blouses. I could use some relaxation, couldn’t you? Let’s dive in… gently.

The cover sweaters check all the 1962 trend boxes: loose, easy pullovers for “him and her” in sunny lemon yellow with interesting stitch textures and contrasting collar-and-cuff accents. Soft yellows, pastel shades and white show up again in the more glamorous “holiday sweaters” made with Patons’ Fuzzy-Wuzzy yarn (55% angora, 45% wool), as well as the women’s 4-ply “golfer style” cardigan (in “gay turquoise” and white 4-ply) and men’s “shirt-style” pullover in presumably light beige “Palomino” colour with contrasting collar.

The other garments are all photographed in black and white, but the yellow/pastel/white and contrasting accent trends are clear from the colour names of the yarns: the pretty “Junior Miss” cardigan is knitted in 4-ply Nylox “Sunglint” (the same colour as the cover sweaters), the “afternoon style” blouse is “Bois de Rose” pink and the bulky, textured Big Ben sweater is “Spring Green” with a white collar.

The smaller children of the family need something fun and easy for holidays too, of course, so here are some “seashore sets for toddlers in the swim.” They’re made in Nylox (80% wool, 20% nylon) and I don’t think they would be suitable for actual swimming, but definitely cute for playing around on the beach and splashing around.

With all these lovely things to knit, it’s not surprising that the homewares section is a little boring. Fittingly enough for June, this month’s flower is the rose, featured in a pattern for a “finger panel” to attach to a door. Readers, you have been so helpful in the past with solving mysteries for me, so i ask you: Why a finger panel? It seems to be used to keep the door clean from grubby handprints, which I can certainly understand in a family home, but I don’t see why it would be easier, or preferable, to wipe those grubby prints from an embroidery panel mounted under acrylic glass than to just wipe them off of the door. What do you think? Am I missing something here?

Otherwise, we’ve got some Scandinavian tapestry cushions, a “modern” (geometric and also Scandinavian design-inspired) hall runner rug, a more complex cross-stitch tablecloth (white and green on yellow linen, to match your yellow sweaters), some unspectacular oven mitts and some genuinely cute table mats in appliquéd and embroidered felt.

I feel more relaxed already, don’t you? There’s nothing from this issue that particularly inspires me and I have many WIPs to finish up, so my June project will be a “Blast from the Past” featuring a wonderful twin-set from a 1947 issue of Stitchcraft.

October 1961: Overview

IMG_2820October 1961 gives us “Colour for autumn” with “special fashion features” and a great center spread with colour photos. “I always think October is a nice friendly month,” writes “editress” Patience Horne on the facing page, and I have to agree.

Bulky Big Ben wool and different kinds of textured ribIMG_2821 stitches play a prominent role in this month’s issue, starting with the partner-look pullover and cardigan on the front cover. Both are made in the same drop-stitch rib pattern — basically 2×2 ribbing, but you drop a stitch down 3 rows every 4th row and pick it up again in the next row to make a long vertical rib. Children get twisted-rib raglan pullovers to keep their upper bodies nice and warm while their legs freeze in tiny shorts and mini-skirts, typical for the era.

Nubbly Rimple wool may be easing out of fashion, as there’s only one pattern for it in this issue: a simple, yet elegant dress with “the new horseshoe neckline.” Other women’s garments include a cabled cardigan with colour accents and matching cap, a long-line pullover with a wide collar (still in fashion) and saddle-stitching detail, and a cardigan jacket in a wonderfully ornate Florentine stitch that involves a lot of slipping, dropping and pulling stitches up and around in two colours. The finished effect is a lot like a trellis, accentuated here by posing the model in a green skirt and holding on to a plant. Autumn colours of gold, orange, and beige prevail.

There are some additions to the “Stitchcraft Layette” for the smallest member of the family, but we’ve moved on from the bramble-stitch pattern in the last few issues to a mix of cables and flower motifs. Both cardigan and blanket are  pretty and useful, but I don’t like the huge dolman sleeves on the cardigan —  I can see a baby getting their arm stuck inside it. The bottle cover with a fuzzy knitted kitten on it is great, though! If it were made somewhat smaller or larger, I could imagine it as a phone or tablet cover.

In the homewares and accessories department, we’ve got the usual teapot cosies (how many can one household have??), a knitted donkey named “Ned”, and a pair of “mitts for a scooter fan” — with separate thumb and first finger. There are tapestry patterns for a piano stool and a chair seat, and did you honestly think we were finished with the Zodiac theme, just because all the months had had their patterns already? Of course not! Now you can order the complete chart and embroider them all one more time on a tablecloth.

The back cover illustration shows two hand-made rugs using different techniques: flat crossed stitches for a woven effect, or stitching combined with pile knotting (latch hook), which was apparently the latest thing in Sweden at the time.

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The highlight of the home art section, for me, is this sequinned, glittered appliqué wall hanging of some of Great Britain’s famous kings and queens. I don’t think I would hang it in my own home, but what a wild idea and the appliqué and embroidery work is certainly stunning. Look the detail on Queen Elizabeth (I)’s face! And they definitely found a wall with the perfect wallpaper to hang the sample piece on.

The “Readers Pages” have the usual ads, kiddy comic (Sally in Sampler Land), a preview of the next issue, and some easy counted-stitch ideas for borders on towels, pillowcases, etc. I love this ad for the latest Coats crochet booklet — it has flower-arranging lessons in addition to the crochet patterns.

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That’s all for now! My October project will be the baby cardigan (with modified sleeves) and maybe some kind of phone-cover version of the kitten bottle cover.

 

September 1961: Circular Rug to Crochet

IMG_2785September’s project (finished only one day late) was this extremely 1960s crocheted green rug with black, white and orange embroidered spots (they “add a modern touch”) and fringe. Loved it!

Before I could start, I had to figure out what kind of wool to use. Rug wool, such as the Patons Turkey Rug Wool in the pattern, was available in the 1960s in large skeins by weight and rugs could be made using tapestry stitches on canvas, crocheting, tufting or using the latch-hook method. Latch-hook rug makers had to cut the wool themselves and there were ingenious little tools to help them do that, like this Patwin rug-wool cutter or this “strip slitter” from Bliss. Later in the decade, “cut packs” were introduced for latch-hook use and it is now very difficult to find rug wool in skeins.

IMG_2763Felting wool, like rug wool, is bulky, mostly unprocessed, coarse and strong, so that was my first thought… but would it felt with use or washing? I decided to take the chance, since it’s easy to find, inexpensive and there happened to be some in the perfect colour at my local yarn shop. It’s the exact same shade of green as the embroidered cushion from 1960 that I made last year! It even possibly matches the original colour from the pattern, “Green Haze”.

I had to order more wool than they had in the store. To figure out how much wool I needed, I asked a better mathematician than me if he could work it out using the diameter of the swatch, finished diameter of the rug (29 inches without fringe) and the amount of wool per skein. Then I calculated it myself based on the number of stitches in one skein’s worth of wool and the total number of stitches in the rug. We were both a bit off — he thought I would need 11 skeins (65 grams) and I thought I would need 9, when in fact I only needed 8. Then again, the 8 skeins made a slightly smaller rug when done by the pattern, so I kept on for a few more rounds and used one more skein to get the proper size.

IMG_2802The crochet part was easy — just rounds of double crochet with regular increases — and went very quickly. You can see that the wool I ordered was from a different dye lot than the first skeins from the store, but I don’t mind. The embroidery was a bit tedious and the fringe posed a new problem: this type of old-fashioned cotton sew-on fringe is very much not in fashion and hard to find in stores these days. I hate buying things on the Internet, so I asked my friendly wool-shop owner from the store where I bought the wool  what she thought, or if it could be ordered through the store. She suggested hand-knotting the fringe with cotton yarn in a similar colour to the rug. (the fringe in the original seems to be white or a lighter colour). I was eager to get the thing done and not wait for more elements to arrive, so I did it. I like the result! It’s stringier than the original, of course, but it makes the rug look like a sort of friendly amoeba. I like that.

IMG_2810Wash-blocking it gently in cold water worked well and did not felt the wool. Also, it is going to live under my coffee table where it won’t get much foot traffic, so I’m not worried.

A good friend saw it and said, “Wow, it’s so ugly, I love it!” Which stung a bit, but I know what they meant. It’s really 1960s! But it also really goes well with my retro/vintage living room decor and I don’t think it’s ugly at all, just goofy. I’m very happy with the way it turned out.

 

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April 1961: Overview

IMG_2438April showers bring May flowers, or so they say. I’ll just say that, after the last couple of weeks of March, that umbrella on the cover of this month’s issue looks really familiar. As does the model on the right — she was featured (with a more flattering haircut)  in many issues throughout the 1950s.

April’s theme is “Holidays Ahead” and if you are planningIMG_2440 to spend your holiday in April or May on the British isles or the North Sea coast, you will definitely want to wear one of the warm, bulky wool garments from this issue. “Jenny”‘s thick, double-knit Norwegian-style jumper and hat, described as “dazzling designs to cut a dash on the beach this summer”, tells you everything you need to know about that.

The adult garments continue the warm, bulky and casual trend with a men’s “crochet-knit shirt” and “country-style cardigan” in double knitting weight. Knitting pattern stitches that look like crochet crop up every once in a while and it’s certainly an intriguing idea. That said, I don’t think this jumper particularly looks like crochet — it’s yo, k2tog on every right-side row and purl on the wrong side in staggered rows, which is just a simple lace pattern. I’m guessing they thought the word “lace” was not manly enough… The cardigan is made in three-colour slip stitch and is probably very warm and “squishy”. I like the neat, almost hidden pockets and the narrow edging band.

The women’s garments offer two more elegant, but still casual blouses, the two jumpers with fun collar details featured on the front cover and a relaxed “holiday cardigan” in double knitting. Patons “Totem” crepe wool appears in 4-ply (the blouses) or in double knitting weight (the cardigan). “Crepe” in this case meant that the wool was spun very smooth and tightly plied to minimise “fuzziness” and give raised stitch patterns a crisp, precise look. The jumpers from the cover are designed for ever-popular Rimple wool, a crinkly wool-synthetic blend intended to look like towelling fabric. Fans of truly bulky knitting can make this his-n-hers set (well, not really a “set” as they are two completely different designs, but featured together in the photo spread). Her sweater is made in fisherman’s rib stitch and if it looks that bulky on the petite, fine-boned model, I can only imagine it would make anyone else look elephantine — but good for sailing and/or April beachwear, I guess.

Housewares include the continuation of the “Zodiac” theme with an Aries motif, a traycloth in cross-stitch, a cross-stitch and pile rug, “amusing” aprons for the whole family (the father looks utterly un-amused at having to participate in the washing-up), a village townscape needle etching, a cross-stitch cushion… i.e. the usual fare. You can also make a toy “Wag” puppy for fans of the children’s comic from the last few issues, “Wendy and Wag in Wallpaper Land.” I don’t mind telling you that it had a happy ending for everyone. And with that, happy April and see you next time!

P.S. There wasn’t any project in this issue that really called to me, so I’m going to finish up a project of my own design that was inspired by this Stitchcraft children’s jacket from March 1960 that I made last year and write about that. Stay tuned…

 

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.

 

September 1960: Overview

IMG_2045September 1960 is supposedly a “Special Number” of autumn knitting fashions. I’m not sure what exactly makes it so special, since it doesn’t seem to have any more, or particularly different, projects than the average issue. I guess it’s special in that September is finally a bit cooler weather-wise, so you can start to make some nice wool garments for the colder months — very appropriate in 2018, where we had the summer to end all summers. Things have cooled down a bit now, so I’m looking forward to wearing my (still unfinished) projects from July and August soon.

But back to September 1960. “You must include some heavy-knits for the really cool days out of doors, but for the milder days, a fashion feature to note is the use of finer knitting,” Patience Horne tells us, and this month’s issue gives a good mix of finer and bulkier garments for adults and children. The 4-ply women’s sweaters (why sweaters and not jumpers? I still can’t figure out why they sometimes use one term and sometimes  the other for the exact same type of garment) have those big square collars that we’ve seen on other 1960 designs, with or without buttons. The pink sweater is made in super-fine-ply Lucelle at 10 stitches to the inch! If hand-knitting in fine yarn is too time-consuming for you, you can make a lacy cardigan on your machine.

Moving up the bulkiness scale, we’ve got the lovely skirt suit on the cover, made in Rimple, a sweater in “overblouse style” and a “raglan golf sweater” for men in green plaid. Green checks continue to be in fashion!  The “young sports fans” in the family get comfortable jackets in double knitting weight, “made to match for brother and sister.” Can you spot the difference between the boys’ and girls’ versions? (Do you remember those “can you spot the 10 differences between these pictures” puzzles in the kids’ comics section? Do they still have those?) If you can’t, I won’t tell you, but try buttoning a cardigan made for the “opposite” sex if you need a hint.

Fans of Big Ben bulky knitting can make a Viennese design with added-on embroidery in duplicate stitch, or a trio of crochet items in “crunchy Pineapple-stitch”. I love the pram cover, bound with blanket edging, but I wish I could see the bonnet from the front.

Homewares are well represented by a stool cover in Florentine tapestry, a great embroidered cushion in blackwork design, traditional and “modern” pile rugs and some interesting tablewares — tapestry table mats with pictures of “3 famous castles” and crocheted raffia drink mats for your cocktail party. Cheers, everyone! My September project will be the blackwork cushion, and I hope to finish up the knitted blouse from July and the cardigan from the August twin-set.

 

 

May 1960: Overview

Apr1960coverIs it already May? Nothing makes time fly like writing monthly blog posts! May 1960 is a “Roundabout of Holiday Knitting” (complete with a little circus-fair logo that fills up any little dead space in the page formatting, how cute) where in “today’s story”, “no one thinks of going away without 2 or 3 brand-new woollies packed away in their luggage.”  So let’s get started…

Check patterns are still in, this time in a “gingham” (two-colour slip stitch) pattern for the woman’s jumper on the cover and a “firm stitch to weather the water” (also two-colour slip stitch) for a toddler boy’s swim trunks. totsbeachI am quite sure no small child wants to swim in hand-knitted wool trunks with a belt these days, but I imagine the sun-suit on the opposite page would be fun and practical for beach wear if made in cotton. The baby and older girls of the family get pretty cardigans or a tunic “to wear with her jeans.” I’m glad to see activewear for girls, since generally one is assumed to make pretty, decorative stuff for girls and strong, “manly” stuff for boys — sexism that is not surprising in 1960, but which always depresses me to see in today’s knitwear patterns for children.

For adults, there is a “Trio of Summer Fashions” (“Two to look pretty and one for sports”) and a great cable pullover in bright yellow.  The “sports” pullover is machine-knitted.

There’s still plenty of stuff to make for the home, too (just in case your holidays are too relaxing). Table mats to match your willow-ware platter are actually really cute, and look at that beautiful appliqué tea cosy! Cross-stitch is popular as always for chair-backs and tea-tray ideas, or you can crochet yourself a bedside mat. But what on earth is this “contemporary screen” that uses your scraps?

In the comics pages, we are introduced to Mr. Tuckett, a tailor who receives a magic needle from his friend the wizard. What will the magic needle do? Stay tuned…

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My projects for this month will be the baby’s jacket and a modified version of the tea cosy.

Enjoy your holiday roundabouts!

 

March 1960: Overview

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March 1960 promises “Spring Magic” and a special pull-out supplement with designs in “Big Ben”, Patons’ new Aran-weight wool that promises to knit up especially quickly, so you can have your thick, warm woolies finished in time for the summer holidays. (Anyone who lives in Northern Europe or who has taken a holiday on the northern Atlantic or North Sea coast will understand perfectly.) Fine-gauge knitting is right out: the designs not written for Big Ben, like the excellent yellow pullover and sleeveless waistcoat for men, the “Young Style Designs” for teenage girls, or the fabulous checkered coat for a toddler, are all in DK-weight wool. The only exception is “John’s new pullover” in 4-ply.

 

 

The embroidery and homecraft projects focus on springtime and Easter, with a floral tablecloth and a cushion and chairback in traditional Hungarian design. It’s a pity nobody uses chairbacks these days, as they are a nice decoration and certainly prolong the life and cleanliness of a chair or sofa. The stitched rug is a “quick and easy modern design” and there are tapestry and needle-etching pictures of quaint-looking English town streets.

 

In comic land, Good Ted and Naughty Ted (two teddy bears) and their human friends Beth and Bill take a balloon ride to Magic Way, where a fairy turns Beth and Bill into animals in order for them to visit Noah’s Ark. As usual, the ads are for Lux soap, Opti-Lon zippers, Cow & Gate baby formula and various sewing and knitting machines.

 

One older style of ad is the Patons and Baldwin’s testimonial, in which a famous personage shows off their favorite hand-knit garment made from P&B wool. Here we have Russ Conway, the popular music pianist, at the peak of his career and wearing a lumber jacket in “man-weight wool”. Russ Conway was a multi-talented, self-taught piano player and composer who enjoyed enormous success, producing multiple No.1 hits and playing in a distinctive “honky-tonk” style. Though plagued by serious health conditions, he continued to compose, produce, and fund-raise for charity until his death in 2000 at the age of 75. You can read more about his life and career and hear some of his music on his tribute website .

IMG_1560I will be making two children’s designs: the fabulous checkered coat for a toddler, and “John’s new pullover” for a soon-to-be six-year-old.