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: 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.

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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.

 

April 1960: Gay Goslings

Version 2“Cheerful goslings make gay kitchen ideas” — who could resist? There are patterns for a serving glove and a felt tea cosy, neither of which I particularly needed, but the tea-cosy pattern is just about the right size for an iPad case. So this became the modern version.

As always, the pattern came from a transfer that is no longer commercially available, but since the appliqué was so simple, it wasn’t a problem. I used the good old pencil-grid-transfer method that had already worked so well with January’s leaf cushion, and it worked fine.

 

 

I had never done appliqué before, but it was really quite easy, especially with felt, so this was a great beginner project. The eyes, wings and feet are embroidered in simple satin stitch and blanket stitch. There were supposed to be yellow stem-stitch outlines around the eyes, but I tried it and it made my poor innocent gosling look kind of demonic, so I stuck with plain black dots. I made it up with a scrap of fun blue cotton print for lining (Geese… In… Space…!) and a simple closure made out of a bit of twisted yarn cord and a sparkly white button.

 

 

Everything worked great and the whole thing took only about 5 hours total to make, including sewing all the seams by hand, as I didn’t have my sewing machine on hand at the time.  Definitely a change from the never-ending John’s new pullover! Now I have the gayest, warmest, best-dressed, space-age spring fever iPad that anyone could wish for and am very happy.

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April 1960: Overview

coverapr60“Already there is talk of holidays” says the introduction to the April 1960 issue, “and whether it’s to be the sea, country, sight-seeing or sailing, you can’t go without your holiday hand-knits.” At the same time, spring and April mean Easter, with lots of opportunities for hand-made accessories and knickknacks.

For knitters, there is a larger variety of wool weights and styles than in the last couple of issues. Houndstooth and checked patterns are still going strong — look at that great jacket on the front cover! — but lace and Rimple designs are offered too, and garments for babies, toddlers, and adult men and women.

For the patient, there is a cute 3-ply top and a shirt in cotton crochet yarn at 12 stitches to the inch. (This is the only type of cotton yarn I’ve ever seen featured in Stitchcraft, but usually it’s used for making doilies or other fine crochet items.)

For those who prefer to actually get their garment finished before the summer holidays start, there are “partner look” sailing sweaters, the houndstooth jacket on the cover, and pullovers in Rimple and Big Ben yarns. Rimple will continue to not be my taste in terms of texture, but isn’t the model cute?

Easter embroidery is big, and around this time, Stitchcraft started to include designs for church accessories — hassocks and kneelers in tapestry or cross-stitch. For those for whom Easter is less of a religious experience, there are some great “Easter novelties” (cosies for teapots and toilets) and who could resist those gay kitchen ideas? Standard needlework ideas for the home include a fitted chairback and a lovely Persian-inspired cushion.

One thing that is really different in this issue is a sewing pattern, common in 1940s and 50s Stitchcraft but rare in the 1960s. It’s a very simple nightdress (for Easter and/or your holidays, of course) that is recommended to be made in “one of the easily laundered non-iron materials”, i.e. nylon or early synthetics.

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April’s celebrity “plug” is given to us by Jill Browne, the actress who played Nurse Carole Young on the soap opera Emergency – Ward 10, which aired on ITV from 1957 to 1967.  I have to admit I have never seen it, but it seems to have been quite progressive for its time, with Joan Hooley playing a female surgeon in an interracial relationship that was sealed with a kiss onscreen.

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On the back pages, it is the end of adventures for Good Teddy Bear and Naughty Teddy Bear, but they got two gay jerseys knitted for them in the end, so I think everyone was happy. Plus you can make your very own teddy bear to commemorate the series! The ads are for the usual things, except for this gem of a potty-training stool called “Bambino”, appearing for the first time.

My projects from this issue will be the 3-ply top and the appliqué goslings on a tea cosy. Happy Spring, everyone!