February 1962: Overview

IMG_3048Put on your best traveling suit, pack your Aeros and have your Kodak Instamatic in hand, because it’s February 1962 and Stitchcraft is going to Paris! This month’s issue  features Paris-inspired designs (whatever that means) and extra pages in colour to show off the latest knitwear against a backdrop of Parisian tourist classics.

Travel from London to Paris in the early 1960s was, of course, not on the speedy Eurostar or even quicker cheap flight of our modern times. Commercial air travel was a luxury for the well-to-do and the only way to cross the Channel by train was on the Night Ferry, which ran from London Victoria to Paris Gare du Nord and back. The overnight journey took 11 hours, of which three were spent on the water;  the entire train was loaded onto a ferry for the Channel crossing. I really recommend clicking on the link, which leads to the Wikipedia article. There’s a lot more information about the Night Ferry there, and even a short list of books and films set on or inspired by it.

So what does Paris fashion 1962 have in store for us? Dresses, strong dark colours and smooth crepe wools are all “in”, with a special trend for fringes and bobbles. The two-piece dress on the cover is made in fine bouclet wool and photographed against one of the little bookselling stands that still line the roads along the Seine today. Fine, red crepe wool is the choice for the similar two-piece outfit with fringey bobbles on the front of the jumper, photographed in Montmartre. Are the bobbles supposed to suggest the legs of the painter’s tripod, or an upside-down Eiffel Tower? The dress on the facing page (Sacre-Coeur in the background) is also made in smooth crepe wool, this time in somewhat thicker Totem Double Knitting.

Fringe makes additional appearances in a lemon-yellow jumper with the newly fashionable high neckline and extra collar (Place de l’Opéra) and in the dark green and black plaid-effect longline jumper on the inside front cover (which appears to have been photographed in a Métro station, though I can’t immediately place which one.) Even without fringe, large collars are still going strong, as seen in the belted Rimple jacket. “Chunky” bulky wool makes an appearance in the beret and oversized handbag set (Capucines). The bag is reinforced with strips of cardboard along the top edges and a woven fabric lining to prevent otherwise inevitable sagging.

With all these lovely large projects and the special Parisian focus, it’s not surprising that the rest of the designs in the issue are unspectacular. There are some easy knitted classics for men and children, the usual “Victorian” and “Jacobean” tapestries for the home, and some fun little crafty projects like these “mats with hats” coasters. In the “Little Bobby” serial comic, John and Jane both have a cold. That’s February for you!

I have so many unfinished projects, including the January 1962 jumper, that my February project will be something small and easy. Maybe not the mats with hats, but probably a little embroidered lilac sprig (flower of the month) on a vegetable or project bag. In the meantime, watch for updates on the January project — it’s knitting along quite quickly — and a special 1950s “blast from the past” post.

January 1962: Overview

IMG_3019Happy New Year, everyone! It’s 2020 in my real world and 1962 in my blog world. Where will Stitchcraft take us?

… Not very far, fashion-wise. The “Swinging Sixties” started later in the decade; 1962 was still definitely part of the “early” 1960s aesthetic, i.e. more of a continuation of 1950s styles. At the same time, new trends are pushing fashion in new directions, and Stitchcraft is (slowly) moving with the tide.  Fine-knit wool blouses have become rare and the bulky look is definitely in. Knitted suits are loose-fitting and give a rectangular silhouette. Accessories are becoming more experimental and fun, with “turret” and loop-stitch hats and oversized knitted or crocheted bags.

So, what does January 1962 offer us? The cabled sweaters on the front (and yes, that is the word that this British magazine uses: for Stitchcraft, a “jumper” is generally more form-fitting and finely knit, while a “sweater” is bulkier and more casual) can be made in Big Ben wool for the truly bulky effect in a pullover, or in double knitting for a more streamlined cardigan. The casual “his and hers” sweaters with a diagonal “v” stitch pattern are made in double knitting wool, but oversized and loose-fitting. There’s a “big and bold” shortie dolman for teenage girls and you can knit matching, you guessed it, bulky, oversized pullovers for “the menfolk” of the family.

There’s a casual suit in Bracken Tweed wool, highlighting the new fashion for multicolour, heathery tweed yarns. It too is meant to hang loosely, and the collars, cuffs and borders are knitted in a complementary colour that picks up one of the tweed undertones. The only fine-knit garment in the issue is a lovely twin set in 4-ply Cameo crepe wool, and even it is mostly unshaped — quite unlike the twin sets of the 1950s. Children can get a nice warm play-suit in stranded colourwork.

In the early 1960s, Stitchcraft liked “year-round” embroidery themes, with a different versatile small design each month. At the end of the year, all the transfers were made available as a set to be used together on a tablecloth or larger project. 1962’s theme is “flowers” — more conservative and less original than the previous “Zodiac” theme. Still. the narcissus design is pretty and elegant. The bathroom mat, flowery “peasant design” tablecloth, Victorian tapestry and knitted doilies are pretty standard fare and the knitted clown with flags stuck in it like a voodoo doll is predictably terrifying — seriously, do not look at the photo if you have a clown phobia, it will give you nightmares.

To clear your head of that image, you can make a wall hanging — a still life of fruits and vegetables done in padded appliqué for a three-dimensional effect.

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All in all, Stitchcraft‘s 1962 starts with a whimper, not a bang. Still, there are enough nice designs that it’s hard to pick one. I love the twin set, but could also use a nice, normal cabled V-neck cardigan in double knitting, and the toddler’s playsuit is probably fun to knit. I’ll let my local yarn shop decide, i.e. see what they have in stock that says, “Use me for this project.”

 

 

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.

 

 

November 1961: Blazer with the Boutique Look

IMG_2931Post updated on December 28, 2019: Finished!

November 2019’s project was the blazer from this wonderful tweed check suit in the November 1961 issue. As it says in the description, “separates in the height of fashion illustrate why hand-knitting is chosen for today’s couture look.” The blazer, especially, is really a timeless, classic piece.

The stitch pattern is very clever and simple: k 1, sl 1, p 1 on the right-side rows, moved one stitch to the left every time, and purl back on the wrong side rows, with 2 rows in each colour. This makes a firm, structured fabric with minimal curling at the edges (which are finished with wool braid binding).

IMG_2920The pattern calls for Patons Rimple DK (nubbly wool with synthetic) in black and Patons Totem DK (smooth “crepe” wool) in “Oakapple”. I admit I had never heard of an an oak apple before and looking at the black-and-white photo, it’s it’s hard to tell what exact colour was used — but it’s obviously some kind of whitish-beige. Which, as it turns out, is pretty much the colour of at least some kind of real oak apple, which, as it also turns out, is not any kind of apple at all, but a wasp gall. My choice of wool, Jamieson’s Double Knitting, was clear from the beginning and I was lucky enough to be able to buy it “in person” at the wonderful Shetland Wool Week. Both the “black” (Mirrydancers)  and “white” (Sand) yarns are ever so subtly tweedy, which gives a beautiful depth to the colour.

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Why did I even bother?

Calculating the amounts was a nightmare, though. I had thought ahead and written it all out on paper: how many yards of Totem and Rimple there were in an ounce (thank you, Ravelry, for listing discontinued yarns with useful information about them), how many yards I would then need for each colour if making just the blazer, just the skirt or both, then comparing that with the number of metres per gram of Jamieson’s DK, dividing for number of 25 gram skeins, checking it all through and of course adding at least a few skeins of each colour for swatching, making full-length sleeves, extra security, and knowing that I wouldn’t be in Shetland again anytime soon. It was just barely enough! As I learned the other way around while making the green crocheted rug a little while ago, you can calculate all you want, (even with the help of a professional mathematician who knows extra-special secret formulas with Greek letters), or weight your swatches or whatever, but the only real way to know how much wool you are going to need is by making the thing. Argh.

IMG_2968The knitting itself was a dream, though — so nice to work in DK after the fingering-weight projects of recent months past. It knitted up fast and easily and the fabric feels good in the hands. The pattern is quite clear and simple. Even the set-in pockets with flaps and the buttonholes (such a nightmare, always) were successful and the buttonholes evenly spaced. (I used the method that Stitchcraft always suggests: make the side without buttonholes first, then mark the button positions with pins and make the buttonholes to correspond. With a repeating pattern like this one, you can count the rows between buttonholes quite accurately.)

I added a bit of waist shaping for a more tailored look, using a well-fitting blazer from my closet for a guide. I also made full-length sleeves. Originally I thought to make the sleeves from the top down for a better sleeve-cap fit and to make sure I didn’t run out of yarn, but I realised that that would reverse the direction of the diagonal pattern and I wasn’t sure if that would be a problem or not. I made them in the normal way from the cuff up, but made them narrower.

IMG_2932After putting it together and blocking, the back piece had stretched width-wise, the sleeves had stretched length-wise and the sleeve cap didn’t fit well. Also, the shoulders were too wide. What to do? I didn’t want to cut the knitted fabric, nor do everything over. My solution: I re-sewed the sleeve caps in where the shoulder and sleeve line should have fallen, then tucked the resulting extra fabric in towards the neck on the front piece to make a sort of built-in shoulder pad. I normally hate shoulder pads and rip them out of everything I buy, but in this case it turned the droopy, sloppy-looking shoulder into a crisp, tailored-looking one. I’m so sorry I forgot to take a “before” picture — the change was pretty dramatic.

IMG_3018To fix the back width, I added two vertical darts. That wasn’t as elegant as it could have been if I had knitted them in, but it was fine. The sleeve-cap changes pulled the sleeves in a little shorter, so I just finished the cuffs with the same binding that I used for the rest. The buttons are modern, but aren’t they perfect? I even remembered to buy a few extra.

It took a lot of finicky finishing work, but in the end, I was very happy. The blazer is warm, elegant, comfortable and fun to wear. It looks good as part of a retro-style outfit or a modern one. What more could I want? I don’t feel the need to make the skirt. I’m just happy with my blazer the way it is.

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