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.

July 1961: Overview

IMG_2650The motto of the July 1961 issue is “Sew through the Summer” and indeed, there are a lot more sewing projects than one would normally find in Stitchcraft, summer being a time when many people do not want to hold wool in their hands or think about colder weather to come. There’s more emphasis on homewares and small, fun projects to make and use on holiday. The farm photos were taken in Hertfordshire and the boating photos in “the heart of London’s Little Venice”. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Let’s dive in!

Our cover photo, taken at the Hertfordshire farm, featuresIMG_2654 a really pretty basketweave blouse with that V-neck-plus-collar design that we saw so much of in 1960 and the last years of the 1950s, not to mention just last month on the cover of the June 1961 issue. Personally, I love this style and I’m glad it stayed in fashion for so long. Except for the basketweave, this top is very similar to the blouse I made from the July 1960 issue, and probably not the last one of its kind that we’ll be seeing.

The other summer garments for adults are “cool in 3 and 4 ply” tops for women — one of them machine knit — and for boating or cooler outdoor nights, there’s a cardigan in double-knit Rimple, a little short-sleeved jacket in bulky Big Ben, or a man’s sweater in larger sizes in Totem double knitting. The cardigan “does duty as a sweater”.

On that note, a quick quiz:

  • What is the difference between a jumper and a sweater? (Hint: this is a British magazine that uses both terms, so “jumper is British and sweater is American” cannot be the only answer.)
  • If a jumper is a pullover in a lighter weight/more dressy style, and a sweater is bulkier/warmer/more casual, why is the elegant, fine-knit short-sleeved top on page 12 a jumper (top left photo above), the elegant, fine-knit short-sleeved top on page 13 a sweater and/or shirt (top right photo above), and many elegant, fine-knit short-sleeved tops from other issues considered to be blouses?
  • On that note: Why can a cardigan double as a sweater, but not a jumper?
  • Bonus question 1: What is the difference between a cardigan and a jacket? (Okay, this one is easier.)
  • Bonus question 2: Is the blue-and-white garment on the front cover a jumper, a sweater, or a blouse?

The answer to the first two questions is, as far as I can tell, that there is no answer. “Jumpers” per Stitchcraft tend to be long- or short-sleeved, fine-knit, elegant pullovers, while “sweaters” per Stitchcraft tend to be bulkier, more casual, long-sleeved and looser-fitting pullovers, but every time you think you’ve figured out the system, they use the word you wouldn’t expect. “Blouses” tend to be, logically enough, tops (either pullover or cardigan style) that one would wear with only undergarments underneath, and put a suit jacket or other overgarment over. Following that logic, I guess the cardigan on page 21 does duty as a sweater and not a jumper because it is warmer, heavier and meant to be worn outside without a coat and with a blouse or something underneath it. Still, there is no real consistency that I can see. I would love to be able to ask “editress” Patience Horne what system she used.

For the smaller members of the family, there’s this lovely baby’s dress, featuring the most absurd baby photo ever (previewed in the June 1961 issue). I still don’t understand just why I find this baby so goofy. She is utterly cute but somehow, her face is too old for her. That combination of lots of hair and the knowing, watchful look in her eyes makes her look like someone pasted a grandmother’s head on a baby’s body. Anyway, the dress is wonderful. Older girls get a striped jumper with a collar and “gay bobbles” to tie the neck. Let’s hear it for gay bobbles! I’m not sure what today’s 6-, 8- or 10-year-olds would think of the bobble ties, but I think it’s a cute jumper.

The emphasis of this issue is on easy-to-make, no-stress homewares, starting with felt place mats and coasters appliquéd and embroidered with traditional inn signs. Make them for your Pride celebration, for they are “as gay as possible”! Fans of easy embroidery on canvas can make a cushion with purple thistle flowers in cross-stitch or bathroom accessories featuring this month’s Zodiac sign, Cancer. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to step on a crab, even if it’s only a cross-stitch picture of one on a bathmat.

More ambitious embroiderers (I guess Stitchcraft would call them embroideresses) can make a really pretty fire screen with a modern vase-and-flower motif. I wish they had a colour photo. Even more ambitious knitters can make some beautiful lacy doily mats, and those who prefer to “sew through the Summer” can make a little laundry bag for used dusting cloths, or some easy items to sell at the “needlework stall”, church bazaar, etc. There’s a tea cosy that looks like a cottage, a beach bag with penguins, or an apron with a teakettle pocket.

I am woefully behind on projects, having not even finished my supposedly quick and easy blouse from June 1961, and with two other projects from that issue (the child’s beach dress and the embroidered-appliqué bird picture) still “in the queue”. But someone is always having a baby and that little dress is really sweet and should knit up quickly, so I’ll probably make that and try to work on the remaining June projects at the same time.

  • Bonus Answer 1: A cardigan definitely has buttons/fastenings and a knitted jacket often doesn’t. Unless it’s a suit jacket, then it does. Or whatever.
  • Bonus Answer 2: The garment on the front cover is a “cool, casual shirt-sweater”.

 

June 1961: Overview

IMG_2563I love this cover. The yellow stripes on the hats, the yellow trim on the sweaters and the yellow sans-serif lettering all harmonise perfectly with the off-white garments in the center focus. Even the models’ hair colour looks like it was chosen to match the wooden wall. And we can see that typical 1960s hairdo coming into fashion, with more volume on the top and curled ends.

The rest of the photography in this issue is amazing as well. Let’s start with little Georgina in her beach dress, striking a Napoleonic pose from the back of her inflatableIMG_2566 elephant! The dress is totally cute and definitely on my project list for this month, for my friend’s kid who just turned three. Those are seahorses, in case that wasn’t clear (the ones on the front panel of the dress and matching sunsuit look weird to me — I think I’ll fill in the bodies to make the shape more clear.)  The sunsuit and dress are made in wool-nylon blend Nylox, but I’ll be making the dress in cotton.

IMG_2585(Speaking of tiny children in goofy poses, am I the only one who finds this advertisement for next month’s Stitchcraft strangely funny? What is it about this baby that comes off looking so weird? Too much hair? The quasi-adult-looking face? The indescribable expression?)

 

Back to this month’s issue, somewhat larger children can get a pretty summer dress with an embroidered yoke. It wasn’t necessary to order a sewing pattern, as the skirt of the dress was really just a square with a little cut-out (shown with scaling grid in the issue) and the yoke outline was included with the embroidery transfer. Larger children than that (age 6-10) get a warm “Continental playtop” with a big collar in double knitting.

 

 

Big collars are still fashionable for adults, too, as we can see from the women’s version of the cover sweater or the “Husky Sailing Sweater” in bulky Big Ben wool. White or off-white and yellow are trending colours. The men’s garments both have round necks — I’m guessing designers assumed men would be wearing collared shirts under their pullovers no matter what they were doing, and “layering” big collars over each other didn’t happen until the 1970s. For warmer days or more elegant occasions, there’s a short-sleeved cardigan-jumper in 4-ply and a lacy cap-sleeve top in 3-ply wool. The cap-sleeve top is yellow and the buttoned blouse has a collar, so we’re right in fashion here too.

 

 

Homewares are fantastic this month as well, starting with some really easy garden cushions (padded with plastic foam to try and make them more damp-proof). We are still  in the year of the embroidered Zodiac signs, and June brings us a Gemini-themed beach bag.

 

 

IMG_2625And then there’s this incredible birds-in-a-tree number, to be worked either in wool on linen for a firescreen or in felt appliqué with wool embroidery on linen for a picture. I’m normally not so crazy about 1950s and 1960s neo-Jacobean designs, but I love this one and definitely want to make the felt appliqué version as a cushion (with a more greeny green for the tree and not quite so much brown-orange-yellow in the appliqué work.) I imagine it might be tough without a transfer, but they gave us two very clear photographs including one in full colour, so what could go wrong?

IMG_2588Last but not least, there’s a lovely, elegant two-piece suit in nubbly Rimple double knitting wool, featured in the most magnificent photo I have ever seen in any magazine, ever. If I remember correctly, I saw it in one of those Internet lists of “best/worst/weirdest knitting pattern photos” long before I started collecting vintage patterns. It’s definitely at the top of my list and if you haven’t seen it yet, you saw it here first!

There is nothing I can possibly add to that, so I’ll just get to work on that cap-sleeve jumper… and the little girl’s beach dress … and the garden cushions… and the Jacobean appliqué… Happy June, everyone!

August 1960: Overview

IMG_1942August is a weird month for knitting, as it’s often too hot to hold wool in your hands and hard to believe that autumn is around the corner. Appropriately, this month’s issue features easy embroidery and homewares, and seems to have fewer items than the average winter or “spring holiday” issue. But before we get into the contents, can we stop to admire this beautiful twinset on the front cover? I have been looking forward to making it since I started this blog! So much that I don’t care if the heat wave ever ends, or if I won’t be able to wear it until January. I am going to make it and love it.

We’ve got a few pieces in bulky Big Ben wool, which seems an odd choice to me for summer since it must be quite heavy and hot, even with September and October around the corner. The “slippy” is theoretically good for sailing, though, I’ll admit. A couple of casual sweaters for women, men and children round out the selections, plus a cute little bolero and baby dress for the little ones. Apart from the twinset, it’s basic fare.

The homeware pieces are more whimsical and probably a lot of fun to make. The three different aprons to sew and embroider are styled and decorated so differently that at first glance you would never notice that they are all made from the same fabric pattern. It’s quite a clever design, with a deep pocket in the middle. I imagine it would be just as useful as a “knitting apron” (where you put the working ball of wool in the pocket) as for sewing or kitchen work. The “charming novelty design” with little sewing birds (which remind me of the helpful birds in the Disney Cinderella movie) and the gingham “Briar Rose” are touted as “good bazaar items” and the third option can be made “from oddments”, so they are easy and useful all around.

Little mats for dining, dressing and living room tables can be very easy to make (a simple  hardanger table set with tea and egg cosy, or table mats made of raffia), a bit more elegant (cutwork for the dressing table), or finely knitted (“for the expert, but well worth the time and effort”). There’s a chairback in Assisi work and cushions with traditional designs from Czechoslovakia (still one country in 1960) done in cross-stitch or pattern darning.

The best bits are often in the back pages, and there is a great, short how-to article about making your own embroidery sampler in the “Readers’ Pages” which gives good, concise beginner’s advice on choosing motifs, calculating gauge and placement and choosing stitches. Also, there’s an advertisement for Turabast, which was a brand of ribbon straw popular from the 1950’s to 1970’s. You could knit it up into a stiff, crinkly skirt that was probably very inconvenient to sit in, but had that perfect petticoat look without the petticoat. Ribbon straw is still perfectly available in modern times, but these days people use it for crocheted flowers or home decorations. I haven’t seen anyone wearing an actual garment made from it, but I might try it someday.

My project for this month will be the wonderful twin set from the front cover.

 

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.

 

 

 

June 1960: Overview

IMG_1805June, the month of leisure! Or at least, leisure knits — “Fashions for Sun and Sea.” Stitchcraft’s “editress”, Patience Horne,  reminds us that it’s important to have something to knit or sew while on holiday, as “it helps us to relax”, and points out that “A lot of knitting and embroidery is done in the deck-chair by busy housewives who never get time at home, and find it difficult to ease off suddenly.”

Honestly, I always had the impression that busy housewives were the ones who never got any time off, even when the family was on holiday. I guess it depends on where you went, what you planned on doing and what accommodations you had, but if I recall correctly, camping was quite popular in the IMG_18081950s and 1960s… meaning the housewife/mother of the family had to shop, cook and keep the tent or living space tidy just as she did at home, but in worse conditions (rain, mud, no proper grocery stores, camp stove, having to fetch water for cooking and washing up). Doesn’t sound much like leisure time to me! Of course, if you were rich enough to stay in a nice hotel and eat out for meals you might well have some time for handcrafts, but that wasn’t a possibility for all families, and Stitchcraft‘s target audience was more working-to-middle-class.

But knitting magazines have to be sold in the summer months as well, and there are some very nice things to make in this issue, cleverly categorised by activity. “Sun-seekers” can make pretty sleeveless tops (in wool or nylon) and one of the patterns has a cute fringed shoulder poncho thingy to change “from beach to promenade.” Two other tops are a bit dressier, in case you want to change again for tea. Obviously, the tops need to be lightweight, so all are made in 2- to 4-ply wool at 7 to 8 1/2 stitches per inch.

For “the young sailing fan” — or horseback riding fan — there’s the child’s cardigan pictured in the inside front cover and a horse-motif pullover, both in somewhat thicker Rimple Double Knitting. Though I don’t think the head in the riding motif looks much like a horse’s head — is it supposed to be a fox? These days, you could knit it in silver-gray with neon green eyes and call it an alien, if you wanted to. Rimple is also featured in a classic V-neck pullover for women and a stole, “for a touch of glamour.”

For “Tennis and Rowing” — the manly sports, I guess, since the girls sail and ride horses and the housewives are all too tired to do anything but sit in the deck chair and knit — there’s a pullover in double knitting with crew neck, sunglass pockets, and colour pennants where the knitter can use the wearer’s club colours. Bulky Big Ben wool makes an appearance in a slipover for men and a little cap for women.

If that’s not enough to keep you busy on your supposed holiday, you can embroider some cushions quickly in thick thread, make an intriguing circular table cloth with a peacock motive, sew a little dress for a toddler, or make lunch mats with holiday scenes on them in fantastic shades of yellow and purple. There are tapestry designs for a footstool, screen, book cover or “finger plate” as well.

Wait — what on earth is a finger plate? It looks like something you put on a door — but why? Wikipedia came to my rescue:

“A fingerplate is a plate that is fixed to a door near the handle or keyhole. It can be made of metal, plastic, ceramic or glass. It purpose is to prevent people’s fingers from smudging the door.”

This makes no sense to me, as I would think it would be easier to wipe off the door once in a while than to take a framed tapestry off of the door, wash and re-mount it, but OK.

Speaking of “what is this” and “OK” — you can also embroider a “novelty bathroom mat” where “suitable expressions” on the taps register hot or cold, and in the “Suggestions from Readers” column, we are informed that Mrs Ross of Berkhamsted cleverly adapted the tapestry townscape of Finchingfield “to bring in her husband’s interest in aeroplanes.” Behold, the Comet jet careening over Finchingfield, apparently about to make an emergency landing in the town square!

Let’s hope things end well for everyone involved.

My June project wasn’t pictured here, as it is just a little “extra” design element offered in the back pages — a little parakeet (budgie) motif for cross-stitch or knitting. I’ll turn it into something cute for two friends who are getting married in August.

 

April 1960: Popular neckline

Version 2My second project for April (obviously not finished before the end of the month, seeing that I started it two days before) was this cute lace blouse with a “Popular neckline.” I do love the neckline, and the leaf pattern.

The pattern is written for wool, of course, but I made it in cotton for summer. It is very, very difficult for me to find any kind of yarn, especially cotton, that is fine enough to get the pattern gauge of 8 stitches to the inch in stockinette stitch. I can hardly even get 8 stitches to the inch on lace-weight wool on 2 mm needles! But crochet cotton thread would be too thin, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in black. So I found a cotton that gets me 7 stitches to the inch on 2 – 2 1/2 mm needles and fiddled with making the middle size and having it come out as the large size.

popneck_wipThe biggest problem was making the side-seam increases. The lace pattern has a repeat of 12 stitches, but a sort of varying number of edge stitches. I honestly had no idea where to fit in the extra stitches, or how to keep them in pattern when the increases and decreases within the pattern are broadly spaced. Time to hit the Ravelry forums! I did try charting it out (the pattern has written instructions only) and at first it made it easier to “read” the knitting, but didn’t give me any fundamental technical answers. I realised I had to chart out  not just the pattern itself but all of the increases and decreases, with the changes that had to be made row by row. That worked, but by then I had already made the back piece, so those increases on the sides weren’t perfect. But everything else was!

The fit is incredible. I was wary of the horizontal cap sleeves, which are really just made by casting on extra stitches instead of decreasing under the arms. I thought it would make a lot of baggy fabric under the arms, like those 1950s (or 1980s) dolman-sleeve fashions that must be extremely inconvenient to wear. But no! The armholes are snug without being too tight, and I appreciated the extra width and give in the upper chest and back, where I am quite wide.

All in all, it is wonderful and I am very happy. Here I am having fun “recreating” the original picture. The bag is from a Stitchcraft pattern, too!IMG_1929