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.

 

 

September 1961: Overview

IMG_2772“Knitting with an Autumn Theme” is the motto of this month’s Stitchcraft from September, 1961. Knowing that September is the month where many knitters take up their needles again after not wanting to handle wool in the hot summer, I would have expected a “bumper issue” with extra ideas, new fashions from Paris, more colour photographs and so on. Not the case! It has more or less the same mix of “chunky”, bulky garments and easy homewares that we saw in the summer issues.

Not that that’s bad, of course (though bulky is not andIMG_2773 probably will never be my style). The kid’s coat looks cosy and fun to wear, and the “gay sweaters for him and her” in a Norwegian-style pattern are warm, practical and unisex. I imagine the boatneck collar on an unshaped front must scratch horribly across the neck, though.

There are more men’s garments than usual: a wide-collared “sports sweater” and an elegant crossed-front pullover with twisted-rib details on the pockets and borders. The former is meant to be worn for “golf, country walks and all the week-end jobs in the garden”. I’m guessing the plants in the garden will grow better if you wear a shirt and tie under your sweater while working on those week-end jobs, as it will make them feel important and worth dressing up for. Maybe I should try it — I’m terrible with plants.

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Collars, V-necks and checked patterns are still in fashion, as seen on the comfortable, yet elegant cardigan suit and the cardigan in a familiar three-colour slip stitch pattern. Terry-towel-like Rimple is still going strong, featured here in a cardigan for larger sizes.

Babies get a bonnet and jacket in the same bramble stitch pattern as last month’s coat and July’s dress (“Part 3 of our Layette”) as well as a vest and pilch (underpants/diaper cover) and small children get machine-knit slacks to match the blazer. Hooray for warm legs, finally!

If all of that sounds underwhelming, we haven’t even gotten to the housewares… The knitting and crochet projects focus on using up scraps and “leftovers” to make either a cushion, a stuffed puppy toy or some utterly goofy egg cosies. Needlewomen (sadly, they don’t write “embroideresses”, which would be more entertaining) can make floral cutwork mats or a cushion, or a “Vintage Parade” of early-20th-century automobiles. There’s a tapestry hassock for church-goers and the last of the Zodiac-themed projects — this month’s sign is Virgo.

I almost gave up on this issue, as there just wasn’t anything that inspired me… but then there was this rug! This utterly 1960s, easy enough for me to crochet, fringed and polka-dotted rug that would look marvellous underneath my vintage, Danish Modern coffee table and, if made in the right colour, would perfectly match my embroidered cushion from the January 1960 issue. I love it! Rug wool in skeins isn’t really sold anywhere these days, but I’ve got a solution for that that I think will work.

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Stay tuned for the result… and the “special bumper issues” with “extra features in colour” that are promised for October and November.

August 1961: Overview

IMG_2709“August is an issue that needs special thought and planning” writes Stitchcraft‘s “editress”, Patience Horne, in the introduction to the August issue, pointing out that it is “rather an “in-between” month for needleworkers” — often too hot to want to wear or make heavy sweaters and too late in the year for fine-knits. At the same time, reminding people that “Autumn is around the corner” can be “a little depressing” to people enjoying their late-summer holiday.

I get this! It’s one of the … hazards? “joys”? features? of living in a temperate/oceanic climate zone like the UK: August, and in fact the entire summer, can be so hot that you can’t even imagine holding wool in your hands or performing any excess movement (thus the small, easy embroidery projects in cotton thread on linen), or 10 degrees Celsius with unending rain (just ask Edinburgh, or the Bretagne), or anywhere in between.

Stitchcraft‘s answer is to offer casual, “all-year-round” knit styles that could work either on a (cold, wet…) holiday or back home in the autumn and lots of little needlepoint and embroidery projects that fit in a suitcase and can be done easily in the heat. The adult garments are thick and warm and serve as outerwear on a summer evening or Atlantic boat trip: the cardigan on the cover, “chunky” pullovers for women (one knitted, one crocheted), and a man’s pullover in “that typical man-appeal style which will make it a winner.” All are made in double knitting-weight or bulky Big Ben wool and both the knitted pullover and cover cardigan feature slip-stitch patterns which make the finished garment that much thicker and warmer. Golden or orange tones and white continue to be popular colours.

 

There are sleeker, finer-knit short-sleeve tops for girls in their “early teens” (the models seem to be young, slender adults, but OK) with high necklines and an interesting mitred collar on one. Smaller girls (or boys, I guess? this garment doesn’t seem to be heavily socially gendered, but the instructions only have options for buttons on the “girl’s side”) get a fine-knit cardigan with a border of “Scotties chatting to a friendly Cockerel.” Babies get the newest addition to their “Stitchcraft Layette” with a matinee coat and bootees in bramble-stitch to match last month’s dress.

 

The real fun is in the homewares, where there is a huge selection of projects and needlecrafts to choose from: embroidered ivy borders for tablecloths, traycloths or cushions, a tapestry footstool or “needle etching” picture of a “typical Cornish quayside”, a crocheted rug, blue rose sprigs to embroider on a cushion or a fringed lampshade, a weird crocheted and embroidered tea cosy in Turabast (which I can’t imagine would have good insulating properties), or “Fluff”, a somewhat psychotic-looking, yet endearing knitted kitten. Also, I thought the Zodiac year theme had to be finished by now but no, it’s Leo the lion’s month.

 

IMG_2723My favourite, though, is this sewing project: a head cushion that lets you recline charmingly in bed with your hair and makeup perfectly done, your satin nightie on, a book on your lap and your telephone on your ear. It’s glamorous  leisure and lifestyle advertising personified, and though they say it’s an “idea for your bazaar”, I would bet the Stitchcraft readers who made this in 1961 did not make it to sell.

IMG_2725Apropos lifestyle advertising, the early 1960s Stitchcrafts show a rise in full-page ads for Patons and Baldwins wools. That’s obviously not surprising considering the magazine was published for the Patons wool company, but the full-page ads that “tell a story” are a new trend: the late 1950s and 1960s issues up to now had little celebrity testimonials. This one caters to grandmothers and the message is clear: Knitting is not only a rewarding pastime on its own, but earns you the love and affection of the grandchildren for whom you knit. (But only if the kid likes it, and that’s only guaranteed if you use P&B wools, of course.) The 1950s and 1960s saw a huge shift in advertising methods towards a psychologically-based system, which is a huge topic that I won’t start with here, but suffice to say there will be more of these ads, and that they are representative of changing advertising styles.

That’s it for today! I have lots of unfinished projects lying around, so my August project will be something small, definitely not the Turabast tea cosy, but very probably the blue rose sprigs on a little bag, or tablet cosy, or something.

 

 

May 1961: Tapestry Handbag

Version 2My project from the May 1961 issue of Stitchcraft was a charming tapestry handbag with a Victorian-inspired flower ribbon design. The magazine gives directions for either the handbag or a piano-stool top. As much as I would love to have a handbag that matched my piano stool, I’m just making the bag for now.

I’ve never worked in tapestry before, but for this project it’s really just IMG_2521counted cross-stitch done on tapestry net canvas with tapestry wool. The hardest part was getting all the components together! The  original pattern calls for Beehive Tapestry Canvas No. 27 and Beehive Tapestry Wool, which as far as I can see do not exist anymore — and if they did, they could very well be quite different from the same canvas and wools manufactured in 1961. Unlike cross-stitch fabric, there’s no indication of holes per inch, so I had to sort of guess from the photo of the bag (3 purple stripes across and 3 or 4 flowers vertically in the stripes) and the number of stitches in one repeat of the chart and factor in the size that I wanted the bag to be (a little smaller than the 9 inches deep and 11 inches wide given in the pattern) and the size of the modern handles.

IMG_2558I found some net that seemed about right, but tapestry wool is not to be found in a craft, knitting, wool, fabric, or notions store anywhere near me. So I had to order it online… from a mail-order Internet store whose address is in my own city, but does not have an actual brick-and-mortar store. So I couldn’t see the wool before buying and they had to ship it to me, when I could and would have gladly just gone over and picked it up. And seen it beforehand… because it is really thick! About as thick as double knitting wool. It would have been so much easier to match the size of the wool to the size of the net if I could have found both of them in the same place. It’s usable with the net I bought, but I think the bag will be rather stiff.

The handles were similarly difficult. My great knitting/notions store down the street has catalogues from a company that makes knitting needles and all sorts of related knitty-crafty stuff, including a huge selection of handles and straps and whatnot for making bags. I ordered a nice (I think?) set of handles through the store and nothing happened for weeks. Then I got a message that the handles, in fact all of the handles in that catalogue from that company, were no longer available. Now I’ve ordered some more online. We’ll see what arrives!

Modern technology is lovely and all, but I would love to be able to go to an actual store IMG_2622and buy all of this stuff together. It works for knitting, sewing and embroidery, but I guess tapestry is such an unfashionable hobby that it’s not worth using store space for the materials. I should probably be glad that they’re still manufactured at all.

The work itself is not difficult, but I have to admit, it’s a bit boring. I do like the way it’s turning out, though. May 2019 is almost over, but this project is nowhere near being finished, so I’ll update this post when I have something more to show.

Edit a few months later: This project did not work out. The yarn is too thick for the fabric, the handles are too big for the bag, I hate counting tiny holes in tiny fabric and not being able to fix mistakes, and I really don’t know what I am doing as far as tapestry is concerned in general. Maybe I should take a class or something until I try it again. Until then, this project is permanently on hold. Better luck next time!

May 1961: Overview

IMG_2509Time for the Summer Forecast! “Editress” Patience Horne writes that it is “a lovely sunny day in March” as they go to press for the May issue. It’s freezing cold and pouring rain where I am on May 2nd, so my summer forecast feelings have been literally dampened.

Still, there is a lovely assortment of projects in this month’s issue, of which the prettiest (in my opinion) is featured in colour on the back cover: this beautiful summer twin-set in   “Nylox” (a synthetic, Bri-Nylon yarn) with a diagonal stripe pattern on the sleeveless top that is repeated on the lapels of the solid-colour cardigan. I love the pairing of the elegant line with the fun pattern, which reminds me of colourful rows of paper bunting strung diagonally.

Our front cover has two more of the classic, bulky, rather plain casual pullovers made in Big Ben (super-bulky) of Rimple (nubbly double knitting). For men, there’s also a classic “tennis sweater” in white with blue stripes, made fancy with a different sort of cable pattern that I don’t think I have ever seen before. It seems quite easy, as the cables never travel far and also never actually cross (so maybe technically not a “cable” pattern, but I don’t know what else to call it — you do use a cable needle to move the stitches out of line and back again.) Our model is very happy with his sweater, and his tennis game.

Besides the twin-set and the cover pullover, women’s fashions include a little short-sleeved jacket in double knitting and a cute cap in Big Ben, plus a “longline” jumper and buttoned cardigan in 4-ply wools. I love the way the pockets are integrated into the striped ribbing of the cardigan. Wide collars, shawl collars and V-necks continue to be popular.

Stitchcraft doesn’t usually have sewing patterns, but this month they’ve teamed up with Vogue to offer a flared or full-circle skirt of the type that was ubiquitous in the later 1950s and reached the end of its popularity around this time. Readers can order the Vogue pattern via Stitchcraft in their preferred size. The flared version is embroidered with “Tyrolean motifs” which can also be embroidered onto “pretty summer aprons”. How cute! Just don’t try to play the violin the way our little Tyrolean motif fiddler is doing it, or you and the instrument will both be unhappy.

(Nota bene: some folk-fiddle traditions, as well as European medieval and Renaissance vielle/violin technique, do involve holding the instrument under the shoulder on the upper chest or upper arm instead of under the chin as in modern classical violin playing. Still different from what is going on here, though.)

School-age children get some nice, basic pullovers and cardigans in washable Nylox or fun Rimple. I don’t know what’s going on with the Humpty Dumpty giant egg doll, but this seems to be a theme with Stitchcraft — I remember seeing more than one knitted or sewn or crocheted giant Humpty Dumpty mascot pattern somewhere in my collection. Check out the cute illustrations and the little castle in the air on the top right of the painted backdrop.

Homewares tend towards the fun and easy, with a “Victorian” floral ribbon design for an embroidered cushion, tapestry cushion or tapestry handbag as well as some assorted cross-stitch or drawn-thread table mats and traycloths. Oh, and also some “his and hers” bath mats. May’s Zodiac sign is Taurus the bull, which you can cross-stitch onto a fluffy-fringed lampshade. I would love to see a picture of a Stitchcraft living room with all twelve Zodiac-themed designs in one place — the lampshade, the chairbacks, the waste-paper basket cover, et cetera (spoiler: sadly, we’re not going to get one.)

That about wraps it up for May! I would love to make the twin-set, but I have such a backlog of projects that I know I won’t have time to get it done, so my project will be the tapestry handbag. I’m very excited to work with tapestry for the first time.See you soon!

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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.

 

November 1960: Overview

IMG_2168Brrrr! November 1960’s Special Bumper Issue” brings us “Colour for the Cold Days” and an extra 16-page pull-out booklet of baby woollies. Sadly, so sadly, the booklet from my copy of this issue has been pulled out long ago and is missing.

There are still plenty of lovely cold-weather fashions and interesting homewares to make, starting with the comfortable, matching “his and hers” sweaters from the front cover. Green checks continue to be in fashion, this time made with a complicated slip-drop-and-pick-up-later stitch pattern in two colours of Rimple. The idea of the “partner look” is just starting now, but will carry on throughout the 1960s into the androgynous 1970s and even the oversized-sweaters-for-everyone 1980s. Both fashion and gender roles were still quite rigidly stratified in 1960, but I see a parallel between the gradual softening of gender-based norms and the increased interest in gender-neutral “partner” garments that both started around this time. The two sweaters in this issue are both loosely-fitted, shaped (or not shaped, as is the case) the same, and available in overlapping sizes. The only proportional differences are in the shoulder width and sleeve/overall length, and the only cosmetic difference is the collar.

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Women’s fashions without men’s versions include a “sports” sweater with coloured lines made from a bobbled two-colour stitch pattern and added embroidery, a “top-fashion” jacket with a wide collar, a belted jumper and a cute hat with a buckled brim. Waist-length and closely fitted is definitely out, and the long-line with minimal shaping and a collar is definitely in. Men’s fashions are similarly long and loose-fitting, with dolman sleeves and interesting yoke details, and there’s a fantastic twin-set for young girls aged 5-9.

IMG_2172Homewares are still in a weird phase. The working woman or baby-boom mum (and those were overlapping categories, then as now) of 1960 didn’t have the time or patience to make too many elaborate Jacobean embroidery pieces or huge, detailed tapestries, especially not right before the great rush to get Christmas presents under the tree, so the focus is on quick, easy-to-make novelties for gifts. The aesthetic sense does seem to get lost a bit, though, if you ask me.

Of course, if you do have the time and leisure, you can go ahead and make a piano-stool and cushion set in Victorian-style tapestry, or a large room-divider screen with colourful parrots. Truly modern and up-to-date novelty lovers can continue the Zodiac series with a Scorpio motif for cushions, chairbacks or waste-paper baskets.

IMG_2178(I notice that Word Press does not recognise the word “chairback”. They have been out of fashion for too many years, I guess, having fallen victim to cheaper furniture, more frequent hair-washings and less Brylcreem. Pity that no one likes them now, as they do seem kind of fun.)

In the back pages, Jill Browne is still happily endorsing Patons Big Ben wool, and a lovely new children’s serial, “Wendy and Wag in Wallpaper Land” has started. Note the printed ruler at the side of the page, included in each issue as an easy way to measure your tension swatch. Also, there’s a rug reprint, a toy pig made of pink felt, a panda-bear motif and gay pot holders. What more could you want? My project will be the cloche hat, and I’ll consider the belted jumper if I have more time.

 

 

October 1960: Overview

0E56629B-4509-4599-B9F4-63679CA72DCCOctober and November are really the best months for knitting. The weather has gotten cold enough that you really want to wear and make warm, woolly things, and there’s the nice “surprise” of packing the winter clothes out of storage, and so remembering what nice hand-knitted pieces you made in other years. At least, that’s my experience.

Stitchcraft also knows that knitters like to start more projects in the fall, so this month’s “bumper” issue has lots of warm clothing for adults and children as well as Christmas presents for home and family (for those who like to think ahead). And in the middle of the magazine is a special supplement of fashions in “Big Ben” — bulky triple-weight wool.

Women’s fashion features the “new length” of 23-25 inches in all jumpers, with minimal or no waist shaping, a sign that the era of waist-length sweaters and knitted blouses so popular in the 1950s is coming to an end. The sleeves have a new length, too — the “smart bracelet length” i.e. 3/4 length. I guess it lets you show off your bracelets, but I get cold forearms! Two are in 4-ply and one in an interesting “Italian waffle” slip-stitch pattern in double knitting.

There are some great fashions for men, as well, both in the regular magazine and the supplement. The long socks and lined scarf in ever-fashionable green checks are definitely cosy and “would make very acceptable presents for a grown-up son or special boy-friend“. The jumper features a shawl collar, here referred to as a „reefer neck“. Reefer neck? When I think of the 1950s or 1960s and „reefer“, a shawl-collared jumper is not what comes to mind. Perhaps that grown-up son or special boy-friend has special recreational plans to wear that sweater for? In an case, it‘s attractive and warm-looking, as is the model.

 

There are plenty of little trinkets to make for the home, „for your Church Bazaar“ or for Christmas gifts. Looking at some of them, I think more bizarre than bazaar — Peter the Pup has a very weird look in his eyes and you don’t really mentally associate an igloo with the idea of keeping tea warm, right? (Though I know, I know, the thick ice walls of real igloos make excellent insulation.)

Homewares are always fun and this month has a bathroom set with seahorses for those who like a hand-made woolly toilet seat cover (makes me think of my great-aunt, who even made those woolly extra-toilet-paper-roll covers).

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There’s also a landscape tapestry, a cushion embroidered with sprays of fuchsia and a „Chippendale“ chair seat. In home-wears, there‘s a bed-jacket that‘s pretty enough to wear as a cardigan and the start of a new embroidery series with signs of the Zodiac. I always though the interest in astrology was a 1970s phenomenon, but here we have an entire year of zodiac-themed home accessories in 1960. I personally have no interest in astrological signs, but I do absolutely love her dress — check out that lovely lacing in the front. (And be sure to wear your frilliest petticoat while ironing.)

And we haven‘t even gotten to the Big Ben supplement! It truly is a bumper issue. The Big Ben offerings are under the signs of „Continental“ and „Italian“ styling: a long, slim, mostly unshaped silhouette with square collars and nubbly stitch patterns. Toddlers get a classic „lumber style“ jacket with pockets. The Norwegian „playtops“ aren‘t from the Big Ben supplement, but they are awfully nice.

Last but not least, you can order yourself some sewing fabric from the advertisements in the back pages, and what could be better for autumn wear than gay checks? I wholeheartedly approve… and want that suit that the lady on the left is wearing. My October project will be a variation of the fuchsia embroidery. Happy autumn knitting parade, everybody!

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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.

 

 

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: 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!

 

 

 

 

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.