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.

 

 

January 1961: Snowflake Sweater

IMG_2256January’s project was — like August 1960’s twin-set — one of the reasons I wanted to start this whole mega-blog-project in the first place, namely, this beautiful round-yoke “snowflake” sweater in the style of traditional Greenlandic designs. I love the combination of curvy and angled shapes produced by the diamond-shaped rings on the yoke, and the dark background colour fits my style.

Traditional round-yoke sweaters made from the bottom up typically call for the body and sleeves to be made separately, then joined in the round for the yoke, casting off stitches under the arms and on the sleeve-underarm edges to add depth to the chest width and make the first few rounds easier to work.  But like all adult garments from this time period, Stitchcraft‘s version is meant to be made in separate pieces. The first part of the yoke is written with back-and-forth raglan decreases, until the patterned part of the yoke gets going, and even that is supposed to be knitted back-and-forth with an opening in the back for a zipper.

Besides being not very traditional, I find back-and-forth knitting on stranded garments not so much fun (stranded purling is annoying) and certainly not as fast to make (knitting is faster than purling, and in-the-round construction means no seams to sew later), so I was determined to make this garment completely in the round and without seams. Making the sleeves and body separately in the round was no problem, but I was at a loss as to how to do the raglan bits plus neck shaping before the patterned yoke began without completely re-writing the pattern. Also, I wanted to add in some short rows to make the front part of the neck drop a little farther down than the back.

img_2306After thinking it over, the most reasonable course was to work the little bit of pre-yoke between the armhole bind-offs and patterned yoke back and forth with raglan decreases as written, but beginning the front neck shaping (pre-yoke, concurrent with the raglan decreases) an inch or so lower than the back. That preserved the proper stitch count, let the sweater hang better, and shortened the yoke a bit. I didn’t mind shortening the yoke, as I like sweaters to be snug under the arms and not too high on the neck. I didn’t need a zipper, so I made the patterned yoke entirely in the round.

img_2311It worked out perfectly! I could hardly believe it. Raglans and round yokes may be somewhat forgiving on the body, but it is a fundamentally tricky mathematical game to make all the interdependent factors of width, depth, and pattern repeat come out right, so I was really proud of myself for making it work. My only other modifications were on the sleeves (longer) and the waist shaping (original pattern had none, I started out narrower at the waist and increased gradually at the sides to give a more figure-flattering look.)

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Don’t let the tropically-painted background fool you — it’s cold outside!

The yarn was a mixture of plain Regia 6-ply (DK) sock wool for the dark and light blues, and some of the lovely 100% wool that my knitting colleague hand-dyes with plants (the brown and green, made with onion skins/walnut shells and some kind of green reed plant, respectively.) It is very warm and has the right balance of firmness and softness.

All in all, I am 100% happy with this pullover and will probably wear it a lot this winter.

 

 

December 1960: Overview

IMG_2214This year (1960 or 2018, take your pick) draws to a close with Stitchcraft’s “Christmas Issue”, which, as you may expect, is full of holiday-themed novelties to decorate and give.

That said, the hoodies on the cover are surprisingly modern and not “Christmas sweaters” in the sense we usually think of them at all. If I just saw a photo of them without the festive vintage backdrop, or the “DEC 1960” in the cover corner, I would be hard-pressed to say from what decade they came from. You could sell them in a regular modern store today and nobody would think they were a vintage design! I love the little tuft on the kid’s hood, too. They are made in nubbly Rimple yarn, still a hit and always featured somewhere in each issue.

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There are “gay ideas” for festive party table decorations of all types: a floral tablecloth for  a tea party, a merry-go-round tea cosy for the “Nursery Party” and table sets with playing cards as napkin holders for the grown-ups. “The last minute novelties” take on a fairy-tale theme, with a Red Riding Hood doll, a Noah’s Ark nightcase, a friendly draught-stopping snake and — for your holiday Dickens bedtime reading — a tea cosy that looks like a plum pudding, complete with attached crocheted plate! More pious readers can make an appliqué wall hanging of the Three Wise Men and heathens can make an embroidered wastebasket cosy with a Sagittarius theme (this month’s astrological sign).

Of course, one never has enough time in the holiday season to make everything perfectly,  so if you are “really stumped for time” you can make the wall hanging “in bright, shiny papers” (instead of felt), “cutting out the shapes and sticking them down, then adding cut-out strips, etc., for the finishing touches.”

For those who have the time, or don’t go all-out for holiday decorations, there are the usual assortment of knitting projects, starting with a lovely warm dress-booties-mittens set for a baby. I do admire her elegant mitts, but I’m guessing that in real life, they don’t stay on a baby any longer than it takes to take a photo. Older kids can get a striped jumper in a fantastic, very modern colour combination.

Teenagers haven’t been forgotten either, and can enjoy these Italian-inspired colour designs with added embroidery on the young woman’s jumper. I really like both of these designs! The young man’s jumper is fun without being too flashy, and with a little tweaking, would work well on a woman’s figure, with the dark colour band starting just under the bust line. There’s even a little extra “how-to” lesson on embroidering knits, which is still perennially in fashion at this time.

IMG_2219Adult women, having hopefully embraced the “new length” (long) and “new sleeve style” (3/4 or 7/8) from last issue, can get ready for Paris’ “new necklines” — a high turn-down-and-rib combination or a buttoned-up turtle (polo) neck. No turn-down collars this time — are they on the way out? There’s a new yarn to go with them, Cameo Crepe, which is smooth and less “hairy” than other wools, for good stitch definition.

All this new fashion detailing can be admired in the two-colour twin set from the inside back cover, and to go under it all, why not knit yourself a lovely warm woollen vest (camisole)? I don’t mean that sarcastically — they are really the best! I made a woollen lace under-dress (slip) last year and it is heaven in a cold, damp climate.

It’s hard to decide what to make from this issue. Lots of the items are cute and fun, but nothing jumps out at me that I absolutely have to make. The plum pudding cosy is so silly that it’s cool, but I don’t use tea cosies and it would be a lot of work for a gag. The snake is cute and useful, but I don’t have odds and ends of double knitting at the moment and I do  in fact already have a stuffed snake who occasionally gets put to work plugging a “leaky” window. I also have plenty of jumpers and even wollen underclothes (s. above), so don’t need more. I do have a hundred grams of very nice, hand-dyed green fingering wool in search of a project, so maybe I’ll make the baby dress.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays to all my readers! May everything you celebrate be jolly and festive.