Repeat Performance: Charming Blouse

It was very difficult to get a project going this month. The October 1962 issue of Stitchcraft didn’t have any designs that interested me and I’ve been trying to finish up some larger, non-vintage projects in time for the cold-weather season. But inspiration came from a good friend of mine, who politely reminded me that, way back when I made this “charming blouse”, I had casually offered to knit one for her if she ever wanted one, and wouldn’t this be a good time to make it for her? I agreed! So this month’s project will echo the one I made then. Here are photos from that issue and the finished project:

The original blouse, from the July 1960 issue, was designed for “larger” figures (37-38 or 39-41 inch bust) and featured horizontal bust darts, which was very unusual for knitting patterns of the time. I was intrigued to see how the bust darts would turn out, since I don’t usually make them on garments for myself. As I probably could have guessed, the bust darts were not only unnecessary for me, but actually negatively impacted the fit — since I am not busty enough to fill out the darts, the front of the blouse was too long compared to the back. That didn’t particularly bother me, but I did note it for future projects.

My friend has a more suitable figure for this design, so I think this version will turn out even better. I’m using the same wool (Juniper Moon Farm Herriot Fine) in a lovely tweedy green colour, and (by request) without a collar or contrasting colour bands along the front. It will definitely not be finished before the end of this October, but I’ll edit this post when there are updates.

Out of Order: June 1961

July 1962’s issue didn’t have anything in it that particularly interested me, so I took the time to go back to the June 1961 issue, which had so many nice projects in it that it was hard for me to decide which to make. (I ended up making this lacy top and later, this child’s tunic-dress.)

I loved the extremely complicated, heavily embroidered, faux-neo-Jacobean felt appliqué “birds in a tree” extravaganza featured in colour on the back cover, but it was too daunting. For one thing, of course I didn’t have the transfer or pattern for the appliqué pieces, since I would have had to have sent away for them via postal order in 1962. For another, there weren’t even any instructions in the magazine — the design was offered as either an embroidery or an appliqué project (see photo), and the instructions in the magazine only covered the embroidered version in any detail. The appliqué version just gave a list of materials, size of finished design, and the address where one could order the pattern and instructions. And when it comes right down to it, my appliqué and especially, embroidery skills are really not very well developed.

Oh yes, and while felt is easy enough to buy, the materials included tapestry wool for the embroidery, which is impossible to find in stores anywhere near me and even difficult to order online in the right weight (very fine)! Luckily, last year I happened to be in the one city I know that houses the one shop I know that actually specialises in tapestry and sells the right kind of wool, so I was able to get that, at least.

I decided to make it as a cushion, not a wall hanging. The background tree was easy enough. Technically, the white branches and leaves should have been made by cutting holes in the green tree felt and letting the (white/beige) background fabric show through, but since I chose a blue background fabric, I appliquéd them as well. It was predictably difficult to make and cut out my own patterns for the little bits of felt for the birds and leaves, and after making the first two birds, I realised it was easier to just cut the pieces freehand. Since there were no instructions to follow, I went from the photo and the instructions for the embroidered version, which obviously didn’t give much useful information.

I made two of the birds on the left first, wasn’t really happy with them, and realised why after making the first flower on the left. I liked the way the flower turned out — it’s much simpler! The birds seem overdone in comparison. I’m going to try to scale them down, if I can pick out the embroidery without leaving obvious holes in the felt.

Progress is slow and it definitely won’t be finished by the end of July 2020, but I’ll keep updating this post, so stay tuned.

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!