Thursday, February 01, 2007

Knitted Perennials

I thrifted last weekend and found three pattern booklets, including this one from 1945:


Imagine -- a colour cover in 1945! This is the first U.S. booklet I've come across, published in Passaic, New Jersey, by Botany Mills. Inside the front cover, under the title "Designs for Tomorrow," is the following paragraph (ellipses in original):

"Hand Knit Fashions that have longevity ... up-to-the-minute today, these undated fashions will be just as new and stylish tomorrow and through the years to come ... whatever style changes the future may hold, there is no improving on the fundamental simplicity of classic designs ... the principle is one of quiet and lasting beauty and it is expertly applied to fashions for men, women and children in this volume."

I love this assurance of (quiet) timelessness. Certainly if I'm going to knit an entire dress at 8 sts./inch, I'm going to want it to be stylish for more than a year or two. Here are some of these perennial knits -- all can be made big with a click:


These enterprising young ladies appear to be signing up for the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps. Their sweaters, knit in Botany Saxatones, are "3 Variations of a Basic Theme" -- from left to right: "Tri-Color Bow Blouse," "Shirtwaist Blouse," and "Ruffle Blouse."


I really like the noir styling of this shot -- the model reminds me of Jane Greer in Out of the Past. She is wearing "Bow-coup Jolie," knit at a gauge of 7 sts./inch.


The snowflake sweater on the left is my favourite of the lot. Without the bow and pompoms at the neck, I'd wear this all the time. I imagine the main colour as red, don't you? The design is called "Cardigan -- Knit-in Snow Flakes," knit in sportweight yarn. (At right is "Jerkin -- Navajo Motif.")


Look at those pleated trousers! What a smart couple these two are, in "Cable News" for him and her. I imagine they are best friends, dishing and watching handsome young men amble by. "Oh, dear -- that one looks like the cad who cornered me by the punchbowl at Winky's shindig last Friday night, boring me to tears with his tiresome account of the insurance business." "Oh yes, he was a dreadful bore. But look over there, Babs! Isn't he delicious?"

My camera batteries died before I could photograph the other two pattern booklets, so I'll show highlights from those soon. I know there are a bunch of sites that show vintage patterns in order to make fun of them, but that's not at all why I love these images. I don't want to disparage them at all. Forget the ironic, postfeminist, this-ain't-yr-grandma's-knitting thing. The knitting I do? It is my grandmother's knitting, and my aunts' and my other female ancestors' knitting. I have nothing but respect and admiration.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, that snowflake sweater might be very cool in a sophisticated color mix, something severe perhaps. Would be funky in red, though. How far up does the sizing go?

Anonymous said...

Hey, btw, your comments box wouldn't let me post as myself. The button only worked for "anonymous". Marie

Suburbaknitsta said...

had to delurk b/c of this I must find that pattern. I am from Passaic and think its incredibley cool that this was made here!!! Thanks for the info , hopefully I can find sosme vintage fun too.

Michelle said...

These photos are fascinating. They make me think that knitting was once about the clothing, and now seems to be more about the bells and whistles.

AmyP said...

I love old patterns. Even if they don't translate directly, you can always use elements in new designs.

meegiemoo said...

Love the shirtwaist blouse.

Kristin said...

Those are great!! My favorite is the sailor cardigan with contrast edging.
Especially fond of Winky's punchbowl scenario. Perhaps you could provide a similar situation for all photos? I am really laughing!!!

Maya said...

oh my--I love these! I need to get out thrifting more...

Veronique said...

Oh, these sweaters are beautiful! I remember in one episode of KnitCast, Amy Singer said that the next issue of Knitty would be all vintage items (and then it never happened, obviously). I have a friend who has lots of 60s patterns, and wanted to rewrite them for a more modern gauge. So I don't see the irnoy in it either!

Anonymous said...

Brainy, I *love* what you said about that "not your grandma's knitting" refrain. Sure, styles change, and there's more of a range of fibers available now, but we don't need to be using "grandma" as a shorthand pejorative. We all had grandmas. Some of us learned to knit from them. If we're lucky, we'll all live long enough to BE knitting grandmas and grandpas-- and some of us are already there.
Cheers!
Laine, aspiring to someday be skilled enough to produce some of my gramma's knitting

Cheryl said...

I'm with you on the Snowflake sweater, I could get a lot of wear out of that!

I have a lot of old pattern booklets from the forties and fifties that I inherited from my grandmothers and my favorite part is often the introduction paragraph on the first page. They can be hilariously funny.

Nadia said...

I always thought the phrase "not your grandma's knitting" was terribly ageist and disrespectful. It's said with such an uppity attitude, which I never find justifiable -- I mean, of course your grandma didn't make 5 lb. sweaters out of Super Bulky Jumbo X-treme yarn with eyelash trim, she probably had been taught to make clothes that didn't look as though they were eating her alive.

Kids these days, thinking they reinvented the wheel.

If you make that sweater, you have to smile like that! She's so happy, it's infectous!

carolyn said...

the snowflake sweater is lovely. LOVELY. :)

gleek said...

i love old pattern books and magazines! i have a very small collection of old vogue knitting mags from the 50s and 60s that i love to flip through. some of the styles look easy to update and modernize!

regina said...

That snowflake sweater would look fab on you. I love it! And honestly? I'll always say yes to red.

Chris said...

What a fabulous booklet! I especially like the quote from it and your caption for the last one. Hee hee!

Stacey said...

what neat patterns. That dress knit at such a small gauge would scare me off though! The pleated trousers made me smile!

stacey said...

Oh man, I love the imagined commentary between the "cable news" couple :) Thanks for my first laugh of the day.

Robin said...

I'm with you on the respect and admiration our "grandmothers" deserve. I'd love to see our culture move toward more enduring fashion where styles don't change so quickly and knitting projects don't even get started before we've moved on to the next...

Mary said...

Brainylady!
I was wondering what kind of sewing machine you use? Thanks!

Btw - those vintage patterns are pretty hilarious. I do love a good pair of pleated pants. Mmmm.

nicole said...

While I imagine the example was knit in red, I would want it knit in an icy blue with off-white snowflakes. Divine. May our grandmothers' knitting live on.

Ellen said...

Dear Alison - I've been away for a few days and have so many comments. About the vintage patterns, those from the 1940s are better than those from the 70s, which all seem to call for large needles. About Volver, I concur. Kira Sedgewick also wears a great lace cardigan on The Closer. About the Weird, I share at least 3 so maybe they aren't too weird, esp. the toe thing. Keep up the great work.

Cari said...

I couldn't agree more re: the "ain't yer grandma's" etc.

Also, I think I need to own that snowflake cardi.

TheBunny said...

Is "timeless jerkin" an oxymoron?

Alison said...

I'm with you on the snowflake cardi. And the Cable News sweater really highlight's that gals' tiny waist. (Corset much?)

goodkarma said...

How fun. I'm in awe of the foundation garments those women must be wearing!

marielle said...

I've always been annoyed by the whole "not your grandma's (insert craft here)" thing. I always think "What's wrong with grandmas?" and then proceed to depress myself with thoughts about our ageist and sexist society... Oh, there I go again!

Dr. Steph said...

Holy Girdles Batman!