Saturday 1 October 2011

A 1970s Victorian Family

Seamless Knitting Book - front cover

I have been sorting boxes of pattern booklets in the Knitting and Crochet Guild collections recently. This one, from 1973, I particularly liked - not for the patterns, but for the poses.  The models look so solemn and Victorian.  It must have been a deliberate choice by the photographer. 
Back cover

I like the props too, though I think the plant is not actually an aspidistra. They are wonderfully incongruous with the 1970s clothes.  (And looking at the red and black tank tops on the back cover, you realise why the 1970s are dubbed "the decade that taste forgot".)

The booklet is unusual in having the name of a knitting needle company (Aero) on the front cover, rather than a spinning company  - the patterns are intended for Aero twin-pins, which were presumably fairly new in 1973.  Circular knitting needles were not themselves new - I have read that they existed before World War II, with a wire cable of some sort joining the two needles.  Twin-pins were perhaps new in having a nylon cable. It is also unusual to see a pattern booklet promoting a novel construction technique.  The booklet explains how to use a twin-pin, with photos.  However, for knitting sleeves and other small-diameter sections seamlessly it recommends knitting on four needles, which seems a bit discouraging - it doesn't explain how to do that, for one thing.  And it doesn't cover knitting sleeves using either two circular needles or the magic loop technique with one circular needle - perhaps those ideas had not been developed.     

Once I had noticed this booklet, I began to see the same cover photo on pattern booklets produced by other companies - several spinners, as well as F.W. Woolworth.  The content was exactly the same too, except that the suggested yarn varied.   That was very puzzling - I had assumed that the name on the front cover would tell me who had produced the booklet, but why were different companies producing the same booklet?  And then I started to notice other pattern booklets turning up in several different versions.

Odd Ounce Books - different but the same
Eventually, I saw that all these booklets were published by Lyric (Pattern Services) Ltd, whose name was in very small print inside the back cover.   Evidently,  Lyric was (is?) a company that developed knitwear designs in standard double knitting/4-ply/3-ply yarn, for sale to spinners and companies such as Aero. That is obviously a useful service to any spinner that produces standard yarn and doesn't have its own in-house designers - even a large spinner that produces its own designs might find it cheaper to buy in patterns sometimes.  The clever thing, from Lyric's point of view, is that they retained the copyright, so that they could sell the same pattern booklet many times over, and just change the name on the front.

Until I worked out what was going on, I thought that all these duplicate pattern booklets would be a cataloguing nightmare.  But now, I classify them all as Lyric and that's that. So far I have found about 60 distinct booklets that were produced by Lyric, between about 1970 and the mid-1990s.  One advantage (to me) is that Lyric included the year in the copyright notice, so that unlike most pattern booklets, these can be dated. It still seems to be slightly underhand though - all the Odd Ounce booklets say on the front cover "Ideas by X for easy to make gifts and toys....", where X is Poppletons or Wendy or Argyll or ...      Not really true, though - "Ideas by Lyric that X  bought and put their name to" would be more accurate.


  1. Dear Barbara. Are you the nice lady I met on the ferry Pont Aven in July. My name is Angela Truelove-Mehew and we talked about writing and your knitting projects. Your life experiences inspired me and helped me to put into action things I have always wanted to do. I have joined a U3A writing group and an art group, been on a Mediterranean cruise and am becoming very interested in knitting! Kind regards, Angela

  2. No, it wasn't me, I'm afraid. Sounds like a really important meeting for you - I hope you track her down to let her know.


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