Saturday 24 July 2010

Late 60s Knitting

I borrowed The Best of Vogue Knitting Magazine again from my local library this week, and realised that the history of the magazine, in the US and the UK is more complicated than I had thought.  In the US, it first appeared (as the Vogue Knitting Book) in 1932, but then publication stopped in the late 60s, though I can't find out exactly when.  Maybe this explains why the issues that I bought in Cottage Grove in May, dating from the early 60s,  seem so uninspiring - it was a magazine in decline.  It restarted in 1982, and  The Best of Vogue Knitting Magazine  was published to mark its 25th anniversary in 2007. 

What was happening in the UK?  A British version of the Vogue Knitting Book was also published  - the Skiff Vintage Knitting Patterns site  lists several issues from the 50s and 60s, up to issue 68 in Spring/Summer 1966. (At two issues a year, that would also correspond to a first issue in 1932).  But then...  it re-started publication in Spring/Summer 1967 with issue number 1 (again).  It seems that, in this country at least, knitting was still popular enough to warrant a re-launch.   I have two issues of the new series that I bought in 1969  (numbers 7 and 8), but I'm not sure that it survived into the 70s.  The Spring/Summer 1969 issue contains some wonderful patterns,  and consequently my copy is very dog-eared, with the cover in two pieces.

Kaffe Fassett's Moroccan jacket
It is particularly notable for a Kaffe Fassett waistcoat.   I think this was the first knitting pattern that he published.  An article in Let's Knit magazine in March 2008,  reprinted on Kaffe Fassett's web site, says  "I discovered knitting yarns in a mill in Inverness and got a fellow passenger to teach me to knit on the train ride back to London. I put all 20 colours of Shetland yarns I had purchased in the same sweater and took it straight to Vogue Magazine to ask them if they would be interested in featuring it. Reticent English, I wasn't!! That was about 1969 and all the colour in a very landscape Stripe attracted the attention of Judy Brittain the Editor of Vogue Knitting Magazine. She commissioned me to knit a waistcoat in Fair Isle for her next issue."   The waistcoat is knitted in William Fuller's Silver Cloud Shetland wool, though 10 colours rather than 20.

This is also the earliest knitting pattern in a magazine that I have seen which names the designer. Now the practice is almost universal, but not then. The designer is not credited for any of the other patterns in either of the 1969 issues.  I think that naming the designer became more common in the 1970s, when designers like Patricia Roberts were becoming well known.  For instance, the Over 21 Fashion Workshop  magazine, published in 1973, has designs by Bill Gibb, Zandra Rhodes, Patricia Roberts and Susan Duckworth, although several others are anonymous.

I never knitted the Kaffe Fassett waistcost, though it was very tempting.  The fact that it was designed for a man was a bit off-putting.  I did knit one of the designs from that issue. It has lots of  moss stitch ( I still love moss stitch)  - cuffs, waist band and a square neck.  It looked good, but didn't get as much wear as it should have.  I knitted in it nylon yarn  - a mistake - and the neckline was perhaps a bit too high at the front so that the edge rubbed and was uncomfortable.  Pity.  Maybe I should knit it again in better quality yarn.
A lean-look sweater with square neck and moss stitch bands outlining the waist
 (The linen trousers in the photo are from Jaeger - £7.25.  That's inflation for you.)


  1. I liked that fellow's style. Bought a bunch of yarn, got someone on the train to teach him how to knit, made a sweater with all his yarn, went to see Vogue. That's being proactive for you!

  2. I have just come across this having Googled William Fuller yarns as I have some left over from knitting this wonderful item for an ex-partner and want to make some gloves. I too made the moss stitch jumper, also the jumper (design 4) and the cardigan (12) for my ex-husband.

    I saw an ex. of Kaffe's work at the V&A many years ago and I'm sorry to say, I didn't consider him a good knitter.

    Jean Taylor

    1. I've often wished I had knitted the waistcoat. I assume if you knitted it for an ex-partner, you no longer have it - a pity! I think KF is definitely a good designer, and puts colours together wonderfully, though I think he doesn't often (if ever) go beyond stocking stitch. I have never actually knitted one of his designs - I'm more interested in stitch patterns and unusual constructions.

    2. Only just come across your reply. I'm afraid I don't have it. I heard him on 'Private Passions' fairly recently and he's not really interested in technique, rather the the look of the finished article.

    3. Yes, that's my impression

  3. I came across this blog while searching for Wm. Fuller yarns as I have some leftover from knitting this waistcoat at least 30 years ago. I too made the moss stitch jumper plus another 2 items.

    Many years back, I went to a Kaffe Fassett ex. at the V&A and I'm sorry to say, I don't think he was a very good knitter.

    Jean Taylor

  4. Apologies - have only just come across your reply. Yes, I no longer have it. I recently heard him on 'Private Passions' and he's not really interested in technique, just the look of the garment.


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