Tuesday 22 October 2013

Poodle Bottle Covers

Poodle bottle covers featured in the recent TV programme on BBC4, "Knitting's Golden Age".  They were said to represent something like a yearning for exoticism in the British public in the 1950s - Jo Turney, one of the programme's experts,  said "The knitted poodle cover is one of the icons of the 1950s".   That didn't seem plausible to me, from what I remember of the 1950s - I don't think that poodle bottle covers were something that many people wanted, or were even aware of, in the 1950s or any other time.  So after I had seen the programme, I started a search for patterns for poodle bottle covers.

One - Coats leaflet 931 - was easy to find, because the cover appeared on screen during the programme.   These particular poodle bottle covers could not have been 1950s icons - the leaflet appears to have been issued in 1963 or 1964.  (And they are crocheted, not knitted.)

Coats 931
Another pattern for poodle bottle covers (and knitted this time) appears in 3 Emu booklets, all undated.  The first, "Knitted Novelties - Ideas for odd ounces" could perhaps have been issued in the late 1950s.  But one of the other patterns in the booklet is for a narrow knitted tie, which I associate with the early 1960s (e.g. the Beatles on their World Tour in 1964). 

Emu 8127 - Knitted Novelties

As in the Coats leaflet, the poodles appear as a black and white pair.  The pattern is titled "Poodle Bottle Cover or Toy" - which suggests a lack of conviction that poodle bottle covers are a good idea.  The pattern was re-issued in a later Odd Ounce Book, which dates from about 1971 (the price is given both in shillings and in decimal) - the white poodle is promoted to the front cover this time.

Emu 6359 - Odd Ounce Book

And again, an Emu Knitted Novelties booklet was issued still later, and was sold at four times the price of the Odd Ounce Book, so possibly late 1970s?

Emu B.23 - Knitted Novelties

Judging by these patterns, poodle bottle covers were presented as novelties for using up oddments of yarn, and they date from the 60s and 70s rather than the 50s. Many spinners issued similar booklets to the Emu ones, sometimes with a title like "The Bazaar Book". The patterns include a few small items to wear like scarves, hats and gloves, and things that might be considered useful, like tea cosies, egg cosies, pan holders and soft toys.  And there are also similar "novelties" to the poodle bottle cover  - toilet roll covers, golf club covers, novelty draught excluders, coat hanger covers. None of these were style icons.  I suspect that people often knitted such novelties for charity bazaars because they were quick and cheap to make, and people bought them as gifts when they weren't particularly concerned whether they would be appreciated by the recipient.

I think too that poodle bottle covers would be worse than useless in practice.  If you're filling a glass from a bottle, you need to be able to grip the bottle firmly, and the cover doesn't allow that.  The Emu cover in particular seems very insecure - the top is elasticated, so that you can get the bottle into it, and it seems to me that the bottle could start to slide out while you were pouring from it.  But I am not going to make one in order to find out.


  1. I'm a regular reader of your blog, Barbara, and I enjoy it greatly.

    I was born in 1961 and one of the ornaments in my nursery was a cream-colored poodle bottle cover. The body was crocheted and snugged around the bottle with a drawstring. The head was mounted on a toilet paper tube. It had pompoms for the ears, cheeks, tail, and feet. The bottle was empty.

    My impression was that it was an old college thing of my mother's. Since she did not crochet herself, I imagine that a girlfriend of hers must have made it and presented it to her on a gift bottle of something. Since it was so very useless, it ended up as a nursery ornament and continued to live in my bedroom until I was a teenager.

    Anyway, given the poodle craze of the 50s (my mother also sported a poodle skirt as a teenager) and its presence in my nursery, I am fairly sure that the poodle bottle cover was also a thing in the 50s.

    The one in my bedroom looked uncannily like this one:


    1. Thanks for your comment, Heather. If you are right that your nursery poodle cover was made in the 1950s, then there was probably a pattern for one around then. But most of the patterns I have seen are definitely later, and I think all of them are. So I'm not convinced that poodle bottle covers were a big thing in the 1950s (or later, for that matter), and so not an 'icon'. (I'm glad to hear that yours was considered to be useless, and only fit to be an ornament.)

  2. We had those in Russia, we used them as piggy bank only

    1. Probably a better use for them than to cover a full bottle of alcohol. Thanks for the information.


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