Monday, 28 November 2016

1930s Suits, Dresses and Blouses

Almost all the publications in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection were either published in the U.K. or were readily available in this country, but we do have some waifs and strays in the collection.  One is this 1930s Patons & Baldwins pattern booklet, published in Toronto.  (Although the parent company was British, there were overseas branches. Beehive was a brand name used throughout the company - and a beehive is still the trademark of Patons.)

The booklet has about two dozen patterns for suits, dresses and blouses.  And, if you like 1930s style, they are very attractive,  I think that there must have been an independent design team in Toronto, but a few of the designs are very similar to designs in P&B's pattern leaflets published in the U.K.  Here's a blouse and skirt set called 'Daytime'.from the Canadian booklet, for instance:

'Daytime' blouse and skirt 

The blouse looks identical to a Lady's Jumper pattern published in the U.K., except that it has long sleeves.    The lace pattern is the same, and the yoke and tie-neck are constructed in the same way.  There are some differences., though, to allow for differences in yarn thickness.

P&B Helps to Knitters 2/625
The 'Helps to Knitters' leaflet was advertised in 1934, which I guess is the approximate date of the Canadian booklet too.  The long-sleeved version is very pretty - I can't think that the skirt would look good for long though.  Surely it would very quickly stretch and go baggy, when it's supposed to be slim and elegant?


Some of the other tops are lovely too.  Most, like 'Sentiment', seem to be intended for summer wear.  A top knitted in wool, even if fine and lacy, seems all wrong for hot weather, to me.  Pretty, perhaps, but so much less practical than cotton.  I must confess I'd rather wear a t-shirt.

As well as the fine lacy knits in the booklet which would be time-consuming to knit, there is a section on 'Quick Knitteds' - a 12-hour pullover, a one-day cardigan and a three-day suit.  They are all knitted in P&B's Totem wool, which seems to have been Aran weight, or thereabouts.

The 12-hour Pullover

The 12-hour pullover also appeared in a pattern leaflet published in Britain.  It was advertised as a '12-hour pullover'  in Stitchcraft magazine in the summer of 1935.

The ad said "You can knit it in 12 hours!  That's a liberal estimate, because one of our own workers knitted a copy in seven hours!  The stitch is simple, interesting to knit, and most fascinating to look at.  Cape sleeves and draped neckline are fashionable touches."    Apart from speed, I don't think it's a successful design - the fabric is too thick to drape well.  It would look much better knitted in a finer wool.  But then it wouldn't be a 12-hour knit....

The other two 'quick knitteds' work better.

Three-day suit, One-day cardigan 

The suit is quite plain, but the cardigan has what looks like an all-over cable pattern,  In fact, it's more like a twisted double rib, and doesn't need a cable needle, so could be  faster to knit than it looks.  To call it a one-day cardigan seems very misleading, though.  It suggests that if you cast on when you get up in the morning, you could finish it on the same day.  But it must surely take a lot longer to knit than the '12-hour jumper' - they are in the same yarn.  So does 'one day cardigan' mean that you could knit it in less than 24 hours?   That sounds more like half a week's work.

One interesting feature of the patterns in this booklet is that the instructions are often given for three sizes.  The sizes are usually all quite small (up to 36 in. bust), but sometimes going up to a 40in. bust.  In Britain at that time, most knitting patterns, including Patons & Baldwins', were written for only one size, typically a 34in. bust.  So these Canadian patterns might be easier to update for modern figures than British ones.

Members of the Knitting & Crochet Guild can download a copy of the booklet from the Membership area of the website - look under Pattern Downloads.    


  1. Those are very pretty. I have a friend who would look perfect in all of them.

    I've got used to resizing vintage patterns for myself - I don't mind slightly tight arms, so I just add extra at the side seams, and take it in again a few stitches in at the same time as doing the armhole shaping. Be nice if more stuff had come in larger sizes at the time, though; it must have been so frustrating and upsetting for larger ladies.

    1. In this country there were sometimes patterns published for 'matrons', i.e. older women who were allowed to be larger than a 34 in. bust. But those patterns tend to be very boring. Or sometimes patterns would suggest knitting on larger needles, or inserting extra stitches in the centre front and centre back - as you say, adding extra to the body doesn't help if you want to increase the width of the sleeves as well. I agree, it must have been very frustrating.

  2. I upsized a few vintage patterns for my "Knit Vintage" book. Now I've had some practice I'm happy to do it for members for a donation to the Guild.

    1. That's a very generous offer, Rita. If any member needs help, I'll put them in touch with you.

  3. Lovely patterns. Off to download this one!

  4. I don't know if the Canadian Totem was the same as the Australian one, but growing up in Australia, Totem was the workhorse yarn for jumpers, at least for my mother. All my school jumpers were in Totem, and many, many were knit for herself in Totem as well. I think it was 8-ply, which I'm guessing might be DK weight, but perhaps there were different weights.

    1. It does seem to have been thicker than DK in the UK. The name was used twice though - in the 1950s and then again in the 1950s (or possibly later). I have assumed that it was the same yarn, re-introduced, but it may not have been.


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