Tuesday 16 March 2021

Stitchcraft Number 2

Stitchcraft magazine was published every month for 50 years, from 1932 to 1982, except for a few years during the Second World War when paper shortages meant that it was published less often. The Knitting & Crochet Guild has copies of most issues, and I have put a pdf version of the 2nd issue, from November 1932, on the Guild website.  (The first issue, from October 1932, is there already.)  Members who are interested can download it, and maybe knit something from it. Here I'm outlining what's in this issue. 

Stitchcraft, November 1932

The cover shows that it was "for the modern woman and her home", and covered Knitting, Crochet, Embroidery and Rugwork.  Stitchcraft was owned by Patons & Baldwins, and the main purpose of the magazine was to sell the company's wools.  All the garments shown on the cover are made with P&B wools.  The company at that time also sold embroidery wool (used for the stool top) and rug wool, used for the nursery rug, embroidered in cross-stitch.   

The main image on the cover is the jumper with red and white diamonds - 'a gay colour scheme for grey November days'.  For me, it's the most attractive of the designs in the magazine, and the stranded knitting would make it very warm. 

Another of the cover designs is shown there as striped.  A note with the photo inside the magazine says: "it is a pity that, owing to the fact that blue and grey photograph alike, the striped pattern of this  charming little jumper does not show up in this illustration of it."  Sounds like someone made a mistake there. It certainly looks much more interesting on the cover, where the stripes are clear.  Although the photo doesn't show the two colours, it does show that the stitch pattern creates some texture in the fabric too. 

The other striped garment on the cover is crocheted, in three colours. I think I would like it better if the model's pose in the photo didn't look quite so awkward and uncomfortable - though a short jacket, fitted to the waist, is not something I would want to wear anyway.

The cover also shows a very charming outfit for a little girl - a dress with yellow ducks around the lower edge, and a pair of knickers to wear with it (though actually they look more like rather baggy shorts).   

The top right of the cover shows a V neck pullover and long socks.  These are intended as "Christmas presents for men who are critical!"  Perhaps it sounded rather different in the early 1930s, but I think that anyone who is critical of a hand-knitted Christmas present doesn't deserve it.  (On the other hand, knitting something as a gift for someone without checking first that it's what they want is a bit risky.)  Stitchcraft's suggestions for these undeserving men are, first, a sleeveless pullover. ("A pullover must be conservative in style to make a masculine hit, but a touch of difference in stitch is permissible.")  Then, "golfing husbands and brother will appreciate the extremely well-shaped golfing stockings", which are shaped to fit the calves, rather than relying on the stretchiness of the knit. Finally, there's a nice-looking plain cardigan with pockets, in Shetland wool (not shown on the cover).  "A rather bright navy blue is the colour that well-dressed men are choosing for their cardigans this winter."

There are several other knitting and crochet patterns inside the magazine.  The one below looks quite practical, because it's knitted in thick wool (as long as you don't mind a jacket that finishes at the waist).  "Paris sponsors short, snug-fitting jackets for winter walks. This particularly fascinating example is given especial cachet by wide ribbing, gleaming clip fasteners and the casual chic of a large soft collar. To go with it, there is a cap in the turban shape that is so smart and so universally becoming. The thickness of the attractive wool the coat and cap are knitted in make them particularly quick work."

Elsewhere in the magazine, there is an ad for the clip fasteners used on the jackets, declaring "Buttons are finished".  A bit premature, I think.  

The mention of Paris is backed up by a report by Stitchcraft's Paris correspondent, on the hand-knits shown by the Paris designers.  The sketch below shows two designs by Jean Patou, a ribbed cardigan and a zipped pullover, both worn with leather belts. 

Although it mainly carried patterns for Patons & Baldwins products, Stitchcraft gave instructions for making things in other manufacturers' (non-wool) products, too.  From this issue, you could make a "Sunshine set for morning tea".  It's intended for tea in bed: a tray cloth, tea cosy and napkin in yellow linen, with filet crochet trimmings, worked in Ardern's Star Sylko crochet cotton.  And there was a cookery page too - " 'Quick to Make' Cakes for November Teas".   At a time when Patons & Baldwins leaflets cost 2d if there was only one pattern in the leaflet, and up to 6d if there were several, it was very good value for 6d.  

Tuesday 2 March 2021

A 1940s Face

If you look at a lot of old knitting patterns and magazines, as I do, some of the models start to become familiar.  In a few cases, I can put a name to the face - for instance, Patricia Squires, who often appeared on the front cover of Woman's Weekly in the 1950s, modelling one of the knitting patterns in the magzine.  Some models are famous for other reasons - notably Roger Moore, who was a knitwear model briefly in 1952 before his acting career took off, and I have occasionally seen Joanna Lumley on 1960s knitting patterns.    But usually, these familiar faces are anonymous.

One of the models on 1940s knitting patterns is particularly noticeable because she usually wore her hair in a very distinctive heart-shaped style.  It reminds me of a medieval headdress (called I think a hennin, or possibly an escoffin).

Bestway 1480

She appeared on several Bestway leaflets in the late 1940s, and the hairstyle varies slightly, though her hair is always long, and almost always swept up.  (How would you get it to stay put without copious amounts of hairspray, which I'm sure didn't exist in the 1940s?)

Bestway 1326

Bestway 1685

She sometimes appeared on pattern leaflets for knitting wool brands such as Copley's.... 

Copley's 1579

.... La Laine, by Bairns-Wear .....

La Laine 2178

.... and Patons & Baldwins. The leaflet below was advertised in 1943.

Patons & Baldwins 875

She appeared in magazines, such as Woman's Weekly, too. 

Woman's Weekly, 6th February 1943

I kept seeing images of this woman, without knowing who she was.  But by chance, I found out some time ago, from a magazine in the British Library.   (This was of course in the Olden Days, when you could go to London for a few days and stay with friends. And visit museums!  And spend a day in the British Library!)  I've been collecting together some images of her since then, to show in this post.   

Woman and Home in July 1944 showed a photo of her wedding, with the caption:

"Do you recognise in this lovely bride the Joan Felce whom you have so often admired in our knitting pages?   Now you see her photographed with her bridegroom, Lieut. D. C. Nurse, of the Royal Marines - a handsome pair. "

Joan Felce must have been aware that her hairstyle had a medieval look, because it goes on to say: 

"The beautiful, medieval-style gown was designed by the bride herself, and she had it in readiness for three years awaiting the bridegroom's return from Overseas.  So this is a story of patience and faith with a very happy ending!"

We are also told: "Her bridesmaids were two fellow Service women from the W.R.N.S." - the Women's Royal Naval Service, or Wrens.  From the end of 1941, single women could be conscripted into war service, and many joined the women's branches of the Army, Navy and Air Force.  

I don't know how she managed to carry on with occasional modelling work while being a Wren. I assume that she was based in England - some Wrens would have been doing clerical work at the Admiralty in London.  She may even have been able to get leave, if modelling was considered important morale-boosting work, though that seems unlikely. In the summer of 1944, she appeared in a very appropriate feature in Woman magazine, which I found on the same visit to the British Library. It was a double page article "Woman plans a treat for a Service girl", and begins "When a Service girl comes home on leave she looks forward to a very special list of treats, her holiday aims are the little homely things which she can't get in Service life and which she hankers for all the more. She's been doing her part in the fight - let's see that the rest she so much deserves is the kind a Service girl would enjoy most of all."  In the rest of the article, Joan Felce is shown enjoying the prescribed treats - meeting her friends on the first evening, breakfast in bed, a picnic tea in the garden, a date with her boyfriend (though that wouldn't be possible if he was serving overseas, as Joan's fiancĂ© had been).   

Most of the pattern leaflets I showed earlier were published after the end of the war.  But I have not seen her on any leaflets published after the late 1940s, and I think that she must have then retired from modelling.  (Douglas Nurse had, happily, survived the war.)  I am pleased to have been able to put a name to one familiar face, though many others remain anonymous. 

Copies of all the patterns shown above are free to members of the Knitting & Crochet Guild - email collections@kcguild.org.uk to ask.

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