Variety is the Spice of Knitting

I found these vintage knitting pattern books last weekend at a flea market. They were cleverly hidden under other crafty publications, but once I glimpsed that angora stole I was on a mission. After rifling through and finding these gems, I went to pay. The seller was clearly excited that someone was buying them. When I told her it was WWKIP day, she said “You know, me and my friends used to think we were hot s#!* taking our knitting into the movies. We’d all be knitting sweaters for our boyfriends.” I love that-just casually knitting boyfriend sweaters at the movies with the girls!

The first publication is more of a stitch dictionary than a magazine. The cover is missing, so I’m not sure when it was published, but the message is clear: variety is the spice of knitting. This resonates with me right now; with the exception of a few small items, I can’t stand to knit the same pattern more than once. Why not try out some of these stitch patterns in a new project?

The next magazine, Bernat Handicrafter Angora Book No. 166, is from 1953. The ladies in this one are spectacular.

An excerpt: “Every woman has her own preferences in colors, based on the colors which are most flattering to her and will harmonize with the rest of her wardrobe…let your own individuality express itself…”

These women are stunning. I can’t help but wish just a little bit that I could pull off that short, elegant hair, flawless lipstick and full skirt. Can you picture her leaving this photo shoot and stepping back into real life in anything but this look? The patterns seem straightforward enough; they include gauge and yarn suggestions, separate the different elements of each project, and only provide one glamor shot of the item. Oh, and most of the patterns are written for a size 12 woman. Love it!

And my final find is from Bear Brand Bucilla Yarns, copyright 1942. This one is loaded with similarly coiffed ladies sporting intricately cabled cardigans, perfect colorwork, and the most amazing dresses and skirt suits. Each pattern is written for a size 16 and has a jaunty name like Peppermint or Resorter.

Sunday Morning–Trim molded lines, with a plunging neckline makes this dress a perfect foil for your dickies.”

Volunteer–A grand type of sweater dress knitted…for the busy Miss or Matron. The bateau neckline, the bracelet sleeves and the gored skirt make for smart simplicity.

From the inside cover: “That handknit look is so important in fashion, yet handknits cost so little if you knit them yourself…On these pages you’ll find instructions for garments that reflect the up-to-the minute trends of fashion. You’ll knit them with pleasure and wear them with pride…”

Still true today, I think. Yet I can’t help wondering if these looks are truly representative of what real women were wearing–and knitting–at the time. Or are these booklets like today’s Vogue Knitting, examples of high fashion and impossible designer knitting for the average person to gawk at? What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Variety is the Spice of Knitting

  1. My grandmother used to knit garments like these. At my wedding she wore a 3 piece knitted suit. I still wear the shell from it! It is a special heirloom to have, especially now that I can really appreciate the knitting work in it.

  2. Oooh, thank you for posting these – I love looking at old patterns! The women just look so effortlessly elegant, don’t they, but of course we can’t see all the corsetry under their clothes! I’ve got quite a collection from the 1940s and 1950s and just love flicking through them, dreaming of a simpler age…

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