Showing posts with label not all vintage is good vintage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label not all vintage is good vintage. Show all posts

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Little Schoolhouse on the Prairie and other knitting fables

Sometimes Stevie felt she needed to recapture that "string bikini at the beach" feeling in mid-winter.

Dakota's mother was so thrilled by her purchase of All You Can Knit and Crochet for Babies, because she now had a way to use up her scrap yarns and the resulting outfits would mean blackmail photo ops that could be used to keep Dakota in line as a teenager. And all for 50 pence!

Kaila thought her new line of "Couch Wear" fashions had turned out rather well.

After all, Kaila reasoned, what could protect women from street harassment better than camouflaging themselves as couches? Men love and respect couches!

Model Victoria's contract had a strict "no face showing in crocheted trousers shots" clause, for which she could never be thankful enough.

"No, hon, I can't see anything."
"Thanks loads for checking! You know a girl likes to be clean-scrubbed and demure and to be careful not to show too much boobage when she wears hot pants and go-go boots."

Ophelia felt that the combination of her new "Little Schoolhouse on the Prairie" sweater and just the right amount of poutiness and broodiness was bound to drive her boyfriend Rex absolutely wild.

"Oh hell no, you weren't interrupting anything! Freddy and I were just getting into the spirit of the photo shoot, weren't we, Freddy?"

Megan planned to be squatting just so on her rug and throw pillows when her party guests arrived so that they'd be duly impressed with the way she'd coordinated her hostess outfit with her décor.

Chet was confident that the devastating combination of his silk scarf and his thousand yard stare was bound to start bringing all the chicks running once he had it perfected.

Ingrid's pixie hat and sweater set scored her free drinks so reliably often that she had decided to make more pixie hat and sweater sets in different colourways.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Intarsia, Intarsia Baby

While working on the 1990s post for my 20th Century series, I stumbled across what might be the penultimate nineties knitting: New Kids on the Block and Vanilla Ice fan sweaters. These sweaters were made by Joanne Conklin, who, as she explains on her blog:

We were living in Germany at the time and bands like New Kids On The Block were huge with the teen set. However, there were no fan t-shirts to be found anywhere, so I decided to knit sweaters. I made one for my daughter, then her friends, and word-of-mouth spread and the next thing you know I'd knit over a hundred of them, selling all but about 6 of them.

I can't get over the sheer level of detail and care that went into these designs, and the idea of knitting over a hundred of them stuns me. The New Kids on the Block and Vanilla Ice should have hired Conklin to design their fan merchandise. If you are, or know a die-hard fan of these old bands (or just love ironic kitsch), you'll want to know if Conklin has published the patterns anywhere. It seems not. Conklin has moved around quite a lot since 1990 and is no longer even sure if the patterns still exist, or if so, where they are among her belongings. Oh well. At least we can still hang tough and check out the hook while the DJ revolves it, courtesy of YouTube.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A Tale of Four Hats

It started out so innocently. Violet had always loved hats and wanted little Rose to wear hats, especially in the winter, and pixie hats were in for little girls in the 1940s, they really were. And little girls looked cute in almost everything.

Then, ten years later, because Violet was the kind of mother who would say, "I'm cold just looking at you!", she made her daughter something special for a formal at school, the Sequin Earmuffs pattern from McCall’s Needlework & Crafts Annual, 1952. Violet also made Rose a matching clutch and pumps.

For one Christmas present ten years later Violet made Rose the Pixie Loop Stitch Hat from Bangle Hats, published in 1962. She thought it would evoke all Rose's fond memories of the cones of yarn that always sat in her mother's craft room, and also be the perfect career girl hat.

But then it all seemed to go sour. Rose began to insist on making her own hats, and by the early seventies was sporting numbers like this one. Violet really could not understand where she had gone wrong in teaching her daughter to appreciate fine millinery, and prayed for death so that she might never see what her daughter was wearing on her head by the eighties.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Reliving Those Schoolgirl Suspensions in Suspenders

This is the "Dirndl Plaid Suspender Skirt", designed by Pauline Denham, circa 1965. It's for the woman who wants to recapture those schoolgirl days by wearing a hideously unflattering version of her school uniform. But these are very specific schoolgirl days we're talking about. These are not "prom queen who dated the hot football captain" schoolgirl days, or "brainy school newspaper editor with a cute and witty boyfriend" days, or "wild girl who dated the bad boys and got suspended for smoking pot behind the gym", or even "average girl who dated the usual gamut of boys and in between times had lots of fun with her friends". No, these are "awkward dork girl who was too bashful to make friends, spent the night of every school dance alone in her room crying and writing shitty poetry and eventually succumbed to the overtures of her pervy English teacher until she could no longer hide her pregnancy under the bulkiest of skirts and he got arrested for statutory rape" days.

I really don't know why anyone would want to revisit those memories, but the way to do it is with a qualified counsellor, not with, let alone in, this knitting project. And don't even get me started on the psychological motivation behind that Marcia Brady hairstyle.

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Weather Outside is Never as Frightful as This

This pattern is the "Fur Trimmed Helmet and Mittens", and appeared in the Good Housekeeping Needlecraft, Fall-Winter 1973-74 issue. For those women who have decided that an unholy marriage of a fright wig and an argyle vest is a fetching winter look. Or who just want some random hunter to put them out of their misery by mistaking them for an elk.

Is it just me or were the craft ideas in the housekeeping-type magazines from the fifties through the seventies routinely horrible? It makes me wonder if maybe it wasn't some sort of stealth campaign on the part of Betty Friedan and her ilk to make frustrated housewives to look up from their magazines, pause in the middle of reaching for their next gin and tonic and Quaalude and say to themselves, "Screw this! If I can't find anything better to do than make ugly useless crap, I'm going to get a job/go to grad school/volunteer for a worthwhile cause/leave my husband for the pool boy." Because it seems to me that the sight of patterns like this, in a context that implied that they were actually a good and desirable use of my time, would propel me into a epiphany more searing and profound than any number of back-to-back readings of The Feminine Mystique.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Beach Boy Knits

The beach boys you see above are sporting the "By the He Sea Laced-Tank Top and Slipover" and "Ripple Poncho" patterns from Aunt Lydia’s Rug Yarn Collection, published circa 1970. And where do I start? Besides being an aesthetic disaster, those tops look horribly hot and itchy. I keep expecting the models' spray-on tan to start running any minute and creating little orange pools on the floor. I think that if whoever made these items for these men actually got them to wear said items to the beach (and it would take no less than threats, substantial bribes, or blackmail), someone would wind up getting his or her head held under water.

And Aunt Lydia... if you can't remember that rug yarn is for rugs, maybe it's time we put you back in a home again.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Initially It Might Have Seemed Like a Good Idea

The bag in the picture above is the "Initial Knitting Bag" pattern, published circa 1942. As you can see, it's the perfect accessory for your beautifully tailored gray flannel suit and silk blouse. Since you may not have such items in your closet, it'll probably just have to be your knitting bag. A crocheted knitting bag, which will be a daily reminder of you why you are knitting and not crocheting, and which will also double as a dust mop. Who could ask for more?

Coming up: Look for the review of Knitter's Magazine issue K111 tomorrow morning!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

I May Not Hear Wedding Bells, But I Think I See One

I've been seeing this... creation.... in my random image Googles search results for awhile now. I thought it was one of those runway creations that are purely for spectacle. Turns out this a knitted wedding dress from Yves Saint Laurent's Fall/Winter 1965 collection.

I have no idea if anyone actually bought into this idea and wore this in her wedding. It looks like a wedding dress version of the burqa, one that daringly shows the face as a tantalizing preview of the wedding night. I suppose the one good thing about this design is that the bride will not only feel any need to diet for her wedding day, but that she'll feel it's a sign that she can eat all the creamsicles she wants.

But this is one of those designs that make me feel designers really are actually fucking with us and trying to find out just how much we'll pay them to make us look like idiots. I mean... this is more than a little phallic, isn't it? Mightn't that be a subtle clue of some sort?

Friday, 22 February 2013

A Smokin' Hot Knitting Pattern

There are only two aspects of this vintage pattern photo that have dated badly from an aesthetic perspective. This handsome, well-dressed model is wearing white or light gray gloves that don't really work with his outfit, and he's in danger of setting the gloves on fire.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

From the "Not All Vintage Is Good Vintage" File

I often say how much I love vintage patterns, and how fascinating I find these remnants of the past, but this isn't to be interpreted to mean I love all of them, nor that I'm one of those who go on about how much I'd like to live in the past. I feel very fortunate to live in a time in which we not only have an unprecedented standard of living but an unprecedented access to the best design, art, music, inventions and scientific discoveries produced by past generations. We're free to incorporate the greatest achievements of the past into contemporary daily life, and to ignore the rest as outdated and irrelevant. And we take it all so for granted that I don't think we can begin to realize just how fortunate we are.

Coming up: Look for the Knitty Winter 2012 Issue review, which is scheduled for posting tomorrow.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

This is Not Your Mother's Pantsuit. Although it Might Have Been in 1969

One of my many favourite things about this picture is that it includes all those four views of the outfit, as though we might otherwise miss an aspect of its full glory. I'm trying to figure out when this photo dates from. My best guess is that it was published in the late sixties. If I'm right, I'd love to see this outfit make an appearance on Mad Men, worn with that sublime unconsciousness with which the talented Mad Men cast carries off all their hilarious-to-modern-eyes outfits.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Family that Struggles with Abject Self-Hatred, Robs Convenience Stores, Bakes Pies, and Tries to Destroy One Another's Life Work Together, Stays Together

There are so many things wrong with these patterns and with the staging of this photo that I hardly know where to start, but do you want to know what I find MOST disturbing about this knitting booklet? That it was written by Meg Swansen. That's right, Meg Swansen: daughter of master knitter and knitting designer Elizabeth Zimmermann; renowned designer, author and knitting teacher; long-time columnist in Vogue Knitting; owner of Schoolhouse Press, a well-known publishing company specializing in knitting books; and administrator of a knitting camp in Wisconsin.

Perhaps this booklet was written during a rebellious phase, when Swansen got into dropping acid and said, "All right, Mother, I'll show you. I will knit, but only for the purpose of destroying knitting."

Friday, 23 November 2012

Are Instructions for that Afghan Pattern Included?

It is difficult to learn to knit from pictures in a book, and the best way to learn to knit is to be coached in person by someone: a relative, a Continuing Education class teacher, a knitting shop owner who offers courses, a neighbour or co-worker, or a friend. Kathy Anderson apparently decided she wanted to be that friend for you. However, she can't compass the "in person" part, or offer any visuals except the one unforgettable glimpse of the seventies' decor of her home (and apparently, some pictures on the back of the album cover).

Check out a sample of Kathy Anderson's smooth knitting instructional sounds here.

And The Kathy Anderson Listen and Learn Knitting Album is available on Amazon if you feel you must have it.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Not All Vintage is Good Vintage

This isn't one of those vintage knitting patterns one drools over and that makes one reflect on some supposed decline in craftsmanship or aesthetics. This is one of those knitting patterns one has to view in the proper historical context: as the perfect thing for a miserable, Valium-addicted housewife to make her closeted gay husband. I understand these "string vests", also known as "Norwegian string vests" because they were first invented by a Norwegian Army Commandant in 1933, supposedly have heating and cooling properties, because they trap air between the meshes. My guess is they also work well as a form of birth control, because if a man strips down in front of a woman and she sees him wearing this, he isn't getting any.

Now this is the type of vintage pattern one drools over. It's utter perfection. This pattern is from a 1930's Patons Beehive booklet. I'm planning on making this one myself and have bought a PDF of this pattern online and some hand-dyed merino yarn in shades of teal and green for the purpose. I like the idea of making a thirties pattern in a very contemporary-style yarn.