08 December 2009

Circa 1956 short rows, 9spi & strange diagrams

Around this time back in 1956 I was busy plotting an early entry into the world.

Sometime earlier that year, my mother was trying to get her knit on in anticipation of my arrival.
My mother, like her sister aka MATB, was not a knitter.

Unlike her sister, my mother had no real illusions about her lack of knitting skills and yet, interestingly, she somehow managed to teach some of her WW II era Girl Scout charges how to knit even though she hadn't a clue of her own.
Must have been some really good tech writing 'splaining how to knit and/or how to teach knitting.

Mother's knitting so sucked that MATN (yet another aunt acronym) was said to have pulled the woeful WIP out of mum's hands to frog and finish since as Luisa declared, Mein Gott im Himmel the child will freeze.

I can't be sure but it may well be that Luisa was the knitter behind the long lost and treasured matinee set that I treasured as a kid.
Sadly, that particular bit of my knitwear history isn't in the bit of knitting history that is the subject of today's posting or I'd be able to recreate it for a new generation.

If Wikipedia is to believed, Woman's Day magazine (the US version) has been in publication since 1931 when it began as a free publication designed to boost sales at A&P stores. Free didn't last but it was still an A&P exclusive until 1958 when it was sold to Fawcett Publications.

In 1956 it was still an A & P publication and, as you can see, it wasn't a big glossy exercise but apparently, at least in 1956 (and likely long before) they put out an annual Woman's Day Big Book of Knitting with designs for the experienced knitter and instructions for the less experienced wanna be knitter.

Interestingly, English needle sizes were also given and circular needles were also popular enough to be specified in some designs. The models are a scream, especially the male ones -- think Mad Men for crazy camp.

Half a century later, the average American knitter of today might run screaming off into the night (or onto the internet for HELP!) over patterns with no schematics, very little hand holding on the designs and many, many being knit at 9 spi on size 1 US.

While the specifics (gauge and lack of diagrams) might send today's average knitter off the edge, some of the designs are pretty timeless and would definitely appeal to today's knitters with a few tweaks.

Having knit a few of the smaller designs in the past, I can attest to the fact that then, just as now, there are mistakes lurking in these patterns and the errata is long gone from memory and print as near as I can tell.

The largest size given on any of these designs is a size 18 which, back in the day, was a 36" chest. I'd have to swatch to be sure, but I'm guessing that simply upsizing needles and yarn might yield a gauge and garment to fit today's larger sizes and knitting styles.

I was particularly interested in three of the designs three pictured here.

The fourth design is for the footie crowd and while no, they didn't suggest making your own felt for the felted thongs, tabis were mainstream in 1956. BTW, not a picot bind off, a picot hem.

The little white ribbed number appeals to my interest in shaping and the effective use of diagonal ribbing to contour fabric.

The yoke treatment on the pullover combined with the waist shaping is wonderful on its own but has me wondering about combining a hand pain with a solid for an updated look that would provide a pop of colour and be an affordable way to explore some of the great boutique dyers that have abounded in recent years.

The gal doing a great impersonation of the classic Superman stance/pose got my attention not only for the pose. The cardigan has a great fitted shape and, at first glance seems to have some miter treatment forming the yoke.

A glance at the instructions gave me even more interest because my beloved short rows are a big part of the design.

Even though this is the only design in the book with a diagram, initially I couldn't wrap my head around how the diagram related to the design.

Here's the diagram, does it communicate any better to you blog readers than it did to me?

The diagram should look oddly familiar to some of you who have seen my short rowed Kathryn's Kimonos and other odd experiments in strip knitting via short rows.

Believe it or not, all that short rowing is to form the button bands, neckline and bottom edge of the cardigan.

And, after all that effort, the thing is sewn onto the rest of the garment instead of picking up and knitting and/or grafting. So I guess they were forward
looking in 1956 but they still had a few things to learn.


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