Giles and I donned our most comfortable vintage-look clothes as it was a bit of a journey for us. As you can see we didn’t go that far back, perhaps to the 60s or 70s. We definitely felt ‘the part’ while we were there and that was what mattered. We had a splendid morning and here is just a taste of the festival. We’re really hoping they do another next year, for which we will make more of an effort in order to perhaps be in with a chance for the Best Dressed contest.
As well as having a fabulous time perusing the rails of pinnies and needlework books of old (me) and the rather large selection of vintage cameras (Giles), we also made a few purchases.
Books of course! As well as the above stack, we bought a history of the Ideal Home exhibition, a Bill Brandt photography book from the 1950s and a 1957 edition of the American magazine Popular Mechanic (well, I didn’t choose that one, personally!)
As for my tantalising stack of books, bought for a snip (as they used to say in Smash Hits)… the one on the top is an original guide to the Festival of Britain in 1951 ( but more about that in a forthcoming post.) I’m sure that the keen-eyed of you have clocked that the three bottom volumes are bound copies of Stitchcraft. The monthly magazine started publication in 1932 and I was lucky enough to get hold some very early issues: November 1933- October 1934 in one volume.
Stitchcraft is not just a knitting magazine, although the patterns do feature prominently. There are also patterns and directions for general sewing, tapestry, sometimes upholstry and each month a free embroidery transfer was given away as well with tips on what you could apply it to.
The other two volumes comprise 1940 and 1941 and as with the earlier one, are almost complete, with transfers still intact as well. As they’ve been bound, they have been saved some of the ravages of time: the torn pages and children’s scribbles to be found in some of my early ’60s copies.
It has to be said that these early Stitchcrafts are very much a product of their time, being aimed towards channeling women’s energy into domestic pursuits. The way that a lot of the text is phrased may not sit well in today’s society, and it could be argued that prescribing what women should make, wear and how their home should be decorated leaves little room for creativity. But the same could be said for today’s women’s magazines.
In my opinion as a textile historian, Stitchcraft is a wonderful resource that is full of innovative patterns, often made up in rather daring colour combinations (powder blue, white and maroon, anyone?). There’s always some way of constructing a garment or solving a problem that you think is all-new, but turns up in 1933. The knitted garments have far better names than the ones we have now. Admittedly, they are mainly prescribing when you might wear them: ‘For an Evening Dance’ or ‘To Wear for Tennis’ but this in itself gives an insight to society and culture at the time, and what was thought proper for which occassion. The one item of knitwear that I do feel for rather, each month is ‘The Jumper on the Cover’ which does not get it’s own telling title.
What I love the most though, and spend many hours poring over, are the fascinating advertisements, which I could go on and on about, but as this post is becoming somewhat epic, will talk about more in future posts instead!
In essence, despite my great love of vintage knitting and devoting large amounts of my time to reading about yarns and pattern construction, it is both the adverts and the reasons behind the making; the social history contained in these magazines that is their real worth to me.
Do you love Stitchcraft too?