Knitting and Crocheting in the 1960s

The other day I blogged about using historical CPI data to compare the price of various textile/craft magazines and its advertised goods. Today I went back to the magazines for a second look.

The picture below on the left is from Needlecraft (Spring/Summer 1969), and the picture below on the right from Needle and Yarn (Summer 1965).

As I re-examined these two issues, I was struck by the different patterns. I don’t mean styles or yarn; I mean the projects themselves. The knitting and crocheting patterns in the 1965 and 1969 magazines focused on making women’s dresses and women’s suits – whole ensembles.

Of course, general attire – at least in the U.S. – has gotten a lot more casual since the 1970s — some people would say too casual.  I’m not going to go there, though, because I remember having to wear girdles, shoes that didn’t fit but were “ladylike,” and uncomfortable dressy suits (with matching handbags and shoes, of course!) whenever we flew between Norway and the U.S.  Talk about uncomfortable!

But I digress.

Born in the late 1950s, I remember that handmade clothes (not just handmade sweaters and accessories) were common, especially with “average” folks (e.g., middle- and working-class). I also remember thinking having a store-bought outfit was exciting.

I am not sure, but perhaps this was one of the reasons all girls in my city were required to have sewing classes starting in junior high. 🙂 Many of us loved sewing and made our own clothes. Many high schools (such as mine), offered an array of advanced sewing classes, including tailoring.

In California at those days, average folks shopped at JC Penny and Sears, and most of the clothes we bought were made in the US. (Now try limiting your clothes shopping to clothes made in the US!) In addition, most people (the average folks, at least), did not have the sheer number of items of clothing they do now (as reflected in the lower number of clothes closets in older houses).

It wasn’t until the advent of (1) outsourcing the growing and preparation of fiber for clothing manufacturing to developing nations with much lower land costs, (2) outsourcing the clothing manufacturing to developing nations with much lower labor costs, and (3) the birth of stores such as Marshall’s and Ross selling heavily discounted clothing that working and middle-class folk could buy ready-made clothes a lot more easily and abundantly.

But I digress yet again.

In both magazines I also noticed many advertisement for “Weave-Its.” Weave-Its were hand looms on which one could weave little squares (2, 4 or 5 inch). Hero Manufacturing Company of Middleboro, Massachusetts, started making them in 1934. They are now considered “vintage” (check eBay!); you can read about them on eLoomaNation.

The Weave-Its advertisements caught my attention because in the last two or so years I read, I believe, at least one article in at least one textile/craft magazine about Weave-Its, not to mention a couple of letters to the editors about Weave-Its.

Needle and Yarn had two patterns for making baby sacques out of the squares woven on a Weave-It. In case anyone has a Weave-It, here are the instructions for the two baby sweaters in the picture at the right.  It also had a picture of a wrap (or “stole”) made from Weave-It squares (see pic below), and I scanned in the instructions as well for interested readers.

I think many of us fiber nuts, crafters, textile artists – whatever name we give ourselves – are, in their own way, bringing life and value back to the everyday world around them. And perhaps our own clothing styles reflect that.

About six months ago I decided I would never again wear a tailored business suit. While I carry a briefcase and will wear dark slacks or a dark skirt to professional events, I top them off with a hand-made arty (often “vintage”) sweater or jacket of some luscious fiber in a strong color. (I keep thinking of the poem by Jenny Joseph, “Warning: When I am Old, I Shall Wear Purple.”) That way, when the non-textile part of me is working, I am still surrounded by soothing fiber.

Plus, it guarantees I am the only person in the room in that outfit! 🙂

Advertisements

About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
This entry was posted in Crocheting, Knitting, Weaving and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Knitting and Crocheting in the 1960s

  1. We had home ec classes in high school only but I never took any. The sewing classes were separate from home ec. Most of the “home ec” seeds came from my grandmother. And thank you; I am glad you enjoy my blog!

    Like

  2. It is so true. When I was in grammar school, we had home economis classes ( cooking, crafts, sewing). I thought at the time. ” do I have too?”. Today I am grateful to have planted that seed in my soul. I now appreciate and admire anyone who enjoys sharing there being by creating beauty. By the way. I love your blog.

    Like

  3. I had never even heard of it until the last year, and now it seems to be popping up all over the place!

    Like

  4. Northern Narratives says:

    Thanks for the good memories. I don’t remember the Weave It. I am definitley going to read more about it. 🙂 Judy

    Like

  5. P. Taylor says:

    I think Bond has a swing coat top. Let me check. I know. Susyranner.wordpress.com/ has a Bond swing top pattern. Thanks for the suggestion and reminder!

    Like

  6. Oh yes. Have you seen the “swing” cardigans? I have several of those. I have two I will be knitting up soon. They work for me but only if they not too long and the shoulders are fitted (not dropped) – otherwise I look like I am drowning in the sweater.

    Like

  7. P. Taylor says:

    Cute. I have hips and I’m not tall. The knitted skirts are great. I just need a great top to match to even the hips and a design on top to draw the eye up. I don’t like fitted sweaters and too long sweaters. Can you suggest a style? Thanks

    Like

  8. Thank you – I am glad the posts evoke good memories for you! For me too. Sometimes I grin as I write them, remembering what it as like etc.

    Like

  9. Thank you for reading the post. I was born in the 50s and learned to crochet and knit in the 60s … 🙂

    Like

  10. I smiled when I read that my posts “bring back happy memories.” 🙂 Thank you! I never took home ec classes – those were separate from the sewing and tailoring classes I took. I would have loved to have learned how to make pickle relish thought!

    Like

  11. Interestingly, I am starting to lean toward skirts again! I am not sure why. I am not so sure about women today being more shapely; I think there’s a bipolar distribution: women are either model thin OR too heavy. I agree about the vintage styles not fitting women well today, but I don’t think it’s about weight alone; I think the average women are taller and bigger than the average women in the 1950s. I tried on a great vintage dress it looked great on me except it was way too big in the bust. I am a very tall woman and not flat chested, but that dressed seemed to have been designed for Sophia Loren!

    Like

  12. fibercrush says:

    I’m sure it’s coming!

    Like

  13. fibercrush says:

    Yes, it does look like it would be good for children. It’s made by Lily and looks like it was first produced in the 1940’s. I don’t have a manual for it though.

    Like

  14. I haven’t heard of the Speed-o-weave … I will have to look iti up. Does it look like it would be good for children too?

    Like

  15. I love that poem too … in fact, a couple of years ago I told my daughter that when I was I old, I would wear purple (and listed a bunch of the other phrases from the poem). Her response was a funny and sarcastic: “So what made you start early?!” And oh yes, we sound lie kindred spirits!

    Like

  16. I recently read one or two articles and/or comments from readers in one or two Interweave Press magaziness about the Weave-Its … so your Weave-It is indeed coming back in vogue!

    Like

  17. Now we have to wait for models in the Vogue fashion magazine to wear clothes and accessories made from them!

    Like

  18. Oh what fun! Love all the maching ensembles now that I don’t have to wear them. 🙂

    Like

  19. jillbware says:

    I have a bunch of old Vogue Knitting magazines from my Mom, and I still adore them. They absolutely have patterns for full knitted ensembles and sometimes even matching ensembles for the whole family – so charming, if not slightly hilarious and implausible for today’s families! Thanks for the post and causing me to go dig out those old magazines for some well needed chuckles and inspiration:)

    Like

  20. fibercrush says:

    That reminds me, when I was in Michael’s today, I noticed a Martha Stewart craft in the yarn section that looked very much like it was woven on one of these looms. Sure enough, what’s old is new again: http://www.lionbrand.com/6030/PictPage/1922245718.html

    Like

  21. fibercrush says:

    Oh no, another distraction for me! I have a Speed-o-weave Twin Adjustable Loom (“from a small size coaster to a large centerpiece”). It looks similar to your Weave-it. My mother gave it to me when she was clearing out her clutter but I haven’t used it yet. I have some potholders she made on a hexagon loom that she likely gave to my sister.

    Like

  22. LauraLee says:

    I used to have the poem you mentioned posted on my Kindergarten class wall when I was teaching. I still have it in my home. Loved seeing you refer to it! That speaks volumes to me (and to anyone else who is familiar with the poem)!
    😉
    I was born in the mid-fifties and have sometimes referred to myself as a “fading flower child”, but, really, I enjoy creating my own style. I love being old enough that I can not worry about “fitting in” (whatever that really was), but can choose things that reflect who I am rather than what others around me may be trying to be.
    I make my own clothes, my own patterns and my own statements. I sense, in you, a kindred spirit in that respect. That’s why I so enjoy reading your posts!
    🙂

    Like

  23. P. Taylor says:

    I agree! Enjoyed reading your article. I remember the introduction of polyester knits and the liberation of the pants suit for women. Now, I’m so tired of wearing pants and want to wear more dresses. Women today are shapely and voluptuous and most vintage style patterns are too small and I hate girdles. I enjoyed my sewing class and always want to take a tailoring class.

    Like

  24. Patricia says:

    Again, a wonderful post. I had the most fun and learned so many things concerning cooking and sewing in our ~Home Economics Class~ as it was called in the early seventies. In cooking class we learned how to can and make pickle relish – in sewing class we constructed jackets with a lining to name a few assignments. It was the place I enjoyed most throughout high school. Your articles are very informative and bring back happy memories of a better time. I hope you continue to write them.

    Like

  25. Laura says:

    Well I was born in the 60’s and learned to crochet in the 70’s but I can completely relate to your article….so so true !

    Like

  26. tgonzales says:

    Karen,

    Wow this brought back memories. I was born around the same time as you and remember all of the things that you are talking about. I just love reading your blog; keep up the good work.

    Hugs,
    Tamara

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s