27 April 2016

A Link to the Past

While many of us are interested in the newest developments in knitting, it is also enlightening to look back at the past. Fashions come and go. Something like a miser's purse, which were quite common in the 19th century, might become almost completely extinct. (A quick Ravelry search returned 5 miser's purses finished in 2015 and none yet in 2016. To learn about the history and use of these fascinating and often luxurious objects, read Laura L. Camerlengo's master's thesis, The Ubiquitous Miser’s Purse, which you can download from the Smithsonian Institution here.)

There is a theory that like attracts like. I don't know if that is true. It may be more simply that when people discover you have an interest in something, they send appropriate items in your direction. There is quite a bit that has come my way in recent years, both from friends and family. For example, Jenna the Yarn Pimp gave me this more than 90 years old magazine.

First off, I love the cover. I love all the decorative elements. I don't know much about the history of printing, so I can't speak to how expensive/uncommon the color printing would have been, or why the magazine is a slightly oversized 10½ inches by 13 inches. The whole thing is fascinating. I'm surprised by how many advertisements are for products I recognize — Cream of Wheat (full color, inside the front cover!), Ivory soap, Campbell's tomato soup (in black, white, and lots of red), Fels-Naptha laundry soap, Sun-Maid raisins (in full color), Bon Ami (full color), Lane Bryant (declaring "Stout Women Dress Fashionably Look Slender), Quaker quick oats, Karo syrup (making health claims by stating ". . . contains a large percentage of that most important food element — Dextrose.), and Kellogg's corn flakes. Just the advertisements would give you fodder for a master's thesis in women's studies.

As you would expect from the title, much of the contents cover needlearts. There are projects in sewing, tatting, cutwork, crochet, and knitting. And there are other craft projects, such as bronzing dried flowers. There are plenty of crocheted doilies and edgings. There is a fabulous knitted lace in Oak-Leaf-and-Acorn pattern, at left. (The art historian in me is immediately thinking of the della Rovere oak motifs on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.) I must translate this motif sometime. [Edited to add: Sarah Bradberry has rewritten and charted it here on her site. Hurray!] Of course, it is written out rather than charted, and contains directions such as "narrow," when today we would specify a left-leaning or right-leaning decrease. Other knit items include knitted doily with picot border, infant's thumbless mitten, infant's knitted bootee, cap for a baby boy, and infant's knitted hood. The cover illustration is for the Minnehaha knitted sweater "for a little maiden of six to eight years" and Minnehaha crocheted hat! I am guessing the women reading this magazine are very much multi-craftual. Buried on page 36 are directions for "Trinity Lace (Reprinted with corrections, from February issue)." Without the February issue, I'm not sure what it is supposed to look like.

As this is a women's magazine, there are also articles about child-rearing ("Teaching the Children to Set the Table") and food ("New Pies and Pastries"). And there is a hybrid article about making card table covers (sewing, embroidery) and then how to host a bridge supper (manners, menus). And, of course, several advertisements and illustrations of the latest in flapper fashions.

It does look like someone is adding these patterns to the Ravelry database, although mostly without images. A Google search turns up copies on Etsy and eBay and information on LibraryThing. I'm not sure if anyone has digitized this magazine, or if it is of the age to be in the public domain.

If you do have an interest in this sort of thing, the University of Southhampton has made available their knitting reference library. If I find out about other sources, I'll post them here.


Molly Elkind said...

What a fascinating find! I agree with you about the charming cover. Thanks for sharing, Jolie.

Sarah Bradberry said...

That's fascinating to see your version of the acorn and leaf lace. I translated a copy of the same design from the 1890's many years ago and my picture shows it facing the opposite direction. (I put a link with this comment).

To this day it's one of my favourite lace edgings.

Sarah Bradberry said...

OK, I'm slow this morning. Your version of the leaf and acorn lace is much more complex than the on from 1890! The older one only has one row of leaves and acorns and your has two.

If you don't feel like having a crack at updating it feel free to send me a copy. I'd love to tackle it!

Jolie said...

Oh wow! It looks like the same pattern, but in a glide reflection! Yes, I would love to have you tackle it. Please send me a private message on Ravelry; and I can e-mail to you the scans of the relevant pages.

Sarah Bradberry said...

Awesome! I found a copy of it via the wayback machine and put the updated version on my site this morning.

Some of the yo, k2togs could still be changed to yo, ssk but I kept them a k2tog for ease of knitting.

Jolie said...

Wow! You are fast!