Saturday, January 29, 2011
One for the Boys
When a few Ravelry knitters from Britain mentioned a men's wear book by Jane Waller, I knew I had to find a copy. Jane Waller is the woman who gathered fabulous vintage patterns together in the 1980's. She published A Stitch in Time (just re-done by Susan Crawford and Jane Waller), The Family Knitting Book, and the men's book, above: Classic Knitting Patterns from the British Isles: Men's Hand-Knits from the 20's to the 50's.
I love 1920's and 1930's patterns and even the 1940's, so I was very excited when this book arrived on my doorstep from a used-book store far away. It was in perfect new condition and very modestly priced. I thought it was about time I did some vintage knitting for the boyfriend. Whenever we watch All Creatures Great and Small on Public TV on Saturday nights he exclaims "Look at those great vests!" I know he wants one.
This book is a hoot! Because it was compiled in the 80's, a few of the classic styles were translated into colour photographs with the 80's sensibilities (my very LEAST favorite) but just a few. All of the patterns and the many, many black and white photographs are in their original vintage format - I was so happy about that. The 80's examples show indolent, pouty, pretty boys lounging against walls while wearing baggy, oversized versions of these knits. But, just as with women's knitting, men's vests and sweaters in the 20's and 30's were mostly form-fitting and sleek, designed for what was assumed to be an active lifestyle, and the earlier photographs show these interesting differences, both in style and in activity.
Let's examine what men wearing knits in the 20's and 30's actually did in their sweaters and vests! At least, what they did according to the knitting pattern photographers - perhaps there is a Sociology thesis here!
Well, first of all, men kissed:
Men smoked a pipe:
Men smelled bad smells (apparently):
Men fished in manly ways on the rugged sea:
Men dug in the back yard:
(Whoops! Caught in the act!)
Men also sun-bathed and needed a special suit for this, an "ingenious suit for sun and sea" with a "lightening quick fastener at the waist":
and of course, men swam with their buddies, or at least went to the beach in their knitted shorts and yelled to each other while displaying their ribs:
(Give these men a steak and potatoes dinner - Please!)
Several of the patterns from the 1920's show women wearing the men's designs:
and this one - the one I think I might make for the bf - is shown on both a man and a woman. It is the same pattern with no adaptations for the women's size and is knitted all in one piece from the bottom up, with just a 3-needle bind off at both shoulder tops (I love those easy 20's patterns):
The bf also was very interested in this neat knitted waistcoat:
and this warm helmet hat, although it's knit in FOUR pieces and sewn together! (there must be a better way!):
Strangely, he said NO to this red, yellow, and green number, "designed especially for the man who spends most of his spare time on the golf links":
The chapter on the 50's begins with this quote and this iconic photograph from Jailhouse Rock:
"The pullover has now become a friend... whether it is worn on the back, over the shoulders, wrapped around the waist, or slung over the arm, thrown in the car, tied to a bicycle, it seems indispensable." from Menswear, 1953.