Now that I've found the purple tencel I've been wanting to spin for months
I can't find my spindle. *sigh*
manage to finally finish the Bumblebee Bob Scarf! Hooray!
And I went on a historical knitting treasure hunt! Well, sorta. I've seen this cover from a 1941 edition of Life Magazine with a girl knitting on the cover floating around on the internet and I was curious about the actual article. Combine that with me deciding that I need to learn how to use a microfilm machine, and I had a perfect excuse.
I had a lot of fun going through the magazines on the Microfilm. For some reason I have a thing for old magazines (Hence the stacks of old National Geographic Magazines that I refuse to throw away) They're a great way to look into a time period. A couple of things I found in these surprised me.
The first thing that surprised me was how short the article was. I figured since it was on the cover it would be one of the first articles, and be fairly long. It was only about four pages long and one of the last articles in the magazine.
The second thing that surprised me was in the text of the article:"To the great American question "What can I do to help the war effort?" the commonest answer yet found is "Knit." It is a somewhat unsatisfactory answer since the blunt fact is that sweaters and socks can be turned out in a fraction of the time by machine. Nevertheless women out of the U.S. Have chosen to knit. At present a volunteer Citizens Committee for the Army and Navy is Campaigning for the 1,000,000 standard Army sweaters by Christmas."
Now I know there were a lot more women back then willing to help with the "war effort" than there are now, but this was published a month before Christmas. My reaction would be something like "You want me to knit a sweater in a month? Before Christmas? Are you #@%$& crazy?
" Maybe they thought the women (I say "women" because that is clearly who this article was intended for) who were just learning to knit wouldn't know any better? Anyways, to be fair it is sleeveless, and I'm not entirely sure what weight yarn the pattern calls for so maybe it wouldn't have been that bad. Also, in order for them to be able to get the sweaters to the people who needed them before winter was over they would need them by Christmas or sooner.
A large portion of the article is taken up by pictures showing the basic steps of knitting: Cast on, knit, purl, increase, decrease, picking up stitches along the edge, and bind off. Next to that is a pattern for the Army Short Service Sweater. (quite appropriately a "V" neck)
The pattern looks like it would be simple enough that a determined beginner could manage it on their own or at least with minimal help. Like I said earlier things the pattern does not include is a suggestion for yarn weight, content, or color. Instead the article directs people to buy khaki colored yarn and instructions at stores saying that they run around $1.85 for a kit. (I'll have to figure out what that translates to in today's currency.)
I'm going to assume they probably want the "Army Green" variety of Khaki. I don't know when Acrylic yarns hit the market in the US, but for now I'm going to wager a guess that they used wool. In the how to knit pictures in the article the yarn looks like it's either DK, or Worsted weight, but I'll have to sit down with the pattern and make a couple swatches to figure it out for certain. If I was being super picky I would also mention that I have no way of knowing how many strands were in the yarn, but since I can't know that without looking at at one of the kits or seeing an actual sweater, and its possible something like that varied, I'm not going to ;-)
My favorite part of the article was the last page where they discuss the latest European originating trends and techniques in knitting. "The call for 1,000,000 Army Sweaters is responsible for only part of the knitting boom. Hand-knit sweaters, caps, gloves, dresses, stockings are the latest fashion craze. Expert European Knitwear designers such as Polly Rosenthal, Maria Krum, Erica [diMeuron] and Gizi Alton are now all in the US creating original knitting fashions both for dress, suit, and yarn manufacturers."
The caption identifies the designer in this photo as Polly Rosenthal.
The epitomy of vintage knitted fashion.
The Article goes on to talk about the thrifty-ness of knitting these things at home saying they cost $75-$250 in a store when yarn costs are $10-$30.
Another intriguing thing on this page describes blocking as though it was a fairly new technique. Since it's such a simple technique that makes such a big difference I would have assumed that it was invented long ago. Maybe it wasn't, or maybe the article was just poorly worded. I guess I'll just keep my eyes open for evidence of blocking techniques from an earlier period.
Stylin' knitted suit.
Another thing I thought was fascinated by were the advertisements. I found it remarkable how many products were advertised as being part of the war effort; cars, toasters, insurance and this:
Army standard knitwear from Lion Mills (I wonder if they have any relation to Lion Brand Yarns?) Located close to my home town in Cleveland, I might add.
Scanning through the entire year, I also noticed that the advertisements that focused on war seemed to occur more in some issues than others. It might be interesting to compare a time line of the major events of World War II that got a lot of press coverage in the US, and see if there is any relationship between the two, but that's a much bigger project than I want to take on right now.
It wasn't until I was half-way through scanning all this stuff that I realized something that surprised me even more. This article was published in November of 1941. The US didn't officially enter the Second World War until the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 2, 1941.(Why didn't I pick up on that sooner? *head desk*) I can name at least four college professors and two of my high school teachers that have discussed the attitude of the population towards the possibility of the US entering the war, and that there was a great deal of opposition towards it before Pearl Harbor. So I went back and took a better look at the articles and advertisements in this and a few previous issues. I did find one very interesting article on FDR titled "Dictator or Demigod?" and a few of the ads I had thought seemed in favor of a "war effort" seemed to be more neutral than I had initially realized. Even so, without considering the dates, it would be extremely easy to mistake this as a war time publication. Maybe "Life" had a pro-war bias, or maybe opposition to the war wasn't as openly expressed as I had initially thought. It's definitely something worth looking into more.
Interesting, association of knitting with Economy. I think it was for a mortgage company.
So, in case you haven't already guessed, I'm giving serious thought to knitting a sample of this up in the near future. That's just what I need, another
project! If anyone is still extremely interested in the pattern or the article after reading my long winded summary, leave a comment and I can try to email you a PDF or something. (I'll screen comments with addresses in them)