Sunday, August 19, 2007

Games Week dawns. It’s raining.

However, boring though it is, I’m going to slog on with Vogue Knitting. If the magazine won’t tell its own story in its own anniversary issue, I may be performing a public service by writing down what little I know.

When the Vogue Knitting Book perished in the 60’s, it was seamlessly replaced – at least in GB – by “Vogue Knitting”, completely redesigned and with the numbering starting again from One. In the 50’s, the Vogue Knitting Book appeared on both sides of the Atlantic. They weren’t identical – my copies are British-edited and all the ads are British. But there was a considerable – perhaps total – overlap of patterns.

I wonder now whether the Americans decided to pull the plug, and the British thought they could go it alone, hence “Vogue Knitting”. It lasted for eight issues, edited throughout by Judy Brittain, and there’s good stuff there. And the name, “Vogue Knitting”, must have forced the current magazine to include “International” in its title.

I think we can trust the current VKI on dates. If they’re celebrating their 25th anniversary, they must have started up in 1982. So there was no VK at all in the 70’s. I think that’s the gap you’re thinking of, Katherine (comment yesterday). The one that continues to puzzle me is the break in sequence between Number One, which appears to have been published in America as well as here in 1932, and the true start of the American Vogue Knitting Book numbering sequence, during the war.

Whereas British VKB’s are numbered straight through from No. 1 in autumn, 1932.

Anyway, in the penultimate issue of the “Vogue Knitting”, in spring 1969, a Kaffe Fassett pattern appeared – surely his first. It was not the practice in those days, believe it or not, to include designers’ names, but Brittain broke with tradition to introduce this pattern: “Designed with an artist’s eye by American painter Kaffe Fassett…” I think maybe she knew she was on to a good thing. I never forgot the name.

You must forgive the slight awkwardness of the scan – I’m not going to force my precious copy into a better position on the scanner.

It looks pretty banal now – but remember, this was before Sarah Don or Sheila Macgregor, let along Starmore and Feitelson. There were no Fair Isle patterns to speak of. Incredibly, this one was printed without a chart, line by line.

The KF pattern in the Holiday, 1986, issue of VKI turns out to be illustrated in the anniversary issue, so I don’t need to risk the copyright police by posting it. It’s on the Westminster Fibers page in those silvery bits at the beginning, and strongly resembles the sort of thing the master was to publish in his Family Album.


  1. Anonymous2:38 PM

    I am enjoying the history lesson. Congratulations on your new purchase.

  2. Anonymous12:45 AM

    Thanks for the history Jean. The first stranded knitting I ever did was a two color pullover in an all over rose design from (I think) Vogue in 1966. I can't remember if it had a chart or not but I'm sure I was not in the least daunted by it. And I know I didn't have any double points so I must have knitted it flat or did the "magic loop" thing. I fail to understand the big deal about that, it's just common sense.
    I guess it was a good thing to be knitting solo in those days - no one to tell you that you couldn't do something. That's why I fail to understand the big deal about Elizabeth Zimmerman too. Back in the 50's when I started, people just knitted without questioning whether it was hard or whether we were doing it the right way. It's not rocket science.

  3. Anonymous12:52 AM

    Keep writing the history lesson - it helps with understanding why the magazines are so coveted, not to mention the bizarre numbering systems!

    Welcome back from the Centre of the Universe. Good luck int he Gams with StR

  4. I think you've done us all a big service, Jean. Thanks so much for the history!

    That's correct, there were no Vogue Knitting issues published in the '70s. I remember my mother buying them in the '50s and '60s, but I was too young to do more than knit scarves. By the time that Kaffe Fassett issue came out, I was 19 and just starting to really learn how to knit as an adult.

    And then Vogue Knitting was gone. So as Patb says, we had to rely on ourselves and our smarts. Yes, it was good to learn to knit solo, I think. You just mucked around and figured it out. End of story.

  5. Richard Rutt in his History of Handknitting agrees with you Jean! He says that the first pattern that Kaffe published was called a "Moroccan Waistcoat" which appeared in Vogue Knitting Spring 1969.
    The late 60's was a bit of a desert for good knitting books, especially books in colour. I wonder if this may have had something to do with printing capabilities and cost at the time. It was also just at the end in the British market of James Norbury's books, in fact his book the Family Knitting Book was also published in 1969 and has fairisle patterns with charts in it. Patricia Roberts was also around though would go on to better things in the 70's but 1967 to 1971 she was working for Woman's Weekly and famously was invited to "teach the Shetlanders Knitwear designs in 1969" ( to her credit she admitted they taught her more!)I have a few old books but few from the 60's - Odhams Knitting Encyclopaedia did do a reprint in 1968 but most British people around that time seemed to rely on the Paton's Woolcraft Booklet and magazines such as Woman's Weekly, Stitchcraft or Pins and Needles. The 1970's and 1980's brought a huge number of coloured and adventurous knitting books which are often found in charity shops today. Rutt is worth reading about some of this history but I am not sure he captures the delight that people felt when printing seemed to take off and we had big, full colour knitting books with new patterns and designs. Previously the biggest coloured patterns had been in the magazines so a book was much more exciting.

  6. Anonymous5:20 PM

    Hi Jean, I was really interested to see the info you posted about KF's first published pattern. I saw that he mentioned it in one of his books (Glorious Colour, I think). He said that Britain had commissisoned him to do a waistcoat in the early 1960's.

    I wondered if you could help me out with something ... I'm trying to find a copy of that issue of VK, and I thought I had found one, but I asked the seller to check for that pattern and she said it wasn't there. Could you post a scan of the cover of the issue? That would make it easier for me to identify it if I find the right one.

    The issue I found was title Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 1969, which is slightly different from what you said, but it seems odd that they would do both a Spring 1969 and a Spring/Summer 1969? Is it possible there there were different editions in the USA and the UK? I think the one I found was a USA edition.