Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Review with Lots of Links: Today's Woman Knit & Crochet Book

Book Review: Today’s Woman Knit & Crochet Book
        
Author: Fawcett Publications staff
        
Date: 1966, 1975
        
Publisher: Fawcett
        
ISBN: none (but it's listed on Amazon here)
        
Length: 112 pages including index
        
Illustrations: many photos and charts, some diagrams
        
Quote: “Beautifully detailed sweaters are yours for the making.”
        
After a short review of techniques (showing which of several alternative knitting techniques is recommended, and which set of crocheting terms are used), the first few chapters of this book consist of sweater patterns. The book also contains patterns for accessories and household items.
        
One thing Today’s Woman Knit & Crochet book proves is that knitting and crocheting are independent of fashion. Some patterns in this book do look dated. Some would require extensive editing to be used...not so much because they’re out of fashion as because they were fashionable bad ideas when they were in fashion. Most are still usable.
        
The sweaters do need some editing. You might still wear a T-shirt-shaped sweater with bands of embroidered flowers, but now that we’ve all had the opportunity to wear petrochemical fibres, nobody would want an acrylic T-shirt...even if Coats Patons were to restore the traditional quality standard that made Red Heart a premium-grade acrylic blanket yarn. If today’s woman wants a knitted T-shirt, she’d skip over the first pattern in this book and go to the third, which uses lightweight cotton to make a lacy-textured T-shirt with an optional scalloped collar.
        
Many of the yarns specified in this book are no longer made. This is not a problem for experienced knitters. As a courtesy to anyone who might buy this book from me, I've suggested substitute yarns, and since most yarn manufacturers now have web pages where you can order yarn online (usually for higher prices than you'd pay at a store), I've linked each brand name to the appropriate web page. Wal-Mart won't use its bulk-purchase discount deal to order the brand or color you want, but most yarn or craft stores will. 

I’ve tried to suggest yarns that are fairly cheap, easy to find, and “classic” from year to year. Your local wool shop has more fashionable yarns that will also work, but since it’s hard to predict when and where you’ll find these yarns, it’s probably best to let the shop staff make the recommendations. (Upscale yarns that have been around a while, e.g. Brown Sheep Lambs Pride or Cotton Fleece, Rowan DK, Alafoss Lopi (formerly Reynolds Lopi), Tahki CottonClassic, Classic Elite La Gran, or Jamieson & Smith Shetland, won’t disappoint you...if you can find and afford them.)
        
For Red Heart yarn in the “Posy Pullover,” page 14: Red Heart is still available and would still work, but who wants a T-shirt that feels like a blanket? Sugar & Cream, Peaches & Creme, Lion Cotton, etc., would work too. I’d start with 24 ounces. I would use acrylic scraps for the embroidery, if I did the embroidery, because the different brilliant colors won’t fade into each other.
        
For Knit-Cro-Sheen yarn in the “Feather & Fan Blouse,” page 18: Accept no substitutes. Because this all-purpose cotton yarn is thicker than the “threads” crocheters usually use for doilies and thinner than the blanket yarns they use for afghans, not all stores stock Knit-Cro-Sheen. Don’t give up! If you don’t find this yarn in the store, contact the manufacturer here.
        
For Red Heart Wintuk Sock & Sweater Yarn in the “Lacy Cardigan,” page 22: For a very lacy effect, the designer used yarn that would normally knit up to a finer gauge than this sweater requires. Red Heart's current super-fine sock yarn, Heart & Sole, comes in white and multicolor only. If you want a solid color, you could knit the sweater in Luster-Sheen...it’s heavier, glossier, and more prone to retain odors (the sweater would require lots of airing). I’d buy 16 to 20 ounces of Luster-Sheen to substitute for 8 to 10 ounces of the lighter-weight yarn. Alternatively, Jamieson & Smith Shetland wool would work beautifully in this sweater.
        
For Unger Les Bouquets in the “Tapestry Tops,” page 28, and the “Man’s Striped Pullover,” page 48: Sugar & Cream or similar cottons would work: 800 to 1000 grams in the main color, 400 grams in the contrast color. If knitting the man’s sweater, first find a man who is willing to wear it, and unless you can fix that boat neck you probably won’t find one.
        
For Columbia-Minerva Nantuk in the “Shortee” T-shirt, page 30: I’d buy 40 ounces of Sugar & Cream or a similar cotton...possibly 20 ounces in each of two colors, since the pattern calls for knitting two strands together. This would be more than enough to knit the sweater as shown. I wouldn’t knit it as shown. I’d lengthen the sleeves, and consider making it as either a cardigan with a front opening, or a tabard open at the sides. If it were knitted with some ventilation, as a cardigan or tabard, it could be knitted in one of the interesting chunky yarns on the market—say 30 ounces Homespun acrylic, or 24 ounces Lopi wool. I’d also knit at least two sizes bigger than the intended wearer normally buys her dresses, because dress sizes given in the book follow the old system, where “Size 10” meant a 34” bust not a 39” bust. In knitting it’s generally a good idea to ignore either dress sizes or “small/medium/large.” Take a sweater or jacket that fits the way the intended wearer wants your creation to fit. Measure this garment. It will probably be two to twelve inches wider than the wearer’s chest measurement. Make the size closest to this measurement. Also measure the length of waist and sleeves, and adjust the pattern to get that length.
        
For Aunt Lydia’s Rug Yarn in the “Knot Sweater” on page 31, “Cluster Shell” on page 33, and anywhere else: Lion Brand Jiffy or Homespun acrylic are softer (which sweater wearers will probably appreciate!) but work up to the same gauge.
        
For Dawn Sayelle in the “Miss’s and Dog’s Sweaters and Tams” on page 34: Red Heart would be a near-perfect ounce-for-ounce substitute, but the garment might be enjoyed more if you used Sugar & Cream or a similar cotton. 42 ounces would probably suffice.
        
For Dawn Worsted in the “Striped Pullovers” on page 36: Red Heart would have the same period-appropriate look. The only reason why I’d knit these sweaters would be as historical costumes. Because the yarn was heavy and was knitted loosely, this kind of sweater didn’t hold its shape, and those “boat necks” were soon sinking down off the wearer’s shoulders. Her sweaty shoulders. If you do want stripes but don’t want a sinking boat neckline, try copying the neckline from “Miss’s and Dog’s Sweaters and Tams.” If you’re knitting for someone who reacts normally to temperatures, use Sugar & Cream or a similar cotton.
        
For Reynolds Classique in the “Girl’s Pullover or Cardigan” and “Boys’ Pullovers” on page 39, Red Heart Sport would probably work, but watch the row gauge. I’d estimate 3 ounces of Red Heart Sport (or "Comfort Sport") for each skein of Classique to get the size indicated.
        
For Spinnerin Marvel Twist in the “Deer and Doves Sweaters” on page 42, shown in color on the front cover: Lion Brand Wool-Ease would probably be a close match.
        
For Brunswick Germantown in the “Norwegian Yoke Pullover” on page 46: There will never be a real substitute for Brunswick Germantown. It was 100% wool spun in such a way as to yield wearable fabric when knitted at anything from 4 to 6 stitches per inch. Philosophers Wool comes in two weights, neither of which “normally” knits up to 4 stitches per inch; knitting the lighter yarn loosely would probably feel more like the original version; knitting the heavier yarn tightly would make a snowproof garment. Knitting Wool-Ease loosely would give a similar effect with cheaper, easier-care yarn, as would knitting Sugar & Cream or similar cottons loosely. Red Heart normally knits up to 4 stitches per inch, and stranding two colors of it on every row would make a Canadian-type, double-thick-blanket, snowproof fabric...not what most of us want to wear as an indoor pullover. Red Heart Sport normally knits up to 5.5 stitches per inch, as did Germantown, and could possibly be knitted loosely at 4 stitches per inch, but the body of the yarn wouldn’t “rise to the occasion” the way Germantown did, so the sweater would look loose and lacy. You decide.
        
For “fisherman’s yarn” in the “Man’s Irish Pullover” on page 50: Lion Brand has actually brought out a natural wool “Fishermen's” yarn that would work in this design. It’s minimally processed, comes in creamy natural white and sometimes in shades of tan and gray, and meant to shrink and felt easily. Allow 800 to 1000 grams (depending on size wanted). Most people who have had allergic reactions to wool garments are actually allergic to chemicals used in processing wool; some could safely wear Fishermen's Wool, but you could substitute 40 to 48 ounces of Sugar & Cream or a similar cotton if you wanted to.
        
For “knitting worsted” in the “Boy’s Knit Cap” on page 52, they really meant that any of the dimestore yarns sold as “worsted weight” in the U.S. at the time could be used. “Worsted” actually refers to the way yarn is spun; in the U.K. at this time “knitting worsted” meant a much finer yarn. Three or four ounces of any yarn that knits up to 3.75 or 4 stitches per inch would be enough for the cap.
        
For Spinnerin Wintuk Featherlon in the “Boy’s Side-Striped Set” on page 52: Red Heart Sport knitted loosely would give a period-appropriate effect, and 20 ounces of the main color would probably be about right. However, if you want to make something an 8-to-12-year-old will like, why not buy undyed Philosophers Wool (the lighter weight) and let your nephew or niece dye the contrast colors with Kool-Aid mix? If interested, the child could do much of the knitting, as well...on needles, or on the hand-operated Sweater Machine.
        
For Bucilla Angora, Melody, and Supra Mohair in the accessories section beginning on page 54: Your local yarn shop has some fluffy yarn that will work. Fluffy yarns tend to be season-specific (although La Gran mohair and Lamb's Pride mohair blend have been consistently available in different colors for years), and yardage and textures vary—not because fluffy shawls and caps go out of style (they don’t) but because the supply of naturally fluffy animal hair varies. If you have fluffy pets who like to be brushed and combed in spring, you can actually save their hair and have it spun to make a fluffy wool blend that would also be a pet souvenir. (You would smell like your pet to humans only if the garment got wet, but your pet would notice, and be pleased. Part of what pets do when they snuggle up to their humans is tag the humans with their scent so other animals know to whom the humans belong.) You can always use a lighter weight of fluffy yarn, knitted loosely, to substitute for a heavier yarn; the yarn will fluff out and fill in the holes.
        
For Columbia-Minerva Knitting Worsted in the “Patterned Rib Stockings” on page 62: Wool-Ease would be a period-appropriate, stiff and clumpy match. Wool-Ease Sport was an excellent idea that would have worked well in these socks, and should not have been discontinued.
        
For Columbia-Minerva Precious Nantuk in the baby patterns beginning on page 66: For the jacket, Caron Simply Soft, knitted tightly, or Red Heart Sport, knitted loosely, or Lion Brand Jamie, knitted loosely, would do. Do you really want to wrap a baby’s head in plastic, even spun plastic? I’d try Knit-Cro-Sheen, knitted very loosely. Tahki Cotton Classic would be a better gauge match, if you can find it. An alternative way to use these patterns would be to knit Sugar & Cream or a similar cotton tightly. The cotton would stretch a bit, giving a slightly larger garment. Babies tend to keep the same proportions as they grow for the first year or two, so the sweater could grow with the baby for a few months.

For the crocheted patterns in the rest of the book: These projects were designed for the lace-weight crochet cotton and blanket-weight acrylic yarns that dominate the yarn displays in discount department stores everywhere. If brands or colors aren’t available, substitutes will be. I don't crochet, but I'd expect that crocheters will be able to use any of these patterns as written.

Today's Woman magazine no longer exists, and since the patterns aren't credited to individual designers there's no way this collection could be considered a Fair Trade Book. Online, I'd still have to charge $10 for the book + $5 for shipping.