Not entirely golden

No, not yet another post of pre-Wonderwool Wales squeals. Seven sleeps to go, mind, but an unexpected delight has come up…

A friend of mine was in a little cafe where she takes an elderly relative every week. They also sell second-hand books. She picked up a copy of Montse Stanley’s Handknitter’s Handbook (at the massive sum of 50p), explaining that it was a present, and the cafe owner said, somewhat desperately, ‘Would your friend like these too? Free?’

An enormous pile of the late 60s-early 70s partwork, Golden Hands. I think I’ve now got about 30 issues, though most are only going to be in my custody briefly as they pass through on their way to the charity shop.

In the process I have acquired some issues of another kind, forced into some truly scary confrontations with the past.

I rest my case. Personally, I think we’re getting very close to crimes against humanity.

I’m only glad that my mother’s innate reluctance to part with hard cash for anything as obviously uneconomic as a partwork must have kicked in, because I just know that if she’d seen this

I’d have had to leave home. Yes, they are, I know they are, because they are quite explicitly described as bloomers in the text. The model looks deeply worried too, and I’m not surprised. We’re in Pretty Baby territory here, only years before Louis Malle ever thought about his Storyville child prostitutes. Though I suppose I could be being a little harsh.

Or not.

This has to be a boy baby:

Bet – forty years on – he’s still sitting like this in pubs, though hopefully not wearing knitted leggings and a giant bobble hat.

(Interesting how much production values have improved. So often the shots are badly set up and the colours are badly chosen, even by the standards of 1972, the date of my editions.)

And then there are some other delights, quite frequently perpetrated in crocheted acrylic. So not only are they hideous – well, in my opinion, she added hastily – they also use a phenomenal amount of yarn. Still, they’d grow quickly.

Even the dog is averting its gaze. This fetching little number is described as a Killarney Cloak. Quick, throw it in the bog!

There are some appalling accessories. Hats aplenty, often with bobbles, frequently with peaks; bags not so much to die for as to run away from. Bobbles are a leitmotif. I never knew that about the very early 70s – anti-war protests, yes; mind-altering drugs, yes; magic bus through Central Asia, yes – ah ha, we may have an explanation. Here are some slipper socks (you affix your sock onto a bought slipper base):

Not that bad, really. If you ignore the terrible attack of bobble-growth disorder that is affecting the model’s left leg.

But why stop at socks – sorry, slipper socks – when you can knit yourself a whole trouser suit?

No. Just no.

The production values, incidentally, don’t just affect the styling. The knitwear isn’t very well finished either. There’ll be a close-up of an intarsia panel and you can clearly see where the ends have been inadequately woven in; I found a shot of a neckband where the test knitter had knotted off the ends and left a marked lump. Having said that, I imagine the knitters and contributors wouldn’t have been paid very much, and either they got fed up or the peanut/monkey equation came into play.

And under all the late 60s-early 70s scariness, there are actually some interesting things. This crochet dress, for instance, has a certain restraint that might go down well in a super-stylish retro vintage shop in, say, Islington:

Mind you, it’s also got the dodgy finish.

There are sections on techniques and on stitches, and on all sorts of sewing-related crafts other than knitting. Toys feature a lot (and if you are in possession of a Sasha doll and want to knit clothes for it, then you need Golden Hands). This is a – well, guess:

It’s a lamb.
Yes it is.
It is.
Because it says so. And, as it also says, the thing coming out of its mouth is a garland.

Enough. Back to garments. I quite like this, too, though I’m not so struck on the model’s hair. Is it an animal? Is it some sort of growth? Is it – I do hope it is – a wig?

And at this point I have to draw attention to the styling. At least there’s been some thinking here about colour and context unlike, for instance, the trouser suit. That seems to have been shot in the back room of a pub by a photographer who was lying on the floor, possibly having drink taken.

This one is a rather surprising bit of industrial funk (ish) with the corrugated iron and the great pile of coke behind the model, whose tense expression and pose suggest that she’s thinking of leaving if she can only make her right leg work. But do check out the signpost in the background.

It’s pointing to Cok.


18 thoughts on “Not entirely golden

    1. kate Post author

      I do hope not, but I suspect they did. Though hopefully not the trouser suit – can you imagine the bagging at the knees and bum? Dear lord…

  1. Lydia

    Oh, yes, I remember Golden Hands very well. My mother also bought Woman, Woman’s Realm, Woman’s Own – all of which had knitting sections. If only the garments had been designed by people who actually knitted or crocheted and who knew just a smidgen about yarn and technique. To be fair there were also terrific designers – Patricia Roberts being one. My Mother was a huge supporter of synthetic fabric, acrylic yarn, nylon sheets (huge static problem), nylon shirts – anything which avoided ironing in fact – who can blame her? The model in the coke pile above reminds me so much of the look back then. A fascinating journey – how fickle human beings are in their tastes – thank you for a great read.

    1. kate Post author

      Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end… Mary Hopkins, I think, and entirely appropriate!

      You reminded me of my mother’s foray into nylon sheets. It lasted one night. By 11pm I was trying to sleep on the sofa, covered in a coat, and my parents were having a very loud argument; my little brother just slept. After half an hour Dad (who kept shouting ‘insupportable’ – he was French, not just pretentious – and I were putting up a tent in the garden and unrolling sleeping bags. While I sympathise about the lack of ironing, they really were an abomination… my goodness, I can still remember their colour. Pale vomit. Eeeuk.

    1. kate Post author

      Yersssssss….. and very, very frightening. In view of the fact that, particularly when it comes to fashion, what goes around comes around. Argh…

  2. knitsofacto

    Your last comment Kate … don’t go there, pleeease!

    I laughed so much reading this post I nearly had a Tena moment. And if you’ll excuse a further lavatorial reference, I’m worried about the poor little chap in the oversized bobble hat … he has that focussed inward look, I fear there’s more than posing going on there, which could explain the way he’s sitting!

    1. kate Post author

      Well, quite. But I don’t care how fashionable it might get, I’m not wearing knitted trousers for anyone. Especially in turquoise, even though I adore the colour, and particularly not with an eight-inch strip of bobbles or blackberry stitch or whatever aberration is around the hem.

      You know, I did wonder about Bobble Boy, too, and I bet Bloomer Girl grew up to really, really hate her parents for doing that to her. I also expect she’s hunted down the photographer and knifed him in a dark alley – she certainly looks as though she’s plotting the job.

  3. Harriet

    Brilliant post! Acrylic yarn, nylon sheets, bobbles and knitted trouser suits? What was going on back then? I too remember the nylon sheets moment – sweatilly sliding off the bed and refusing to ‘sleep’ in them again. As for the cloak, well, what’s Killarney ever done to deserve that?
    Have a great time at Wonderwool Wales this weekend. I’ll make it one day!

    1. kate Post author

      Scary… I cannot imagine why anybody thought nylon sheets would be a good idea. Apparently they created sparks in some circumstances (ahem) but I wouldn’t know about that.

      I quite agree, poor Killarney – surely they could have found somewhere Irish that actually deserved the cloak? (Maybe I’d better not nominate anywhere specific, cough, cough, or I’ll be hunted down.)

      Wwwwwwwooooooooonderwoolllllll – two sleeps, two sleeps! Yes, you must make it sometime – I’m sure you’d love it…

  4. madewithloops

    Wow, some truly gobsmackingly awful creations here, but Montse Stanley for 50P…oh my lucky you!!
    How was Wonderwool? and how much gorgeousness did you come home with?
    I have new website/blog, see what you think and let me know your thoughts.
    Will stop by more often again now that things have settled again.
    How is your hand? x

    1. kate Post author

      Hello Heike, and welcome back!

      I know – couldn’t believe the Montse Stanley, such a sensible book. And at least the others were entertaining, even if they got taken to the Tenovus shop pretty damn quickly, ho ho… Wonderwool was lovely but ******** freezing. Watch this space!

    1. kate Post author

      I’m glad you enjoyed it – it’s very worrying to think that there was a time, and not so long ago, when the construction of a knitted trouser suit was a distinct possibility. I know what goes around, comes around – but please not these!

      Glad yo meet you virtually!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.