The joy of seventies knitwear…

Or maybe not.

I’ve been given another mystery box of doom, by the same person who passed on a huge heap of Golden Hands magazines earlier in the year. The first thing I saw made me very, very grateful that I wasn’t knitting in the early 1970s, and that my mother was far too stylish to countenance anything quite so, ahem, fashionable.

What is this for? Practically, as well as existentially? (Apart from wearing while standing by a fence with one hand nonchalantly on your hip, that is.) And is the medallion obligatory?

For some reason I find myself thinking of woven, rustic table runners in dire 1970s sitcoms – this, er, thing doesn’t look knitted, but it is. It’s not quite a tabard, for which I suppose we should be grateful, in that it is seamed up the sides. Partly up the sides. Why bother? And why, why, why so many tassels?

Very odd.

I persevered – after that, how could I not? And lo and behold, we have this natty little matching hat and cardigan set, probably influenced by Starsky and Hutch (except for the hat. I don’t remember hats featuring in that series, they would have interfered with Paul Michael Glaser’s hair). I don’t think the knitting is the most worrying aspect of this pattern, though; that has to be the typeface – could this be the inspiration for Comic Sans? Can someone please build a time machine, go back to 1975 and destroy all trace of it?

For verily the early seventies was the time that style forgot.

And if you need further evidence, why this? This has to be the personification of someone looking like a sack of potatoes, only a turquoise sack of potatoes. As a sort of dressing gown, it could almost be acceptable – as long as you didn’t plan on leaving the house and didn’t knit it in turquoise acrylic. Stand around in a garden centre at an unnatural angle with a spaced expression on your face and one hand awkwardly in your pocket because the photographer has just told you to put it there – no. Give her five seconds more and she’s heading into that display stand. By the way, note the trousers. I think she robbed them from the model in the cardi-hat combo.

And then you get this next one. No. Just NO. These are not just leg warmers, they’re knee warmers. In case it’s not abundantly clear, she’s pulled them down over the top of her cowboy boots, or rather the stylist has (assuming a stylist was involved, which is by no means a certainty). Why? Can you imagine what she’d look like if she suddenly stood up? They don’t even fit, apparently being knitted for someone considerably larger. I’m not surprised that her partner appears to be on the verge of cracking up (he’s pinching his ear to distract himself from the sheer horror). Once you get past the dubious legwear and the stripes, the sweaters aren’t that bad – but then I am a bit of a sucker for garter stitch at the moment.

The most depressing thing about all these seventies horrors is that they followed some things which we now see as pretty cool, even desirable. Hm. That could be an exaggeration…

Further down the box, past the TV Times 1974 Guide to Sewing Patterns, were some slightly earlier patterns. I became intrigued by the models, including this rather adventurous-for-the-very-early-seventies androgynous person, who is for some reason wearing a bastardised doily. Ignore that and check out the rest of her clothes. The cravat is an interesting touch, and the trousers are almost jodphurs (at least they’re not the same cream Oxford bags as worn by Models 2 and 3 above, that’s something). She looks like a Principal Boy, or at least someone auditioning for the role. Can we hope that she’s wearing boots up to the knee?

When it comes to dodgy hairstyles, the men aren’t any better.

This rather dashing young man, possibly hanging onto the window of a Ford Cortina, has definitely made an unwise choice of parting (though he could be training his hair in preparation for a later-life comb over). His reading matter is possibly rather surprising too – close inspection reveals it to be a rolled up knitting pattern. This time it’s the cravat that’s been robbed. Now, I know I wasn’t that old in the 1970s, or that aware of what was going on outside my little circle, but I don’t remember everyone going around in cravats. Evidently I’ve blocked the memory out.

Then I was brought up short by the sudden appearance of Betty Draper (if you’re not into Mad Men, go and buy / rent / steal the box sets immediately). Admittedly I can’t believe that the fragrant Betty would ever have worn this sweater, let alone have knitted it for Don, but there you go; I know she had worked as a model – oh hang on, I’m getting reality and award-winning TV series mixed up again. That happens after a long box-set immersion session, just be grateful it wasn’t one of my multi-season Wire marathons. Heaven only knows what knitting patterns inspired by that would look like.

Ahem. Note his pipe and her nails. Lovely. And she certainly seems as drugged up as Betty could sometimes be.

A little further down, and there’s a pattern I actually like. And some styling I actually like, as well – it’s simple. No car, no plant pots, no pipe and above all no cravat. OK, she’s possibly a tad on the sultry side for a knitting pattern, but hey.

So why do I find the fifties / early sixties stuff so much more appealing than that from the seventies? What is it that makes some things which can be cheerfully classed as vintage acceptable, and other things completely beyond the pale? Is it distance? Is it the transposition of a contemporary aesthetic? It’s certainly nothing to do with the other features of life in the late 50s / early 60s – the all-pervading misogyny and racism are in no way whatsoever as appealing as the knitwear, so it’s not nostalgia.

Enough with the serious, already – because my next pattern was a real winner. It deserves a larger shot:

What the hell is going on here (apart from Bobble-Head Disorder, that is)?

I rather like the dirty raincoats – I think they’re lurking outside a nurses’ home, myself – and Mr B certainly looks suspicious, but that could just be the effect of barely concealed hysteria brought on by Mr A’s bobble hat / bobble balaclava / bobble chin-warmer thing. Mr C and D appear to be staring at a map (the stylist evidently remembered the props this time, unlike Car-and-Parting Man, when the only paper to hand was a knitting pattern), which is probably revealing the location of the nurses’ home. Or maybe they’re undercover snipers, enforcers for the mob? Just a suggestion.

And I have to knit A. It’s calling me. I can see it being worn on the Millenium Stadium stands, in Welsh colours. It would make a refreshing change from a felt dragon. And be about as sensible.


19 thoughts on “The joy of seventies knitwear…

        1. kate Post author

          Agh……. but wait, what light through yonder box in the loft breaks? It is the east, and my stash of 80s patterns is the sun.

          I’m still sorting through them. It’s a slow process, largely because I have to spend time hiding behind the sofa. Watch this space….

    1. kate Post author

      It’s just begging to be knitted!

      I just thought about it in some black stuff from my stash and realised it could be the start of a whole new market: knitted fetish wear. Of course, you’d have to lose the bobble. Or maybe not…

    2. kate Post author


      I took the heap along to our knit and natter group where there was much hysteria but, very worryingly, one person remembered one of the patterns. It wasn’ the chin-warmer, because I’m keeping that for myself, hee hee…. (if my brother doesn’t behave, he’s getting one for Christmas).

    1. kate Post author

      Now that is scary. I should think you wouldn’t go out on dates with them, indeed. Phew.

      Bet they were studying engineering. Something about those coats just shouts ‘engineering’ to me…

  1. knitsofacto

    I have a foul cold, if I laugh I cough, and then I can’t stop coughing, so if I laugh a lot it all gets a bit dire! Couldn’t you have attached a laugh-out-loud-funny warning to this post!

    And now I’ve typed that I’m off to find a glass of water 😉

    1. kate Post author

      I keep thinking about the vogue for retro nostalgia in cooking (all that coronation chicken that got made this year) and hoping to goodness it never catches on in knitting. Agh….

      Hope you’re feeling better now. Better out than in, after all.

        1. kate Post author

          One could, but I’ve just been asked to create a version for a book (scary). Oh dear God, please don’t let this be the start of a real seventies revival…

  2. karibu57

    Thank you for brightening up this otherwise very gloomy dull day 😉 almost dropped my cup of tea on seeing these beauties!!! Funny how to this day the name Sirdar or Wendy still doesn’t stand for amazing design or styling…

    1. kate Post author

      You’re so right on the Sirdar and Wendy front, and I think we should add Robin. Before I do too much sneering, though, I’d better check the contents of my very oldest pattern folder. It’s in the loft, and could be very scary….

    1. kate Post author

      Ah, part of the reason is that I had a cyberstalker – and part of the reason is that I haven’t got round to sorting them out! You’ve made me realise I need to get that done…

      (and I do hope your gut is better now. I’ve just spent some time up in the loft, looking at old patterns when I should have been sorting out accounts shite, so be prepared for another similar Excursion of Horror. Shoulder pads. I shall say no more.)


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