Cool, man (look what I found!)

When I go shopping, I like to splash out. I like to spend, flash the cash, put my hand in my wallet,  undo the purse strings, give my last penny, spend money like water, blow everything, waste my inheritance – and anything else that Roget’s Thesaurus can come up with.

In this case, I splashed out all of 50p.


Well, it had been marked down from £1 – how could I walk away?

This book is a gem. I wasn’t knitting when it was published, so somehow it passed me by, but I do remember Jackie magazine – not that my mother would let me have Jackie, oh dear no, far too silly, I had to borrow it from school friends on the quiet – and I think they used the same illustrator:

old knitting book

It’s the incidental details that get me – love the chairs – and what the heck is that black-clad old lady doing? The 1976 equivalent of Shreddies’ offensive knitting nanas?  Mind you, the way she’s drawn, she could be some refugee from a hippy commune.

I like ‘visiting the woolshop’ (and as an editor, I’m intrigued by the early running together of ‘wool’ and ‘shop’ – oh, it’s Patons, by the way; I think they must have had something to do with this publication), and the trip on the tube to get there:

old knitting book madness

Note the concession to multiculturalism, though I bet it wasn’t called that then, just eight years after Enoch Powell’s notorious ‘rivers of blood’ speech (don’t just get distracted by the bobble cap). Oh, maybe the Sun sponsored this book in conjunction with Patons?

But it is very easy to be distracted by details, like phones and decor:

old knitting book 2

Don’t do it, Maggie! Have you never heard the saying about not knitting anything for a man until you’ve got his ring on your finger (highly apt for the time, I think)? And you don’t want that; in a later frame he’s puffing away on – a pipe. Plus, what about the magic word, you sexist git? Yes, you can make one for him, Maggie, but will you? Haven’t you heard of feminism? Don’t just say ‘certainly’!

And what about that decor? Some unsettling motifs keep cropping up throughout the book. I must draw your attention to the strange doll-type harlequin-clown thing hanging from the shelves here. Hanging…?

old knitting book

It appears in several frames, sometimes without any apparent support. Or context. Also, who’s ‘Buck’? Is this all in code? Perhaps this book isn’t really about knitting, perhaps it’s actually about some weird sinister-doll-worsphipping cult. (The teddy is migratory too, but doesn’t have the doll’s force of personality.)

There are sections, named to tempt you in: Woolly Waistcoats, anyone? Jaunty Jackets? Tank Tops? (The sub evidently couldn’t think of an alliterative terms to go with tank tops, having sensibly rejected ‘terrible’.) No actual patterns, mind, just named sections.

They knit on the beach:

old knitting bookwhich personally I’d have thought a little sandy (this is a beach, honest, it’s clearer in other frames), and take bags of knitting on picnics. Oh come on, we’ve all been there. Admittedly probably not in a maxi-skirt and strange shapeless waistcoat, but hey. (And if she hadn’t stitched the shoulders together, wasn’t it a bit risky holding up as though she had, over a beach full of sand?)

It’s easy to sneer, and I know I’ve indulged myself a bit. But hidden inside here are some pretty clear technical instructions, like these for splicing wool,


and mattress stitch:

mattress stitch

and I’ve just found some buttonhole instructions which remind me of the very neat way my mother taught me, and which I have managed to forget in the (good heavens, that long?) fifteen years since she died.

Where are my needles? Not to mention my stripy kaftan and devil doll…



14 thoughts on “Cool, man (look what I found!)

  1. Jan Marriott

    that made me smile…
    BTW, I made my maxi skirt and ( small, more like a bolero) vest in steel blue velvet that I embroidered with ????can’t remember what colours. I made another in a brown floral print Viyella.

    1. kate Post author

      No, it couldn’t. There is nothing– oh, OK, it could – in that particular universe.

      I’ve just had a closer look at the black-clad lady and she appears to be almost the same as the one who’s saying ‘I’m not very good yet’, so your guess is as good as mine. The thing that looks like a hairdryer is, I think, her hair. She doesn’t look old (but does anyone with this style of drawing?), though she does appear to be wearing glasses on a string. Most odd.

    1. kate Post author

      Did you have a skinny, shrunken mohair sweater, too? One that revealed your stomach to a (slightly appalled but ‘she only does it to annoy’) world?

      Mine was baby pink. I wore it to my Cambridge interviews, the only ‘gel’ who didn’t wear smart clothes / look like her grandmother as we queued up nervously. I wanted to go to art school and get out of Oxbridge indirectly by failing my interview – thought the sweater / loon combo would do it for me. It didn’t work. A bit later and I’d have been in bondage trousers but they hadn’t moved north in time. I don’t think they’d have cracked it either – it was a rather liberal college.

  2. Judith

    I notice that the introduction is by Marti Caine – wasn’t she that tall, skinny, redhead often to be seen warbling on our tellies on Saturday nights in seventies? What on earth does she have to say about knitting?

    1. kate Post author

      Judging by the photo and the intro, you’re right – but wrong on the knitting front, apparently she was keen and a celebrity knitter of her time (who knew?). Her intro says she ‘learned to knit at school in Scotland. Then later I used to keep the whole family in sweaters … I knit while waiting to go on stage…’ Mind you, she does say that she concentrates on chunky – ‘smart, chunky styles like many in this book’…

      (Hope her friends and family went into hiding)

  3. Annie Cholewa

    Do you know, I swear I’ve seen this before … late 1970s, yes? I think my school library may have had a copy. Needlework (which included knitting) lessons meant half an hour in the library every other week reading up on French seams and moss stitch and such, and an hour and a half of actual stitching. The alternate weeks we spent two hours on a cross country run. It was a weird school.

    1. kate Post author

      Your school sounds way, way stranger than mine, which was essentially an Oxbridge factory… We did have needlework lessons, but they consisted of taking a whole year to make a cookery apron (about which my mother was less than complimentary when I finally took the vile thing home). No mention of knitting, happily also no mention of cross-country runs.

      Yes, published mid-1970s, could well have been in your library!


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