Review: The Worn Archive

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I picked up a copy of the The WORN Archive: A Fashion Journal about the Art, Ideas, & History of What We Wear, on a whim while in Portland last October. I have read most of the articles in the 400+ page book which is an anthology of the first 14 issues of the Worn Fashion Journal magazine. What was so refreshing about the book and its entry into the Worn Fashion Journal is that it focuses on personal style over fashion trends. They focus on gender and body issues as well as how people create their own personal looks through thrifting, vintgae, modern and handmade items. Its more like Bust magazine with an emphasis on clothing and fashion than a Vogue magazine. Sadly, the publication is defunct now but the back issues are still available as well as the book.

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The book is printed on heavyweight uncoated paper that makes it feel like an art book and is filled with great illustrations. Its also beautifully designed.

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The models range in size, shape, age and color to present a diverse representation of people who care about how they dress.

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All in all, its been one of my favorite book purchases of the past year. I often pick it up and flip through it to look at the wonderful photography and illustrations or to skim an article again. ITs a refreshingly different take on fashion and beauty and I wish there were more things like this in the world, especially since Worn is no more.

Here is the promo video for the Worn Archive book launch which puts some faces to the staff behind the book and publication:

And this led me to their Secondhand Prom Mash-Up video which made my Monday!

(All photos from Drawn & Quarterly)

Book: Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

I don’t know a lot about garment sewing but I still stalk Gretchen Hirsch AKA Gertie online and I have for years. She learned to sew with an old Vogue sewing book and that was the start of her blog. Her adventures learning to sew. That turned into creating her own sewing book, Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing. Now, she’s released her latest book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. I asked for the book for Christmas, knowing it might potentially sit on a shelf for years, but I really wanted it. I hoped it would inspire me to dip my toes into garment sewing.

Gertie's 40s shirt

As yet, I haven’t had the time to even read through the book to learn what I’ll need to start sewing these fabulous pages. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t oggle every single pattern and bookmark a few of my favorites.

Gertie's pencil skirt

Gertie posted on her blog, after the book was released, about how easy the Easy Knit Pencil Skirt was to sew and wear so its definitely one of the projects on my sewing wish list.

Gertie's trouser fitting

The book looks to include lots of good tips and techniques for a good fit too so there’s really no reason why I don’t start making my own clothes… except time.

Is there any craft or project you’d like to undertake if only you had more time?

Book: Vintage Cakes

Vintage Cakes Cover

I’ve been following Jane Brocket since the early days of her Yarnstorm blog. Then she started publishing wonderful books like The Gentle Art of Domesticity, The Gentle Art of Knitting and The Gentle Art of Stitching. One of my favorite things in Domesticity were the classic English cake recipes so I was thrilled that she published a whole book of Vintage Cakes.

Vintage Cakes: Welsh Cakes

The cakes are all very English and vintage-y and I want to bake up all them. I love the names like Fat Rascals, Rock Buns and Lamingtons.

Vintage Cakes: Fat Rascals

I haven’t had a chance to bake any of these yet but I have perused the photos and put paper flags on just about every recipe in the book. Maybe I’ll plan some cakes for Easter? The Celebration Cake looks like a perfect Easter treat.

Vintage Cakes: Celebration Cake

What to Read: Maisie Dobbs

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One of my favorite mystery book series is the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. The story follows our heroine, Maisie who is working as an investigator between the wars. The story often winds back to the past to discover how she came to this point in life as well. They are quiet, thoughtful stories rather than violent Ripper tales but the setting and characters are so well-rounded that I have read every book in the series. The eleventh book in the series, A Dangerous Place, has just been released and I’m going to order a copy to add to my Maisie library. Its one of the few series that I own all in hardback.

I hope you enjoy the series too.

Maisie-Dangerous-Place

Book: Complete Guide To Modern Knitting and Crochet by Alice Carroll

Complete Guide To Modern Knitting & Crochet

I found The Complete Guide to Modern Knitting and Crocheting by Alice Carroll on a whim through Abe Books after seeing a photo of the cover on another blogger’s post. The typography on the cover made it worthwhile for me to track it down. Even if the book was terrible, it’s too beautiful with its burnt orange, book cloth cover stamped with silver ink not to have.

Complete Guide To Modern Knitting & Crochet

The publication date is 1942 and the book is filled with basic stitch guides as well as an assortment of patterns from the period. Overall there’s a textbook quality to the book which I really like.

In the front of the book is a super handy chart of needle sizes in millimeters and the vintage numbering for them. Thanks to the book I learned that steel DPNs had a different numbering system from straight needles. That was worth the $5 plus shipping right there.

Complete Guide To Modern Knitting & Crochet

I actually think the stitch pattern guides will be useful as I don’t own many stitch guides and these would be considered commonly used in patterns of this time period.

Complete Guide To Modern Knitting & Crochet

I originally wanted to see the patterns in the book, especially the ladies garments which are of the period and even include a small range of sizes.  There is also a section to help design a garment with various necklines, sleeves, collars and pockets.

The book includes pattern sizes mostly in vintage sizing like 14, 16 or 18 but in some patterns, the sizing are listed as the bust size, most commonly at 34. I found a list of the common measurements for the numbered sizing on Chronically Vintage.

Size 14: 35.5 bust, 27 waist, 38 hips
Size 16: 37 bust, 28.5 waist, 40 hips
Size 18: 39 bust, 30.5 waist, 42 hips

There are patterns for accessories, home decor and garments for men and children as well. There’s even a his-and-hers cardigan set and a men’s fairisle reindeer sweater. I think my husband would never speak to me again if I made him a reindeer sweater. However, there are classic military-style pullovers that he would love.

Complete Guide To Modern Knitting & Crochet

I was actually surprised that the illustrations in the book were photography. Not that photography wasn’t common in the 40s I just assumed it would have been more cost effective to use illustrations for a large book so I was actually quite delighted.

Complete Guide To Modern Knitting & Crochet

Finally, in the back of the book was a folded pattern torn out of a McCall’s Treasury of Needlecraft book from the same time period for a hat and mitten set. This was the true treasure for me — I love seeing the items people tuck into books to save and this little pattern is no exception.

If you have an opportunity to pick up this book, I recommend it if only for true vintage details in the photos, patterns and garments.

Book Review: Knits From an English Rose

Knits from an English Rose

Knits from an English Rose by Louisa Harding is a collection of knitted accessories with lots of textural lace and floral details. The book is mostly scarves, wraps, hats, and mitts with a few other accessory patterns as well. All the patterns in the book were knit using Louisa Harding brand yarns but its pretty easy to substitute out in most cases. Her Luzia faux fur yarn (which is some of the most realistic fur yarn I’ve ever seen) is a bit harder to come by as other brands of faux fur yarn don’t hold a candle to hers. Luzia is also insanely pricey so I’m probably not likely to knit the couple patterns that feature it anyway.

Most of my friends know I have a terrible soft spot for just about everything Louise Harding does. Her knitting books are always so beautifully styled and her aesthetic is modern vintage classic. So I always want to buy her books and patterns. In the end though, I don’t knit nearly as many of her patterns as I stock pile.

Louise Harding patterns have two flaws that make me a little crazy. First, she writes out her lace patterns and never includes a chart. So, despite loving the look of her lace scarves and wraps, I have never knit one because I really prefer knitting lace with a chart. I have knit a few of her lace patterned hats and love them so I should probably overlook the no-chart thing at some point.

My second grumble is that most of her garment designs are knit flat and seamed. Now I understand there are often advantages to this technique for stability and structure, I’ve stumbled across handwarmer patterns designed to be knit flat which I think is ridiculous. Luckily, most of her hat patterns are designed to be knit in the round which is probably why I’ve knit a lot of those.

Knits from an English Rose

Now, I’ll talk about what I love. Louise Harding has an amazing sense of color and of drama. She also creates a lot of scarf patterns which are not so easy to find these days with everyone loving cowls and shawls so much. I prefer scarves partly because they are more vintage as compared to the modern cowl trend. I find scarves easier to wear — I can twist them tight around my neck to brace myself against the cold and then either drape it loosely around my shoulders or neck when indoors.  Scarves can be tied, wrapped or draped with a lot more ease for me than cowls. That’s just my personal preference.

Knits from an English Rose

There are several capelet/wraps in Knits from an English Rose that I think are beautiful. The Lulu Lacy Capelet actually has sleeves which is quite lovely and whimsical.

Knits from an English Rose

Louisa designs a lot of berets. I love berets. Berets are good. Louisa also tends to design berets with a deep band which I find very attractive. There are two berets in English Rose that I’d knit in a heartbeat, Faye Ruby Beret and the Bette Bow Beret.

Knits from an English Rose

Knits from an English Rose

Louisa add lots of embellishments to her patterns like knitted flowers, knitted bows, buttons and ribbons and I’ve found that if I take the time to add these embellishments, the finished pieces are always worth the extra effort. I suspect the same will hold true for the patterns in English Rose.

Magazine: Pretty Nostalgic

Pretty Nostalgic Magazine

Have you heard of the British magazine called Pretty Nostalgic? I found a couple of issues at my company library sale (previously mentioned in the Rowan Wonder Haul post) and it wasn’t until this week that I was able to sit down and peruse an issue though from the cover I could tell this was a magazine that was “made for me”*.

The magazine is an unusual, wide, oversized format printed on thick uncoated papers.

I wish it was easier and less expensive to get a subscription in the US to this magazine. Or the option for a digital version to circumvent the astronomical shipping costs. Its really lovely and filled with all sorts of home, life and craft articles with a distinctly vintage bent. If you live in the UK, definitely ask your local newsstand if they have a copy. Its delish!


*”made for me” was a phrase mentioned on an episode of the most-excellent podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour about books, movies or tv shows that seem to have been tailor-made just for you. And by this, I mean that your reaction to hearing about the premise is to think “Did someone dig into my head and pull out all my favorite things and craft them into one entity?” For me, any time your combine Britain with WWII history, possibly throw in some code-breaking or mystery and excellent knitwear and you’ve got a project “made for me”.

Book Review: Sweater Girls

Sweater Girls Book

I was so excited to finally be able to purchase Sweater Girls by Madeline Weston and Rita Taylor. The book had previously only been available in the UK (under a different title) so I had to wait about a year since seeing initial photos to be able to purchase it domestically.

Sweater Girls updates vintage patterns with modern yarns and needle sizing and features over a dozen sweater, cardigan and twin-set patterns. The last chapter of the book includes a few accessories like a shawl pattern, knit stockings and a hat.

Sweater Girls Book

I have to admit that the feature photos for a lot of the patterns are the sweaters hung on a hanger which never shows anything in the best light. I’d much preferred if the front and back photo of each sweater had been on a model to get a better understanding of the proper fit. Many vintage patterns feature a nipped-in ribbed waist and then a blousier fit through the bodice. That sort of detail is difficult to glean from a sweater on a hanger. While most patterns included a photo of the sweater on a model, it seems a waste to have the other photo be the shapeless hanger image. Not that the photos are pretty to look at and beautifully styled, but as a pattern book, I’d prefer that they include schematic drawings with measurements instead.

Sweater Girls Book

The Hedy Tyrolean-Pattern Cardigan is one of my absolute favorite patterns in the book especially after I saw the version that Tasha from By Gum By Golly made. What a fabulous vintage design! She made hers from Knit Picks Palette so I think I’ll try to use the same yarn, just in a different colorway.

Sweater Girls Book

The sweater pictured above, The Wallis Pleated Caridgan, has very interesting shaping but appears to be too big for the model. I’ve seen similarly mis-sized sweaters in other modern conversions of vintage knitting patterns that are a result of upsizing for modern proportions or misinterpreting the yarn requirement for the pattern. This pattern in particular makes me wish that small images from the original patterns had been included to give a different perspective on fit. Maybe the original yarn use for the Wallis Pleated Cardigan was a much lighter weight? Wouldn’t that alter the overall fit and drape?

All in all, this is a very pretty book and I appreciate efforts to modernize vintage patterns to fit a wider variety of sizes and someone taking the time to convert needle sizes and yarn weights to modern standards. I know that it must be an epic undertaking. And for that, I am grateful for the effort.

I look forward to trying several of the patterns included in it despite my misgivings about how some of th photo styling was handled.

Knitting with the Oldies

Myrna and William

The best thing about knitting is an excuse to sit in front of the TV. And the best channels to tune into are TCM and AMC to watch classics. I love old movies, especially screwball comedies like The Thin Man, It Happened One Night and His Girl Friday so when a friend recommended a blog called Self-Styled Siren, I clicked to it immediately. What fun! The site is filled with great info about classic films, film stars and current releases of classic films.

The blog hostess of Self-Style Siren, Farran Smith-Nehme has also written a novel called Missing Reels. Its gotten some praise over on Amazon as a favorite book for 2014 and its about old movies and falling in love in NYC in the 1980s so its sounds like fun too. I think I might download the ebook version so I can start reading it tonight. So, I guess reading and knitting will be my modus operandi for the foreseeable future?

Rowan Wonder Haul

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My company has a library filled with books and magazines, mostly books and magazines that appeal to writers, artists and designers. It is a really great reference library for me.

About once a year, they do a giveaway of old issues of magazines. They send out an email and everyone runs like crazy people to get a stack of their favorites. I got super lucky this year. There were seven issues of Rowan magazine. Including the 30th anniversary issue. What a coup!

I’ll post more details when I’ve had a chance to peruse the issues in more detail. So excited I just had to share.