The DIY spirit is hardly a new trend. During the WWII era, when machine knitting was available, people were still enthusiastic about making sweaters, socks, even fascinators, by hand. I found this tattered but charming magazine, Gay Teen Ideas for Knitting and Crocheting, at the wonderful Zenith in Pittsburgh. As an avid knitter, I knew I needed to own this slice of handmade history!
The Spool Cotton Company published this magazine in 1944, when civilians were encouraged to “Knit for Victory” and make socks, sweaters, and balaclavas for soldiers. Meanwhile, the very beginnings of teen culture began to emerge. This magazine not only features appealing knit and crochet projects, lifestyle tips for young women, many of which are outdated and humorous.
Above, this “Aces High” spread showcases four crochet hats and cleverly states, “There’s a bright future in the making. Good fortune if we only knew it, is always in our hands.”
This page displays the look of a DIY girl and the kind of life she may have had at the time. The completely coordinated knit outerwear shows an image of a prim and stylish, young, 1940s woman.
A mantilla is a great way to make a statement and lightly cover your head during chilly Spring evenings while making you “so lovely to look at.” The left page above displays a youthful model wearing a coy and flirty mantilla. The hand sketched frames looks like doodles in a young woman’s notebook.
The right page gives some debatable advice in “P-O-I-S-E” and etiquette. The writing reflects a voice from a time when physical presentation was more formal and specific than today. Its place in this knit and crochet magazine illustrates the social tone among teen girls of the time.
Here is a collage of yarn projects, notes, and an iconic portrait of a WWII sailor. The female persona in this collage writes to “Freddy,” the sailor, that while her mother is working at the plant, she prepared a hand-cooked lunch for two friends. A “Menu” above the letter image lists as one of the dishes,”Scrambled eggs and chicken livers,” which may have been like a caprese salad and bruchetta today.
While this magazine is certainly dated, it’s not without its cute and useful patterns. I plan to try one of the ambitious knit sweaters myself! Do you have any cool vintage craft books or patterns you love?
And if you’d like to see more excerpts or knitting tutorials from this magazine, let us know, and we’ll take it to our scanner!