“Yarning” for Vintage

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This magazine not only features appealing knit and crochet projects, lifestyle tips for young women, many of which are outdated and humorous.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!


About Angela

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  1. Avatar
    Victoria / Justice Pirate 03/24/2010 at 7:00 pm #

    I own 3 vintage 40s patterns for a petticoat, dress, and shorts and looooove them!! so much fun!

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    Sophie 03/24/2010 at 7:31 pm #

    I wish I was a good knitter! It takes me forever to knit a scarf D:

  3. Avatar
    Kellie 03/24/2010 at 7:54 pm #

    I would kill for this. I am learning how to crochet and I would love to make one of those fascinators!

  4. Avatar
    Kate Morrison 03/25/2010 at 1:44 am #

    What a dream. Thanks so much for sharing this. I want to go knit now! x

  5. Avatar
    Heather 03/25/2010 at 10:10 am #

    i’m always buying vintage patterns, and idea books like this one for inspiration! this makes me wish i had time to do some hand knitting!!

  6. Avatar
    Angela (ModCloth) 03/25/2010 at 10:25 am #

    We are planning on compiling a vintage photo album/scrap book for readers to look at.

    I’d like to post some of the actual patterns there, especially the fascinators. Check back! It will hopefully be soon!

  7. Avatar
    Vix 03/25/2010 at 10:34 am #

    Cute, cute stuff, I love the insight into the teens of this era. Mother of a 14 year old wishing the teens today were more innocent like these girls.

  8. Avatar
    Rachel Red Lips 03/25/2010 at 12:21 pm #

    Wow! This magazine is an amazing find! The layout is really cool and interesting, too.

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    Kit 03/25/2010 at 6:19 pm #

    I love these old patterns! I have a couple from my grandmother, who unfortunately passed away. I love to knit and crochet mainly because of my grandmother making little dolly outfits for me before she died. Now when I open up these old books of her’s and make a pattern I think of her. Thanks Modcloth for the wonderful post!!

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    Kiki 03/28/2010 at 6:14 pm #

    This is properly incredible ! the way it is designed look so very modern to me (the handwriting, doodles etc.). If we strictly exclude the content, and stick to the form, it is in the end not so outdated as the cover wants you to believe 🙂
    thanks for sharing

  11. Avatar
    Kellie 03/29/2010 at 5:29 pm #

    YAY!!! Thank you for letting me know Angela…This is why I love you guys at Modcloth <3!!!

  12. Avatar
    coley 03/29/2010 at 11:03 pm #

    i just found this exact edition (?) of “gay teen ideas” on friday, march 26!!

    it was just cracking me up…… the pics, the lingo, everything.

    it is my new “prize posession” and think i’ll look for more!! i am even gonna try some of the patterns…… can’t wait.

  13. Avatar
    Sez 04/02/2010 at 9:22 pm #

    I’m a knitter with a huge collection of vintage pattern books (mainly handed down from my grandmother, but a few sourced from eBay) I *love* them – I learned to knit from my Nan and Mum, who taught me “old fashioned” knitting so I find it hard to read modern patterns. Vintage is easier.

    Besides, you get to hand make these fabulous clothes and tailor them to suit your body exactly. It’s a double whammy of mod satisfaction 🙂

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