A note from Kathleen:
|Coordinated sweater, scarf, and tam as winter fashion accessories in Fleisher Yarns' advertisement in The Ladies Home Companion, December 1920. (Courtesy Susan Strawn)
about my love for all things old-timey (three cheers for the Masterpiece
Theater production "Downton Abbey"!).
The new issue of Knitting Traditions
feeds my love for keeping the past alive.
There are so many fascinating articles in this issue, but one of my favorites
is all about how knitting for women evolved from utilitarian socks, gloves, and
mittens to stylish sweaters, hats, and scarves.
I think you'll enjoy this piece as much as I did, so here's an excerpt.
Comfort and Good Looks: Sweaters and Scarves as Fashion Essentials
by Susan Strawn
Knitted sweaters and scarves are a
mainstay of the modern American woman's wardrobe. Surprisingly, however, it was
only a century ago that they began to claim their place in mainstream American
Knitting was long considered a utilitarian craft, best suited to making warm
socks, gloves, and mittens. As early as 1846, Decorative Needlework
Lambert provided patterns for such handknits but focused mainly on soft infant
and toddler garments and bassinet covers.
A few adult sweater patterns appear, tucked among the counterpanes and domestic
whimsies, in late-nineteenth-century knitting books. The Butterick Publishing
Company's Art of Knitting
(1892) includes a pattern for a man's "foot-ball sweater"
(a turtleneck pullover), but patterns for women comprise only accessories,
capes, and shawls.
|An advertisement in the July 1922 issue of The Delineator for the summer issue of Needle-Art. The copy states, "Scarfs that match will be worn with slip-on sweaters this Summer, making them 100 per cent more attractive. How shall you make the scarf? The Summer Needle-Art will give you full instructions..." (Courtesey Susan Strawn)
close of the century, women were becoming more active outside the home, some entering
careers, and these women wanted simpler styles suited to their new roles. For some
time, people had been agitating for dress reform, maintaining that the
tight-fitting fashions of the time were not only uncomfortable but unhealthy as
well. Sweaters, it could be argued, played a role in dress reform and gave women
greater comfort and freedom to pursue an active life, including sports.
Women's sweaters and scarves attained fashion status during the 1910s, and in 1917,
The Ladies' Home Journal declared sweaters a wardrobe essential.
Sweaters of the early 1900s were long, typically worn with a
wide matching scarf or "girdle" (belt). Department stores and mail-order
catalogs sold millions of commercially manufactured sweaters, and abundant patterns
were available in books, needlework magazines, and in booklets published by
After World War I, American fashions became increasingly youthful and more casual, reflecting
the greater freedom and equality that women had earned. Nonetheless, Paris still
was a dominant arbiter of taste. Elsa Schiaparelli and Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel
in particular popularized knitwear. "Paris now knits her blouse," proclaims the
magazine The Delineator.
In barely two decades, knitted garments for women had transformed from
utilitarian to fashion essential. We can thank an unlikely combination of influences—the
turn-of-the century craze for sports, dress reform that suited changing roles
for women, a multitude of new knitters during World War I, and the brilliant
Parisian designers who popularized knitwear—for making knitted sweaters and
scarves a wardrobe mainstay.
This is just one of the educational and entertaining articles in Knitting Traditions. You'll also get 45 projects inspired by knitting's rich history. You can get Susan's entire article in
Knitting Traditions, so order yours now!