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Paying It Forward

Jan 24, 2012

Needlecraft Magazine, February 1925
Recently, PieceWork’s editor, Jeane Hutchins, and I have been spending a bit of time sifting through PieceWork's archival collection in the dim reaches of Interweave’s basement. We pull on our archivist's white cloth gloves and pore over the pages of Needlecraft, Peterson’s, and Modern Priscilla from the teens, 1920s, and 1930s.

Despite the little bits of dust that drift up from the pages, we have a great time reading through these vintage publications—all of them, the articles, the project instructions, even the advertisements. Sometimes we discover poignant stories of World War I families supporting each other; other times it’s a surprising project, such as instructions for tie-dyeing a dress (this from a 1920s magazine!); and then some of the designs have such a contemporary edge that I want to knit them for my trendiest friend confident that she’d love them all and never guess that the designs came from 1919 or 1922.

It's useful, as needleworkers, to have this peek into the windows of our crafts’ past, and it’s a treat for my twenty-first-century sensibilities, especially when I look at those advertisements for slimming hose, treatments for gray hair, or facial cream to remove freckles and age spots (“freckles banished or your money back”). It isn’t the pattern designs only that resonate with today!

Sarasota Sweater, Needlecraft Magazine, December 1923.
Perhaps one of the most important characteristics of these magazines is the array of techniques involved; each issue includes instructions for everything from embroidery, crochet, knitting, lacemaking, or something terribly distinct such as a recipe for making your own knitting needles—they’re just like PieceWork. Maybe that’s why Jeane and I enjoy these old magazines so much. Often our colleagues at Interweave delight at the range and uniqueness of projects in our magazine and they say, “Amazing! Only in PieceWork!” And that’s true in today’s world, but we are only carrying on a tradition that was begun long before us, this blend of story and diverse range of projects.

We're so passionate about PieceWork because it honors our past in the present, preserves it, and carries it forward. And how much more can you carry forward the traditions of the past than by turning these dear old pages into e-books, and that’s just what we’ve done. Part of PieceWork’s archival collection includes the first thirty volumes of Weldon’s Practical Needlework from the 1880s. We have reproduced the content of several volumes, exactly as it appeared in the original publications, into downloadable eBooks, featuring knitting, crocheting, and bead embroidery. The whimsy and utility of our needlecraft traditions is now available in one of the most efficient formats. 

Happy Crafting,

P.S. And why, you might wonder, are Karen and Jeane rummaging through those old magazines? Well, you’ll just have to keep an eye out in the pages of PieceWork and Knitting Traditions to find out!

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amora76 wrote
on Jan 29, 2012 11:29 AM

I have my own archive collection of needlework magazines from the 1800's up, inherited from both my grandmothers. Makes me want to get them out and look at them - not that I need any more projects right now! But you are right, what fun to look at the ads and the fashions and see how timeless many of both are.

Paula@2 wrote
on Jan 28, 2012 8:29 PM

Love the Sarasota Sweater.  Want to make that one for myself.  After all the Christmas knitting, it is my turn!  Paula in Iowa

SuzanneK wrote
on Jan 28, 2012 7:15 PM

I work for the archivist in our local library and have many occasions to go through old (1800s-1967) newspapers.  One of my pleasures is seeing the fashions and the predictions of what will be fashionable.  I can understand your enthusiasm for the digging and delving.