I’m holding a reproduction copy of the first ever edition of ‘The Woman’s Weekly’, published in 1911, a magazine that is still going strong today, as far as I know. I’m turning the pages out of historical curiosity and because, well, vintage knitting/crochet.
Apparently ‘WWW’ stood for ‘Woman’s Weekly Wednesday’ in those days: I guess they’ve had to ditch that acronym, in recent years.
May I show you a few things? Let’s begin with the sublime, before moving on to the ridiculous.
I was disappointed that there was practically no knitting, other than an unillustrated pattern for ladies’ and gentlemen’s bed socks that was so brief, I can show you it here in full:-
<whispers> Had they not heard of gauge? Don’t think I’ll be casting on that one.
There was plenty of crochet, however: some stitch instructions for beginners, and a couple of dainty lace designs. 1911 was a time when facts were facts and anyone thinking differently was just wrong, and let me tell you, There Was Only One Way To Hold A Crochet Hook. (The ‘pen’ grasp, rather than the ‘knife’ grasp, in case you’re interested, with the hook protruding a very precise 1.5 inches from the tip of one’s forefinger. Can you imagine the side-eye in social circles when some young upstart held her hook incorrectly? Anyway, I’m all about the ‘knife’ grip, so I’d have been a social outcast.)
I rather like the mistletoe lace, worked as crochet leaves sewn on to a crochet foundation. And it seems like the WW (or rather WWW) staff liked it too, since it was billed as “one of the most charming patterns ever designed,” and “the first mistletoe lace pattern ever”. (How did they know? These people didn’t even have Ravelry!)
You know, this could be pretty, perhaps worked double-width as a table runner against a contrasting cloth for the Christmas table. There’s a pretty edging design, too, described as especially suitable for your underclothes threaded with ribbon. Um. No. But I hope I’m not snarking too hard, because I love reading this stuff from a historical interest point of view.
The rest of the magazine, especially the adverts, is a mixture of stuff that makes me think plus ça change, and stuff that makes me go, “Woah….” whilst waggling my hands in front of me and backing away slowly. In the former category, we have the delights of “the removal of over-fat” (loving that terminology) using an exciting new medication called Antipon. I’m not quite sure what Antipon does, but it’s clear from the text of this advert-disguised-as-article-in-a-way-that-would-be-unethical-today that It Definitely Works. There’s also the unspecified bust enhancement remedy, and the treatment of ‘hair neglect’:-
Amongst the slightly more concerning content (to these modern eyes), is Our Very Own Medical Adviser, who is confident that infant convulsions are caused by eating the wrong sort of food, and that they may be treated by dunking the poor wee convulsing child in a warm bath whilst pouring cold water over their head.
Let’s just leave that one there, shall we, and hastily time-travel back to 2015.
By the way, here’s my usual statement that the infrequency of blogging at present is related to ongoing IVF. (Only another 10 days to go, so I hope to be more productive after that.) And I was in the children’s hospital with one of the Toddler Twinnage for a few days (he’s fine now), so it’s been a little crazy and even quite un-knitty here for a while.
But let me finish by showing you something fun, that’s got nowt to do with yarn. I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen these kits for children to look after caterpillars and watch as they mutate into lovely Painted Lady butterflies. (I say ‘look after’, but caterpillars make delightfully undemanding pets.) I bought a set for the Toddler Twinnage, and it was all rather successful. We had tiny fluffy caterpillars, then we had stonking great chubby (‘over-fat’ in WW parlance) waddling caterpillars, then we had cocoons hanging from the lid of their enclosure, and then suddenly and magically, we had beautiful Painted Ladies. When we set them free in the garden, they seemed reluctant to leave
probably too institutionalised and rested on our hands for a while, delighting both my sons, who now regard themselves as experts on butterfly handling.
My crochet made a good place to land, too, though it slowed my progress on my latest crazy project, somewhat.
Some very large and very crazy crochet is on its way. I can’t wait to show you…
Acknowledgement: Mother Twisted, many thank yous for the vintage Woman’s Weekly. And I’m so excited that by the end of this week, we’ll be living in the same county as each other!
Katie Writes Stuff says
Old knitting and crocheting magazines are the best! My favourites are the ones with knitted underwear because I keep trying to imagine what that life would have been like before thankfully returning to the present day. (It doesn’t stop me from being tempted to make some, however. No understanding of everyday life in the past is complete without a stint in knitted underwear. A short stint, preferably.)
Crafty Di says
The Woman’s Weekly info was hilarious and well written, they made some pretty bold statements back then, I guess with the knowledge that they had little chance of being caught out ! Thanks for a great read x
Watch out for that scurf blocking the roots of your hair. I’m running for the shower now…
Carol McKibbon says
Yes, I love the old pattern books as well. I find they usually give very scant instructions for the knitting patterns…you often find an entire sweater pattern within a few centimeters of column space! Also, very few size options compared to today.
Love the magazine. It’s such a great way to learn about social history. Can imagine the boys loving the caterpillar/butterfly experience.
It’s so much fun reading and giggling over old magazines, isn’t it? (I do wonder what future generations will say about our publications). What a delight for your sons to “hatch” butterflies.
I had a similar kit to that when I was young, they’re great fun!
leelah saachi says
I wish there were kits for bees too
Sharon - creativityandfamily says
A great read! I’m glad your little on is better, they must have been fascinated by the butterflies. I shall look forward to the crazy crochet reveal 🙂 x
I love the old magazines. No needle or hook size just a vague cast on number. Do a few rows, decrease some stitches, viola! It’s done. I’ve read enough of them to believe they were writing for an informed public that didn’t need everything written down and most likely would be tailoring the piece to their own specifics.
My sister is the “keeper of the stuff” at her house. When mum died we discovered a pile of old WWW’s in a box that my grandmother had owned. Not the first edition but some seriously lovely reads. I hear your disappointment at the lack of knitting patterns but I raise you this. “I” got very excited when I read that pattern. I can bloody well do that! “I”, the person who can knit, purl and not much else (must admit that “Begin the intakes by knitting two together twice in the centre” is giving me pause for thought…) have a chance to be able to recreate a knitting pattern from last century for modern day Serendipity Farm? Now THAT is a magazine I would pay money for!
Ditto on the grip. My grandmother despaired of the weird way that I hold my hook. I say if you can achieve a result, use whatever means you have at your disposal.
I could do with some of that (obviously narcotic) Antipon. Interesting that the medical confraternity of the time would consider treating infant convulsions the same way that you treat a chook that refuses not to be clucky eh?
Lovely butterflies and even lovelier that your mum is about to land on a doorstep near yours. Can’t wait to see that crochet pattern by the way. OBV. I will be using my strange crochet style to have a go at it AND I will be sticking my tongue out of the side of my mouth as that’s how you get the very best tension.
How lovely to see how our contemporary’s entertained themselves in 1911. The boys must have been delighted with rearing butterflies, so nice for them to see nature so close.
Born To Organize says
What a delightful read. I love reading historical magazines, newspapers and the like. What a different time. One of my friends has a large ‘album’ on Facebook called Adsurdities filled with advertisements from early publications. They’re amusing and alarming. Different times. I’m sorry to hear that one of the twins required a hospital stay. I didn’t know you were undergoing IVF. Best of luck on both the process and the outcome.
Cnawan Fahey says
Here’s to children holding butterflies!
Many Bright Things says
I have a few knitting magazines and books from the 1850s-1920s, and it’s amazing that knitting and crochet knowledge must have been so widespread that published patterns didn’t need to provide many details. They certainly provide an interesting challenge for the modern knitter/crocheter!