A Blast From the Past

The sad little junk store on the island is closing. Even though I am a thrift store devotee, I do have standards, and I'm sorry to say this particular establishment had all the cons (weird smell, crappy stuff) and none of the pros (hidden treasures!)  Everything is going for a dollar or less though, so I did stop in the other day after my neighbour said she had spotted a gorgeous christening gown there. Alas, the christening gown was polyester, but I was through the door and felt obliged by the shopkeeper's brave smile to buy something, anything. I picked up a few sewing notions and some vintage craft magazines, even though I have been trying to divest myself of the box of vintage craft magazines that is taking up some valuable real estate in the storage closet.

But a look through the pages of the Fall-Winter 1971 McCall's Needlework and Crafts did deliver up some clues as to why the whole handcraft sector crashed and burned so badly later in the decade. Women returning to the workforce may have had nothing to do with it.
Not only were the projects hideously ugly and unwearable, the recommended yarns were as well, albeit machine-washable. No wonder, look at where they came from. (Faithful readers will know that I have a bee in my bonnet regarding Monsanto, who has since switched from making yarn out of plastic to making terminator seeds and toxic chemicals that poison the Earth.)
I think this perky model looks a bit like Gwyneth Paltrow. But I'm sure lovely Gwynnie wouldn't be caught dead in such garments - although she might go for those groovy red lace-up knee high boots. (Sorry for the glare on the image, my fault entirely.)
Just the right little numbers for lounging around house! It's easy to make fun of such outfits now, but I do wonder how many got made at the time. Such investments of time and energy! Who could ever toss such a garment? And, since they are made out of acrylic, they would never wear out on their own.

The Editorial in this issue has some fascinating information about the magazine's readership. They surveyed 50,000 readers and found that 85% were married with children, 48% were under 35 years of age, and a whopping 94% sewed for their family or home. Incredible how things changed in a short time.
Could the decline in knitting and sewing be caused by such projects as cable-knit trousers? The horror...!
On the other hand, the paper crafts look remarkably current.
Knitting for Barbie and Ken - check out the shoulder shaping on Ken's jumpsuit and the fitted bodice on Babs' one piece. You'd have to be a very skillful Grandma to make these.
And the back of the magazine is filled with small B&W ads. I think Charm Woven Labels is still around, and their designs haven't changed a bit.
Here are a few booklets from the glory days of Canadian knitting and crocheting. The mills that produced these yarns and patterns are long gone. But then again, so have his-and-hers travel sweaters.
The choices for women at the time were fairly limited. Career Girl or Club Woman, what's it to be?
And, I have to admit, I am glad the well-dressed home no longer requires chair sets. But Evelyn Vance valued this leaflet enough to put her name on it. Ah, Evelyn Vance where are you now? Your name befits an Alice Munro story.


  1. Vanessa3:18 PM

    I don't know I kinda like those cable knit pants - maybe 'cause I have to walk the dogs in -22 tonight! I recall funky knit acrylic hat my grandmother made, I wore it like the fashion plate of the year. There are even photos, circa 1975. Scary the reach forward in time of Monsanto...Vanessa

  2. Anonymous9:36 AM

    oh my, some light relief at this crazy time - possibly the same time as many of those accessories were gifted to unsuspecting family members. I still have a few of my mother's McCall's Needlework - will have to dig them out!!

  3. Heather this is hilarious! And a valuable sociological document! Have you seen those cards, for birthdays et, that put 'ironic' statements onto images such as these? They're v. funny. Someone somewhere would love these mags. Season's greetings to you, and a Happy New Year. And thanks for the chuckle! X

  4. Anonymous3:32 AM

    Hilarious! Makes me want to run screaming in the opposite direction, into the future, where we will all most likely be wearing skin-tight silver lounge wear. Thanks for posting this and thanks to Monsato too!


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