Saturday, March 17, 2007

Two Crochet Books from 1969

I'm only going to mini-review two books first published in 1969 because they lie just outside the stated scope of the '70's crochet read-along: Crochet: A Modern Guide to An Ancient Craft by Iris Rathbone, and Fashion Crochet by Caroline Horne.

The dustjacket of Ms. Rathbone's book looked very promising to me (a stylish and hip young woman wears a crochet dress in a '60's glam shot) but the excitement fizzled out as I actually read the book. It's not a bad book, it's just basic and boring. Thank goodness for the color plates because the majority of the images is pretty poor.

The author wants to get young stylish people crocheting and the book is small and portable. I pity the person who actually tried to learn how to crochet for the first time from this book, though; most of the illustrations of how to make basic stitches are so unclear that they almost look like woodcuts with yarn plies drawn so boldly that you can't make out the stitches! Photos of stitch patterns are so muddy that I had to try one because the instructions sounded unfamiliar. I got lucky: I discovered a little gem of a stitch pattern this way. If this new stitch pattern is the only thing I gained from reading this book, I'm content. I'll post a photo of it and and instructions later.

Ms. Rathbone shows a designer's flare. Her beret and mitten set is strikingly bordered with shells of contrasting colors, she seems to prefer triangular granny squares, and she fearlessly teaches the presumably new crocheter how to make a cocktail dress, a maxi- and mini-length lady's dress, and a blouse top. I was impressed by the section showing how to remove earlier rows of crochet from a piece. I don't remember seeing this explained elsewhere back when I needed to do it, so I figured it out on my own at the time. I'll see if I can rustle up a photo illustrating this also.

The drawings and photos in Ms. Horne's book are a big improvement over Rathbone's, however there are zero photos of finished garments. Like Rathbone, this author assures the reader that crochet is so easy that after learning a few basic things you can now crochet pants, a pair of stockings(!), a tailored suit with raglan sleeves, a coat and dress ensemble, and a blazer. These are illustrated only with shapely drawings so a beginner following her patterns would probably be in for a rude awakening.

I appreciate the range of stitch textures the author featured in her garments and she offers a hat with unusual construction (you crochet a long mini-ruffled strip first, then sew it into a coil shape over a stiffener). Her love of wearing her own crocheted clothes is obvious and she offers four methods for altering the hemlines of crocheted skirts.

Both authors are acutely aware that in 1969, beginning crocheters will want to be able to crochet fashionable clothing and a bit of bold home decor. Both of these books differ from the '70's books I've reviewed so far because neither complain about old-fashioned crochet but instead give it its due. They both have a sophisticated, cosmopolitan sensibility (esp. the Horne book) whereas often the '70's authors set out to show you how to crochet earthy, casual, more guileless-looking stuff. Fashionable folks who lived through the late '50's and then the '60's must have had vertigo by the time they got to the '70's! I wonder what fashion sensibility we're 'hooking' into for 2007?

Next '70's book to be reviewed: Adventures in Crocheting by Barbara Aytes (1972).