Today’s library find is another knitting book from the 1970s – Mark Dittrick was the editor of Design Knitting (New York: Hawthorne Books, 1978). It’s a pattern book, featuring collections of work by Marianne Ake, Barbara Baker, Dione Christensen, Phoebe Fox, Maria Hart, Linda Mendelson, Dandree Rubin and Monna Weinman. I admit most of these names are unknown to me. A couple I’m familiar with but haven’t seen in a very long time, but I didn’t begin to knit until the mid ’80s.

Like any book of trendy patterns, this one is dated. Stuff in it was the ultimate, latest thing when the book was new, but now looks saggy, sad and dated. This should be a caution to those of you who run out and buy hard-cover pattern books. Unless the designs in them are classics, you’ve just spent money on something you’ll be comfortable using for only a year or two.

That being said, there are designs here that may be of interest. No ponchos, though. As someone who endured the ’70s I can say that ponchos, while present, were no where near as popular as the ubiquity of today’s retro patterns makes them appear. Capes were more popular. This book does contain a couple of capes, a belted cape/coat hybrid, and several kimono-style long coats. There are also lots of pullovers and a couple of cardigans. Quite a few are worked in larger gauges from doubled worsted yarn – 3 spi is typical. Sizing is limited by today’s standards, with a large (in theory, size 16-18) measuring only 38 inches around. Most pieces though are one-size fits all. I’d say they probably fit a contemporary 8-12.

The various designers favor different styles. Some are fond of the riot of Intarsia and combos of texture and colorwork popular at that time (especially lacy stitches done in very large yarns). Others use more traditional pieces and techniques. A few of these traditional pieces are very wearable as written. They include several Icelandic-style stranded yoke sweaters, two entrelac pullovers, and a feather and fan pullover. There’s an interesting and simple idea here for using short quantities several colors of yarns either doubled to knit at 3spi (or bulky weight singles) to make a tie-front jacket or vest – in mostly stockinette with scattered single-row purl welts. I can see that one looking quite nice done up? in a series of coordinating colors in someone’s bulky?hand-spun.

Much of the rest of the book might provide inspiration, but would require some modification to make the shapes wearable today. For example, a couple of designers are heavily into the vanguard of the Giant Shoulder Movement. Others use sleeves that are very wide throughout their length, or blouse out above tight cuffs like the sleeves on a Seinfeldian Puffy Shirt.

I dithered over whether to show a page with the wearable stuff, or some of the more outrageous shots that show the dated pieces. The latter is more fun:

I think the model showing the belted mohair dress at the left has the most extreme "It itches" face I’ve ever seen in a professional photo spread.

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