1940s

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For those in the NYC area, I highly recommend catching ‘The Gang’s All Here’ at Film Forum, showing until this Thursday. Directed by choreographer extraordinaire Busby Berkeley, the film’s described as “some sort of apotheosis in vulgarity”, “like a male hairdresser’s acid trip”, and begs the question, “what can you say about a film that features 60 girls waving gigantic bananas?”

What indeed, except it’s a nonsensical Technicolor delight. The disorientation starts with a disembodied head singing ‘Brazil’, which turns into a scene at a Brazilian port introducing the living cartoon that is Carmen Miranda before turning into a song number about thinking you’re in Brazil when really you’re in New York! Because they are in New York! At a swanky nightclub called Club New York, that’s Brazilian-themed!

We’re introduced in short measure to the fathers of two wealthy families and the leading man- what with the War going on I guess leading men were in short supply, as this one’s only a looker at exactly the right angle. Most angles, and his uniform, made his head look like David Byrne’s wearing The Big Suit. But who cares about the men when Carmen Miranda’s shaking her stuff in 6-inch gold wedge heels, 20 lbs. of ruffles, and 3 foot eyelashes!

The ‘plot’ is a wafer-thin confection existing solely to leap from one musical number to the next, and sometimes even that pretext is thrown to the wind. In typical Berkeley fashion, several numbers have no ties to the plot or reality – here it’s ‘Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat’ featuring the aforementioned giant bananas -NO FREUDIAN SYMBOLISM HERE, NO SIR!

http://oldhollywood.tumblr.com/post/1481837658/banana-wielding-chorus-girls-on-the-set-of-busby
…and the grand finale, ‘Polka-Dot Polka’, where the lovers’ reuniting is brushed aside in favor of an extended tribute to the Polka Dot. An extended, head-floating, TRON-neon, redheaded children dancing tribute to the Polka Dot.

http://altscreen.com/04/18/2012/tuesday-editors-pick-the-gangs-all-here-1943/

I don’t think ‘The Gang’s All Here’ has Berkeley’s most successful dance numbers- he’s used neon and abstracted the human body much more interestingly in ‘Shadow Waltz’, for example. Then again, this was a film he didn’t just choreograph, but directed – the difference can be similarly seen in the far-superior ‘Gold Diggers of 1933′, which he only did dance numbers for, vs. ‘Gold Diggers of 1935′, which he directed. While the latter had the immortal (and surprisingly dark and depressing) ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ number, again featuring his pet disembodied heads, ’1933′ had a plot that made sense, and actors acting. Still, ‘The Gang’s All Here’ absolutely delivers on sheer ridiculousness, all in glorious color. Check it out while you can! BUY WAR BONDS!

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This week’s pattern took a little extra time to set up because it had to be dug out of an enormous pile of miscellaneous vintage paper goods. Somewhere in that massive stack sat an absolutely patriotic salute to this great land, and consarn it, it would be found if it took all night. And it did! And here it is, the Americana, in all its star-spangled glory. The directions don’t come right out and say it but you can only knit it while listening to John Phillips Sousa marches.

Speaking of directions, apparently I have to come right out and state the blindingly obvious: THESE PATTERNS ARE FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. DO NOT TAKE THE IMAGES AND SELL THEM, DO NOT PASS THEM OFF AS YOUR OWN. Linking to them is totally fine; printing a copy out for your own use is fine, but anything that involves you taking them and making money off of them, STOP. DO NOT PASS GO. Fellow free-pattern sharer Bex recently alerted me that an Ebay seller stole images from our websites and sold (is selling) them in her store. On the downside, this is extremely rude, lazy and annoying. We post these patterns FOR FREE, buying or digging through archives for the originals, spending time scanning and cleaning them up, not to mention maintaining a website where people can find them, all for the sheer love of vintage knitting goodness. So when someone comes along and snags the images to make a quick buck, it hurts.

On the upside, this is the first time it’s happened in my several years of sharing, and in a rare burst of good mood I shall take that as a general sign humanity, or the chunk of it that enjoys looking at vintage patterns, generally understands what theft is and avoids it. Now, onward to patriotic knitwear!

Let the Eagle soar!

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Bienvenue, fellow crafters! As snow becomes the dominant conversation topic up and down the East Coast, it seems only appropriate to acknowledge our neighbors to the north, Colder USA, aka Canada. It’s a land I imagine in perpetual winter, in no small part due to the national fixation on ice-related sports.

Canadian favorite hockey, with its brutal fisticuffs and rapid-fire action, translates very well to American audiences. Second-beloved curling, on the other hand, gets at best mocking derision and far more commonly a confused ‘Curling? What’s that?’ Oh, you know, the sport where somebody hurls a rock and a bunch of people scrub little brooms in front of it, usually followed by a puzzled and/or angry look, and a rapid move to somewhere else in the vicinity.

Even I assumed curling was invented in the early 80s some dark evening after one too many beers, possibly some bong hits. Certainly the inspiration must have sprung from the depths of cabin fever. I mean, look at it:

But no! Curling has a long and storied history that begins, of all places, in Scotland. The very name of this week’s pattern, Bonspiel, means ‘curling tournament’ in old Scottish, and the earliest references to the game are from the 15th century.

(still looks pretty silly.)

History’s all well and good, but why watch curling? I’ll be lazy and let some curlers tell you:

Wow! Informative! However, the descriptions of the sport culled from Wikipedia’s page on curling also serve as a bullet point list of why the sport will never really catch on in America:

“More so than in many team sports, good sportsmanship is an integral part of curling. Even at the highest levels of play, players are expected to “call their own fouls”, so to speak, such as alerting the opposing skip if they “burned” a stone. It is also traditional for the winning team to buy the losing team a drink after the game. This is often referred to as the Spirit of Curling.”

“It is not uncommon at any level for a losing team to terminate the match before all ends are completed if it believes it no longer has a realistic chance of winning…When a team feels it is impossible or near impossible to win a game, they will usually shake hands with the opposing team to concede defeat.”

“Curling is a game of strategy, tactics and skill.”

It’s not just America though; curling doesn’t seem to have caught on much of anywhere:

“The 2002 Canadian film Men With Brooms…centres on the sport of curling, telling the story of a curling team from a small Canadian town…The film grossed over $4.2 million, all of it in Canada, making it the top-grossing Canadian English film subsidized by Telefilm Canada between 1997 and 2002.”

Those ain’t exactly numbers to brag about.

Still, curling seems a fun way to enjoy the brisk winter weather, so here’s a cozy cardigan to keep you warm while playing. Interestingly enough, white = official curling cardigan, any other color = regular boring cardigan with no real curling value.

Get your stone in the house!

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The New York Times was rife with dire headlines this week, from unemployment reaching 9.8% , unemployment aid coming to a permanent end for so many and a look back on the ongoing Iraq war, now entering its 7th year. A strong believer in misery loving company, I scoured the archives for ‘knit your bit’ patterns from the WWII era of strict rationing, when patterns were stamped with warnings materials weren’t guaranteed available and all aspects of life were curtailed. Plus economy in design then means less pennies spent today!

3 increasingly frustrated hours later I hadn’t found a single pattern fitting the bill. HUNDREDS of patterns from the era and NOTHING with a hint of sacrifice or supply limitations. What was going on? Staring at a page of 4 full hockey get-ups for boys and several hats for curling, the answer hit me- MOST OF MY PATTERNS ARE CANADIAN. I purchased an enormous lot from an Alberta woman who’d amassed a library of knitting books over her lifetime and no joke, every winter book has at least one curling/hockey pattern in it and several of the summer issues feature blouses named after provinces.

What makes this stranger is that Canada entered the war before the U.S. and certainly had its share of tribulations. A slight aside, they also hosted the Dutch Royal Family whose lands were Nazi-occupied and to this day as thanks, Ottawa receives tribute in the form of 10,000 tulip bulbs from the Netherlands. Still, if Canada had yarn rationing it doesn’t show up in knitting books from the era, or at least none of the ones I have.

So, in summation: lots of research, several tangents going nowhere, some historical fun facts, so nuts to it here’s some penguin socks.

It needn’t be a little penguin. It can be the biggest penguin you’ve ever seen. An electric penguin, twenty feet high, with long green tentacles that sting people, and you can stab it in the wings and the blood can go spurting psssssshhhh in slow motion!

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Here’s a trim, vaguely military number ready for warm weather. The chevron collar tabs are what sold me on this pattern from Sunglo no. 68, with the wee chevron pocket sealing the deal. What could you possibly fit in there? A pack of Listermints? Three cents? Ah, the frivolty and excess of fashion! Even the sleeves are a tad longer than truly necessary, and could be shortened without sacrificing the vintage look.

SunGlo 00

I recently watched a documentary on the Shakers, a religious group who believed amongst other things that work was a form of worship, and should be done simply and perfectly as God was in the details.

This didn’t mean work had to be hard; far from it, the Shakers invented numerous labor-saving devices to achieve a greater amount in less time, including the circular saw, round barns with ground-level hay loading, and the clothespin. In keeping with this belief, buildings, objects and clothes had no unnecessary ornamentation, but were absolutely practical and beautiful in their usefulness.

The Met has a Shaker room on display in its American wing- to look at it after rooms full of gaudy prints, rococo and baroque carved tables and chairs and yards of swag and drapery, is to see zen calm and peace radiating from smooth wood. It’s very austere, almost to the point of severity, but the care with which everything was put together shines warmly through.

A friend of mine is constantly on the lookout for the most basic of striped t-shirts: regular crew neck, stripes between 1/2-1 1/2 inches, preferably in non-neon colors. Somehow, they’re impossible to find. Either they have a v-neck, some weird patch sewn on, paint splatters with skulls and swirls screened over, the stripes have some fake distressed look, something. Every designer feels the need to add their little bit of flair to what is already a perfect design, ruining it from simple perfection. So it is with much of fashion, taking something that is clean and austere and slapping on a frill or tuck.

At the same time, those tiny details can occasionally enhance a basic outline, bringing out its shape more clearly, drawing attention to neat construction. So I hope it is with this pattern, that despite the inherent silliness of a useless pocket, overall the shirt is simple, yet pleasing.

Enough of the philosopy, make with the pattern already.

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