Celeste. Gretchen. Delores. Laurinda.
They are the names that evoke not just a bevy of young women but an era of grace and elegance, glamour and seduction. They are also the names of pattern designs created whilst a world war raged in the background, when home economics was an art form and the state of world trade meant you couldn’t buy something relatively cheaply and easily disposed of at the local Department store.
In those days, Australia still “rode the sheeps back” and yarn companies like Patons and Baldwin, Sun-glo, Lincoln Mills and the like did a steady trade in pretty skeins and remained at the forefront of women’s fashion. Women did not work in the same way that men did, there was no notion of fair pay if they did work and its fair to say an assumption existed that when most women married and became a “matron”, her domain was the home and pride was fostered in domesticity and family life. This was the age of my grandparents- a time when I am told, a social perception existed that a man who had to send his wife out to work had something to be ashamed of.
The yarns have long since failed to be produced, many of the mills were bought out or died as consumers became more affluent and Australia banked on cheap labour elsewhere and women ceased to have the time to knit as they became a more acceptable and ready workforce.
Times may have changed in many ways, but the beautiful images of young beaming women from the pages of once glossy pattern books remain as glamorous as ever.
I confess that I collect both sewing and knitting patterns, most of which I will never have the time to indulge in any serious endeavour of actually making something from each. But still I find their allure, particularly of knitting patterns irresistible. I also find some of the fashions both classic and historically fascinating when one considers the world when they had emerged.
When these patterns were printed, the internet did not exist and yet their circulation and life has been extended through a global second hand and collectors trade, made possible by websites like eBay.
I don’t know any woman today who would jump for joy at the prospect of knitting a full suit or dress in fine 2 ply yarn, even if they possessed the same level of skill required to produce the finer details. The time required would possibly extend over months. Even at the time of their creation, these designs were an investment.
Over the coming year, when I can knit again, I have decided to pick a couple of items from my ever growing collection, to make in modern yarns. I love wearing and creating the handmade. Nothing like a little vintage glamour for the modern mumma. And nothing like a challenge!
But on the upside, I can also think up somewhere fun to wear it.