Hand Knits by Beehive, 1944

Some time ago I acquired a cache of vintage knitting magazines. Mostly Vogue Knitting, but a few assorted other things. It’s been my intention to go through them and share gems, but I haven’t had the time. Well, necessity has forced me to organize my collection. So I spent a good deal of the weekend sorting and preserving and cataloging. I have Vogue Knitting from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s (what happened to the 70s?!). I also have a good long stash of Knitters and Interweave Knits (mostly 90s and 2000s, but one issue of Knitters from 1985 with a Tom Selleck look-alike on the cover (mmm…moustache…)). And a handful of one-off pattern books in a few eras.

So, now that they’re organized, the sharing begins. With luck, I can focus on one issue a week. Just a quick glance through as I was sorting them showed all kinds of fascinating trends evolve over time.

I plan to focus mostly on the Vogues, but I’m starting off the tour with the oldest item in my collection: a pattern booklet called “Hand Knits by Beehive” dated 1944. It’s book No. 128, 25 cents. Beehive was a yarn by Patons & Baldwin. According to the back cover, it came in two varieties, an all wool fingering weight yarn, and “Moorland”, which is billed as a non-shrink knitting yarn, with no hint given as to the fiber. From the gauges listed in the patterns, Moorland was also fingering weight.

Here’s the cover, featuring a lovely belted suit.

The booklet contains a number of sweaters, vest, and cardigans, and several complete outfits. All the sweaters have set-in sleeves. There’s some two-color fair isle, and plenty of stripes. Most of the outfits are rather tasteful, but this one, a vest with matching stocking cap, is a little over the top:

Most of the designs are pictured in black and white photographs on models. However, these two vests are pictured flat with suggested wearing illustrations next to them. Without those, I would have had no idea that they were meant to be worn under stylish suits.

Most of the patterns are for sizes 12, 14, and 16. But before you get too excited, that corresponds to bust measurements of 31″, 33″, and 35″. All the patterns include row and stitch gauges, with most patterns worked at 7-8 stitches/inch. Suggested needle sizes are mostly 3 (3mm) and 4 (3.5mm), metric diameters included! If you look closely at the pattern text to the left of the photo of this dress, you’ll note the helpful convention of putting all instructions for one size in a column running down the pattern. After each new line of knitting instructions, you simply need to look to the column for your size to find out how many stitches you should be working at that point in the pattern. Much better than having to circle something buried in a paragraph somewhere. Also, this dress features something rather common in these patterns - a wide ribbon for a button band.

This next photo I had to include because at first I thought I was looking at an impressive feat of photography. Then it struck me, they actually knitted two of these jumpers for the photo shoot! Called “Sunday, Monday and Always…”, the caption is “A girl’s best friend is her jumper. Here in soft green with stitched pockets, it may be worn with long or short sleeved blouse.” Thankfully, they cleared that up!

The back cover, showing the yarn. Seems that it came in a nice range of colors. Colors listed in the various patterns include Scarlet, Cyclamen Red, Navy, Nantucket Blue, Sandringham Blue, Birch Green, Myrtle Green, Emerald, Peach, and Chestnut.

Finally, there’s a small slip of paper included in the fold on the first page that reads: “A Necessary War Measure: We regret that we are compelled to ask you to be patient if you are unable to find all the Beehive yarns you want. The usual plentiful supply of these fine imported wools has been curtailed, due to the manpower shortage in Great Britain. We know you will be glad to cooperate at this time, and “Share the Yarn” for Victory!”