"Knitting For All The Family"

"Knitting For All The Family"

The first odd thing that struck me about this book, after I got it home and started perusing it, is that it has no author. 

The introduction was written by a credited human (Una Stubbs) but the rest of the book apparently sprang fully-formed from the Conran Octopus publishing company.

The second odd thing I noticed is that the book is copyright 1980, and oh, it looks it.  As soon as I realized how old this book was, I flipped through looking for intarsia. 

I wasn't a knitter in the 1980s, but I recall that time.  Bad intarsia sweaters from the 1980s are largely responsible for many people's prejudice against knitting.  They were loud, and often knit in the worst kinds of acrylic or the scratchiest wool. 

Between the fact that the book is thirty years old, and the fact that it was published in Britain, you basically have zero chance of finding the yarn specified in the pattern.  I was frankly surprised to learn that many of the yarn companies (which I have never heard of) are still even making yarn.  Not the yarn that the patterns call for, of course. 

This is doubly challenging to the knitter, because the book doesn't carry any yarn specifics.  We are told the gauge of a project, but not the weight, yardage, or fiber content of the yarn.  Want to knit that cute baby ensemble?  Good luck figuring out what to substitute for six skeins of Anny Blatt "Soft Anny."

A lot of the patterns for babies and kids are pretty cute.  Although I question the wisdom of knitting baby clothes in alpaca, or a twin set for a toddler made of angora.  I can think of a lot of good uses for angora, but clothing a three year-old isn't one of them. 

I also wonder if babies were colder in the 1980s.  English homes were famously unheated in winter.  Perhaps that is why so many pictures depict babies and young children wearing multiple layers of alpaca.  One particularly flushed little boy is wearing knit alpaca pants (!), and a knit alpaca sweater, underneath an alpaca jacket.  It made me sweaty just looking at him!

As a general rule, the older the pattern's subjects, the worse the fashion.  From a father-son pair of matching sweaters with "a subtle design showing the moon shrouded in clouds" (which isn't at all subtle) to a father-son pair of matching sweaters that feature an intricate stranded colorwork pattern of dark purple on lavender, interrupted by a vertical rainbow-colored zig-zag, many of these designs are frankly inexplicable. 

The section of women's sweaters is definitely the most 80s-ish.  Dolman batwing sleeves, "subtle Oriental patterns" done in black and turquoise, and intarsia roses ahoy!  Or how about the Cinemascope Jersey, which aside from its bizarre design (it's a sweater, but also it's film!) is preposterously oversized.  It has 29 inches of ease, TWENTY NINE.  Take your bust line measurements, then add TWENTY NINE INCHES to that.

When I finally put the book down, I was relieved that we no longer live in the 1980s.  Frankly, I lived through it once; I can't take another go-round.