A bit of knitting history fell into my hands yesterday. Well, to be honest, it didn't exactly fall - what happened is that I bought a number of back issues of Vogue Knitting from DBNY. Often, when a LYS (local yarn shop) closes, they'll sell their inventory, including store copies of magazines. While I am sorry that the yarn shop closed, I hope they'd be happy to know that their back issues of Vogue Knitting are in appreciative hands.
I've been knitting since 2006, a relatively short time. During those years, I've read and subscribed to VK as well as other knitting magazines, but it's rare that I've seen any from before then. These back issues are a selection ranging in date from Spring-Summer 1983 to Spring-Summer 2001. It's been so much fun going through them. They're almost like 18 years of time capsules. I'll flip through one thinking, I was 10 years old when this design was published. I had a sweater in that exact color when I was 16. Wow, that's some big hair.
It surprised me that cotton and cotton blend yarns were so populer - a large number of the designs used them, whereas now we see more wool. Novelty yarns really were a novelty. Some of the designs were of-the-moment (as is to be expected from a Vogue publication) and therefore dated now - think wide dolman sleeves or huge intarsia graphics. Peach & turquoise. Slubby and boucle yarns. Primary colors on a white background. I was pleased to discover, however, that a large number of the designs, were true classics; they would look as good now as they did then.
A few familiar names popped up here and there: designs by Adrienne Vittadini and Norah Gaughan, for instance, have evolved since then, but I could see unmistakable evidence of their developing styles. I liked their early designs, sometimes as much as their current ones. I especially liked Adrienne's beaded rib pullover (Spring/Summer 1986, pattern #28) and Norah Gaughan's rose motif fair isle pullover (winter 95/96, pattern #14). It was also a kick to see columns written by VK's "new columnist" Elizabeth Zimmerman.
There were two features of the magazine that I especially liked and wish they would bring back. First, each issue contained a feature called "Then ... and Now". A classic pattern from an older Vogue Knitting (1950s-60s) and showed both the original photo and the same design styled on a current model. It was a great example of how timeless good knitwear can be.
Second, in all the magazines through 1980s, the the non-knit clothes worn by the models were all made from Vogue sewing patterns. The photo description gave the pattern number, and the final page of the magazine was a "Vogue Patterns Guide to pattern and fabric information." As much as I like VK, the current issues are more "fashion-y" rather than knitting for real life. Are you listening, VK?
Anyhow, if you ever get a chance to peruse some old knitting magazines, I recommend you do so. You never know what you'll find, and you may be pleasantly surprised.