Ancestry and Heritage, Part I

On my recent visit home, I finally documented many delightful things lurking in the cupboards.

Chiefly, my mother’s and neighbour’s collection of knitting patterns and fashion spreads torn out of Indian and UK magazines. Before going any further, I should specify that that my neighbour is elderly; her collection is from the ’50s to ’70s. My mother, being of more recent vintage, provides us with glimpses into the ’80s.

I confess to some qualms about the title of this post – what do the British royal family and Roman pavements have to do with my heritage? Biologically and geographically, none at all, at least on the face of it. But like it or not, the Raj left a huge impact on India’s recent past and on the generation that grew up just after Independence. Many of the upper middle-class urban populace felt a faint embarrassment about all things Indian, because they accepted the colonialists’ worldview as normative. With the economic isolation of the early post-Independence decades, most of the foreign women’s magazines (by which I mean “magazines for women, published outside India”, not “magazines for expat women”) were British ones. Of course there were lots of Indian women’s magazines (in Indian languages and in English), but it was Woman and Home, Woman’s Weekly and others of the ilk which allowed Indian readers to peek into the lives of foreign women. And so, in that rather convoluted way, perhaps I can justify calling these magazines as part of my personal heritage, in that  people I know read them, stored them, saved patterns from them, and knitted me clothes from them.

(The irony of writing out these thoughts in English doesn’t escape me.)

Let’s start with the foreign magazines, since these are mostly about the pictures, which I just can’t wait to share! I’ll talk in much greater detail about the Indian articles in a later post, once I’ve arranged my thoughts a little.

1. A book by the Singer Sewing Co., around 1950. Pushing all sorts of extra attachments:


2. With a charming photograph of an early sewing machine.


3. CRAZY, insane dress! Look at the amount of hip padding, covered by a full, swingy, skirt; all knitted in 1×1 rib! Seriously??!


4. Whew, let’s calm down. Look, here’s the pattern for something I’ve made!


5. This is a lovely little cardigan. I think it’s classic enough to be worn even today without the slightest pretense at irony. Perhaps after lowering the neckline a little bit, though. Since  stranding produces a double thickness fabric, the cardigan will be much more practical as a longer sleeve, cold weather garment. I’m visualizing it in biscuit/ivory, mint/cream, turquoise/white, burnt orange/wheat, or scarlet/grey. Also, did you notice that the pattern perpetuates the myth of needing to weave yarns in stranding knitting? Nonsense!  In such a close-spaced motif, weaving is not only unnecessary but will also make the reverse uglier and the yarns more difficult to manage.


6. Here’s something that could be worn just as written, in a cool and refreshing shade of summer cotton yarn. Perhaps peach, aqua, pale watermelon, white (with sparkly silver threads incorporated), lilac, or cool grey.


7. Another one with miles of fine-gauge knitting. Since this one is so obvious (houndstooth = big outdoor garment!), I think this one will be much wittier in a non black-and-white combination.  Like aqua/sand. Or even green/gold.


8. Now this one is classic and gorgeous!

9. Not an ideal outfit for mixing concrete, but the dress itself isn’t bad.


10. Another cool, pretty, modern-looking top…


1. Oh, the lovely lines of this dress! I would never contemplate making it unless I knew someone with a knitting machine; but if I ever had the time…!


12. And just before entering hideous, oversized ’80s territory, this pullover which is bold and flattering.


The articles on the reverse sides of the patterns are intriguing and entertaining! Being UK magazines, there are the usual pieces about:

13. The royal family; and


14. Country life: here, a feature on a farmer who discovered a Roman pavement in his field.

15. And finally, an unintentionally hilarious one on foreign husbands! Men of America: did you know your USP was the ability to do housework??!


2 thoughts on “Ancestry and Heritage, Part I

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