Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Laced With Magic's Barbara Bretton Posts Today!


When I was a kid knitting was fairly popular but crochet was king. Oh, the wonders of the granny square afghan! I have a few of them dating way back into the mists of time and love them more than I can say. My mother made them from scraps of yarn leftover from other projects. The only new yarns she ever bought for a granny square afghan was the yarn used to make the borders. Sometimes it was a bright sunny yellow. Sometimes a cheerful cherry red. Occasionally a drop-dead gorgeous dramatic black. We also did cross-stitch, but not the more sophisticated counted cross stitch done today (which, by the way, just the merest thought of makes my head explode -- I can't follow the charts!) but the stamped pattern on cheap fabric kind. My friend Teresa Garcia made one for me when I was eleven: Make New Friends, Keep the Old -- One Is Silver, The Other Is Gold. (I still have it.)



















(Photo: Family Circle offer from June 1970 -
Julie Nixon Eisenhower's Crewel Kit.
At least our needlework managed true bipartisanship.)

Crochet remained very popular in the late 60s and into the early 70s. Crocheted bikinis, vests, scarves, slippers--I made them all. Crochet in 1970 was all about big hooks and triple strands of Red Heart or Aunt Lydia's Rug Yarn. Crewel was very popular around 1972. I worshipped at the altar of Erica Wilson and Elsa Williams, the queens of traditional (and non-traditional) embroidery.

(You're looking at my four-way bargello attempt c. 1982
which was really going quite well until I lost interest.
Why did I lose interest? I haven't a clue.)

The mid-to-late 70s, as I remember, were needlepoint. "Rich girl stuff" one of my Long Island friends said at the time because who could afford hand-painted canvases and pricey Paternayan Persian wool? A needlepoint shop moved into my working class neighborhood a month after we bought our first house in North Babylon and my truly exciting birthday present was Beginner Lessons. I'm telling you it was so thrilling that selling my first book had to struggle to match the joy I felt.



















(Groucho, circa 1983. Total improvisation with velour
yarns, silks, some metallics. I've since added a little
sparkly red to the end of the cigar ash.)

And then suddenly needlework seemed to vanish from the radar. Oh, I know men and women were still stitching and knitting out there but you didn't hear all that much about it. I switched over to sewing for a few years, a craft where my talent fell far short of my enthusiasm. (Would you believe I actually made my father a blue velvet caftan? What in the name of all that's decent was I thinking?)

Knitting popped back onto the radar in the mid-80s and in my opinion we have Bill Cosby to thank for it. Remember The Cosby Show? Cliff Huxtable wore the most gorgeous, elaborate hand-knit sweaters on the planet and I think seeing them every week revived interest in the craft. Sweaters were big and poufy in fluffy yarns with intarsia-like designs knitted in.

And then knitting vanished again.

See where I'm going with this? (And boy it's taken me long enough to get there.) Reading trends in romantic fiction follow the same interest curve. A Martian looking at the romance section in a local book store would think we were a country of vampires, werewolves, and demons with the occasional kick-butt superheroine tossed in for good measure. (Have I mentioned that LACED WITH MAGIC is on the stands right now??) A year or two ago we were all single working girls with cartoon covers. And not too long ago we were nursing mothers in low-cut gowns about to be ravished by hunky pirates. Or nightgown-clad damsels fleeing a spooky castle at midnight. And does anyone remember when cowboys and stalwart Apache and Cherokee and Sioux braves were #1 in the hearts of romance readers (and writers) everywhere? (Why were there no Chippewa heroes? I'm part Chippewa and that always annoyed me.)

Tastes change and that's a good thing. Life would be unbearably boring if they didn't. The trick, in needlework and in writing and in life, is learning how to change with them.





Thank you Barbara! Loved your post today...but crocheted bikinis? Ugh!

4 comments:

Sheila Deeth said...

I had a very (very) brief period of trying crochet, and guess what, amongst the very few items I tried to crochet was a crocheted bikini. Not sure I ever wore it though.

Heather said...

wonderful post. I recall trying several of those crafts and still have unfinished projects. My reading tastes in romance is fairly steady with historical (men in kilts) though I have tried a few of the paranormal and enjoyed the variety.

KaliAmanda said...

Love Groucho! That must have been a fun project through and through...

Cait London said...

I think a lot of this is coming back, including homemaking, i.e. jams/canning/sewing whatever. One writer makes really pretty bags. I keep looking at my mother's unfinished embroidery in her basket and think, I really miss this.

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