I think that finally the nesting instinct must be starting to take over. Many of the people I’ve spoken to about being pregnant mention the dreaded ‘C’ word before long: cleaning. Apparently, this urge to clean every surface, wall and floor in sight starts to kick in prior to the baby arriving. As of yet, this hasn’t happened to me (no surprise to anyone who knows me in real life); but the slightly more enjoyable ‘K’ word has started to appear: knitting. I am feeling the urge to knit everything and anything I can!
Let’s be clear about this – I’m not a very good knitter. Until I got pregnant, the only thing I’d ever knitted was a scarf for my sister Megan, which was pretty rubbish and resembled a draught excluder by the time I’d finished. But now, with the help of the modern wonder that is t’internet, I’ve managed to make a blanket and a little cardigan:
I used this pattern for the Super Easy Baby Blanket from the Purlbee website and this pattern for the cardigan. Despite being the simplest knitting patterns on the planet, I still managed to make lots of mistakes… I was accidentally adding stitches on to the blanket at first, until I realised that I was pulling the wool over the needle incorrectly at the end of each row. I wish I’d realised this BEFORE I’d added on nearly 40 stitches obviously… Numerous holes and dropped stitches appeared at points in the blanket. I managed to sew the cardigan together incorrectly with some pieces inside out. However, I’ve also learned how to fix most of these errors, the basics of casting on, off, knit, attaching buttons, weaving in ends, changing colours, ‘tinking’ (I think it’s called), which ‘feet’ stitches are supposed to have forwards on the needles and probably a dozen other little things that three months ago I had no idea about.
It’s compulsive though. Now that I’ve realised that I can actually knit a bit, I’m feeling the urge to make anything and everything. One of my twitter friends, @knitstixnstring who runs a knitting group in Glossop, told me about a website called Ravelry, where people can upload free knitting patterns and share their projects. That’s it. I’m hooked and I’ve spent far more time than I should have trawling the projects on there to find things I can have a go at next. My current project is this little tank top by the Thrifty Knitter. I’m doing it in the same wool as the cream colour of the blanket, then I’ve got ideas to make something in the yellow as well.
As much as anything, I’m enjoying learning a new skill. I love learning new things and whilst I can’t really do much DIY around the house (funnily enough, not something I enjoy learning how to do…), this is a hobby to keep me occupied on the big countdown. We’re off on holiday next week to Suffolk, and I’m pretty ginormous now and not particularly mobile. Therefore, I’m envisioning days spent in front of a log burner, knitting away…
Our impending arrival means that I’ve seriously got babies on the brain. As well as the official ‘baby brain’… Scouring through my Woman’s Own magazines to look at the adverts builds up a picture of how womanhood was viewed in the 1950s; at least by mainstream society. Babies, cooking, cleaning and grooming appear to be the main aims of a 1950s housewife. I think I can safely say it will be yes to the first two; maybe to the third and probably not to the fourth idea for me come November…
When you examine many of these adverts en masse – not only the baby related ones – the general feeling seems to be that if there is a product, new ingredient, new thing that can be used, given, delivered, rubbed in and so on, then do it!
Everything seems to be the most unique, the ideal, the kindest, safest, most natural thing you can have or use. I know that’s the nature of advertising, but I do wonder how much more susceptible people were to it fifty or sixty years ago. Nowadays, I think (most) people are more cynical and will question advertising spiel more; perhaps I’m being naive in assuming people of the older generation didn’t do that as much.
This Heinz advert has one of my favourite lines in it: “‘So firm, isn’t she! no flabby fat on her. And she can almost stand.” Pitched just right to play on the fears of a mother and the natural competitiveness of rearing a child and wanting it to be the best it can be
and secretly better than everyone else’s child.
This is something I can forsee that we might have issues with: that we will be bringing our child up on a vegetarian diet. Actually, we won’t have issues with it. We both know that anyone can maintain a very healthy lifestyle without eating meat; equally, an unhealthy one can be apparent in meat-eaters. It’s down to personal choice. I would rather our child is brought up vegetarian and has the choice to eat meat when he or she is older and understands more about where meat comes from. Having said this, I anticipated questions and qualms from people for having a (mostly) vegetarian pregnancy and have had virtually nothing. That every examination, appointment, blood test, urine test, whatever test you can think of that pregnant women undergo has come back spot on every time, I like to think this is proof that vegetarianism in pregnancy is perfectly normal and good for your baby. As for all of those cheese sandwiches I ate during months three and four, what with being the only thing I could stomach at the time; well, they’ve clearly done me or the baby no harm. It’ll probably come out smelling like mayonnaise though…
Just read the different in the copy between the adverts. The first states that for ‘Mothers who cannot breastfeed [they] can put their trust in Ostermilk.’ So far, so responsible. Yet look at the text for the second advert: “Lots of prams never seem to get very far without being stopped. They are, of course, the ones that contain particularly engaging looking babies. So often they are babies fed on Ostermilk. This pure milk food builds the kind of babies that people simply have to stop and talk to.” As I said, designed perfectly to play on fears and competitiveness. The breastfeeding vs. formula feeding debate still rages on endlessly nowadays, and there is an absolute wealth of information out there for mums and dads to be read about. It really is down to personal choice and circumstances, in my opinion, and I don’t think any parent should be made to feel guilty about that choice.
The next few adverts are mainly to coo over funny looking pictures of babies in quaint pictures:
I love the expressions on the faces of the babies in the Vaseline adverts and the RP accent of the text. Jolly good! The idea of my baby thinking in a posh accent tickles me somewhat. In reality, it’s likely to be a strange hybrid of Yorkshire, Mancunian and the Midlands. Perhaps I can teach him or her to say, “I say!” at least.
This final advert is my favourite, purely for the possessed look on the child’s face:
That’s what all that Ostermilk, Spinach and Beef, and Vaseline does to you… this baby is not possessed at all, just feeling smugly superior:
“I say, you fellows, look what a glow to my eyes that Magnesia has brought about. How spiffing!”
Are you nostalgic? As a generation, are we harking back to past eras more than any other generation before us? Or this a natural human action: to yearn for something we can never truly have – or replicate? It certainly seems that there are more and more people of my age who look to their ancestors rather than their contemporaries for inspiration, style and a way of life. I consider myself no exception to this.However, for me what began as inspiration is turning into a way of life, in more ways than one.
A few months ago, we moved into our new house and so far the duties have been divided like this: I cook. Aidan does everything else. Actually, that’s not strictly true. We share tidying, washing, clearing up; but he does the DIY. Which, currently, is the most pressing of our needs for the house and the task that needs the vast majority of time spending on it. As I type this, in front our amazing wood burning stove, he is upstairs sawing floorboards, laying them, removing old nails, hammering in new ones. I made the breakfast this morning and will do the washing up after I’ve written this, before starting on my planning for the week.
I don’t see this as ‘falling into traditional gender stereotypes’. I plan our meals and do the cooking because
I’m better at it than he is I enjoy it; Aidan does the D.I.Y. because he is better at it, and I physically can’t. My do-it-yourself skills extend to just about managing to take some wallpaper off the wall, and to be honest I’d still prefer it if Aidan did-it-himself.
The two magazine covers above show two different approaches to home improvement as a couple in the 1950s. The first picture shows the wife assisting her husband, whilst wearing full makeup and a lovely set of pearls. The second picture shows the wife performing tasks herself, wearing more appropriate garb. Initally, when I looked at these, I thought, “I’m offering neither assistance nor help,” in the way these two wives are. What does that mean? Should I be at Aidan’s side whilst he fixes, saws, hammers, nails, curses and creates?
This third Homemaker picture probably typifies our roles more closely, although without me being quite so perfectly turned out, or with such a small waist. At one point in my life, it might have rankled me that I was fulfilling such a stereotype. Yet now I don’t see it like that, not really. We’re both in charge of the areas where our skills lie. We both have made the choice about how we operate as a couple. If I don’t want to cook one night, Aidan does it. If he’s getting fed up over the traumas of D.I.Y. I pep him back up and go to B&Q with him, not just leave him to sort it out because he’s the man. The key is, it’s a choice.
And that’s where it differs from the 1950s. How we choose to lead our lives does not get judged in any way by friends or family. If things changed tomorrow and Aidan became chief chef whilst I wielded the hammer and nails, nobody would bat an eyelid. (This is strictly not true; no-one in their right mind would be anywhere near me with a hammer in my hand, but that’s not the point). In the 1950s, the woman probably still was expected to clean the house and feed her family whether she’d helped with the home improvements or not; society pretty much dictated that and to do otherwise would be to face disapproval. How many men from the 1950s would have finished tiling the bathroom, with their wife on hand to help, then gone and cooked the evening meal, and washed all that up afterwards as well? Yet you could still argue that these same men may have had a day at work as well as the evening or weekend of D.I.Y. as well. The argument swings both ways: women and men were expected to behave in certain ways, fulfilling specific roles, whether they wanted to or not. Nowadays, certainly in my personal world, the choice is down to the individuals involved.
I’m wondering what I’m trying to say here… there’s no argument as such. Perhaps I’m doing nothing more than trying to justify a lazy Sunday while Aidan works. Or giving myself a reason to show case these pictures. What is becoming clear to me is that I could do more D.I.Y. if I wanted to. After looking at these Homemaker magazine covers, part of me is thinking that Ishouldbe doing more. At the very least, I could be serving up his meals with a much nicer dress on…
I began writing this thinking about how we – i.e., Aidan and me – are keen to replicate some of the mid century feel within our own home, and that these magazines could provide some of our inspiration. What I didn’t realise was how much the lifestyle itself was rubbing off on us as well.
It seems slightly surreal to be writing about Easter when the weather resembles the depths of Winter. Easter equals Spring, birds chirping, drip drip drop little April showers… not, hide indoors because it’s a blizzard outside.
One of the things I love about my Woman’s Own magazines (amongst many) is how the covers vary from month to month, season to season. Many modern magazines are fairly homogenous; these ladies have character, and although the basic format stays the same, there is still an individuality to each one. These Easter issues are beautiful.
The sheep cover reminds me of when we went camping a few years ago at Easter and it snowed! We were on a small working farm, halfway between Llandudno and Conwy. At the time, we didn’t have a car so we’d walked a good few miles to get to the farm, then had about a seven mile walk to Llandudno and again to Conwy (we were at the third point of a triangle between the two if that makes sense). If I remember rightly, the first night there it hailed. Despite zipping sleeping bags together and wearing virtually everything we owned, we were freezing. The next day we walked into Llandudo and it snowed. So we bought a duvet and some scrumpy cider… I’m not sure whether it was the duvet or the cider, but we were toasty that night.
That’s also the night I hallucinated that there were goblins running around the outside of our tent, but the less said about that the better…
Bet she never hallucinated about goblins running around her tent…
Just two of these to share today which made me smile for different reasons:
It’s not difficult to see why Quaker’s Quick Macaroni isn’t still a staple in our diets… Savoury and satisfying, apparently. My first thought upon seeing that wasn’t, “Mmmm, delicious!” but: “Worms!” I’m not sure I trust Jane Beaton (cookery expert of Woman’s Own) and her judgement of food any more after her recommendation of that…
What I like about this advert is the mid century styling of the furniture. That room divider is amazing! Also, ‘Nut Crunch’ icecream? Completely all over that…
Which advert do you prefer? Worms macaroni or Mid-century icecream?
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be asked by the lovely people at Obsessionistas if they could feature my collection of vintage women’s magazines on their site. The full interview and gallery can be seen at their website here.
Obsessionistas is a beautiful website run by Helen and Graham Powell. They feature quirky and interesting collections by people from all different walks of life. Some of my favourite collections they have featured in the past include air stewardess uniforms, harmonicas, West German pottery, brooches and post-modern design.
Once again, huge thanks from me to Helen and Graham for asking me to be a part of it; I feel very privileged. Here are some of the covers from my collection they featured:
- LittleOwlSki Review: Midcentury Magazine (littleowlski.wordpress.com)
My collection of Woman’s Own magazines is quickly becoming one of my most prized possessions. I adore flicking through them, admiring the adverts, drooling over the fashion and wishing I could draw like Aubrey Rix, Joe de Mers or Coby Whitmore. One of the things I love about them is that they are mainly for the working class to lower middle class woman; they are aimed at the every day women of the era and really give an insight into the mindset of the time.
A Vogue magazine is something different. Just like the magazine today, it is more aspirational, a dream and definitely not mundane. Although prices for the vintage Vogue magazines of the ’50s and ’60s can be anything up to fifty pounds, I would adore to have one – just one – to admire the high fashion, photography and illustration.
Of all of these, my favourites are:
The model on the cover of the March 1962 edition looks stunning: like something Louis Shabner or J.H. Lynch would paint. And I love the design of the 1954 cover, especially the jewelled detail.
What’s at the top of your Christmas wish list?
For more reading:
Vogue.co.uk - where all of these pictures came from. There’s an archive here of back issues with details of the features and articles in each one.
MyVintageVogue - Blog showcasing a vintage fashion archive from 1920-1960s
Regular readers will know by now my love for all things of yesteryear. My decade of choice is the 1950s, though I will go to the ’60s and late ’40s at a push. I do have some magazines from the ’70s and ’80s but they never get read, so I’ve made the decision to sell them. If you’re interested, all of the magazines below will be listed on Ebay from this evening for seven days.
There are some quite interesting articles and adverts in them. My favourite advert is a Nivea one: it has a picture of a really old Native American woman and a caption that reads something like, “Looks 80 doesn’t she? Halve that to get nearer her real age.” Apparently using Nivea will stop you looking like a wizened old squaw…
Have a look at the magazines on Ebay here.
Rowntree’s Jelly adverts seem to be perfectly designed to make your mouth water.
I picked this up from the Post Office depot yesterday morning. Found on a fuzzy photograph on Ebay in America and costing me the grand total of seven dollars… it’s one of the stand-out images from Lifestyle Illustrations of the ’60s and I’m just a little bit excited about having my own copy. ‘Mother is a Movie Queen’ by Coby Whitmore has to be one of the most stunning mid-century illustrations I’ve ever seen. And to think it was created for a woman’s weekly magazine. It should have been splashed across film posters and billboards across America and England.
The seller did include a tiny, tiny note about the original magazine, but alas I’ve managed to lose it in the packaging! The date was 30th September, 1961 but I can’t remember if it was from Woman’s Weekly or Woman’s Illustrated. I think much internet searching is going to ensue to find out again… or I could just email them to ask.
The pictures are a bit dark thanks to the lighting in our living room Saturday evening. However, the magazine pages are in fantastic condition. I’m thinking of getting them framed, but I can’t decide whether to frame both pages or just the main one.
Isn’t she stunning? Hair, dress, pose; even the ’60s chair is a dream. I’m so excited and pleased with this: it was worth every cent!
If you wish to buy the gorgeous ‘Lifestyle Illustration of the ’60s’, it can be found on Amazon here. The fantastic Today’s Inspiration blog also features guest posts by the ’historical expert’ David Roach here. I’m just waiting for the ’50s edition to be released now.