Aunt Cecilia’s Woolco Knitting & Crocheting Manual, copyright 1916


The explanation for how I came to be acquainted with my co-worker’s husband’s Aunt Cecilia, several years after she died, is explained here. She was a lifelong knitter and hooker (you know I mean a crocheter). I was gifted with her large stash of Italian mohair, some of her books, and her glass cigar tube of crochet hooks. Those of us who love these crafts know that we want our treasured tools and yarns to find a good home after we die. I’ve tried to do right by Cecelia’s stash. Her booklets and books are safely protected.

More of Cecilia’s books surfaced recently and my co-worker gave them to me. The new gift includes this gem from 1916, published by F. W. Woolworth Company, a “dime store” of old. And, in fact, the book cost exactly that: one thin dime. The book cautions, repeatedly, that “to insure success you must use only Woolco Yarns.”  With “a little practice” you will become “a proficient worker.” Then “you will find that the work goes quickly and that instead of tiring you it will rest you and soothe the nerves.”  Indeed.

Several crochet and knit stitches are illustrated and described. There are patterns for babies, children and adults.  There are sweaters, vests, gloves, socks, leggings, shawls, scarves, slippers, and hats (Tam O’Shanter, helmet, toque). While the baby leggings don’t really “speak” to me, the kimono and “porch jacket” are quite sweet:

 

1916, when this book was published, was smack dab in the middle of World War I. That the war interfered with Woolco’s supply of dye, including for their popular Germantown line, must be the explanation for this plea at the start of the book:

Woolco Yarns have always been dyed with the finest dyes obtainable. The well-known condition of the dyestuffs market at present forces us to buy dyes in small lots so that we are no longer able to maintain our usual uniformity of shades.

It is a condition which we would overcome if it were possible, but as there is positively no remedy we must urge our customers to buy more carefully than has heretofore been necessary.  Buy enough yarn to finish your garment and see that it matches before you leave the store. By doing so you will avoid disappointment for yourself and assist us in overcoming an awkward and regrettable situation.

May we count on your cooperation?

I bet knitters didn’t have to be told more than once that the war had screwed up dyelots big time. I can picture knitters asking for permission to carry their yarn out to the street to be able to see the colors in natural light and make sure the skeins matched.

Tucked into the back of Cecelia’s Woolco book was this 1918 newspaper clipping of a sock pattern, knit on “4-10 yarn” and “Red Cross needle No. 1.”  The author had good advice for handling measurement, splicing, and a somewhat overly specific way (tie finished socks loosely together…) to make sure that there were no holes or dropped stitches:

To measure a garment, lay in on [sic] on a level surface and measure with a dependable measure (wood, metal or celluloid, not a tape).

Always join threads by splicing or by running threads through each other with worsted weight.

Tie finished socks loosely together at the top of leg, in such a way that the hand can be inserted for inspection.

If sock is thin at the point of gusset, reinforce by darning on wrong side very lightly with split thread of yarn.

Still good advice. (Clicking on the clipping, then clicking in to increase the size, will allow you to read a bit more.)

And, flipping the sock pattern over, this slice of life, lopped off in mid-sentence because all Cecilia was preserving was the sock pattern, not what Martin Radilyack, of Gary Indianna had to say about his wartime experience:

GARY LAD BACK WITH ‘BUDDIES; HAD BEEN LOST

“I wouldn’t take anything for the things that have happened to me
during my recent experience with the Hun,” writes Martin Radilyack,
brother of Miss Agnes Radilyack.  Radilyack, employed by the American
Bridge company, who has been “missing in action” since May 1 and who

We won’t know more than that, I’m afraid. But the ad for the Freezone corn removal potion is almost fully intact.  “Try it. No humbug!”