Lady Fair Yarn Book No. 3, 1921

I have laughingly called myself a Goodwill Archaeologist, but the very nature of digging through the bins at my local Goodwill Outlet does resemble the work of archaeology in some respects.  First, there is the obvious reference to “digging” but there are other similarities.

It is important to note the location of a find.  An archaeologist may find one piece of pottery in a location, and will then be on the alert for more pieces in the same area.  In the same way, a Goodwill Archaeologist knows that if there is one piece of old stuff in a bin, there is a nice likelihood that there will be more.  I have been through bins that held a lifetime of embroidered linens.  Sometimes a bin will contain the entire series of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys books.  If one great item is spotted in a bin, then it is worth taking more time to closely examine the contents of that, and the surrounding, bins.

This strategy paid off  this week when I spotted a few old knitting and crocheting instruction booklets.  These were sold by the millions, mainly by the makers of yarns and threads.  The ones from the 1940s and 50s are pretty common, but I always take a look at them to see if there are any sportswear booklets.

I very quickly pulled out about one hundred booklets from the bin, being careful to excavate the entire area.  A closer look later revealed that the great majority of the booklets were on making various crochet edgings and laces.  But in the midst of all the doilies and laces, I found a real treasure.  The Lady Fair Yarn Book No. 3 was published in 1921 by the T. Eaton Co., one of the great Canadian department stores.

This booklet has forty pages of sports fashions for the entire family.  Being Canadian, there are lots of sweaters for skating and hockey, but there are garments for golf and tennis as well.

Lady Fair was Eaton’s house brand of yarns.  Many of the designs featured angora yarn, as in the tuxedo sweater above.

This suit, recommended for golf, was quite fashionable.

There were not just sweaters and dresses, but also accessories,  such as hats and scarves.

The instructions for this bathing suit also included directions for the stockings.  I found several things to be interesting.  First, that the stockings were knee length, when in the early Twenties it was still the custom in the US to wear full length stockings with bathing attire.  The custom for this varied from place to place, with some beaches in Europe already having done away with stockings by the 1920s.

But what I really love about this bathing suit is how complicated it is, with the straps and buttons and belt and contrasting color trunks that were not attached to the body of the bathing suit.

There were included a large variety of men’s sweaters, for activities like skating and golf.

This garment for a boy might be called overalls, but I’m betting it was more like underwear, wouldn’t you agree?



Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Winter Sports

10 responses to “Lady Fair Yarn Book No. 3, 1921

  1. Every find is like a mini Rosetta Stone!


  2. Well, I am just speechless. Not only is this an amazing find for the patterns themselves, but it also gives a sense of the hand work skills of women in the 1920s. Those patterns are complicated! I wonder how long it would have taken to knit up that golf outfit–and the bathing suit is a work of art.


  3. Christina

    No.35 bathing suit is quite something with that side-panel. It is almost like a cage = trap. The last attempt at preventing emancipation! I read that across the US (although your booklet is Canadian) prohibition of “scanty one-piece” bathing suits at public beaches were being lifted. Ref: Using Visual Evidence by Richard Howells and Robert Matson. So,1921 is quite significant. Didn’t Jantzen introduce the term “swimming suit” in 1921? Great find.


  4. Dee

    The items in your booklet are fun. But I must admit to being very sad when thinking of the other 100+ booklets that were left behind, possibly to be later discarded. I love knitting and crocheting, and the old booklets are neat themselves. Even if one’s taste doesn’t include old lace, the patterns can often be adapted in larger yarns to make sweaters, wraps, and etc.


    • Not to worry, as the other booklets were soon scooped up by another fan of old stuff.


      • Dee

        Glad to hear that! I went to an estate sale once, where the men in the family (who moved the things to where the sale was held) had thrown away probably hundreds of vintage sewing patterns. The ladies wished they had found out about them in time.


  5. Anita

    Those “overalls” really are being worn “over all.” They seem to be covering his shoes, so are probably the little boy’s version of little girl’s winter leggings (which we wore over socks and shoes, often like little spats, although quite a few years later).
    What a wonderful find, by the way!


  6. I seriously want to knit several of those garments!


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