Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer of Polyester Love

Pinwheel Crochet Inserts from Ladies’ Home Journal Needle & Craft, Spring/Summer 1975

As my childhood memories fade to black, I wonder how people survived the sweltering summers of the 1970s wearing their beloved polyester. After all, this fabric has a breathability rating somewhere between unbearably stuffy and utterly suffocating.

But thanks to the recent discovery of this pattern, fashion archeologists have uncovered the secret of surviving polyester summer wear – air vents! Lots and lots of air vents.

Sure, this magazine called them “pinwheels” in a doomed effort to make them sound stylish. But the photo above reveals that no one would sew crocheted crop circles onto their clothing unless it was an absolute necessity. Those crocheted exhaust vents are there to prevent that tacky polyester skirt from becoming a tacky cesspool of stinky sweatiness!

Ultimately, the popularity of this unattractive advance in crochet engineering was short-lived. In 1977, a troublemaker by the name of Mr. G. Lucas revealed that unshielded exhaust vents were highly vulnerable to proton torpedo attacks. And polyester was once again a smelly, sticky summer fashion don’t.

For the complete pattern (and more snark!):

Directions for Crochet Inserts
Alas, only the crocheted portion of this outfit was provided. The photo caption states that the blouse and skirt was made with Vogue pattern 1084 using Springmaid fabric. However, I suspect that you can easily substitute any pattern favoured by fundamentalist Mormon compounds, as long as you select a polyester print that makes even the colourblind weep.
Small Insert measures 5 ¼” in diameter. Large Insert measures 8” in diameter.

Materials: J & P Coats “Knit-Cro-Sheen” Art. A. 64-C: 2 (175-yard) balls of #43 Dk. Yellow.

I swear I will, just please stop shouting at me!
Small Insert: Make 1.
Hardly seems fair that your breasts get to breathe sweet, fresh air but your back doesn’t.
Ch 6. Join with sl st to form ring.

Rnd. 1: Ch 3 to count as 1 dc, 14 dc in ring. Join with sl st to top of ch-3 – 15 dc, counting ch-3 as 1 dc.

Rnd 2: Ch 6, *dc in next dc, ch 3; rep from * around. Join to 3rd ch of ch-6 – 15 sps.

Rnd 3: Sl st in each of next 2 ch, ch 7, * dc in next sp, ch 4; repeat from * around. Join to 3rd ch of ch-7.

Rnd 4: Sl st in each of next 2 ch, ch 3, 2 dc in same sp, * ch 2, 3 dc in next ch-4 sp; rep from * around, end with ch 2. Join to top of ch-3.
Although, I suppose if Deanna Troi and Melinda Gordon have taught me anything, it's that your psychic powers only work when you expose as much of your cleavage as possible.
Rnd 5: Sl st in next 2 dc and in following 2 ch, ch 3, 2 dc in same sp, * ch 3, sk next 3 dc, make 3 dc in next sp; rep from * around, end with ch 3. Join to top of ch-3.

Rnd 6: Making ch 4 (instead of ch 3) for sps, work as Rnd 5.

Rnd 7: Sl st in each dc to next sp and in following 2 ch, ch 3, 3 dc in same sp, * ch 5, 4 dc in next sp; rep from * around, end with ch 5. Join to top of ch-3.

Rnd 8: Rep Rnd 7,

Rnd 9: Ch 1, sc in same ch as joining, make sc in each dc and 5 sc in each sp around. Join to first sc. Break off and fasten.

Large Insert: Make 4.
Just remember, if you make an insert the size of a womp rat, you’re just asking for trouble.
Work same as Small Insert until Rnd 8 has been completed.

Rnd 9: Sl st in each dc to next sp and in following 2 ch, ch 3, 4 dc in same sp, *ch 5, 5 dc in next sp; rep from * around, end with ch 5. Join.

Rnd 10: Making ch 6 (instead of ch 5) for sps, work same as Rnd 9.

Rnd 11: Ch 1, sc in same ch as sl st, make sc in each dc and 6 sc in each sp around. Join to first sc.

Rnd 12: Ch 1, sc in same st as joining, sc in each sc around. Join. Break off and fasten.

To apply Crochet Circles to Skirt and Blouse:

Draw diameter of circles on tissue paper. Pin crochet to paper on ironing board and press. Mark circles on skirt and blouse, centering circle on blouse 1 ½” below finished necklace. Place circles on skirt (two on front, two on back)
I have the sudden urge to put three in front, and only one in back. In fact, nothing is stopping you from making as many small and large pinwheel inserts as you want.
about 4 ½” apart, 9” from hemline.
Or putting them as close together as you want. Go on and get freaky with it!
Mark circles on skirt and blouse ½” smaller than the finished crochet circles. Stitch around markings, leaving 5/8” seam allowance inside circles. Cut out circle from seam allowance line, clip around entire circle, turn to inside along stitch lines. Press.
And if you do get freaky, be sure to take photos. Lots and lots of photos.
Baste crocheted circles to openings, leaving approximately ¼” around on wrong side. Stitch crochet circle to opening with machine stitching close to cut-out circle stitching.
And you’re done! Now, contemplate how much easier it would have been just to sew a blouse and skirt in nice, breathable cotton that wouldn’t need air vents.

Be sure that any of your tears that fall onto the polyester are at least 4 ½” apart.
Click here for the printable pattern

Errata: A sharp-eyed (and immensely tactful) reader has pointed out to me that Springmaid fabric was almost certainly 100% cotton. I could argue that in 1971 they brought in ultrasuede, but this dress is clearly not made of that.

For one brief shining moment, I thought the seventies made sense. But sadly, as it turns out, there's NO reason on earth why anyone would need air vents in this dress. And the mystery of how they survived polyester in the seventies remains unsolved. (I suspect copious quantities of illicit substances probably helped.)


  1. I suspect you are right in your last

  2. You know, there's an awesome documentary called "Cocaine Cowboys", all about the drug trade in Miami from the late seventies to the early eighties.

    Miami Vice was actually based (incredibly loosely) on the real events in the documentary.