Monday, May 24, 2010

Phentex Wants to Break your Little Girl’s Heart

“Pretty Little Miss” Dress Style No. 6959, 1969

During the 1960s, the little Miss Phentex pageant was held every Victoria Day here in Canada. Above is the winner for 1969, Vicki Regina, whose shrewd mother had insisted her daughter wear gloves. When all the other girls in the competition touched the scratchy surface of their Phentex dresses without the same protection, they burst into hysterics over their hemorrhaging hands. As the last little girl standing, Vicki won the dubious prize of becoming Phentex’s corporate shill for a year. Oh, and a Phentex clad Barbie that she could only play with if she took a decontamination shower immediately afterward.

But, Victoria, you say, little Vicki seems perfectly happy with her Barbie doll in its matching Phentex dress. True, crystalline polypropylene polymer yarn violates the laws of nature and humankind, but couldn’t you admit that this time it’s a victimless crime?

Absolutely NOT! Because Little Miss Phentex wasn’t the real victim here. No, the true casualties were every other Canadian girl of the time period who loved Barbies and turquoise and white dresses.

Victim #2532 above, along with her peers, begged her mother to make this matching daughter and dolly pattern. I was These little girls were too young and innocent to know of Phentex’s deadly reputation. Of course, their new Phentex dresses eventually attempted to strangle them with the front trim bow and feed on their cooling bodies, but that wasn’t the real heartbreaker. This was:

Note:— You will find the instructions for the doll’s dress in our Knit Knack book at your favourite store soon.

That’s right, the Barbie doll pattern is not included! And the above note was tucked underneath the last bit of instruction on how to make the dress. Leaving thousands of sobbing little girls wearing a bloodthirsty Phentex dress, and clutching a naked Barbie.

Fortunately, a class action lawsuit launched by the harried mothers successfully shut down the Little Miss Phentex pageant the following year. So, now Canadian girls from sea to sea to sea can celebrate a Phentex-free, LOL-full Victoria Day.

For the complete pattern (and more snark!):

MATERIALS:— Phentex Ruban, 2 skeins blue and one skein white; one metal crochet hook No. 10 white and bleu material for lining; one dome fastener.
Ruban is French for ribbon, while Phentex Ruban is French for you’re going to pay more for this Phentex yarn, but it’s still going to leave welts. Bleu is French for our blue is better than yours, na-na-na-na-na. And dome fastener is the Canadian name for what Americans call a press stud. Which as far as I know are just snaps, and not sexy journalist breeding stock.
SIZE:— Directions are given for one size only – size 4.
If you want instructions on any other size, you have to “send the sum of one dollar ($1.00)” directly to Phentex Inc. So now, your so-called twenty cent (.20¢) pattern will cost one dollar and seventy cents ($1.70) to get the right size dress and the fifty cent (.50¢) Barbie pattern.

Sure, the above scam sounds penny ante, but remember this is 1969 dollars. For $1.70 you could have bought just under five gallons of gas or seventeen 10 oz. bottles of Pepsi! So, not only did Phentex break your daughter’s heart, it also ruined your Victoria Day Picnic.
TENSION:— 7 d.c. to one inch in width and 5 rows to two inches in depth, worked with a No. 10, worked with a No. 10 metal crochet hook, or any size that will give the correct tension.
Yes, you read correctly, that’s two inches in depth not length. In the 1960s, Phentex was sold by the fathom.
MEASUREMENTS:— Length from shoulder, 19 ins. Chest measurement, 24 ins.

If only this diagram emphasized that the back had the same width as well as lengths (AKA depths), Little Miss Phentex’s dress wouldn’t have been marred by such uneven shoulders.
PATTERN STITCHES:— S.c. insert hook into next st. yarn over hook and pull thro’ loop; yarn over hook and pull thro’ the two loops on hook.

D.c. yarn over hook, insert into next ch and pull thro’ loop. (3 loops now on hook), yarn over hook and pull thro’ 2 loops, yarn over hook and pull thro’ remaining 2 loops.

YOKE FRONT:— Using the white ruban, ch. 73.
I’m resisting the temptation to tell a yoke.
1st ROW:— 1 d.c. in 4th ch. From hook, then 1 d.c. in every ch. to end. (70 d.c. in row)

2nd ROW:— 2 ch. to turn, 1 d.c. in each d.c. of previous row. Rep. the 2nd row 12 times more – 13 rows in all.

14th ROW:— 2 ch. to turn, work next 27 d.c., turn.

15th ROW:— 2 ch. to turn, skip next d.c., then 1 d.c. in each st. to end. (26 d.c.).
After all, it might be funny now, but in a couple of years time it could be in very poor taste.
Continue to dec. one st. at the neck edge on the next 3 rows, when 23 d.c. will remain. Fasten off. Leave 16 sts. For neckline. Join the ruban to the 17th st. and work to correspond to other side.

RIGHT BACK YOKE:— Using white ruban, ch. 41.

1st ROW:— 1 d.c. in 4th ch. from hook, then 1 d.c. in every ch. to end. (38 d.c.)

NEXT ROW:— 2 ch. to turn, 1 d.c. in each d.c. of previous row. Rep. the 2nd row 12 times more – (13 rows in all).

Now work as from the 14th row of front.

LEFT BACK YOKE:— Work to correspond with Right Back Yoke, reversing all shapings.
Instructions on how to do a single crochet are provided, but when it comes to reversing shapings, you’re on your own, noob!
Place the yoke pieces on the white material and cut allowing for turnings.

SKIRT FRONT:— Using blue ruban, ch. 6, now working along lower edge of front yoke, work 1 s.c. in each of the 70 d.c., and finish with 6 ch.

1st PATTERN ROW:— 3 ch. to turn, 4 d.c. in 5th ch. from hook, * skip 2 sts., 1 d.c. in next st., skip 2 sts., 4 d.c. in next st. Rep. from * finishing, skip 2 sts., 1 d.c. in last st.

2nd and 3rd ROWS:— 3 ch. to turn, work 1 d.c. over each single d.c. of previous row, and 4 d.c. into the centre of the groups of 4 d.c. of previous row.

4th – 12th ROWS:— 3 ch. to turn. * Work 1 d.c. over each single d.c. of previous row. 4 d.c. into the centre of the 1st group of 4 d.c. and 6 d.c. in the next group. Rep. from * to end of row.
And no, they weren’t running out of space. There’s a ten centimeters by nine centimeters space (that’s 4 inches by 3 ¼ inches for Yankee Doodle Dandies) at the end of the pattern that only contains these words:

do not press

dry cleaning

I can only assume that the prominence given to these instructions was the result of a class action lawsuit resulting from a pressed, dry cleaned Phentex outfit caused the Cuyahoga River to catch fire.
13th – 16th ROWS:— As previous rows, working 6 d.c. into the “groups”.

17th – 24th ROWS:— As previous rows, alternating the “groups” of 6 d.c. with 8 d.c.

25th – 33rd ROWS:— As previous rows, working 8 d.c. into the “groups”. Fasten off.

SKIRT BACK:— Overlap the right and left yoke back for 4 d.c. Now work as for front.

FINISHING:— Pin the pieces out to the measurements and cover with a damp cloth. Holding a steam iron about 2 ins. Above the pieces, pass lightly over, allowing only the steam to pass thro’ the cloth. Leave pinned out to dry.
Finishing AKA Enhanced Interrogation Techniques because you don’t ever want Phentex to think you’re soft on terrorism.
Cut the lining for the skirt from the blue material. Join the shoulder and skirt seams. Make up the lining separately, place inside dress, turn under edges and sl. st. around neck and armholes.
Hang on, are you telling me that in 1969 a woman who’d never crocheted before would be able to slip stitch a lining in place? Whereas, when I started crocheting, I found self-striping yarn challenging?

Clearly, baby boomer noobs were far more skilled than those of Generation X.
Using blue ruban, work one row of single crochet around neck and back opening, also around armholes. Now work a picot edge as follows:— NEXT ROW:— * 1 s.c. in s.c. of previous row, 3 ch. and into top of previous s.c. 1 s.c. into each of next 2 s.c. Rep. from * around. Fasten back neck with a dome fastener. Fasten lower edge of armholes, with two 6-ch. bars, half an inch apart.

FRONT TRIM BOW:— With white ruban, ch. 8.

1st ROW:— 2 d.c. in 6th ch. from hook, skip 1 ch., 1 d.c. in last ch.

2nd ROW:— 2 ch. to turn 2 d.c. into the centre of the 2 d.c. of previous row, skip next st., 1 d.c. into turning ch. of previous row. Rep. the 2nd row until the work measures 30 ins. From the beginning. Fasten off. Press lightly, form into a bow and attach to centre front of dress.
At least, I can feel more skilled than the generations Y and Z, who’ve known nothing but the metric system and the microwave. They’ll be bamboozled by these strange ins. and steam iron references.

But whatever you do, kids, don’t microwave Phentex!

Click here for the printable pattern.


  1. I remember getting several knitted things for my babies from my mother-in-law (whose heart was in the right place but thrift was key) made of "100% unknown fibers". She'd always include a note to the effect that she had no idea how to wash the objects or if they were toxic or whatever.
    Yep, they wore THOSE a lot. I could never figure out why she spent the time on making sweet outfits but used such cheap materials...
    This is a hilarious blog and I am forwarding it everywhere. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you for forwarding my blog, Dorothy!

    I use 100 percent unknown fibers sometimes - but not for baby clothes. I also have a dear friend who is allergic to wool. Whenever I want to know what's in my mystery fiber, all I have to do is hand it to her and see if she reacts. I'm lucky she's a good sport. ;-)