Elle Knitting: Galliano’s ‘Plum Line’

Elle Knitting: Galliano’s ‘Plum Line’

Do you remember when Elle Magazine used to include amazing, fashionable and stylish handknit patterns like this one, ‘Plum Line’ from Galliano? In case you didn’t get that, that’s JOHN GALLIANO, a high-end fashion designer at his peak providing an incredibly stylish handknit pattern in a fashion magazine.

I was lucky enough to hold a one-to-one lesson yesterday with the lovely Emma who dug out this pattern which she’d stashed away for years but had never forgotten (and who can blame her?). I’m helping her go through the pattern to choose yarn and identify any tricky techniques, but we were both struck by how fashionable and stylish the garment is, and how it doesn’t shy away from using involved techniques – no dumbing down here, this is a tailored-looking piece of knitwear with fitted sleeves and an unusual cable cross technique as a main design feature. A quick Ravelry search reveals it was from 1986 but it’s only in 3 queues – does anyone else remember or own it?

Impressed by this forgotten classic, I’ve now ordered the incredibly cheap ‘Elle Book of Knitting’ (1 & 2) from 1984 and 1986 to see if they throw up any more treasures. The tagline ’50 Exclusive Designs from France’ struck me as a familiar echo from the mid-20th century patterns, when Paris was still the desirable epi-center of the fashion universe and left the rest of the world trying to emulate it.

Elle magazine was a French publication which had been going since 1945 but was struggling by the early ’80s. It was bought in 1981 and subsequently launched globally, so the inclusion of handknit patterns may be a hangover from its earlier Gallic days. Fast forward to the post-digital revolution present and the future of printed publications is hard to predict, so although we’re enjoying another surge in knitting popularity I’m guessing it’s too much to hope that fashion magazines would risk their broad appeal by once again including such high-quality patterns … or is it?


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There are 10 comments for this article
  1. Sandra at 15:10

    I have vague recollection of knitting patterns in Elle magazine.
    After reading your post, I too ordered Bks 1&2 to see what they have to offer.
    I have some now out of print magazines featuring knit designs by haute designers of their day as well as a few Vogue Patterns from the 50’s that included knit patterns.

    Thanks for all the wonderful post and information

    • admin Author at 12:51

      Great news – perhaps we should compare notes when we get them through the post! The ’50s Vogue handknits were, on the whole, sublime.

  2. Claire Crompton at 17:36

    Yes, I have this pattern too! I remember when Elle printed these knitting patterns and it was around the mid 1980’s when hadn knitting was fashionable. Patterns appeared in all sorts of newspapers and magazines.I collected a few and still have them; this Galliano one and a couple of others from English Elle and a couple from French Elle.

    • Elisabete at 15:03

      Hi Claire!My name is Elisabete and I’m from Lisbon in Portugal. I was wondering if you could help me please. Is there any chance you could scan and e-mail me a copy of the pattern please?? I’d be ever so grateful.I used to have it but somehow lost it and now would love to knit it. Thank you.

    • admin Author at 10:09

      Did you ever knit any of them Claire? I’ve had quite a few responses to this, which suggests it would be a welcome feature in fashion mags again!

  3. Faina Letoutchaia at 22:24

    It is really beautiful pattern!

    I have a question about vintage patterns.
    I’m interested in proportions between armhole depth and sleeve cap height. Contemporary designers usually plan sleeve cap some 3″ shorter than armhole depth. In my view it makes sleeve cap too short. The result is a fold on the sleeve that goes from the top of the sleeve toward the underarm seam.
    Did you ever take a look at the difference between armhole depth and sleeve cap height in vintage patterns? My impression is that the difference was much less. And the result was better fit.

    I would very appreciate your answer.

    • admin Author at 10:02

      Hi Faina, sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to this – a tough one to generalise! If I had to err on one side, I’d tend to agree with you, that sleeve cap heights were a little longer than we design for nowadays – some judicious blocking could always eek out an extra bit of fabric in the armhole if necessary. Fitted sleeve caps for hand knit patterns have fallen out of fashion for so long, and I think that’s partly due to designers worrying that knitters find them too fussy or complicated, or maybe just that it’s hard to be absolutely positive the knitter will get it right over such a large range of sizes. So maybe designers tend, if anything, to make the fit too tight – it’s definitely a complaint I’ve heard many times over the years.

      Having said that I’ve also come across vintage patterns with a very short sleeve cap height which I’ve had to adjust slightly so I think that possibly, as today, it depended on the designer’s technical skills and confidence that their audience would swatch first and get it right!

      Many of the fitted sleeve cap designs from the ’30s and ’40s didn’t round off gradually at the top as we do now, but the patterns try to compensate for this by leaving a wider cast-off edge … all of which adds to the sleeve cap height. Also, the gathered and pleated sleeve caps weren’t just an aesthetic choice, they allowed a great deal of flexibility in terms of fitting the sleeve into the armhole. The armhole depths were generally shorter than we cater for now (6-6½”) which was partly due to less ease and partly smaller figures generally, but they weren’t afraid of making sleeves appear bigger – which of course accentuated the tightly fitted waist.

      It’s an interesting point, and I’ll keep thinking on it as I go through my patterns!

  4. Helen at 20:58

    I found your blog because I have been looking for this pattern and I googled it!I had a copy of it once, no idea where it went. I started knitting it, then gave up and now can’t find it…. I’d love to have another go, but sadly don’t have the pattern any more.

    I remember buying Elle for it’s sophisticated patterns. Certainly no dumbing down.
    Thanks for the great post, I shall renew my efforts to try and find it.

  5. Couturette at 15:35

    Wow, this is fantastic. Galliano is one of my favorite designers anyway and I love the 40ies look of that sweater. I really would like to knit it, but I have a feeling that the magazine will be hard to track down in Germany, sniffle.

  6. Gillian at 07:46

    I still own a gorgeous Marion Foale cardigan I had knitted up specially from one of the patterns. It’s still in perfect condition and looks amazing! So wish Elle published their patterns (sigh).

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