Sunday, August 03, 2008

More Vintage Goodness: Mary Maxim

Every North American knitter of a certain age knows about Mary Maxim sweaters. Indeed, you don't have to be a knitter to know these sweaters.

Mary Maxim is a yarn and crafts distributor that was established in Canada in early 1950s. They are best known for a particular style of sweater pattern.

You know them... the big bulky, shawl collared sweaters with designs on them. Hunters, vintage cars, bowling pins, hockey players, wildlife and native designs, that sort of thing. Bob Hope sports one above.

A bit of the company's history can be found here and here.

You can always find these sorts of sweaters at vintage stores, and every fall, a new batch of hipsters discovers them as a fashion item.

Mary Maxim is still a going concern, a mail order and online business, with a couple of retail locations. You can even still buy some of these sweater patterns. (They're mostly pretty mainstream in their selection, but I did get one ball of Kureyon for my Lizard Ridge from the Toronto retail location.)

I was given another big box of vintage patterns recently, and hidden amongst the Beehive baby books and 1980s-era Vogue Knitting magazines were these treasures... a handful of original Mary Maxim patterns, and even a catalogue. They're fabulous. Click the picture to enlarge it and see what there is.

The designs are all fully charted, in a great detail.

It's very clever... if you fold down the top of the sheet, the chart is shown for a raglan armhole rather than set-in sleeve.

A nice little extra was this... a booklet containing only charted letters and numbers for personalizing your sweaters...

The copyright dates on these are between 1955 and 1961. No indication on the date of the catalogue, but I have to assume it's that era, too. Although the catalogue does offer a selection of plainer, lighter weight sweaters for men, woman and children, a broad selection of yarn weights and colours, and some afghan kits, most of the 20 pages are taken up with a huge variety of designs for these Mary Maxim sweaters.

Whatever your interest, in the 1950s, there was a sweater for you... hockey, planes, boaats, archery, curling, square dancing, ice skating, fishing...

skiing, golf, wolves, dogs, horses, football....

and the selection for kids is even better -- kittens, puppies, trains, teddy bears, a hen with chicks, various fairy tale inspired designs

... and my favourite... "Outer Space"....

I feel a new project coming on...

Many, many thanks to Dora for this treasure trove.


LynnK said...

Ah, memories. My mom knit the pheasant hunter for my dad. I still have the pieces of the bluebird sweater she knit for me before she got too ill to sew it together.


Kirsten said...

My grandmother always had these catalogs around, and I loved poring over them picking out theoretical designs. She never knitted any of those sweaters for any of us.

Ali P said...

Hi. I found you while googling for vintage MM patterns. My mom made some for my brother's and sister's (and I got the hand me downs later) and I think even for my Dad. I'm getting nostaglic and thought I'd like to knit one. I wish MM would re-publish them. Great post and what an awesome treasure!!!
I'm gonna call my Ma and ask her if she still has those patterns kickin' around. Gods know she still has everything else. ;o)

Unknown said...

Hi there,

You are fast become an expert on vintage Mary Maxim. I have a photo of a sweater that I am trying to date and was wondering if you might be able to help... Any chance I can send you a photo? Maybe you know where all the old patterns are archived? I have emailed Mary Maxim as well but haven't heard anything yet.

Thanks, Krista

Anonymous said...

Hi, just wondering if anyone knows where I can get a pattern for a curling hat! My dad is a huge curler and my children wear hats all the time I thought it would be cute to have a hat for them to watch grampa curl! Thanks everyone

my e-mail is