Follow the Thread

a textile & costume history blog from the Design Center at Thomas Jefferson University

Minerva Yarns, Part 2: the patterns

04.03.2024

by Ann Wilson

Read Part 1 for background about Minerva Yarns and James Lees & Sons.

From the 1910s to the 1980s, Minerva Yarns (later known as Columbia-Minerva Yarns) published hundreds of pattern booklets for the home crafter. This was a brilliant marketing tie-in to their Germantown yarn, as well as other yarn lines they created through the decades. Thanks to the Special Collections area of Jefferson’s Paul J. Gutman Library, we have wonderful original examples of these patterns.

Patterns for knitting & crochet, c. 1919

The Minerva Book for Knitting and Crocheting (T&CC 1982.27.20, c. 1919) has patterns for the whole family for every occasion and activity, from golf to swimming. There’s even a pattern for a knitted beach cape!

The 1930s

For this 1937 booklet, Minerva used glamorous studio photos to illustrate womenswear styles from dresses and suits, to sportswear, outerwear, and even gowns.

Hooked rugs, 1949

This hooked rug manual from 1949 helped promote a new yarn line called “Lustra-Sparkletone,” a blend of wool and rayon. In addition to design themes such as “Americana” and the “Storybook Series,” the booklet featured pattern reproductions of famous rugs from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Columbia Minerva Hooked Rug Manual, c. 1949, Paul J. Gutman Library Special Collections

Children’s fashions, c. 1960

Columbia-Minerva had a subset of booklets called Columbia-Minerva Beehive, which focused mostly on patterns for babies, children, and juniors. These charming designs capture the transitional moment from the late 1950s into the 60s.

Columbia Minerva Children’s Fashion World: Beehive, Book 740, Paul J. Gutman Library Special Collections

Afghans, 1960s-70s

“Give yourself hours of pleasure…Give your family an heirloom to treasure!” These words introduce the Columbia-Minerva Afghans pattern book Vol. 722, available for 60¢ in 1960. In addition to promoting its classic worsted weight wool yarn, we start to see patterns for a new acrylic product called Columbia-Minerva Nantuk 4 Ply.

Columbia Minerva Afghans, Vol. 722, 1960, Paul J. Gutman Library Special Collections

In the 70s, just about everyone’s house had a crocheted afghan, usually made of squeaky acrylic yarn and found on the back of the couch or a family room chair. This booklet from 1975 includes classic crochet and knit patterns with some interesting embellishments, like the “Flower and Fruit Afghan” below, featuring cross-stitch embroidery and tassel trim.

Afghans by Columbia Minerva, Book 742, Paul J. Gutman Library Special Collections

1970s fashions

Published in 1970, this booklet features late 60s styles and a preview of trends like the tunic and mid-calf skirt that will trend throughout the 70s.

Afghan and Fashion Collection from Columbia Minerva, Book No. 776, Paul J. Gutman Library Special Collections

I’ve saved the best for last with this gem from 1972–Sweaters for Men To Crochet and Knit. Featuring a color palette heavy on mustard yellow, avocado green, and rusty reds, this booklet features patterns that will “get your needles clicking for your favorite male person.” Pattern titles include: the “Jaguar Jacket,” the “Cougar Pullover,” and the “Maverick Vest.” Let’s not forget the “Road Runner Pullover” shown below.

Columbia Minerva Sweaters for Men to Crochet and Knit, Book 781, Paul J. Gutman Library Special Collections


I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey through decades of vintage patterns brought to you by Minerva Yarns, one of the great local companies that kept crafters supplied with quality, affordable yarns throughout most of the 20th century.

Special Collections Technician, Textile & Costume Collection, Thomas Jefferson University

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Images of objects in our collection are copyrighted by Thomas Jefferson University. For inquiries regarding permissions and use fees, please contact: thedesigncenter@jefferson.edu.