The other night Mr. Guy and I were reminiscing about the J. Peterman catalogue — the ‘Owners Manual’. Maybe you only know it from Seinfeld, but I loved reading those catalogues. Instead of photographs, there were watercolor sketches. The copy violated all current insistence on brevity. It was long copy of the advertising style you find in magazines from the 30’s and 40’s. It romanced the reader, with outrageous descriptions to conjure up the atmosphere where a garment or object might be found.
“What if you used that kind of copy for your patterns?” I snorted, and he wrote. I present the faux Peterman description of my latest pattern, along with a picture of the hat, which you could, in fact, make in a few hours. Mr. Peterman only hinted at that, however. (I tried to make the photo into a watercolor in Photoshop with limited success.)
This is an age-old pattern from a time when men did much of the knitting. An old herdsmen, listening for the rustle of marauding wolves, sits in a yurt in the long, sub-arctic, winter night quickly turning the rough-spun wool into a last-minute tuque for a young one who will soon ride away for the first time in a winter party to bring back meat. As he knits, he remembers when the young one met her first snow and played in the cold until her ears blazed red.
We still send our loved ones off to war, to college, or to construction sites without knowing what the outcome will be. What gives meaning to the uncertainty is that, when time was running short, someone remembered that young Temujjin, whether or not he would grow up to be the fabled Khan, will need to keep his ears warm.
What do you think, should I hire him?
If you want to see the actual J. Peterman, it is back and online, but the copy doesn’t quite the same. Perhaps it needs the long, off white heavy paper, and a computer screen isn’t quite the same.