Why Vintage? 04/14/2010
 
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image from Flickr
I got a neat request today from Amanda over at Vintage Savoir Faire asking me for some words on why I love knitting from vintage patterns, and for any recommendations when it came to needle sizes and yarns.  Little did she know the wealth of words she would get, but once I get going I just find it hard to stop!  She is writing an article for a British knitting magazine, so keep your eyes peeled!

So what did I have to say?


I love to knit from vintage patterns because, in my opinion, they're more stylish than contemporary knitting patterns.  Many current mass market knitting patterns are either Plain Jane, frumpy, or more "Old Lady" than "old style."  Sites like Ravelry have done wonders to help current designers promote more fashionable knit-wear patterns, but even these designs can't compete with a vintage Vogue Knitting when it comes to clothes that you are just dying to wear.  Part of this, I think, is that vintage designs are knit at a smaller gauge, and aren't afraid of more complex constructions.  Sure, knitting at 7 or 8 stitches an inch is time consuming, but the garment that you wind up with is often much more flattering and chic, which in turn motivates you to keep going.  It seems to me that they weren't as interested in short cuts, and that this shows in the cultured look of their designs.  So sites like mine are trying to show people that the old way is sometimes the better way, and not nearly as frightening as it seems.

I think it is also significant that the photography in these magazines is often captivating.  Not only is the model often wearing a fabulous knit top or suit, but she's often wearing a to-die-for pair of gloves, shoes and hat, and carrying some amazing handbag.  She always looks glamorous and sophisticated, like someone you would want to be, and this mystique plays into at least my passion for these old designs.

On another register, knitting from and collecting vintage patterns is just one piece of my love for the past.  I have always loved old movies, music and TV shows, (and I've always been envious of their clothes), so my collection of vintage knitting magazines fits right alongside my collection of old books, old records, and old movies.  In addition, it makes me feel connected to the generations of women in my family who spent their nights knitting, stitching, and crocheting.  When you buy an old knitting magazine you don't just get the pattern - you get the ads, the letters from the editor, the pictures - and all of it feels like a little slice of the past has just been reclaimed, and become yours.

I could wax existential philosophic about nostalgia, but I think you get the point. 

In regards to Needles and Yarn, I've found that there are many online yarn charts explaining what vintage yarns would correspond to in today's weights.  You can pretty easily find if the suggested vintage yarn was lace weight, for example, then substitute a modern lace weight yarn.  Or, you can always reason backward from the gauge - any yarn that gets you to your gauge is going to work!  There are similar charts for needles, but any pattern's suggested needle size is always approximate - you have to do that gauge swatch, and play around until you get it right.  The trickiest thing about vintage patterns is actually vintage sizing.  Their sizes don't correspond to modern sizes, but there are, again, numerous charts online to help you make the conversion, plus most vintage pattern books come with a bust/hip measurement chart.  The problem I've found, however, is that even once I establish my proper bust/hip size, something else will be too tight, like the arms, or the neck.  This, unfortunately, just takes practice, and a little patience!
 


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