So, when they admit you to a PhD program in the humanities, they tell you up front that there are some pretty universal requirements:
  • Coursework - typically one to two years
  • Qualifying Examinations - typically less than one year
  • Dissertation - typically 3-5 chapters, taking two-three years
So that coursework and that dissertation seem like the real meat and potatoes, right?  Right - until you get assigned the reading list for your 16+ hour written and oral examination and realize that you have to read an impossible amount if you are going to schedule that baby in under a year.

But, since people interested in vintagey things are often also interested in history; and since it will be useful to me; I thought it might be neat to share some of the more interesting things I learn in the form of a few choice quotes.

First up, from:
Marvelous Possessions by Stephen Greenblatt
Greenblatt's text discusses the narratives of New World exploration in the context of their European audience.  One of his main arguments is that these narrative forms were both products of and producers of their cultures.  He has a lot to say about how the early explorers used bureaucracy to legitimize their military conquests, and he develops a theory of "blockage" - which is the psychological tool that allows the explorer to refuse to see similarities between themselves and the natives they encounter.  Blockage is aided by wonder - if the entire new world is wonderful, it is also strange, and therefore in need of European assistance (for its own good).

Here's one of my favorite quotes describing how this sense of wonder was then used to validate the explorer's experiences to the wider audience of their texts:

"His work can only be believed if he arouses in his readers something of the wonder that he himself has felt, for that wonder will link whatever is out there with inward conviction.  For the early voyagers, wonder not only marked the new but mediated between outside and inside. .. Hence the ease with which the very words marvel and wonder shift between the designation of a material object and the designation of a response to the object, between intense, almost phantasmagorical inward states and thoroughly externalized objects that can, after the initial moments of astonishment have passed, be touched, cataloged, inventoried, possessed" (22).
I finally did it.  I put on the two-piece sport dress sweater I made (# of years censored for vanity's sake) years ago, and took a picture of it.  Here it is.

Wait; you say.  That is the picture of the sweater?  That looks like a picture of you cooking with the sweater covered over by an apron.

You would be right, my friends.  And that's because this is not only the story of a sweater.  It's the story of me trying to take a decent picture of myself.  This is where we started:
How do you people do that thing where you take pictures of yourself?  It never, NEVER works for me.  So, I waited until the Mister SweaterGirlKnits got home, and asked him to take a picture of me.  We tried, and tried, and eventually settled upon this baby to the right.

But when we uploaded it we both said: wait, what's up with your posture?  Shoulders and head forward, stooped.. meh?

Being the lazy person that I naturally am, I said "oh well, I just won't post a picture of it yet, I'll try it some other time," and went back to stir the cauliflower.

But the mister is not so lazy as me.  In fact, he's a downright perfectionist about things like this. (It kills him, by the way, that the pictures in the background of the above are crooked.  I left them that way on purpose.  Because I like to torment him.  That's called marriage.)

Anyhow, discontented with the above, he interrupted my mad cauliflower buttering (yeah, that's right, I butter my vegetables; it's vintage!) and insisted upon taking a few more.  So, sure, you can see the sweater better in the photo to the right, but I had to lead off with one that didn't have me lookin' so stooped. 

It really is awesome.  The high neck is so graceful, and the ribbing details at the bust are just different enough to ensure that no one thinks you bought it off the rack.

Two things about the pattern:
 1. Make sure you make it long enough.  I can only wear this sweater with certain of my high waisted skirts because I made the hem-to-underarm length 15" rather than 18".  Learning experience.
2. Bind the neck off using something stretchy.  This was one of my first sweaters, so I used just a standard bind-off.  The neck-line is so high, that a firm, inflexible bind-off like the standard will choke you to death.  Immediately after this was taken:

this smile says: "ok, honey, your pork chop is burning"
I almost literally ran to take the thing off.  I spent the rest of the night feeling like someone had been choking me.  No joke, kids, no joke.

It's a great, versatile sweater that can be worn with jeans, or with a nice skirt for work.  Pair it with a pencil skirt and you've got instant vintage.  I made mine using Shine Sport from Knit Picks.  It's a superwash cotton blend, and I couldn't recommend it more.

Check out the pattern details here (right-hand column) ; or pick up your copy here!
And, since I've been having people ask me to prove that I actually have some vintage swag of my own, I'm offering yet another tip from my "How to Have Vintage Swag Without Actually Wearing Vintage Clothing" handbook.

Why would you want to do that, you ask?

1. Vintage clothes are expensive.  I'm broke.
2. I don't knit fast enough to make myself a new wardrobe.
3. Those ladies were way.. WAY smaller than I am.

So I settle for options like the below.
So the dress is from Ann Taylor, but it has a vintage-y sweetheart neckline and halter neck.  I put on my grandmother's vintage costume pearls with her vintage pearl-clasped sweater keeper, and flung that Target black cardigan over my shoulders.  With a pair of peep-toe patent leather heels, it all looked much more put together than usual (patting self on back), and offered me just enough vintage swag to avoid being yet another wedding guest in yet another boring sundress.
So, I've been meaning to post something about my wedding for a long time, but, well, I'm just getting around to it!

I'm not one of those lovely ladies who can sport the full-out vintage look.  Try as I might, I just can't pull off victory rolls and bright red lipstick.  I don't look like a neat lady, I look like a weird lady in a costume.  So I, like most of you, I suspect, am stuck adding vintage touches to otherwise "normal" clothes.

Case in point: my wedding.
My dress was pretty classic.  I flirted with a silver, va-va-voom slinky number that was straight up Marilyn Monroe circa Gentlemen Love Blondes, but I figured that there were plenty of other times to wear something like that.  So!  White, strapless, and big, it was!

I did manage to pick a dress with one Deco touch at the bust, however (more on that later), and, not content to be too plain, I opted for vintage touches that you can see here:

I made a small feather fascinator, added a bit of russian netting, then had my amazing florist wire an orchid matching my bouquet to be pinned in my hair by my equally amazing hair and makeup artist.  Seriously, three cheers for professional hair and makeup, and for eq


You can also see in the above the earrings my mother found for me.  They're Deco-inspired moissonite and drop pearls that matched the bracelet at right along with that Deco flourish at the bust and my peony and orchid bouquet.

Finally, below you can get a better look at my bouquet, and at the incredible purse that my mother knitted using two hatpins, string and a pile of beads. 

No really, that's how you make those things.  Crazy! But worth it!

Altogther it left me feeling fun, funky, and different - without feeling like I was having a themed wedding.

For me, that's what I strive for.


So, I finally got my yarn shop back up and running!  And thanks to a friend, I can use my camera properly now, so the pictures around here should be better in future.  I have had so many reclaimed yarns stashed around my home, just waiting to have the chance to set everything up again.  Now that I've got it, I think I'm on a roll!

I am offering recycled reclaimed yarn - that's right, yarn reclaimed from unloved and unwanted sweaters.  I just scored a major cashmere find at the Goodwill, so keep your eyes posted!

In addition to my recycled yarns, I'm offering custom blends.  These are made by combining itty bitty plies into a more usable format.  In the process, it just happens to give me the opportunity to make awesome color combinations.  To start, I'm offering this beautiful tweed combo of slate grey, steel blue and off-white.  These custom yarns are all brand new, unique combinations.

Check out the Yarn tab in the menu above, or head right on over to our Etsy shop!

This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.
I am looking for a number of test knitters to test vintage patterns available from my shop!

I am looking for one or two testers for each pattern. Any Women’s pattern on the site with the exception of the “Simple Shrug” and the "Lovely" dress is available for testing. Any pattern for a dress may be knit as a top/blouse only, or as a complete dress pattern, though I can only offer enough yarn for a blouse (see below).

What I Am Asking:
1.Complete the project in 2 months’ time. Longer time frames will be considered if established up front, and of course, extenuating circumstances will be respected within reason.

2. Please address any problems with the pattern (errors, confusing wording, missing information, illegibility, etc.) privately via email so that errata can be created. Please do not post any information about pattern errors to this thread, or any other public platform, including personal blogs. In other words, please give me a chance to resolve issues before broadcasting them! ;)

3. When project is complete, the project must be uploaded to Ravelry with at least 3 well-lit, flattering photos of the complete project (preferably on a human or mannequin).

  1. If the test knitter operates a blog or other website, a post about the project, once complete, would be appreciated.

What I Am Offering:
In exchange for the obligations above, I am offering:

  1. The test pattern
  2. Sweater Girl Knits recycled yarn for the project OR five additional free patterns from the website
  3. You keep the finished project
In addition, when the project is complete, including all satisfactory pictures uploaded, the test knitter will receive a $9 gift certificate to

Who I Am Looking For:

I am preferably looking for knitters who know a little something about vintage designs, and the occasional hazards of old-fashioned instructions. The most important thing is that you not be afraid of those tiny gauges - you can do it, and you will love the results!

Having said that, you do not need to be an experienced vintage knitter, and I would encourage any knitter who loves well-designed, beautiful clothes to take a look at these patterns. They are all from the “Golden Age” of the 1930’s-early 1950’s and are a real treat!

If you are interested, or have questions please Email Me: with a little about yourself and a link to your Ravelry profile; or PM me via Ravelry with the same. Any clarifications that would be useful to all will be updated here.

When a pattern no longer needs testers, I will post an update to this thread listing that pattern as closed.

All patterns available for sale have been verified to be in the public domain - these are vintage reproductions that are violating no current copyright laws of the U.S.

We've all heard about the joys of top-down knitting, and seen the many ways of calculating those decreases and cast-ons.

Combining my two loves: knitting, and Excel spreadsheets, I've come up with a very simple Excel Spreadsheet to effortlessly generate the numbers needed for the initial top-down cast-on.

Simply enter your measurements at the top, and the rest populates itself thanks to the wonders of Excel formulae.  Click Here to download it!

If you're looking for more specifics about how to go about knitting a top-down raglan, I recommend this site, which has never steered me wrong.
As promised, I'm letting you in on my new seaming/anti-seaming finishing process as it occurs on my latest project!

I had heard about this thing called a "three needle bind-off" and how great it was, so I wanted to learn how to do it.  I found dozens of places telling me how to actually bind off the stitches together, and will be bringing you my experience with that later, but I couldn't find anywhere to tell me how to knit the front and back so that I ended up with my shoulder stitches waiting to be knit, instead of bound off.

Here's what I mean: to use the three needle bind-off, you must have the shoulder stitches for both back and front "live" on the needles, so that you can knit them together.  So how does one finish the pattern after the beginning of shoulder shaping, and still keep those stitches live?

When in doubt, I turn to Ravelry, and as usual, it hasn't let me down.

The lovely Neen offered this cogent explanation:

When it says to bind off, don’t…just count off the number it says, and place a marker, then finish the row. On the next row, do the same for the other should, but stop knitting when you hit the first marker. Remove the marker, W&T (pass the yarn between needles to the other side, slip the stitch, pass the yarn back, replace stitch on left needle, turn work, pass the yarn to where it needs to be for the next stitch, if necessary). Knit the number to be bound off, place marker….keep going! When you have finished all the rows, you have a bunch of stitches that were wrapped, and a bunch of live stitches.

To the left, you can see how this looks on my current project (a delicious sweater from a 40's McCall's)!  When I reached the first row of shoulder shaping I was told to BO 6 sts at beg of next 2 rows.  So here's what I did:
1. I did not bind off.  That's right, I ignored the pattern.  It did hurt, just a little bit.
2. I knit in pattern for six stitches, then placed a marker.
3. I knit across the row and turned.
4. I knit in pattern for another six stitches, then placed another marker.
5. I knit across the row to my first marker and stopped, removed the marker, wrapped a stitch, and turned.

The picture to the left is just after I've wrapped the stitch, and am getting ready to turn the work.  I had now reserved 6 sts at each end of the row, so it was time to move onto the next shoulder shaping directions, which were to BO 4 sts at beg of next 10 rows.  So, after I turned, here's what happened:
1. I knit in pattern for four stitches, and replaced my marker
2. I knit in pattern across to the second marker I placed above (you are only ever working with two markers - one for each side - so you just knit across until you hit the one on the other side)
3. Removed the marker, wrapped and turned
4. Knit four stitches in pattern and replaced the marker
5. Knit in pattern across to opposite side's marker...

And repeat!

And as promised, after I had reserved all the stitches that I was instructed to bind off, I was able to bind off for the neckline, and what remained were two sets of live shoulder stitches, as you can see above.  So, onto the stitch holders they go, until the front is complete!
There are few things more frustrating for a knitter than finishing a project and finding:

A. It doesn't fit like it was supposed to (or like it would have when you began)
B. Your finishing skills are not up to par with your knitting skills.

For a long time I fell into this latter category, and in many ways am still learning all the tricks of the trade, so to speak.  What is important to remember, I think, is that there are a number of different types of seams possible for any garment, and that different pieces of the garment (obviously) require different kinds of seams.

In this, our vintage magazines can be of little to no help, as they unanimously advise you to simply "sew" seams.  Those magazines that do offer suggestions invariably suggest the backstitch, which, we will see below, may or may not be entirely appropriate.  So I thought I'd do a wee series on seams - my on-again/off-again love affair with the mattress stitch; my confusion and headaches over the kitchener stitch; the revelation of the three-needle bind-off; and my continued adoration of Barbara Walker, this time specifically for her inset sleeve instructions.

But to begin, our modern knitter must ask him/herself whether they actually care to seam at all!  I have a somewhat unusual opinion about this, so I oughtta let the cat out of the bag with it upfront:
I seam, and don't seam.  On the same sweater (gasp!)

Ok, it's neither that unusual, nor that big of a deal, but here's where I'm comin' from:

1. I am good at side seams.  The mattress stitch takes me forever , and I maintain that it is nowhere near as easy to match up "stitch for stitch" as many people would have you believe.  Nor is it all that easy to see "that little bar between the stitches" that you're supposed to work through.  I have twice been so focused on matching up stitches that I've found, at the end, that I've made a mess of the whole thing.  Two pieces that were blocked to the same size came out all wonky, with bunches and stretches along the side.   But, I digress, because the point of this bullet point is that I've gotten better at the little b*stards, and can actually complete a full mattress-stitch side seam without ruining the garment.  It takes me most of an afternoon, but it's done.
          1a. I believe the side seam is crucial to the fit of the garment.  Without that weight at the sides, it is very difficult for a garment to look fitted at all, unless you are willing to knit in the round with significant shaping and a negative ease. 

2. I am horrible at shoulder and sleeve seams. All the visible and (supposedly) invisible shoulder seams in the world have let me down time and time again.  I end up with the thickest, bulkiest, ugliest seam you can imagine.  Now, to be fair, if you follow the links above, you will see photographs of both of these techniques worked beautifully.  I am not suggesting that there is something wrong with the techniques, but there is definitely something wrong with the combination of those techniques and yours truly.

3. I am ill-acquainted with knitting on more than two needles.  Which becomes an issue when contemplating knitting everything in the round.  Sleeves will eventually have to be knit on three or four double-pointed needles, since their circumference eventually becomes too small for one set of circular needles.  I have seen this technique demonstrated, and understand how it works.  I'm fairly confident I could master it - but then again, I don't happen to own any DPNs, and I am all about making due with what you've got, rather than accumulating stores and stores of gadgets.

All of which brought me to my conclusion, which I am currently testing on my current project:
  • I use a three-needle bind-off for the shoulders
  • Pick up stitches for the sleeves, but knit them flat, instead of in the round
  • Pick up stitches for any collars or necklines (where appropriate, and not knit as part of the original garment)
  • And finally sew the side seam from sleeve cuff to waist-band.
So, having brought you along on my journey to this conclusion, I'll be bringing you the step-by-step process of my first full attempt at this finishing style, as it hits my needles.
photo by Tracy Triumph
I was so pleased to pop onto Ravelry and see that user TracyTriumph had uploaded photos of her completed "Simple Shrug", a pattern we offer right here at Sweater Girl Knits!

I asked Tracy to tell me a little bit about her experience knitting from the vintage pattern, and she reports that the title "Simple Shrug" is well earned.  Tracy says "It was really fun, easy and very quick to knit.  At the time I was knitting it I was selling my house, quitting my job and moving to another country.  So I needed some knitting which would soothe me and wouldn't tax my brain too much.  This project was perfect for that."  Phwew, that's what I call a committed knitter!  With back-to-school time upon us, I know many of us could use a little "soothing" right about now.

Tracy's Ravelry profile shows that she is a prolific knitter, and she confesses to being "a knitter of some experience with vintage patterns," and she found this useful when it came time to choose a yarn for the project.

photo by Tracy Triumph

The Simple Shrug is a very straightforward pattern, knit in one piece with only a couple of seams, but it claims to be "one size fits all," and doesn't include a gauge.  The vintage yarn suggested, Orlon Pompadour, was a fingering weight yarn, which would have made its stitch gauge between 7 - 8 sts / inch.

Tracy decided to use a lovely, bright Sport Weight yarn, which knit up beautifully, but she reports that she finds the shrug's fit a bit loose, and that she intends to knit it again in a fingering cotton yarn.

I think Tracy's fiber and color choices perfectly compliment the shrug's Fall and Spring short-sleeved style.  I can see Tracy wearing this over sun dresses, tank tops, and t-shirts; with jeans, or with a casual skirt.  In her accomplished hands, this vintage pattern has been turned into a stylish gem!

You can buy the Simple Shrug pattern here, and be sure to tell us if you've recently completed a Sweater Girl Knits project, we'd love to feature you as well!