Tag Archives: vintage

Those other WIPs I have

Just a quick one today! I may be spending most of my knitting time on version 2.0 of my shawl, but I’m rarely a one-project woman. There’s that laceweight blouse I’ve been working on since forever (at least it feels like it) and this week I’ve finally completed all the body shaping. It’s a worthy milestone! The secret to getting it done? Leaving it in the glovebox of our car the whole time. Whenever I ride shotgun, I knit. Because it’s such incredibly fine knitting it’s no problem to fit it next to all the usual car junk of cds, petrol receipts and the occasional impulse buy of crème eggs.

Laceweight car knitting

This whole time I’ve been using Addi 2.25mm circular metal needles. Did I mention it’s been taking ages? They’re not bad needles, but not amazing for a slippery silk mix laceweight yarn. I actually bought them with Shetland Heritage in mind which I think will work better. We’ll see if I’m right once I finish this blouse, possibly in 2016.

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Impromptu Jumper Surgery Pt.2

In my last post I demonstrated the “hacking wildly” technique of jumper reconstruction. I wasn’t expecting such lovely words of encouragement in response! Thank you to everyone who commented, it was very reassuring.

In this post I have calmed down a bit as I sew and stitch up the mess. Here is your mood music for today.

As much as Shetland wool binds to itself, I still didn’t feel quite able to let the edges go unsecured. So I got out the sewing machine for some quick reinforcements. Sewing onto knitting is fairly similar to sewing with jersey fabric, only the scale of the fabric is much larger. After playing around with the cutting scraps I determined that a straight stitch is best for securing horizontal edges and a simple zigzag stitch does the job for vertical edges:

2edge

2secure

And whilst the sewing machine was sitting there I thought I might as well save time and use it to sew up the seams as well. Now please don’t go thinking this is the expert handiwork of someone knows what they’re doing. It’s actually the late-night stitching of someone with nothing to lose. Oh, I might end up with a piece of knitting I might wear instead of one I never wear? What a decision!

Just like when you’re sewing regular fabric, every seam needs to be disciplined with a steam iron straight away. It took me a while to twig this and I was wondering why my seams looked so bad until the lightbulb went on. Eventually I was merrily steaming away like it was any other sewing project.

So after the reinforcing and basic seaming, it’s time to go straight back to the knitting needles and leftover scrap yarn. The buttonband is picked up through the fabric and knitted on just like a regular knitted cardigan. Let’s see how the body is fitting now…

2body

Much better. I even bagged some legit vintage buttons from Beshley’s (her vintage button collection is quite substantial these days!) That just leaves the sleeves to sort out. I picked up along the top of the cuff, and added an extra band of fair isle for length. Joining it all back onto the main sleeve body was a right faff though. It was basically impossible to keep the stitch count straight so I just whipped out the sewing machine again. It’s not terribly neat, but at least it doesn’t look like an accident.

2sleeve

I seamed the sleeves with the sewing machine, but when it came to setting them in, I resorted to a proper hand-sewn backstitch. It’s just easier to get an even result that way, as far as I’m concerned. One thing I noticed on undoing the jumper was how crappy my stitching was back when I first made it. Nowadays my stitches are both smaller and faster and I have a solid method for setting properly (it involves a lot of safety pins). It’s nice to see how far you’ve come sometimes.

2final

Done! The cardigan still has a very boxy shape, but that’s ok. It keeps it vintage-looking. The new neckline and sleeves are a massive improvement in my book. It’s not perfect but it feels a whole lot more me when I throw it on over my existing outfits.

This was an interesting mixed-media experiment. If there’s anything to be learned from this, it’s that steaming Shetland wool like there’s no tomorrow is absolutely ok and should possibly be encouraged.

On top of this I get to feel as if I’ve made a whole new garment from scratch in a week!

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WIP: Laceweight Blouse

Yep, kicking off another item in the Knit The Queue challenge: an entire blouse in laceweight yarn, on 2.25mm needles. This is the finest gauge work I have ever attempted, at 10 stitches to the inch. This is a marathon! The pattern is “Blouse with Gathered Neckline” from A Stitch In Time Vol. 2.

A Stitch In Time Vol.2

It’s a pretty little design, but I never wanted to knit it as is. I want it a little more modern, a little more casual, and with a wider neckline. My first step is make the sleeves t-shirt length. This has the delightful advantage of making them a marginally quicker knit. When I say quicker, I mean “Hey! The first sleeve took less than 10 hours!”

blousesleeve

The yarn is Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace and it had to be in red! Well I say that, maybe some sort of Champagne colour would work too, but red goes with the most of my outfits. It’s not a yarn I’ve worked with before but it is totally delightful and I really like the way the fancy little details in the cuff and fabric came out.

blouseclose

Picot edgings are very easy: a decent amount of stockinette, one row of yarnover, k2tog throughout,  then repeat the stockinette, and fold on the dotted line! I gave this a light steaming to make sewing easier later down the line and the fabric is behaving very nicely. It’s good crisp stuff that won’t get all shiny and matte after a bit of a squish.

So roll on sleeve 2! I am going to have to buy proper lace needles for the body I think. Currently I’m working with sock needles, but I want to continue my modern knitting ways by doing the body in the round. I think it’s the only way I can face 3 inches of ribbing at that gauge. Daunting!

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Yarn Review: Erika Knight Vintage Wool

This review comes as the direct result of yarn envy.

For the last few weeks, Faye of Buttons and Beeswax has been bringing the prototype of her latest design along to our local Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group. It uses Erika Knight Vintage Wool and I have been shamelessly coveting the heck out of it.
Faye has very kindly given me some of her leftover yarn and now I am gonna review this delightful stuff!

Vintage Wool is Aran-weight, 100% British wool and is also spun in Yorkshire. It’s as British as a nice cup of tea and a sit-down. This wool is very soft and silky which makes it an instant winner, and  it’s quite loosely plied as well. The combination gives a result that I just love getting my fingers into (hence the coveting). I mean seriously, this yarn is freakin squooshy!

The colourway here, ‘Wisteria’ is a somewhat unusual lilac which I admit I struggled to photograph accurately. I’m not a fan of lilac, but it’s a surprisingly versatile shade; There’s a whole lot of  pink and grey undertones, which can be seen through the entire range, keeping it all nice and cohesive for colourwork.

I had absolutely no quibbles with Vintage Wool whilst swatching; it’s incredibly easy on the fingers because of how silky it is. No splitting either!

The swatch was knitted on the recommended 5mm needles.

Before washing

And after washing!

As you can see, it doesn’t relax a great deal after washing, but it does ‘bloom’ a little. I make the final gauge to be 18sts and 26 rows in a 4″ x 4″ square.

What fabric properties stand out? Well, this is a very soft, warm and drapey swatch, with only a little fuzzy halo. The stitches have blended together quite well after washing, but were quite easy to unravel prior to that.

Of course, I always make sure to do a thorough stress test of my swatches! I stretched it out with weights and gave it a whole load of friction to see how it wears…

One of the more notable characteristics is that the fabric seems to be quite inelastic for wool. It took a fairly long time to snap back after being pulled down by weights. A quick shake sorted it right out though, so no permanent distortion was caused.

My totally scientific friction test showed that Vintage Wool doesn’t actually pill very quickly, which is good. Obviously, it does eventually, as wool is wont to do, but for such a soft and loose yarn it’s quite tough.

It’s hardly original but I would use Vintage Wool for scarves and hats – I think it’s just the thing to wrap in large quantities around your face! It strikes me as very good for colourwork, in the way the stitches blend after washing. The thoughtfully planned colour range helps a great deal too. I can also picture making a giant cosy cardigan in Vintage Wool. Garments with negative ease may not work so well though, just because of that slight inelasticity.

All in all, I had a lot of fun playing with this stuff! Maybe I could squeeze a hat out of the rest of that yarn cake??

Erika Knight Vintage Wool is available in various online stores, such as:

Loop Knitting

Deramores

The Yarn Cafe

******

More of my reviews can be found here.

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Where to find vintage knitting patterns online

Are you a fan of vintage knitting patterns? I certainly am. Luckily for us there are many places to get that vintage pattern fix. There are currently numerous good pattern books in print. But sometimes you want just one individual pattern. That’s where the technological marvel that is the internet comes in! Please enjoy this handy vintage link-fest!

Vintage Knitting Patterns – For Sale

The Retro Knitting Lady
This is one of my favourite sites, even just for browsing. The Fair Isle section is a spectacular wall of 1940s and 50s knitting fashion! You can pay for a pdf, or have the original mailed to you.

Iva Rose
This site sells reproduction knitting patterns and specialises in 1920s and 30s fashions.

Vintage Knitting Patterns
You can order some extremely comprehensive and properly reprinted collections of vintage patterns from here. There are patterns dating from 1895 to 1963!

Yesterknits
“The largest collection of knitting patterns in the world” apparently! I can believe that, looking around the site. There are a couple of freebies available on it, but most patterns are for sale. Please note: you can only buy physical copies of patterns.

Knit on the Net
Susan Crawford has published many vintage reproduction and inspired patterns in print, but some are also available individually online. Worth a browse if you can’t be bothered translating old pattern formats.

Vintage Knitting Patterns – For Free

A Rarer Borealis
A blog that posts an eclectic mix of free knitting patterns from the 20s-50s. From the bizarre to the cute and peppy, it’s well worth bookmarking.

Subversive Lesbian Anarchic Femme
Another blog with free vintage patterns posted to it – lots of 30s and 40s stuff from Australian archives.

London V & A
The Victoria & Albert museum has a small selection of WW2 knitting patterns available. These are wearable, but historically noteworthy patterns of military wear and wool-saving clothes for the women and children left behind. 

Free Vintage Knitting Patterns
Well this does what it says on the tin! This is an enormous site that has gone to great lengths collecting free knitting patterns wherever it can find them. You will find patterns for every need, from blankets to jumpers to dog clothing. 

Vintage Purls
Free mid-century knitting patterns for everyone, from New Zealand publications.

Antique Pattern Library
The patterns and guidebooks scanned in here are from the 1850s onwards and include knitting, crochet, needlepoint, tatting, tapestry, all sorts of crafts! A mix of mostly American and English patterns as far as I can tell. A very large site.

A Good Yarn
A scan of “Fleisher’s Knitting and Crocheting Manual,” 1922 is available here.

Where NOT to buy vintage knitting patterns

Copyright is a bit of tricky issue to navigate at times, but there’s honest mistakes and then there’s shamelessly and repeatedly ignoring a pattern source in favour of profit. If a vintage pattern site does not explicitly state that the copyrights have been checked then it’s probably not a good resource.

The reason  I’m providing an actual blacklist is because most of the vintage knitting patterns being sold on the sites below have been stolen from the completely free sources I have listed above. This swindles you, the customer, and the honest sites who have done their homework and make revenue from advertising. Plus it’s just rude.

  • Ebay seller Bythelightofthemoon
  • vintagepatternshop.co.uk
  • Etsy seller toknittowoo

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Yarn Review: Excelana 4-ply

A while back I got some little sample skeins of yarn with my pre-ordered copy of A Stitch in Time Vol. 2. I think it’s about time to review them!

This is Excelana 4-ply, a reproduction ‘vintage’ yarn brand owned by Susan Crawford, which complements the many, many reproduced vintage knitting patterns she has under her belt.

Excelana

It is 100% British wool, spun from the fleece of the Exmoor Blueface, which is a cross between the Exmoor Horn and the Bluefaced Leicester. It’s extremely soft and light for pure wool and it has a slightly silky sheen to boot. The long fibres make it smooth and also very tough; almost impossible to break with bare hands.  If I didn’t know better I would assume some fancier fibres had been mixed in. Also, it smells pleasingly sheepy!

I knitted it up on the recommended 3mm needles. Excelana behaved itself very well during the knitting. It sticks to itself like most pure wools, but it’s smoothness makes it flow off the fingers nicely. Having recently done a whole lot of knitting with Shetland wool, I quickly noticed how warm Excelana is by comparison. The resulting fabric is quite plump at a gauge of 28st/36rws per 4in. A pretty versatile thickness; something for both spring and autumn and indoor winterwear.

Here’s the swatch before and after blocking. Quite a difference isn’t it? That ‘before’ picture was the flattest I could get it to lie!

Washing it actually changed the feel of fabric quite a lot. The wool bloomed and didn’t form a ‘halo’ so much as a ‘protective mesh’. I suppose this is down to the long fibres again. The fabric stayed soft, but took on a faintly steely quality.  As you can see the washing also did nothing to reduce the silky sheen or the crisp stitch definition.

Now I like to put my yarns through a stress test as well and this is where Excelana showed it’s more interesting qualities. You can stretch this stuff to hell and back! I hung 400g (a full jumper’s worth of wool) off the square overnight and it snapped back to it’s original gauge with a quick shake. I’ve distorted it every whichway and have nothing to show for it.

The stretchiness is part of what makes it ‘vintage’. Most older patterns rely on negative ease to shape jumpers – think the clingy sweaters of the 50s – so of course you would need a wool that holds it’s shape.

I tested for pilling as well.  Excelana does not pill easily, but the surface fuzz did start to roll up after a judicious application of friction. The stitches themselves however, remained untouched. So, nothing you couldn’t fix with a razor.

Excelana, in conclusion, is soft and delicate with an iron constitution. As well as vintage jumpers I think this would be great for winter gloves. I’m quite certain anything you made with it would last and last, in the true spirit of bygone days when that’s what clothes were supposed to do.

I should note here that I also own some Excelana in ‘Ruby Red’; the dyeing process produces a slightly harsher wool. It’s still perfectly nice mind you, but the difference is there.

Of course, I got two samples in the post so look out for the second yarn review soon!

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Vintage Vogue Knitting Bonanza!

Spoiler: This post is full of pictures!

My Grandma recently let me look through her collection of knitting patterns, to see if there was anything I liked. She is undisputably the grand high craftmaster of our family and has a good two drawers stuffed full. I couldn’t pass that offer up could I?

A lifetime’s accumulation of patterns makes for a bit of an anthropological dig. At the top I found sensible cardigans by Sirdar and Patons and clippings from the WI magazine. Beneath that, giant hilarious 80s jumpers, looking alarmingly like what can be found in TopShop today.
Further down, a sudden rash of crocheted ponchos. Let us not speak of those again.
Once in the 60s, it all became child’s clothes – the things my mum and her siblings wore as kids. Also, several little cardigans that looked naggingly familiar to me too…

Right at the bottom I found something a bit special.

The Vogue Knitting Book No.43. Spring 1953. Bought back when my Gran was still a ‘Miss’. What an age away!

And so I have scanned the best pictures for your enjoyment. Don’t say I’m not good to you!

Unfortunately the cover was missing, but we start with some chic weekend wear!

I like this neat bed-jacket too. It would make anyone’s waist look tiny.

Tassels: They never go out of style.

Let’s not forget the menswear either. These two pictures aren’t on the same page in the book, but they totally should have been. Captions on a postcard please.

There were a couple of colour spreads too, which I’ve scanned in nice and large so you can see the full glory of all this pinkness.

Click for hi-res version

I love these little evening tops, but I have to wonder how that v-neck would stay up in real life.

Click for hi-res version

It wouldn’t be a Vogue publication if it wasn’t at least 25% solid adverts! Here’s my favourite illustration, for deodorant powder:

Gosh there was just no female solidarity in those marketing days! It seems like there are loads of old adverts where a woman’s awfully concerned friends stand about 4 metres behind her and bitch about her shortcomings in 36pt font. No wonder Miss Stinkypits is pouting. Don’t worry dear, one day you’ll find some friends who appreciate your natural musk.

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