Vintage knitting

My mum has a huge collection of old books which I like to browse through from time to time, and I discovered this fantastic vintage knitting book the other day. It’s called Practical Home Knitting, and was reprinted in 1949. Some of the patterns are charmingly dated – for example a brightly coloured fair isle hat and scarf set that will apparently be sought after by any young man under twenty. I can’t quite see my teenage brothers wearing it!

I did notice one pattern that I thought would look great knitted up as a modern garment. It’s a sailor style top with a textured boat pattern and a classic sailor collar.

The pattern called for 3ply yarn and No. 9 needles, which seemed like an odd match to me. I went on the internet to find out some information about vintage yarns and knitting, and discovered a number of really useful websites. Kristen Rengren has written a whole series of articles about the subject, covering everything from yarn substitution to adapting gauge for a better fit. There’s also a website called Skiff Vintage Knitting which has a lot of tips and tricks for deciphering the patterns.

I was quite lucky in that the pattern happened to be in my size already, so I didn’t have to worry too much about adapting it. According to the websites I found, vintage 3ply is more like modern 4ply yarn. I swatched some grey Regia yarn with the No. 9 (3.75mm) needles, but the tension was just too loose. Then I remembered a cone of blue acrylic at the back of my stash, and swatched this with 3.25mm needles. It knitted up beautifully, so I got started!

The pattern is beautifully designed, with hems at the bottom and sleeve edges, and of course the lovely textured pattern. I think it’s going to look quite cool with jeans when it’s finished, and tie into the nautical trend that always seems to pop up again in fashion. Even if I never wear it, it’s a fun experiment in vintage knitting, and I’ve learnt loads!


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