Vintage? Divine!

Vintage is a word that pops up a lot nowadays. It's all over the place in fabric, fashion, and home decor. I like bits and pieces of vintage design, especially when it's updated to reflect modern sensibilities.

1940s Fair Isle Sweater

Our new book, Vintage Design Workshop is perfect for knitters who like to use certain aspects of vintage knitting in their work. Author Geraldine Warner is a knitter who specializes in modernizing vintage patterns.

Here's a bit of Geraldine's philosophy on vintage knits:

Everyone has a story about how they learned to knit—mine is pretty straightforward and unexceptional, and possibly a lot like yours: my mom and both grandmas had the patience and foresight to teach me. No fuss, no talk about legacy, inheritance, or creativity—it was just a part of my upbringing. WWII was influential in their lives and tales of their experiences were inherently woven into the knitting lessons. My mom had also hung onto her collection of 1950s' Vogue Knitting books along with some of the dresses and blouses knitted from them, and somehow they seeped into my consciousness.

I love this link to the people in my family, this maternal woolly cord that still connects us although they're all long gone, and I enjoy the possibility that I might be knitting from a pattern they used themselves.

Nowadays, thanks to technological advances, clothes are mass produced cheaply in far-away countries with unknown provenance and thousands are wearing that great "individual" top you bought last week. Although this has given choices to many where there were none before, we also have the choice to explore a different route and there are things we can do to assert our individuality in the face of such homogenization.

This classic late 1940s/early 1950s pattern uses a bright band of Fair Isle colorwork
at the neck, above the sleeve welts, and above the deep ribbed waist.

Technology means that we have access to a vast range of materials, equipment, and creative ideas. We can make pretty much whatever we want and celebrate the days when detail, individuality, and quality were valued. What better way than to raid the best of the designs from the past and re-create them yourself?

Whenever I finish a garment knitted from a vintage pattern and try it on I get an enormous kick—it's very possible that that particular design hasn't seen the light of day for 60 or 70 years and here I stand, in my self-made garment, breathing life back into it—how often do you get the chance to directly interact with history in that way?

The patterns are fascinating items in themselves, the notes their previous owners have made in the margins, their names penciled at the top, the creases where they stored them, the stamps of long-gone yarn stores . . . each pattern has its own story to tell if you listen hard enough, and you can add your own part to that story by bringing it back to life.

—Geraldine Warner, Vintage Design Workshop

I love the idea of interacting with history through my knitting. Adding a cute tie at the collar of a short-sleeve top or a pleated shoulder detail to a knitted sweater is just the thing to bring a little vintage touch to my knits.

Order your copy of Vintage Design Workshop today to get some vintage into your knitting!


P.S. Do you enjoy knitting vintage patterns? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

3 thoughts on “Vintage? Divine!

  1. You don’t have to go as far back as the 20’s and 30’s to knit vintage. I have recently knitted two sweaters from 70’s patterns. Worked in modern yarns and colourways they look really on trend. Who said that the 70’s was the decade style forgot?

  2. In the late 50s when I was 14 and just starting to knit I found a pattern in mohair mix with a huge circular cowl collar. I struggled with the collar pattern till mother came to my aid whilst I knit the rest of the jumper. It had typical 50’s three quarter sleeves – which I lengthened, but then wore pushed up (go figure!), and the hem was turned under, making it a tad baggy till I threaded some fine elastic through. I knit the jumper in a soft greyish sea green, and wore it everywhere for at least six years. It was carefully packed to come out to New Zealand with us in 1963 – sadly in the one trunk which went missing!
    I mourned the loss of that jumper for decades. You can imagine my absolute joy when I discovered the pattern in an old book of vintage reprints some 15 years ago. Then I put the pattern safely away in my favourite patterns folder till I could find a near as possible match for the same coloured mohair. This took a long time, nothing I found was quite right. Eventually late last winter (NZ July) I found almost exactly the right shade. I was over the moon – till I went to where I thought the pattern folder was. And it wasn’t!!!! I turned the house inside out looking for this folder, getting more and more frustrated. Then by sheer luck just before Christmas I found a photocopied sheet of paper With The Pattern On.
    I’ve nearly finished the big faux rib cowl collar, which has been put to one side till the weather cools down a bit and is a little less humid. Mohair and humidity do not mix. But I will have my long lost jumper completed before winter. And I will so enjoy wearing it as much as I did 50 years ago. I might possibly lengthen the three quarter sleeves a bit though, and crochet a welt instead of that turned under baggy hem.