A few ramblings about knitting, mainly vintage stuff and other bits and bobs

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Before and After

I'm lucky that most of my collection of patterns need very little work to make them into usable copies. I have a very simple work flow of scan the pattern, tweak the exposure, and maybe cover up a few tears or minor creases on the edges. Occasionally though, I come across a pattern I want to include but it's severely creased so I have to crack out Photoshop and try to make it look a little better.

I'm not an expert in any way with it but have learnt in the past year more small tricks to get a clearer copy of some of the worst ones and I'm feeling pretty happy with the results I'm now getting. This does take time but I love the end product and I hope you do too.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Hints and Tips for Vintage Knitting

Knitting from vintage patterns is not difficult. The same 'rules' apply to them that apply to modern ones, you just have to be a bit careful. Make sure that you read the pattern through first and familiarise yourself with the abbreviations and instructions. This is the first in a series of posts that aims at helping you get more comfortable with using vintage patterns and making the garments you want to wear.

Old UK


Until the early 1970s Britain and the much of the commonwealth used Imperial needle measurements (which were based on wire gauges from the early 19th century). These were different from both metric sizes and US sizes and getting them confused can be the cause of a whole load of misery.

I have used the information from Ravelry.com for the metric to US conversion and you will see that not everything has a direct comparison so use you best judgement on what will suit the best.

Substituting Yarn

Most, if not all, of the wools suggested have been discontinued but you can sometimes find vintage wools on Ebay and Etsy and even in Ravelry user's stashes. Modern substitutes will work very well but you may find that some of the weights do not match the modern equivalent. In some cases 2-ply did not mean a lace weight yarn but more a 4-ply that was made from 2 plies (similar to Jamieson & Smith’s 2-ply Jumper Weight) and 3-ply and 4-ply could be interchangeable in some cases. Experiment and see what you come up with. To be completely sure you yarn will work, make a tension square.


It is important to check your gauge or tension before you start knitting your garment. One stitch more or less to the inch can have a dramatic, and not always welcome, effect on the garment. I tend not to worry about gauge in socks and accessories but always make one for a garment. It is also a smart thing to do to check that any yarn substitutions work before getting too involved.

Most patterns will give the stitch gauge but not always the row: aim to get the stitch count right. To make a tension square, cast on twice the number of stitches required for 1 inch plus 8 extra. If you need the square to be in the pattern work out the number in the pattern repeat.

Knit 4 rows (garter stitch) then start with your tension pattern – normally it is stocking stitch (1 row knit, 1 row purl) – but knit the first and last 4 stitches on every row. Carry on for 2 inches (or a complete pattern repeat if it’s larger than 2 inches) then finish with 4 rows of knit. Get a darning needle and break the yarn leaving enough to thread back through the live stitches. Thread the needle with the yarn end then slip the stitches off the needle and onto the thread. 

If you want you can wash your square and block the square but most vintage books just say to pin the square then measure the stitches. Ignore the garter stitch edges and measure across the square. If you have too many stitches you need to go down a half or even full needle size; if you have too few, go up a needle size.

I'll try and add  a new tip or hint every week to build up a full guide but if you have any tips of your own, please leave them in the comments section below and I can work them into later posts.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

No idea

No idea what size this was going to come out

No idea if I’d have enough wool

Since there was no gauge given on the pattern and it’s vintage double knit and 3-ply I had no idea what to aim for, especially as it is on 5.5mm needles but I did this on 5mm as the 5.5mm was too loose.

I've loved this pattern for ages. It's taken from The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Knitting, edited by Catherine Franks, which was published by Odhams in 1939 originally and then quickly reprinted in 1940. The book is marvellous and well worth hunting down a copy as it has lots of lovely vintage patterns but is more a book on how to make your own patterns.

Anyway, this jumper. I had some old Patons Clansman but only 250 grams so knew that I was unlikely to get an entire garment from it so had thought about mixing it with another yarn to bulk it up a bit and make it go that little bit further. Then I remembered this pattern and realised that it would be perfect. A quick hunt through my stash brought up some Hayfield Courtelle 4-ply and I was away.

I followed the pattern to start with but quickly realised that by dropping half a needle size, it was going to be too small so unravelled what I had and started again but added 10 more stitches to the cast on (the body is worked from side to side) and increased the number of stitches cast on to make up the edge of the armholes. I also added an extra set of stripes to the body to counteract the smaller needles.

The waist ribbing was picked up across the bottom making sure it was kept nice and loose as it would need to keep some stretch. 

The sleeves were a bit trick as I was getting short of wool. I considered making them shorter but it looked wrong and shifted the pattern from a classic late 30s style into the bubble style of the 80s. I did the cuffs first then worked the sleeves top down, grafting them together.

I finished the sewing up with about a metre of the brown wool left over, Phew!

Since I couldn't find any buttons for the front to match the green wool, I crocheted some covers and slipped them on.

The original jumper doesn't have the buttoned neckline, but when this was being made it seemed quite tight and I was worried that there wouldn't be space for a head. After washing it though, it loosened up and now has a lovely drape to the cowl front and shows the green wool better.

Finished measurements (laid flat):Bust 35”, waist 24”, length 20” and although it's too small for me, it's ideal for a wonderful friend who loves the vintage look and wearing unusual clothes