Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Knitting vintage

A couple of weeks ago I attended a wonderful presentation by Susan Crawford at our local fibre craft store, Darn-it-and-Stitch.

Susan Crawford has done a great service to knitting, by publishing two books of vintage patterns taken from 1920s-1950s knitting magazines.

Vintage knitting patterns were printed in one size - usually an extra small in today's sizes. Of course not everyone back then was that small, they were just expected to know enough about knitting to be able to modify patterns for their own dimensions. Susan Crawford and her assistants have done all the hard work of modifying the patterns for a range of sizes, to fit us larger and less technically adept modern knitters.

Susan Crawford gave a fascinating talk, first narrating how she came to develop the first and second volumes of her vintage knitting books, and then introducing us to the features of vintage styles. Finally, she talked us through following a vintage pattern, explaining how to adjust vintage patterns to ensure a perfect fit.

And naturally there was an opportunity to buy books and yarn, and naturally I could not resist. I got the first volume and will probably request the second for Christmas.

A Stitch in Time
Vintage Knitting & Crochet Patterns Vol:1
A Stitch in Time 
Vintage Knitting Patterns Vol:2

I managed to resist the yarn, because I couldn't immediately decide which pattern to do first. But I definitely plan to stock up on the new yarn line that Susan has introduced: Excelana, a 100% British wool yarn in a range of perfectly vintage colours.

The talk was particularly well timed, because I was planning to knit an angora bolero to wear to Christmas parties this year. The pattern I had in mind was 'For a Winter Party' from a November 1957 Stitchcraft booklet I picked up at Woolfest this summer. Fortunately it is a simple pattern and should not require too many adjustments, especially since boleros are supposed to be cropped anyway.


Debbie Bliss shrug/bolero
After some research I determined that I needed an aran weight angora. I tried swatching with Orkney angora, but decided that a 50/50 angora/wool blend did not create the extreme degree of fuzziness I required. I know exactly the yarn that will work - Anny Blatt 70/30 angora/wool blend - but I can't get it in the UK. So the winter party bolero will have to wait until my next trip to Paris. In the meanwhile I found a similar bolero pattern on Ravelry and bought some Debbie Bliss Andes in a slightly less fuzzy but equally soft royal alpaca/silk blend.

As it happens, I already have a vintage 1950s angora cardigan I inherited from my mother. It is 50/50 angora/wool, and still pleasingly fuzzy. Unfortunately it is black, a colour I don't wear a lot. I'll have to knit myself a new one in one of Orkney angora's jewel shades.

The label says: Minnesota Woolen® Duluth, Minnesota
The clothing store at your door