Subversive Femme

Knitting Vintage for the Uninitiated – Part 2

Tip 2 – Learn to Up-Size, or fake it til you make it.  

I thoroughly recommend the A Stitch in Time books (especially Volume 2), Knit Vintage and all the other resources out there for multi-sized vintage patterns. It’s a great place to start with your first full vintage knit if you don’t want to wrestle with re-sizing.

But what if you want to knit that paper pattern you just bought from a flea market?

If the pattern you want to knit doesn’t come in your bust size, you have two options.   The first is to rework the pattern, and Tasha at By Gum By Golly has a fabulous series on it, so I won’t recover it here. Please read her thorough posts for the full process.

Skiff Vintage also has a book specifically on re-sizing vintage patterns called Knit Back in Time which is brilliant.  

The less daunting option is to find something similar, and vintage-ify it. This really only works for simple vintage styles, but its a great way to dip your toes in the water.  

Vintage-ifying would mean raising necklines, a closer fit, a higher waist, puffing the sleeves, knitting it in fingering weight – anything to bring it closer to your inspiration.  

For example, lets say you’ve fallen in love with the style of this 1940s jumper (the belt! the hair!), and you must have something just like it.

Stylistically, its very similar to the Natalie jumper below (from Knit Vintage).

If you were just looking for something similar, this would be a good bet and already comes in 3 bust sizes. To make it more like the one above, raise the neckline (start the neck decreases later) and knit it in a fingering weight wool instead of alpaca.  

What about this really cute 1940s design, with bows across the chest?

Phinney (from Berroco) would be a great place to start, simply adding yarn overs evenly across the yoke to allow ribbons to threaded through. Shorten the body and make the waist ribbing deeper and you have a really good match. Don’t forget some shoulder pads.

I think Phinney is a great place to look to reproduce a lot those 1940’s jumpers with motifs across the front.

While the pattern calls for a worsted yarn, its not a tricky process to rework the gauge.

I.e. if the pattern gauge is 5 sts to an inch and they ask you to cast on 100 sts for your size – that = 20 inches.   If your gauge with the fingering weight yarn is 8 sts to an inch, 20 inches x 8 sts = you now need to cast on 160 sts. Work out the heights in inches, and just knit the extra rows to match.   Make sure your cast offs and decreases match size-wise. I.e. if the pattern says cast off 5 sts, you know they mean an inch’s worth of stitches. So you’d cast off 8 sts based on your gauge – remember, a few stitches here and there arn’t critical.  

Another pattern example:   Your Victory Jumper from Home Notes

You could easily use Feather and Fan Variations to achieve a similar look.

Once you know what you want to knit or vintage-ify, its just a matter of finding something similar and applying easy design changes to it.   My main hints for vintage-ifying something are:

  • Waist ribbing – don’t skimp! Yes, its boring to knit 3 to 4 inches of ribbing, but it really makes a difference, especially to 30s and 40s patterns.
  •  Embrace your waist – most vintage designs don’t go past the hips, and just sit an inch or two below the waist. Invest in some high waisted skirts or pants to wear your vintage knits.
  • Puffed short sleeves are easy to add to a contempory knitting pattern. To do – work the sleeve as per the pattern instructions. Work the cast offs for the arm hole, and the decreasing the same . Add 1 or 1.5 inches in sleeve cap height, and cast off as the pattern directs. Gather the sleeve top when you seam it in. This should give you enough fabric to make a nice ‘puff’.  The bonus is that if your finished shaping isnt 100% perfect you only have a couple of inches to rip back

  And finally… Don’t be scared to give something a go. Knitting can be frogged and no harms been done – if you make a mistake, learn from it. Everyone’s had to rip back numerous times, don’t be scared to, it makes you a better knitter.   My next and final post is about the vintage patterns themselves – how to read vintage patterns, substitute yarn and look after your vintage finds.

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  • Reply
    November 2, 2012 at 2:10 am

    Great post! Lots of tips and ideas. Hopefully, once I finixh my afghan I'll start on a jumper pattern from “A Stitch IN Time vol 2”.

  • Reply
    November 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    This is really helpful! I do love that sweater with the bows..

  • Reply
    November 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Great tips in these posts! And thanks for the link too. 🙂 I look at all modern patterns with a vintage eye. It's very easy to see a 40s or a 50s (or for that matter, earlier or later) look with a few minor tweaks!

    Thanks for including Phinney, that's not a pattern I'd seen before but seems like the perfect palette for oodles of options of vintage-inspired colorwork elements!

  • Reply
    November 8, 2012 at 2:10 am

    I have a very difficult time achieving a gauge of less than 7.5 stitches to the inch. Many vintage patterns call for 8, 9, some even 10 stitches to the inch. My knitting guage often allows me to upsize a garment by 3 or 4 inches without making any other changes in width. Length can still get a little fiddly.

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