Subversive Femme
stitchcraft magazine 1940s knitting pattern

Knitting Vintage for the Uninitiated – short cuts and tips

Caveat – these series of posts are aimed at the new knitter who wants to knit vintage styles. Its a collection of short cuts and tips that i’ve found useful, and i’d love to hear about your tips too!

I’ve always loved vintage knitting patterns, and used to think that the people who could knit from them must have amazing knitting skillz. That level of knitting would never be attainable for little old me!

Thinking about miles of fingering weight yarn, potentially having to resize a pattern and unfamiliar instructions made me feel too nervous to try.

Let me tell you now – knitting vintage is no different to knitting a modern day pattern! (Don’t get me started on how badly written modern Vogue knitting patterns are, for example).

I’d love to address those concerns, and give you some thoughts of my own for those who would love to try their hand at their first vintage knit.

Hopefully my short cuts and tips will help convince you, as I honestly don’t think it’s a hard process.

Tip No. 1 – negative ease!

Of everything that i’ve knitted, the garments that I wear the most are those that are body skimming. Try for a finished bust size equal to your actual bust measurement, or 1-1.5 inches smaller. Knits stretch, and most vintage styles are meant to be form fitting (with some exceptions like some of the draped 30s styles).   For example, my bust measurement is approx 39 inches, so i’ll happily knit this pattern that is sized for a 38-40 inch bust.

patons 876 vintage knitting patterns

If you’re not sure what the finished size is (quite often they say ‘to fit a 34 inch bust’), just skim read through the instructions for the back, until to you get to the point where they start casting off for the armholes – this is your widest point of the garment.

Get the stitch count before the cast off, and divide by the recommended gauge-per-inch. Multiply that by two, and you should have idea of how wide around the bust the garment will be.  

If you’re concerned that the waist band will be too tight, use the same size needles on the ribbing that you will use on the body. The rib will still be stretchy but not restrictive.  

But what if your bust is just a fraction too large for the knitting pattern (i.e. the finished size is 36 inches, and you want a finished size of 37 inches)?   If you only need to increase by an inch, its an easy enough process to add some extra increases up the sides of the front and back to add an inch. For example, if your gauge is 8 sts to an inch, you would only need to add 2 sts on each side to get the extra inch!

With the sleeve, just make sure you add the matching stitches to the width (in this case, an extra 4 sts per sleeve). Don’t worry about the sleeve cap, just work the instructions as directed and ignore the extra stitches, the difference is negligible and knits are forgiving of a few stitches here and there.    But what if you need to increase a lot more than that – say a 34 inch to a 42 inch?  

1940s sweater vintage knitting patterns

                                        Well, you’ll have to wait for my next post!   xxx

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No Comments

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Great tips! Looking forward to your next post.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Oh no, I can´t wait! Resizing is my biggest problem. So many beautiful vintage patterns are made for the more petite so I´m absolutely looking forward to your tips 🙂

  • Reply
    October 27, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Sound advice – an odd stitch here or there doesn't make any difference to a garment.
    Looking forward to your next post.

  • Reply
    October 28, 2012 at 4:37 am

    That last sweater is so cute!

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