Vintage Knitting

"Vintage" is used all over the place these days. Maybe our busy, tech-filled lives make us long for the simplicity of the past. Although our foremothers had many different challenges than we did—can you imaging knitting by candlelight after being on your feet all day cooking from scratch without a microwave or a refrigerator? Not to mention the laundry issues!

Needlecraft Magazine was one of the first publications exclusively devoted to needlecraft trends and patterns. (Photo by Joe Coca.)

Anyway, for me vintage knitting patterns are special because I feel like I'm knitting items that have been knit hundreds of times before me, connecting me with the knitters of the past and, since Knitting Traditions is keeping these patterns alive, they're connecting me with knitters of the future, too.

The latest issue of Knitting Traditions celebrates the evolution of knitting magazines. Here's an excerpt:

Vintage Depositories

For some reason, Augusta, Maine, was a hotbed for publishing women's magazines in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From 1909 until 1941, Needlecraft Magazine was one of these. Its pages were filled with knitting, crochet, tatting, and embroidery patterns along with fiction, advice, fashion trends, recipes, and an enviable number of advertisements, large and small, from national companies such as Campbell's Soup and J. & P. Coats Mercerized Cotton thread to classifieds for a variety of products and services.

Modern Priscilla-—a magazine of needlework, home crafts, and housekeeping—began publication in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1887. The company subsequently moved to Boston and continued publishing the magazine until 1930. The pages of Modern Priscilla closely followed the Needlecraft model for content and advertising. Priscilla even included its own advertisements soliciting readers to sell subscriptions on commission.

—Jeane Hutchins, from Knitting Traditions, Spring 2012

Knitted Gloves for Brother Bill (Photo by Joe Coca)

The Spring 2012 issue of Knitting Traditions includes a collection of patterns from early Needlecraft Magazines. I'm drawn to the glove pattern, "Knitted Gloves for Brother Bill" (from the December 1920 issue of Needlecraft Magazine) because of the simple colorwork pattern and the interesting placement of the thumb and fingers. I wonder if the design gives the thumb more ease of movement; it seems to me like it would pull to the center, but I've got to trust all of the knitters who've come before me and knitted this design—it must be a good one!

The fingers of these knit gloves look like they overlap a little, which might be done for the same ease-of-motion reasons. I want to knit these just to try them on and see how they work!

Knitting old patterns can be a challenge because the terminology was so much different than it is today, and the sizes of yarn and needles, too, but it's really rewarding when you figure it out.

Here's an example from the glove pattern: "Materials required are seven double-twisted knots of knitting yarn, 20 threads to a knot, and one skein of contrasting color—brown and green were used for the model—with four steel needles, No. 13."

Huh? The vintage patterns in Knitting Traditions are printed exactly as they appeared in the original publications, but there's current yarn and needle information provided, too, thank goodness! What you'll need in current knitting terms is fingering-weight yarn and size 1 (2.25mm) needles.

Start knitting vintage with the spring 2012 issue of Knitting Traditions!


P.S. Do you have a vintage knitting story? Share it with me in the comments!

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