Sunday, 28 November 2010

Yes, you CAN knit!

I've seen a few bloggers posting recently wishing they could knit. I'll let you into a secret: you probably can knit, even if you think you can't. I only learned at the age of 30 myself; six years on I'm making stuff which well-meaning people tell me, "looks bought, not hand-made at all." (They mean it nicely, so I leave their entrails intact...)

The thing that got me into knitting in the first place was wanting to make my own vintage-style clothing. I'm not going to lie: pre-1960s jumper and cardigan patterns aren't usually ideal for beginners. They use thin yarn (which means lots of stitches), have more complex shaping and frequently only one or two bust sizes are given, which are small by modern standards, so if you're above a 36in bust you're out of luck. This pretty chartreuse top from Stitchcraft April 1954, for example, is sized for 33-34 and 35-36in busts. That's all!

For absolute novices I'd recommend starting with a scarf, to get a feel for the basic stitches, then doing a couple of baby garments. Baby garments are excellent because they need a small amount of yarn, are quick to finish and use all the shaping techniques you get in larger knits, and if you don't have a nipper yourself there are lots of charities who'll happily accept baby clothes.

After that, you'll be ready to knit for yourself. If you want to dive straight in with a jumper, I can't recommend 'Such Flattering Puff Sleeves' from A Stitch in Time highly enough. The ribbing does all the body shaping for you so it's a tremendously simple knit, and because the rib stretches to fit, if you're a tiny bit out on the sizing it won't be a disaster. If you want more practice, try making yourself a hat or scarf from a vintage pattern. I've ordered patterns from The Vintage Knitting Lady myself, and she has a really good selection available as PDFs. The 1950s Alice Band Hats are particularly easy. Bedjackets are another good option. They may use a complex stitch pattern, but they're usually simply in shape, and if it does turn out a bit wonky you can tell yourself that anyone lucky enough to see you in your bedjacket won't be contemplating your knitting skills!


If you have a fulsome figure, resizing may be an issue (it's a problem I encounter myself). Older patterns often have complex fitting around the shoulders, so you can't use larger needles and hope to gain an extra inch or two – you'll end up with shoulders in completely the wrong place. If your bust is up to 40in, the Vogue Knitting Books from the 1950s onwards contain designs sized up to 38 or 40in. If you're larger than that, and a novice, I recommend making yourself lots of pretty accessories and sticking to modern books of resized vintage patterns. The number of these available is increasing all the time.

You can knit. You may not have the time to develop it as a skill, not everyone does. But if you do find yourself with a daily bus journey, or spending lots of time in waiting rooms, pick up some needles. All that time could, eventually, turn into the perfect vintage winter woollie.


One final thing: even if you can knit, it doesn't always mean you should

5 comments :

  1. Lol, I'd possibly find vintage patterns too big – I'm a 30-32in chest, so that Stitchcraft design would be too big for me if it's meant to be fitting. So modern patterns with lots of sizes are better all round :-)

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  2. Definitely! The copy of Knit With Norbury mentions changing sizes, so I need to see what he says - but the fact that he's saying it would suggest that lots of ladies did need the other sizes too.

    Adding or subtracting an inch or two from the body is easy enough, but I wouldn't know what to do about the armholes, especially for much larger sizes when a larger armhole is also required, which then affects the sleeve shaping.

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  3. Hang on a minute. Your profile says you are middle aged. I might not be that great at maths but if you started knitting six years ago when you were 30, you are now 36. What on earth do you mean middle aged?? I'm a mere three years behind you lol! x

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  4. Ha, I always think of myself as an old fogey :D (I actually quite like getting older, there's a tremendous freedom about it.)

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  5. I'm so inspired Mim! Must drag that green scarf out of my bedside cabinet, or better still start with baby garments - what a fab idea.

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