Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Stripes and Swagger: a Selection of Knitting Patterns from 1930-1939

Well, here we are at the fourth post in my twentieth century knitting pattern series (you can see the other posts in the series here), which features a selection of knitwear designs dating from 1930 to 1939. I have been looking forward to doing this particular post for weeks. The thirties are my favourite decade of the twentieth century in terms of clothing fashion because the clothes were not only wearable in the modern sense but flattering while still holding to a certain old school sartorial standard, and the result is ever so stylish. In the twenties the ideal figure for women was boyish and women's clothing tended to be more than a little on the shapeless side; in the thirties the Jazz babies grew up and took to well-tailored womanly styles that looked better on most women. (I mean, have you seen Gosford Park? All those bias-cut evening gowns are to die for. If I may say that about a murder mystery.) This post was also made more rewarding to write because it is the first one in the Twentieth Century series for which I could finally find and include authentic menswear patterns.

All that aside, let's get started and have a look at the ten 1930s patterns I've selected.

This is the Swagger Scarf, which has definite Art Deco look to it. It's a free pattern and is all in garter stitch so it's a straightforward pattern to knit.

This is the cute and striking Tennis Blouse pattern in both its original form and in a modern version. It's a free pattern.

This is Tennis Jumper pattern, which again reflects the prevalence of the the Art Deco aesthetic during the thirties. I'm terribly sorry for the poor quality of this photo. I liked the sharply graphic design so much I wanted to include it, though I know poor visuals like this make it difficult for many people to see the appeal. Perhaps one of you will knit this design and send me a photo of yourself modelling it so I can add it to the post. This pattern originally appeared in The Western Mail (which was an Australian newspaper) on December 10, 1931, and is a free pattern. I do wish newspapers had kept up the practice of including free patterns up until the rise of the internet and Ravelry, especially if they were as nice as this one.

This striped sweater was printed in The Australian Women's Weekly, on July 29, 1933, and is a free pattern. It was common for thirties-era sweaters to be what we'd call a cropped length now, so if you want to make any of these patterns you will probably want to lengthen them. This one will look better lengthened because the extra inches down below will balance out the stripes on the top.

This lace evening gown is the Alora pattern. A number of Ravelry members who are making it appear to be making it for their wedding gowns or bridesmaid dresses. It appeared in the Minerva Style Book, Volume 33 in 1934. This pattern is available for free, but you can also buy the book it's in from Iva Rose Vintage Reproductions for $16.95. The Minerva pattern books are all very stylish, which is probably to be expected given that they became part of the Condé Nast publishing group and then morphed into the original Vogue Knitting. If you love thirties knitwear fashions, I recommend a browse through the collection of thirties pattern books on the Iva Rose site.

How modern-looking is this zip front men's cardigan? It looks like it's straight out of knit.wear. It is pretty basic, but I think the good lines and the flap pockets give it some style. This pattern was originally published in Minerva Men's Book, Volume 37, in 1934, and the book is available from Iva Rose Vintage Reproductions for $16.95.

The Starring Stripes pattern appeared in Stitchcraft in November 1936 and is a free pattern. There are so many such smart little short-sleeved top designs in the thirties-era patterns I looked at while researching this post that I could hardly choose among them.

This little girl's striped dress pattern originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly, on August 13, 1938, and is a free pattern.

This design is the Bairnswear 561 pattern and it's from the late thirties. It's available from The Vintage Knitting Lady as a photocopy for £1.99 or as a PDF for £1.50.

This Swagger Coat is a Corticelli design and is available on Subversive Femme as a free pattern. I saw other swagger coat patterns while I was researching this post and it seems to have been a recognized style for coats to have a tab fastening at the top of an otherwise buttonless coat. The existence of a Swagger Coat style and the Swagger Scarf above makes me think swaggering must have been a thing in the thirties.


  1. http://tichiro.net/?cat=20
    has a huge archive of 20s-60s patterns and pattern books she's put online, though they are all in German. However, you could browse the pics!
    Also in her Ravelry library

  2. Yes, the thirties were indeed a flattering time for women, I think in part because it is a much more natural silhouette than had been fashionable before. Great selection of patterns.

  3. thanks for those, and thanks little miss know-it-all for that link. looks like an inspiring selection!