Friday, 16 August 2013

Oversized and Over-Patterned: a Selection of Knitting Patterns from 1980-1989

This is the ninth post in my series of selected twentieth century knitting patterns (you can see the other posts in the series here), and it offers a sampling of knitting patterns dating from 1980 to 1989. I've been rather dreading this post, because I think the design aesthetic of the eighties was the most hideous of any decade of the twentieth century. Eighties design followed a curve similar to that of the sixties, in that the look of the first half of the decade was generally prim and conservative, and then got very loud, shapeless, and tacky once past the midpoint of the decade. I know this because I was there. I was around for much of the seventies too, but I was only six when 1980 dawned and all I really remember about seventies style was the appliquéd dresses my mother made me, my older brothers' hand-me-down sweaters, and my Cindy Brady bangs and ringlets hairstyle. (Yes, there are pictures, and no I will not post them.) I remember the trappings of my eighties all too clearly: the dayglo and pastel colours, the cropped pants, the batwing sweaters, the teased bangs, the frosted pink lipstick, the acid wash jeans. And unlike my Cindy Brady ringlets, I can't blame these things on my mother, because I chose all these things myself.

But after looking at a lot of eighties knitwear design while researching this post, I have to say that the eighties really were a good time for knitting. Vogue Knitting went back into production in 1982 (their original incarnation having closed its doors in 1969), and there was also Simplicity Knitting, though it didn't last long, McCall's Needlework & Craft Magazine continued the good work it had been doing for decades, and a number of women's housekeeping-type magazines offered a very decent pattern in each issue. Another change was that with the growing importance of "name brands", and thanks in no small part to Vogue Knitting, knitting designers became "names" in a way they had never really been before. Kaffe Fassett, Alice Starmore, Susan Duckworth, Jean Moss, and Nicky Epstein all became star designers during the eighties.

Of course a lot of eighties knitwear design looks unqualifiedly terrible now. The pastels and primary colour combinations and crude geometric patterns that are so typical of eighties style aren't at all appealing by contemporary standards. And then there was the shaping of eighties garments, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Oversized sweaters and tops were inexplicably in (I remember seeing other girls in our school change rooms helping each other stretch out their sweaters and t-shirts to make them even larger than they already were), and big baggy sweaters don't do anything for any figure. However, the best knitwear designs of the eighties had a gorgeously rich complexity (if you look back over the designers I mentioned in the last paragraph, you'll see they're almost all known for the sheer intricacy of their patterns) and those graphs and charts can be used to make beautiful standard-fitting sweaters that will be very wearable today.

However, despite my knowing that there are loads of beautiful eighties patterns in existence because I have many of them in my own knitting pattern library, I did have a hard time finding enough for this post. Eighties patterns aren't old enough to be public domain, yet very few are available for sale online. I finally had to relax my rule about selecting readily available patterns. A number of the patterns I have chosen were originally printed in books or magazines that are now out of print and are not available for downloading, but some have been reprinted into more recent books that should be easily purchased, and if you really wish to find a particular design that hasn't been reprinted, I think you will be able to find them in your local library or buy a used copy of the original book or magazine online.

The Season's Smartest Blazer is not what I'd call the season's smartest blazer, but instead a classic. Though I'd definitely make it in some other colour, and lose The Dress for Success styling. This pattern originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in June 1980, and is a free pattern.

This child's White Rabbit sweater, by Nicky Epstein, is a cute nod to Alice in Wonderland. It originally appeared in Vogue Knitting's Fall/Winter 1985 issue and is available for $4.95(USD).

This felted shawl collared jacket, by Deborah Newton, was originally published in Vogue Knitting's Fall/Winter 1985 issue and is available as a download for $6(USD). I'd nix the third colour used for the front edges and collar and just knit it all in one colour with contrast piping trim.

This is one of Kaffe Fassett's inimitable designs, Spanish Combs, which appeared in the still-in-print Kaffe's Classics: 25 Favorite Knitting Patterns for Sweaters, Jackets, Vests and More in January 1986. You will probably want to reshape this sweater as it's quite boxy.

I may have criticized eighties colourways above, but I've got nothing but admiration for the palette used in this Bellmanear Sweater by Jean Moss. Though again, this sweater needs some reshaping. The dropped shoulder really took hold in the eighties. This pattern appeared in Rowan's Designer Collection Summer & Winter Knitting, which was published in 1987.

This Argyll Sweater, designed by Sarah Dallas, is a nice twist on the traditional argyle sweater. I'd want to change the colours to something a little more typically menswear to bring it a little more in line with the kind of thing men can feel comfortable wearing. This pattern appeared in Rowan's Designer Collection Summer & Winter Knitting, which was published in 1987, though this individual sweater pattern is not on Ravelry.

This is the Blackwork design, from Susan Duckworth's Knitting, published in 1988. I don't know why the security tag wasn't removed from this item before the photo shoot.

This is the Plum Blossom design, from Susan Duckworth's Knitting, published in 1988. I've limited myself to two designs from Susan Duckworth's book, but much against my will, as the whole book is a visual feast that has me just as excited about the patterns in it as I was when I first bought it, even though most of the sweaters need some serious reshaping and updating of colour schemes to look right for 2013.

Kaffe Fassett's Persian Poppy Waistcoat, which was originally published in Glorious Color: Sources of Inspiration for Knitting and Needlepoint in 1988. I have to admit, the few times I have made a Kaffe Fassett design, I cheated by whittling the colour palette from ten or twelve colours down to four or five.

I quite like this floral cardigan from Vogue Knitting's Spring/Summer 1989 issue, though the colourway needs a total overhaul. As awful as eighties geometric patterns often were, eighties designers usually seemed to do florals very well.

This is Alice Starmore's Thoroughbred vest, originally published in Vogue Knitting's Fall 1989 issue, and it's not only been reprinted but is available as a kit from Virtual Yarns. And it's a unisex pattern.

1 comment:

  1. I remember Elle magazine (the US version) began publishing in the 80 s and there was a knitting pattern in each issue. I saved a whole folder full which I sadly threw out when I moved, wish I still had them, even as a historical reference of those crazy days. I was there with the big shoulders and hair.