Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Tunics and Tapestries: Selected Knitting Patterns from 1990-1999

So here we are at the tenth and last post in my series of posts on selected patterns from each decade in the 20th century — the post for the 1990s. (You can see all the other posts in the series here.) I can't say I'm sorry the series is completed. I have enjoyed researching and writing these posts quite a lot, but they've also been easily the most time intensive of any posts I've written for this blog, even more so than the knitting magazine review posts, which generally take about three hours each to write. I also haven't been all that satisfied with the 20th century posts. I wanted them to be a selection of the best and most currently wearable knitwear designs each decade had to offer, but instead they were usually just the best I could come up with out of what few period knitting patterns were available online, and I too often felt as though I were scraping the bottom of the barrel. I do hope, and even expect, that as time goes on more vintage knitwear designs will become readily available online, so perhaps at some later date I'll get to write the kind of vintage knitting pattern posts I had in mind.

Now, about this post. When it came to researching the 1990s patterns, I found it quite the trip down memory lane. I was sixteen when the nineties dawned and I remembered all the looks I came across, and had worn many of them myself. Leggings with tunics? I think I spent half the nineties in leggings with an oversized shirt or sweater over top, and have fond memories of how comfortable that outfit was. Cropped jackets with palazzo pants? I have unfond memories of the time I nearly pitched down a flight of concrete steps behind the office building of the publishing house I worked at when I was twenty because I caught the toe of my shoe in one hazardously wide pant leg. Colour blocking? Yes, I think I had a colour-blocked dress. Granny skirts with a denim jacket and boots? Check. Plaid flannel shirts and cut-offs? Uh huh. I wasn't grunge, and I don't think many of my friends would have thought of themselves as into grunge, and yet we all dressed that way. And when I looked specifically at the knitting designs, I not only found a great many I'd seen before but a number that I'd made myself.

Looking at nineties knitwear patterns from the perspective of someone living in 2013, I find there's still a lot of merit in the designs. My greatest complaint about them is their size. The oversized, dropped shoulder sweater, a hold over from the 1980s, was still in for the first half of the nineties, and though it may have made nineties wear comfortable it also made it terribly unflattering. However, though nineties knitwear may need reshaping the stitch work and colour work can be quite inspired. I regret that we don't see the accomplished and intricate texture and pictorial designs so common in the early nineties much these days. During the course of my research for this post I actually took a little girl's fish-themed knitted dress pattern from 2013 off my to do list and replaced it with a nineties' era little girl's fish-themed dress pattern, because it was just no contest as to which was the better design.

This is DKNY's Shetland Lace Pullover, originally published in Vogue Knitting, Spring/Summer 1990, and reprinted in the Vogue Knitting Fall 2007 issue, and now available as a $6(USD) download. I ran across a number of lace tunic patterns when I was researching this post, and I remember making one for myself, from a different pattern, in lavender, back in 1993. This lace tunic pattern is the most beautiful of any I found, though it's also the most enormous. I'd cut it down to a standard fit and fix the dropped shoulders.

Here we see a child's version of the tunic and leggings and outfit, by Gayle Bunn, which appeared in Vogue Knitting's Winter 1990-91 and Kids Fall/Winter 1993 issues. I made this embroidered sweater and Juliet cap (though not the leggings) for one of my nieces when she was five or six. Both of her younger sisters also had their respective turns at wearing it when they got old enough.

This Tapestry Afghan, designed by Nicky Epstein for Vogue Knitting's Winter 1991/1992 issue, (and reprinted in the Vogue Knitting American Collection, has long been in my "when I break both legs" pattern file. You see what I mean when I say I regret that we don't really see this kind of intricate pictorial design today? To be fair, we didn't have many pieces like this back then, either. This is one stunning, one-of-a-kind creation.

This is Donna Karan's Enchanted Forest Cardigan, from Vogue Knitting's Fall 1992 issue. Vogue Knitting has reprinted it four times and it's now available as a $6(USD) download. It looks divinely warm and comfortable (and who can resist the appeal of an enchanted forest?), but again I would cut it down to just slightly oversized and fix the dropped shoulders.

The Leaf Motif Pullover, designed by Anne Denton for Vogue Knitting's Fall 1993 issue, is another beautifully complex and textured nineties knit.

This Shaped Tweed Jacket, designed by Adrienne Vittadini for Vogue Knitting's Fall 1995 issue, still looks just as sharp a cut today as it did when published, although the colour could probably stand to be updated. We've reached 1995 in our pattern retrospective and the oversized look was passé by that point. This pattern is available as a $6(USD) download.

This Climbing Ivy afghan pattern, from Knitting Digest Magazine, Vol. 18 No. 2, March 1996, and which is available for free, looks very nineties to me in a way I can't quite explain. I think it's the mixing of different patterns (checks with lace with a floral) that mimics the kind of collage-type prints we had back then. Printed fabric is very often as definitively of its own time as though it were date stamped. A few years ago I used to be puzzled by a former co-worker's outfits as the fabric they were made from were unmistakably vintage nineties yet the cut was very 2011. Finally I asked her about it and she told me she bought many of her clothes from a company that fashioned new clothes out of unsold old stock bought from other companies.

The nineties had a lot of the timeless fair isle pattern sweaters that every decade since the twenties did. If time travel were possible, this child's Faux Fair Isle cardigan, from the Interweave Fall 1996 issue, could be published at any time from 1930 to yesterday and no one would ever know it was a 1996 pattern. This pattern is available as a $5(USD) download.

This is the Brick Walk Vest from Knitting Digest Magazine, Vol. 19 No. 1, January 1997, and is available as a free pattern. I think I'd want to go with a more subtle colourway to update this vest for a 2013 version.

This is the Russian Jacket, originally a nineties pattern, which has been published in Rowan's Greatest Knits: 30 Years of Knitted Patterns from Rowan Yarns. Love the tapestry detail on the collar and cuffs. I'd want to do it in a sharp main colour instead of that oatmeal, scale down the jacket slightly, and fix the dropped shoulders.

1 comment:

  1. Oh the 90's....I have such a love/hate relationship with the 90's. I was 11 when the 90's started and I never really felt comfortable in the majority of the 90's fashions. It wasn't until the 2000's came around that I could embrace the popular fashions!