Monday, 30 September 2013
In this video, YouTube user TubularBelle shows us a collection of the picture knits she and her mother designed and made back in the 80s and 90s (yes, we're talking Garfield and South Park representations here), and that, as she puts it, are "now doomed to live in the land of the eternal embarrassment". It's true picture knits aren't in style now, but the sheer level of wit and skill that went into these sweaters makes them very much worth a look.
Tuesday, 27 August 2013
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.
Friday, 16 August 2013
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.
Tuesday, 6 August 2013
This is the eighth post in my series on 20th century knitting patterns (you can see all the other posts in the series here), and it offers a selection of knitting patterns from the years from 1970 to 1979. And I must say researching this post gave me some fleeting yet intense moments of wanting to throw myself under a Donna Summers tour bus. I won't even blame the general seventies aesthetic. Yes, there are plenty of examples of horrible seventies attire and bad hair out there, but you can say that of any decade. All the patterns for this series were cherry-picked. Every set of ten patterns I have selected for this series because they were wearable and attractive by modern standards was the result of several hours spent sifting through a hundred or more patterns that weren't. On the whole, I find more to admire about seventies fashion than those of the sixties. The clothes available for every day (as opposed to disco wear) had neither the prim constraint of the early sixties nor the psychedelic extremes of the sixties but instead achieved a happy medium of relaxed, flattering, wearable style.
I think there are two factors that made my seventies pattern research slightly scarring. The first one is that the materials available in the seventies were generally ghastly — horrible stiff, scratchy, synthetic fibres in awful colours — and garments can only be as good as the materials from which they are made. The shapes of seventies clothing were generally good, and if I re-imagine seventies designs in modern fibres and colours they suddenly look very desirable indeed. It was the fabric used that made the leisure suit such a byword in tackiness, not the basic style of it. The second contributing factor is that the seventies were a bad time for crafting. Needlework is of course traditionally the province of women, and given there were many more women in the workforce in the seventies than there had been for decades, women simply had less time for such things. The crafting industry inexplicably responded by dumbing down crafting kits to make them more desirable, and again, the fibres and colours available in the seventies were wretched, so the result was not pretty. So while the clothing design of the seventies wasn't too bad (save and except for a few bad styles such as the hot pants above), the home décor and accessory patterns were often really freaking terrible. I saw patterns for matching toilet seat and toilet roll covers, for lampshades described as "Tiffany-style" that probably had Louis Comfort Tiffany rolling in his grave, for pointless and retina-burning mobiles, for driving gloves and steering wheel cover sets (why?!?), and for some truly frightening dolls and toys.
All that said, I did find a pretty good set of clothing patterns, and I hope you like them. Unfortunately although I do my best to include at least one menswear, one child's, and one home décor pattern in each post of this series, these seventies-era patterns are almost all women's patterns because I just couldn't find anything I liked for any of those categories. But look on the bright side... I have not included a link to the hot pants set pattern above. You're welcome.
When I began to work on this post, I thought I should try to find a poncho pattern for it, because they were so archetypically seventies. It didn't happen because I dislike ponchos and didn't find any that gave me any reason to change my mind on that point. However, seventies designers also seemed to favour knitted coats. This duffle jacket pattern originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in June of 1972 and is available as a free pattern. If I were making this jacket, I'd probably replace the toggle fastenings with something else, though smaller toggles would probably look current enough.
This halter top pattern originally appeared in Mon Tricot Fashion Edition's Spring/Summer 1973 issue. There actually isn't a pattern available for this piece, but who needs one when this pattern is simply two tube scarves knitted long enough to fit around the wearer and then sewn together? I adore the colours of the contemporary version of this design.
This open front jacket design originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in March of 1974, and is a free pattern.
I love all the clever detail in this turtleneck pullover, and think it would look pretty amazing done in a solid colour with a handpainted yarn as the contrast colour. This pattern appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly, in February 1977 and is a free pattern.
This hooded jacket appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in February 1977, and is a free pattern. To update it for modern wear, I'd raise the dropped shoulders, consider another kind of fastenings than the toggles, and ditch the blanket stitch, especially at the top of the sleeve, because it makes the coat look like something from the Bride of Frankenstein's trousseau. Instead I'd finish the garment with a picot edging, which could always be done in a contrast colour if desired.
One of the things that has really struck me as I have worked through this series of posts was that baby knits have consistently remained very traditional. Every decade produced remarkably similar-looking lacy baby blankets, and lacy, ribbon-trimmed bonnet, bootee and sweater sets, and they are still commonly available patterns today. I expected something different from the progressive seventies, yet they had embroidered bunting bags and ribbon-trimmed surplice baby sweaters as well. This baby jacket, which originally appeared in Needlework and Craft in Spring 1979, looks as though it could have been created at any time in the previous five or following three decades. This pattern is available for free.
This is the Rorschach Sweater, designed by Elizabeth Zimmerman. It appeared in Needlecraft for Today in November/December 1979 and is available as a $1 download. The pattern includes directions for knitting the sleeves cuffed or belled, and it's possible to go with one tab or none at all, and to omit the belt.
The sporty-looking stripe is so common in seventies fashions, probably because there was such a upswing of interest in physical fitness. This top rather looks as though it were made to go with striped-top sweat socks pulled nearly to the knees, but I think it would look much less so if the colours were updated. The pattern is available from the Vintage Knitting Lady for £2.00, or you can get a PDF for £1.50.
Quite like these little tie-top tanks. The pattern is available from the Vintage Knitting Lady for £2.00, or you can get a PDF for £1.50.
This style of hat is so very seventies and yet would still look right today. The pattern is available from the Vintage Knitting Lady for £2.00, or you can get a photocopy for £1.99 or a PDF for £1.50.
Tuesday, 30 July 2013
This post is the seventh on my series of posts on 20th century knitting patterns (you can find the other posts in the series here) and contains a selection of ten patterns dating from 1960 to 1969. It was surprisingly difficult to find patterns for this post. The first post in this series, for 1900-1909, took more time than any post I've written for this blog because there were so few Edwardian patterns available of any description, and so few were wearable by modern standards, but the posts have gotten easier and easier to find by the decade. I assumed the post for the sixties would be a snap, especially since Mad Men, a show about a New York advertising business in the 1960s, has renewed interest in sixties style. I had no problem at all finding material for my post on Mad Men knitting projects. But as it turned out, there just weren't that many sixties-era patterns available online. The web sites I've been depending on to find patterns for previous posts in this series all have collections that end with the fifties. I don't know why. Could it be that there were just fewer patterns available from then, as crafting went into a downturn during the sixties and the seventies? Or perhaps the patterns are just generally less appealing to knitters. I know I don't generally care for sixties fashions myself; I find the styles from the first half of the decade too staid and the fashions from the second half just plain ugly. However, I kept searching until I found ten patterns that I consider presentable and here they are.
The checked man's pullover above is the first pattern, which was published in Eva Breit magazine in January 1961. And the pattern is free. The one drawback is that the pattern is in Dutch and the odds are you don't read Dutch. However, I dared to include it because Google translate does what seemed to me on a quick read through to be an amazingly good job of translating the instructions, and I think a good knitter can manage to figure out what is not a terribly complicated pattern. Again, I had quite a hard time finding patterns for this post.
This simple sleeveless top is another Eva Breit magazine pattern from its January 1961, that again is in Dutch and must be translated.
I can't get over how not-knitted this Houndstooth Jacket looks. The aim of much early sixties knitting seems to have been to make knitted garments that didn't look knitted. There was a lot of fine gauge stockinette involved. This is another Eva Breit magazine Dutch-language pattern from January 1961.
This Nordic-Style Ski Sweater originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 1963 issue of Vogue Knitting, and can now be found in Vogue Knitting Vintage Collection: Classic Knits from the 1930s-1960s.
This Natural Beauty pattern may be my favourite in the entire post. It was originally published in The Australian Women's Weekly in October 1964, and is available for free.
I love the shape of this Mohair Bag, and the fact that it's mohair, but it might be a little too large in scale for a modern woman's taste. However, it should be easy to scale it down to whatever size you wish. This pattern originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in June 1965 and is available for free.
This Long Leggy Gear pattern for lace stockings appears to have been knitted in white, but I'd suggest that you knit them in another colour, such as anything but white. Grown women just can't get away with white stockings. This pattern originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in March 1966 and is available for free.
This Zipper Jacket and Cap is a Patons Australia pattern from 1968, and is a free pattern. I'd advise against making that hat, but the jacket is quite sharp and mod.
The At The Park design is quite cute, though it should probably lengthened for wear today and I see it in a variegated yarn and coordinating solid colour yoke rather than in black and white. This pattern originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in September 1968 and is available for free.
This knitted dress with lacy panels is a nice little number that would look quite timely today, though again you may want to lengthen it somewhat. This pattern originally appeared in The Australian Women's Weekly in May 1969 and is available for free.