A few months ago, I came across an absolute treasure trove of mid-century knitting patterns in a Ballarat second hand store. After watching far too much Call The Midwife, I decided it was time to take up the challenge of a vintage pattern. I started small with the ‘Diana’ baby booties from the Patons Knitting Book #R18 – Specially Request Reprints. Come along on this vintage knitting adventure and see what I learnt.
Right yarn. It’ll be four ply right? Babies are always dressed in four ply….hm, 9.5 sts per inch….36 sts per 10 cm? That can’t be right…
The first challenge is finding the right yarn. Knitting booklets in this period were usually produced by yarn manufacturers, who wanted you to use their product, so they didn’t offer advice on substitutes. Additionally, well-known yarns, such as the Patons Beehive used here, were so commonly used that many people knew them. Fortunately by the time #R18 came out, publishers had seen the usefulness of publishing the tension required for the patterns – although it didn’t help me much.
Four ply will be about right, let’s get this started…Cast on 55 stitches….seems easy enough….w.r.n? Wool round needle? Must be like a yarn over….but wait, there’s w.o.n? Wool over needle? Surely that’s the same thing?
Having a fairly good ‘knitting vocabulary’, I powered into the pattern, only to realised that like many other parts of our speech and ways of life, knitting abbreviations and techniques have changed slightly. Fortunately, Vintage Purl’s excellent resource managed to set me on right. In the Diana booties, increases are work in a way that create large holes. I substituted them for lifting the ‘bar’ of the stitch below and working it from the front leaving a sight gap.
I’m finished! No wait, still need to do the sewing up…..urgh, all the sewing up.
Like many modern knitters, I’m not a fan of sewing up. I can do it and do it well, but why create extra work? At first I was a bit relieved – babies’ accessories in the round can be very fiddly. But once I’d done the seam up, it seemed a little bulky and I wonder how baby would feel having it rubbing against its foot. And, sewing up really does take quite a while in four ply.
Finally properly finished! Damn, those are cute.
The verdict? Would I continue with vintage patterns? Of course. They’re just too stylish to put away for ever and with a few alterations, th finished objects look amazing in modern yarns. In fact, the entire Diana Layette of matinee coat, frock, bonnet, mittens, booties, and shawl looks like a good challenge – finding a baby to wear it might be harder!