There's a nice short article in this month's Yarn Forward…
I’ve been knitting from vintage patterns for a few years now, but I never stop learning. Case in point is this wonderful pattern for a Sports Jumper with fabric trim from a 1935 edition of The Needlewoman.
In theory it looks pretty straightforward – the bottom half is knitted from left to right in a horizontal ridge (knit row, purl row, purl row, knit row), the back and front yokes are knitted vertically with increases on the front yokes to fit around the, fake (as I thought) pockets. I always do an initial sketch based on the measurements, tension and instructions from the original pattern, and from that I re-size it if necessary and create a new sketch … I followed my usual procedure in this case, but just couldn’t get my head around the top front yokes: the instructions show that a 3″ stretch on one side of both pieces is knitted in stocking stitch and I couldn’t work out from the picture where that should fit.
Writing it out now, it seems so obvious but I spent ages agonising over it, and was on the verge of writing this off as a pattern mistake and over-ruling it, creating my own version. Then I remembered one of my own rules – never forget to THOROUGHLY comb the ‘make-up’ instructions. I’d made the fatal mistake of assuming I’d find out all I needed to know about the anatomy of this jumper just by looking at the picture which meant I just quickly gone over the most vital part of how to actually put it together. Are you one step ahead of me? Yes my friends, the pockets weren’t fake, the stocking stitch edges in the top yokes were the pocket backs.
I’m feeling pretty stupid now I’m writing this as it seems so obvious, but it stands as a valuable lesson to other vintage knitters … don’t get complacent and make assumptions about the designs you’re knitting from, vintage patterns constantly amaze me with their little details and surprises. Read the pattern once, then turn down the music/TV/dog and re-read it without any distractions, make sure you’ve got a complete understanding of how the garment is put together.
Here’s another tip for free: don’t try and work it out at 9 o’clock at night, half a bottle of wine down, with Queens of the Stone Age shouting at you in the background (I mean on the iPod, they weren’t actually in the kitchen arguing with me). I’m writing this in the morning with a bit of Tom Waits & Crystal Gayle playing quietly and a clear head, and it seems blatantly and embarrassingly obvious now (heh, sheepish sigh).