Firstly thank you everyone who provided me with excellent advice in response to my million beginner questions last weekend. I am ready to plan my second knitting project and it has been hard to know where to start. But thanks to you, my dear readers and friends, (and not thanks to the professional yarn sellers in John Lewis), I have really become much clearer about where to go next.
The world is full of knitting patterns, some dating back decades. There are millions of free ones. Even the ones you buy are not too expensive. I am sure that lots of patterns are downloaded or bought and never made up. I always find tons of them in charity shops with their really funny models – the camp-looking blokes, the women – stiff in blue acrylic, and the frilly babies. It is so hard to know what to alight on – the choices we face are almost overwhelming. Which is why many people just make a scarf – it’s probably the best and easiest way to showcase a nice yarn you come across.
I suppose the best thing is to start with an idea of the kind of garment you might like to wear, or the materials you have, or might like to buy. So for me that would be a jumper or tank top, in a nice colour, in a soft, comfortable yarn. And a style that works with my wardrobe – and probably I should be thinking more about my casual wardrobe than my workwear. This year I am hoping to include a jumper in my Casual Sewing with a Plan outfits.
To get started I rebought a book I used to own about 25 years ago, when I was doing a little bit of knitting for the children. It is Christina Proberts Knitting in Vogue, which has patterns from the 1930s to the 1980s for men, women and children, published in 1985. I found lots of oldish knitting books second hand on Amazon, and most were on sale for around £2. Two or three were only 1p, so apart from the £2.80 postage almost free. I assume, maybe wrongly, that these are likely to be tested and accurate. When I Instagrammed my Purl Alpaca Lorelle sleeve the designer got in touch to say there was a mistake in the instructions – gosh – that was lucky. I can’t afford to make an error.
It is a fine book and has marvellous photographs by Mario Testino, as well as the original photographs of the garments in their first incarnation. I really love this book. It has about 55 patterns – and most of them are the sort of thing I would like to own. Really nice classic knits. I was into vintage in the 1980s and I really wanted to knit old patterns, or modern ones inspired by the past and this book rang my bell. I trust Vogue – the editor has selected attractive vintage knitted garments – carefully chosen to capture the essence of the era, but also to produce wearable, modern classics. Here is the pattern I knitted in the 1980s for Esme, in similarly bright cotton yarn. I made it as a tank top as I didn’t want buttons and buttonholes. Sadly I have lost the tank top but it was made in cotton and it was lovely. Although it didn’t stretch much, so this is why I doubted the advice given to me by the Rowan saleswoman and reinforced by others
Here are three that really appealed to me then. And they still do now. The first, grey T shirt, is for a girl but I would love a jumper like this. I wondered if I could make it just a little bigger – it goes up to 32″ chest – would that work with a 32″ bust? It is great in a solid colour, but could it take a bit of patterning across the chest say? And on the topic of square necks I love the cashmere twin set, although I think I would struggle to make something like that. It needs such neat knitting and with an expensive luxury yarn it needs an experienced hand. The other fun item is the glorious ski jumper. I love the charcoal and bright pink colour scheme which is only two colours, but maybe I could add more? The T shirt and ski sweater are badged as being doable by “adventurous beginners”. Yay! That’s me.
Don’t you love those Testino photographs – he has all his models give a side face, hands forward pose. I love the little girl with her bobbed hair and pearls and wonder what she looks like today.
As ever I am not sure what yarn one would use for these projects. Specific brands are suggested rather than a type of yarn. I am guessing that the needle size (and photograph) give a clue to what weight to use. The little girl is in 4ply. Should I assume the same is true for the Cashmere twin set with its 3 1/4mm needles, or is that DK? And the ski sweater uses 5 1/2mm needles – so is that DK or a chunkier yarn?