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Sweet joy! Skimming a website of offbeat Simpsons collectibles several years ago, I noticed at the very bottom a Patons knitting booklet. Knitting? SIMPSONS? It must be mine. The book was only published in Australia and the UK, which explained why after many a fruitless Amazon and Ebay search it didn’t turn up. To Ebay International! AND FINALLY, VICTORY!

I believe I now comprehend (though don’t fully understand) the need of grown men and women to buy bits of their childhood back. For me, this purchase does not fill that need; I never had this object when I was an impressionable youth, nor did ‘The Simpsons’ occupy the amount of brainspace then they do today. What appeals to me about owning this book is that I now have an honest chunk of a particular time and mentality.

Here we have an item clearly intended to capitalize on the frenzied Simpsons-mania of the early 90s. As opposed to the current glut of merchandise coasting on fumes of past glory, early Simpsons goods rode high on the goodwill created by the show’s genuinely groundbreaking early seasons. That doesn’t negate the mindless consumerism it inspired (and ‘The Simpsons’ itself made fun of the show’s omnipresent merchandising quite often), but these objects were created in response to consumer demand. Another indicator of genuine affection for the show and desire for what it represented were the hundreds of bootleg variants of ‘The Simpsons’ tailored to individual groups. The physical objects met a psychological need, and when they didn’t, people created their own physical objects.

Even taken as a quick cash-in on a fad, this book was still created with the crafter in mind. A crafter, someone who would create these objects for others, kids, teens. It seems less crass to take advantage of a crafter’s generosity towards others than it does to put out a sub-par product and churn endless variations of it, like the current round of Simpsons action figures. I can’t do much with an action figure but plop it somewhere; these patterns I can make into physical objects for me and others to enjoy. The crafter becomes a part of the creation of the object and is involved with its dispersal.

On top of that, even for a cash-in these are well-designed patterns. Chunky enough for quick turn out, yet without losing the cartoonish details that make the characters enjoyable, these patterns show thoughtfulness in translation. They’re the work of Gary Kennedy, who specialized in creating intarsia patterns of popular characters. After a hiatus, he’s recently started up again and from the looks of it is going strong.

Tempted as I am to immediately make ‘Cool Bart’, I feel honor-bound to first pay tribute to the Simpsons’ overlooked middle child Lisa. The periwinkle blue brings back painful reminders of mom jeans, faux turtlenecks and entire houses done up in Laura Ashley patterns, so I’ll probably go with one of the three variants below:

“It looks so much better…a beautiful sky blue.”

Now I just need to figure out the perfect Lisa quote for the back.

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Of the last few crops of Youth it’s been lamented their plundering of the increasingly immediate past for inspiration paints a grim future where we simply run out of ideas. The 80s took from the 50s. The 90s looked to the 70s. The 00s referenced the 80s. And now in the Teens, kids born after 9/11 wear Nevermind shirts and ‘The Mind’s Eye’ is cutting edge design. Remember ‘The Mind’s Eye’? You might have seen it playing behind Rihanna’s SNL performance recently:

(kidding, but man, this and MYST – is your bran reeling with dissonance remembering this as ULTRA CUTTING EDGE! and seeing it now? If so, congratulations- you’re over 30.)

There is a corresponding positive view that once the snake finally eats itself into nothingness, once we completely mine our immediate past, we’ll be left with nothing but the present and from there, off to a bright and shiny future. Well, perhaps not so bright and shiny; if Disney’s current ‘House of Tomorrow’ teaches anything, it’s that past optimism about the amazing potential of the future has been replaced by a desperate vision of ‘the present plus unasked-for electronics’. From plastic houses on Mars to talking picture frames and presetting music to blast on whenever you enter a room.

The current crop seems to take only optimism from the early 90s, which seems strange only in hindsight. Grunge may have just hit the public consciousness, but the music was the product of late 80s job stagnation and political frustration brewing in a scene for years, then finally breaking through. Bright colors, goofiness, naïvete – the early 90s saw the beginning of the dotcom boom and innovation in every artistic field, especially television and music. What better icon to epitomize the era than Bart Simpson,a mix of irreverence, bravado and hidden insecurity?

Current young designers like ALL Knitwear and Dusen Dusen fully embrace this eye-bright style- late 80s garish excessiveness transmuted by genuine energy and talent into something at once more playful and subversive. Think ‘Pee-Wee’s Playhouse’, ‘The Simpsons’, ‘Sam and Max’, and ‘ToeJam & Earl’.

I’ve written about ‘Toejam & Earl’ before, and realize it’s a bit out of its league in terms of changing the visual landscape for future generations like the other examples, but still- here is a game with little violence, lots of goofiness, and very low stakes. Perhaps a generation’s desire to return to the false idyll of childhood, where stakes felt lower, motivates the current interest in these visuals.

And so, once again taking the extremely scenic route, here sampled are some of those bright and happy images calling up the hopeful future the original generation is currently living (in all its mixed results), and the younger generation still reaching for.

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Remember several months ago, when I posted about this sniveling thief bythelightofthemoon (toknittowoo on Etsy), who stole patterns from me, Bex and a number of other free pattern sites to sell on Ebay? Remember how I put up the stupid watermark so this wouldn’t happen again? Well, it turns out just because you have no morality doesn’t mean you can’t figure out Photoshop. Behold, a pattern put up AFTER the watermarking:


Here’s the link to the original FREE pattern, which I will again clarify is for personal use only, NOT FOR RIPPING OFF AND BADLY PHOTOSHOPPING INTO A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT BACKGROUND. Also, for the briefest lesson in pattern copyright – the pattern is not just for the image, IT IS FOR THE PATTERN INSTRUCTION, so guess what sister, you’re still stealing even if you did make some collages. And you also just blatantly stole a bunch of my patterns and stuck your stupid name over the top.

What’s even worse, this louse has set up her own website full of stolen patterns, presumably as a hedge against the inevitable shutdown of her completely stolen Ebay store. If you’d like to contact her through her new shop, as the email she lists for the ebay store,, doesn’t seem to work (or perhaps she’s just blocked my email, possibly the only intelligent thing she’s done), please feel free to click here and write away.

I am absolutely crushed by this. This is the second time, after personally contacting them to stop no less, patterns have been stolen from my site. Until I can figure out a better way to share these images with good honest folk without getting burned again, I won’t be posting any more free patterns. Sorry guys. If anyone out there slightly better at watermarking or protecting images has any suggestions, please do let me know.

Also, be sure to tell as many people as you can, internet or in person, that thanks to the generosity of a large group of vintage pattern lovers, so many wonderful patterns are available absolutely free on a variety of sites. In fact, there are several sites out there that exist just to aggregate free patterns. Some have ads and probably derive revenue from clicks, but they at least link people back to the original and don’t try and sell them hogwash. It just boils my potatoes to think not only is someone making a profit off of stolen goods, but someone on the other end of the transaction is getting bilked out of their hard-earned money. Or if they’re a kept man or woman, someone else’s hard-earned money. And this person has already had over 14,000 sales. Times the ridiculous $5.00 for a PDF, that’s quite the stolen income, and until I can figure out a better way, I’m not helping them make another dime.

Again, that thief’s name is:

Mariella Shearer
24A Silver Street
GL11 4ND

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I began Free Pattern Friday as a way to share all the vintage patterns I love with everyone else who might not have access to them. Quite often originals can be hard to find, especially pre-1940s (with some exceptions, including Iva Rose Reproductions). I also believe strongly that sharing information and getting others interested in it is what keeps it alive. Without a person actively digging into a subject deeply with glee, many facts, skills, arts, and works are lost to time. So imagine my joy at finding the National Library of Australia had scanned numerous newspapers and periodicals from the 1800s-1940s, and even greater joy at realizing their interface allowed for easy searching, public tagging, and public text correction.

A number of these publications contained ‘Women’s Supplements’, separate sections of the paper filled with all sorts of patterns and gossip on the latest stars and scandals, presumably because looking at national news might hurt womens’ heads. Still, there is a treasure to be dug out of these pages! Ravelry person shabbyknits found these beauties:

Knitted in Eyelet Fashion

New Pouched Jumper

…and I only searched ‘knitting’ and came up with these wonderful patterns amongst many, many others (click for the pattern):

Knit This In One Piece

For Your Holidays

Ski-ing Days: Where Hearts Are Trump

Ideal For The Summer Cruise

They’re out there! I didn’t even look for crocheted stuff! Oh, did I mention they have a one-click option to save as a PDF or image file? Your choice, at whatever zoom level you want (admittedly it gets a bit fiddly, breaking up into strange pieces sometimes, but thems the breaks). I ask that anyone reading this who has an interest in vintage patterns hops over there ASAP and starts searching, tagging, and correcting where possible, and if you’re on Ravelry, add them to the database! Even if you just add a link and the title, one of the obsessives (such as myself) will come along and add the rest of the information, and so another pattern will be shared with the world.

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Below are two leaflets extracted from the piles of patterns I recently purchased. It’s times like this I wish I’d sharpened my Photoshop skills for more than putting my sisters’ heads on female bodybuilders: ‘Hand Knitting by Lincoln’ dearly needs cleaning up. It’s not the patterns so much as the expressions on the womens’ faces that endears me to this booklet, particularly the lady on the cover’s direct, confident look.

It’s amazing to realize these patterns are all over 60 years old. Cursory attempts were made to determine whether they were still under copyright before saying ‘nuts to this’ and posting. If I can’t find them online or in an easily accessible format, I’d rather risk someone telling me to take them down than to let these images crumble to dust without sharing them.

The full patterns are beneath the cut.

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