skirt

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As a knitter, I am aware of the painstaking amount of effort that goes into each knitted garment. In a process like sewing, you cut the needed pieces out of a plane of existing fabric and reshape them into a three-dimensional garment. It’s a negative process, excising elements and leaving remnants behind. Knitting on the other hand is a completely positive process, creating only that fabric needed for the garment at hand, loop by individual loop. Nothing is wasted as it’s being created exactly for the needs of the project, except perhaps your time as it takes FOREVER.

The sheer amount of time involved in knitting is one of the reasons I like it – I get a visual record of that time passing by. There’s an artist who only ever knits one enormous project, sitting in museums as an installation piece knitting ever more of it as it rolls out the museum and down the steps. Unfortunately the internet fails me in finding her name (damn you, Google!), but if anyone knows who it is drop a line.

This amount of life and time poured into a hand-knitted object, when combined with the fickle and ephemeral nature of fashion, seems the cruelest waste. I get angry flipping through Vogue Knitting, as page after page of ridiculous trend pieces sure to be passè by the time one finishes working them up flash by (not to mention their projects use rather expensive yarns, so not only are you spending a month or two working on something already dated, you pay $200 for the privilege).

As Jean Cocteau said, “Art produces ugly things which frequently become beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.” Well put, and part of the reason I so enjoy vintage knitting. These lovely objects have already passed the test of time, and are sure to… reward….. your…..uh, investment……. huh.

Well then. Fugly apparently spans the decades.

Click if you want to look like Big Bird at the Ren Faire.

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Here’s an adorable bit of girliness from Handicrafter Vol. 4, No. 1. Although I’m an absolute sucker for puff sleeves, this could have more versatility as an everyday garment if they were replaced with long basic sleeves to wear over garments, possibly lengthened a bit from the waist.

I’m all for sticking with the pattern as-written, since historical veracity is half the fun with these patterns for me, instructions from the past we can follow in the present, but I’m also into practicality. Not too many people out there are going to knit a full suit, partly for cost and partly because knit skirts aren’t the most forgiving garments.

Also, given the amount of ‘vintage knitting’ books out there where the patterns have been ‘updated’ and ‘reworked for modern tastes’, far be it from me to impose my present on the past. So here you go, the real deal untouched save for my typed suggestions!

Click through for the pattern.

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I enjoy perusing vintage patterns, but it became quickly apparent I’m fortunate enough to fit the tinier sizes of yesteryear with minimal, if any, alterations. Many people I’ve met with a similar interest in recreating vintage duds are often frustrated by the lack of larger sizes, giving them the choice of attempting to reshape a garment, potentially losing its vintage appeal, or doing the math and resizing, itself a time-consuming effort.

Ladies and gents in past years were generally shorter and trimmer overall, with bodies shaped by a variety of different undergarments to fit the popular forms of the time. Even during the free and easy ‘flapper’ era of the 20′s, garments were intended for the idealized ‘boy’ body- small chest, narrow hips, and slender overall. In my digging at the NYPL, I came across several volumes dedicated to larger sizes, sizes which translate to a modern size 8-14.

I must apologize in advance for the grainy photos and occasional thumb appearance- scans would have been far too costly for the volume of works I was rustling through, so I opted to take photos with my digital camera. This had its pros and cons, but at least all the text is legible. I hope. Also, does anyone know how to PDF this stuff? As much as I’m sure people enjoy clicking and waiting for a million photos to load, the ease of a PDF would be preferable.

In the words of Mo’Nique, skinny bitches to the back before we start this.

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