Patience. Fortitude. Sheer Willpower. Behold a full ballgown, teal no less, knit eight and a half stitches to the inch. Requiring each individual panel to be neatly made and sewn together. With lace work. In a combination of straight and circular stitching. Poorly photographed from the NYPL and cobbled together in Photoshop with blurry lettering and bad lighting intact. It makes losing 5 lbs. or taking dancing classes seem like a breeze.
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I thought this pattern was one of the first I’d posted- excellent lace pattern, scooped yoke neck, puffy sleeves, what’s not to love? Color me surprised to find it languishing on my external hard drive. Well, better late than never; enjoy!
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.
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:
…and I only searched ‘knitting’ and came up with these wonderful patterns amongst many, many others (click for the pattern):
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.
Ah, the deep end of summer. A time for everyone to flee their rotting stenchhole of a city and enjoy the majesty of nature. Why not take a trip upstate to camp out under the stars? Don’t forget your pudgy-pie maker for some good eating over the campfire! Jane here knows what I’m talking about; she’s smartly dressed for a day…and chilly night! out of the tent.
With high wool pants and a lovely sports sweater, Jane will have a wonderful time peeking through her binoculars. What are you looking at there, Jane?
He’s a cute lil’ guy!
Ohh, better watch out there!
Ahh, actually that’s quite creepy…
Anyway, you too can enjoy the…sublime…sights of nature in style!