• Blog,  Tips and Tricks

    Resizing Vintage Knitting Patterns – Step 3: Gauge Swatch

    In case you haven’t read the first parts of this series, here are the links:

    Step 1: Analyzing the pattern
    Step 2: Your mesurements

    And now we come to the most unpopular part of this whole exercise: the gauge swatch. Sorry folks, there is no way around it, it is absolutely mandatory to knit a proper gauge swatch to get a well fitting sweater. Do NOT rely on the figures given by the yarn manufacturer or by figures from somebody else. You may knit with a totally different tension which will result in a totally different gauge and if you are working with other people’s figures you will not get a good fit.

    But the good thing is: you don’t have to worry about meeting the gauge indicated in the pattern. This is, where my resizing method is different from most others you may find. You will have to the maths anyway, so it doesn’t matter if you hit the pattern’s gauge or not. Therefore you have to possibility to chose your yarn and needles in a way that you are pleased with the resulting fabric.

    Recommendations for a proper gauge swatch

    1. Cast on a sufficient number of stitches for a swatch of at least 4″ width. For most people the first and last few stitches of a row are not as homogenous as the fabric in the center of the knitting piece, so you do not want to include these stitches when counting out your gauge.

    2. Knit a sufficient number of rows (see 1.)

    3. Start and end your swatch with a few garter rows and start and end your rows with 3 garter stitches for a neat edge.

    4. Work the swatch in the main stitch pattern of the garment you want to make.l

    4. When you finished knitting your swatch wash and block it in the same way as you would wash and block your sweater. Let it dry completely before counting out the stitches and rows.

    Stitch Pattern

    So let us have a look at the stitch pattern of the Victory Sweater. It is a very simple lace pattern with only 2 repeat rows and 9 repeat stitches – ideal for newbies to lace knitting.

    Pattern says:
    1st row: * K. 2 tog., k. 2, wl.fwd., k. 1, wl.fwd., k. 2, slip 1, k. 1, p.s.s.o., rep. from * to end of row.
    2nd row: Purl.

    In modern knitting terms the pattern is

    Row 1: (k2tog, k2, yo, k1,yo, k2, ssk) rep to end of row
    Row 2: p all sts

    If you are the visual type, you can also chart out the stitch pattern:

    Since we have a 9 stitch repeat here, we need to cast on a multiple of 9 sts + 6 sts for the garter edges. I suggest 45 + 6 = 51 sts for a generously sized swatch.

    Knitting the Swatch

    So, cast on 51 sts.

    Row 1 – 6: k all sts
    Row 7: k3, (k2tog, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2, ssk) 5 times, k3
    Row 8: p all sts
    repeat Rows 7 and 8 until your work measures at least 4.5″
    repeat Rows 1- 6 once
    bind off loosely

    Wash your swatch and block it gently – you do want the lace pattern to open up but you do not want to stretch the fabric too much. Let it dry completey (I recommend over night).

    Counting out the swatch

    Remove your swatch from the blocking board, but leave it lying on the board. Put 4 pins in at the edges of a 4″ x 4″ square and count the stitches and rows in betweeen. Note down the figures and divide them by 4 – these are your stitch and row gauge fo 1″.

    And that’s it for today. See, the dreaded gauge swatch wasn’t so hard after all, was it?

    In the next installment we will calculate the stitches and rows we need for our own sweater.

  • Blog,  Tips and Tricks

    Resizing Vintage Knitting Patterns – Step 2: Your measurements

    After our mathematical orgy yesterday we only have to take readings of a measuring tape today and make a few decisions, so this is not going to be quite as brain racking.

    But first let’s recap the information we gathered yesterday in a table for better overview. Don’t enter anything into the empty columns yet, we’ll get there together.

    Type of MeasurementIn PatternMy body measurementDesired easeMy sweater measurement
    A. Width at bottom edge of body14,4"
    B. Width at bust17,33"
    C. Length from bottom edge to armhole12,25"
    D. Armhole depth7,86"
    E. Width across upper body12,8"
    F. Shoulder width3,64 "
    G. Length of front from armhole to neckline4,75"
    H. Depth of neckline3,55"
    I. Width of sleeve at bottom edge9,6"
    J. Length of sleeve from bottom edge to armhole5,5"
    K. Width at upper arm11,7332"

    1. Ease

    Please note that the measurements we entered into the table are not body measurements but depict the finished garment. However, with the information given in the pattern text we can find out how much positive or negative ease the designer has intended for the sweater.

    Pattern says: To fit a 33-34 in. bust.

    Measurement B. is half of the bust circumference of the finished garment. This means that the finished garment will measure B x 2 = 17.33″ x 2 = 34.66″.

    So the sweater is intended to have a slightly positive ease of approx. 0.5″ to 1.5″.

    Please note that ease only applys to width measurements, NOT to length measurements.

    Now it is up to you to decide what you want.

    Do you want to go with the intended ease? Do you want it tighter or more loose? Whichever style you come up with, enter the value in the table. You can also chose a different ease for every measurement.  For my version I decided to go with a negative ease of 1″ at the bust, 1″ positive ease at the waist and zero ease for the sleeves. I would also not recommend any ease for the upper body width or the shoulder width, because this will either result in a sweater with drooping shoulders (positive ease) or will pull in the sleeves awkwardly at the upper body (negative ease). My personal table now looks like this:

    Type of MeasurementIn PatternMy body measurementDesired easeMy sweater measurement
    A. Width at bottom edge of body14,4"+1"
    B. Width at bust17,33"-1"
    C. Length from bottom edge to armhole12,25"not applicable
    D. Armhole depth7,86"not applicable
    E. Width across upper body12,8"0
    F. Shoulder width3,64 "0
    G. Length of front from armhole to neckline4,75"not applicable
    H. Depth of neckline3,55"not applicable
    I. Width of sleeve at bottom edge9,6"0
    J. Length of sleeve from bottom edge to armhole5,5"not applicable
    K. Width at upper arm11,7332"0

    2. Body Measurements

    Now let’s get out our tapes and measure ourselves. For taking measurements wear the foundation garments you would normally wear under a sweater.

    Please note that the body circumference measurements (not the sleeve!) have to be divided in half. Deduct or add you desired ease first. Example: My bust measurement is 45.3″. So the value for the last column is (45.3″ – 1″ ease) / 2 = 22.15″.

    For the length measurements you can also make your own decisions. Do you want the sweater to end directly at the waist? Do you want it to be a little bit longer? How long do you want your sleeves? Enter the numbers you come up with.

    Tip: if you have a sweater that fits you well you can skip the whole ease and lenght decision process. Simply measure the garment and enter the measured values in the last column of the table.

    Type of MeasurementIn PatternMy body measurementDesired easeMy sweater measurement
    (for body circumference values
    add or subtract
    ease and divide in half)
    A. Width at bottom edge of body (waist)14.4"39"+1"20"
    B. Width at bust17.33"45.3"-1"22.15"
    C. Length from bottom edge to armhole12.25"11.5"not applicable11.5"
    D. Armhole depth7.86"9.8"not applicable9.8"
    E. Width across upper body12.8"13.4"013.4"
    F. Shoulder width3.64 "4.5"04.5"
    G. Length of front from armhole to neckline4.75"5.9"not applicable5.9"
    H. Depth of neckline3.55"3.15"not applicable3.15"
    I. Width of sleeve at bottom edge9.6"10.25"010.25"
    J. Length of sleeve from bottom edge to armhole5.5"6.3"not applicable6.3"
    K. Width at upper arm11.7332"15.3"015.3"

    That’s it for today. The next step will be our gauge swatch.

  • Blog,  Tips and Tricks

    Resizing Vintage Knitting Patterns – Introduction

    Who doesn’t love the knitted sweaters of the 1930ies and 1940ies?  There are so many gorgeous original vintage patterns available on the web – for free or for small money – an endless source of possibilities. We want to knit them all, right? But … wait … what about the size?

    Most of the really stunning vintage patterns are written for smaller bust sizes. 30″, 32″, 34″ bust are the most common sizes, unless you content yourself with the so-called “matron” patterns wich are … well … matronly (makes gagging noise).

    So, if you’re a bigger girl like me and don’t want to be stuck with boring plain cardigans, you need to resize the smaller patterns and this is what many knitters fear and hate. In fact you have to put in some extra work and a little bit of math. But don’t panic, it’s not rocket science and it is well worth the effort because all those lovely patterns will finally be available to you.

    Side note: Some knitters resort to using thicker yarn and larger needles to avoid the maths. I advise against this approach. If there is only half an inch missing you can do that, but for considerable resizing, like going up from 34″ to 42″ it is not feasible unless you want to have a really chunky odd looking garment.

    So, how can you approach this magical mysterious resizing then? Let’s get to it in baby steps, ok? In this series I am going to explain every step in depth and you can do the re-sizing straight away using your individual measurements.

    We will do our resizing with the famous “Victory Sweater” pattern which is available for free here at the website of the Victoria & Albert Museum. Scroll down a little bit until you reach the pattern. Download it, print it and you are ready for Step 1 tomorrow.


  • Blog,  Tips and Tricks

    Ideas for Self Patterning Yarn – Part 1

    A few years ago, when the yarn companies came out with printed, aka as self patterning sock yarns they were all the rage. Like most knitters I was also fascinated. They are so colorful and fun to work with – seeing the pattern develop as your project grow, how could one resist them? Well, I couldn’t. Especially not, when I saw them in the yarn store and most especially not when they were on sale. So I accumulated quite a stash.

    But as with many things, once the novelty wore out, they lost a bit of thier attraction. Everybody was knitting all kinds of things with print yarns and I grew tired of seeing them, somehow. I still like them for socks, but I really, really, really do not need the amount of socks I could knit from all the print yarn I have on stash. But bigger projects like shawl or garments made from self patterning yarn look strange to me, so I was looking for a solution that would work for me and I decided to soften the effect by adding a solid color.

    So I made a few swatches and started a few projects which I am going to present you over the next few days. Lets start with the easiest version today:

    Alternating Garter Rows

    Shown from the front and from the back. I used one skein of self-patterning yarn and one skein of solid pastel pink. I can easily see this as a simple assymmetrical triangle shawl – maybe spruced up with fringes or tassels at the corners.

    Knitting this simple stashbusting shawl is easy:

    With C1: co 3 sts
    Row 1: kfb, k2 (4 sts)
    Row 2: k1 with both yarns held together, k3
    Row 3: With C2 kfb, k to end. (+ 1 st)
    Row 4: k1 with both yarns held together, k to end.
    Row 5: With C1 kfb, k to end (+ 1 st)
    Row 6: k1 with both yarns held together, k to end.

    Repeat Rows 3 to 6 until your shawl has the desired size.


    C1, C2: color 1, color 2
    co: cast on
    kfb: knit into front and back (1 stitch increased)
    k: knit

    In the next installment we will tackle the Moss Stich, but meanwhile you can start your stashbusting garter triangle.


    Ingrid ♥
    Live. Knit. Love.

  • Tips and Tricks

    A long long tail cast-on

    If you are anything like me, you have your favorite cast-on method. For me it is the long tail cast on (LTCO), since this is the one I learned from my mum. Unless otherwise specified in instructions I use the long tail method by default.

    Since I am knitting very tightly, I do my LTCO with both needles held togetherle. It is a stretchy cast on method per se, but I have some problems to insert the needle when knitting the first row if I do it with a single needle. I acutally learned the method over two needles first and it never occurred to me that you could use just one single needle as well until I started to read a lot about knitting on the internet some 15 years ago. I was also unaware that there are OTHER cast on methods – duh.

    In the meantime I know better, of course. Some time ago I purchased the excellent reference book “Cast on, Bind Off: 54 Step-by-step Methods” by Leslie Ann Bestor and have used many of the described methods, depending on the project.

    But still the LTCO is close to my heart  and I use it often, especially  for garments. The one problem that many knitters, including myself, have with this method is, how to estimate the length of the tail needed and many of you will have experienced at least once the desaster of casting on one hundred plus stitches only to find out that you do not have enough yarn for the last 10 stitches and have to start from the beginning. If you’ve been there, you know how it feels.

    You can avoid this if you use two strands of yarn for casting on. Either take the second one from a second skein or from the other end of your skein and you will never run out of yarn.  Granted, you have to weave in two more ends, but IMHO it’s totally worth it and saves you the frustration of having to rip out your work  before you even properly started.

    Another thing I do when casting on (or picking up) a large number of stitches: I’m a poor counter and always loose track of my stitch count. So I put stitch markers or loops of scrap yarn in regular intervals – say, every 10, 20 or even 50 stitches which makes counting SO much easier. Take out the markers when you knit the first row – it’s as easy as that.

    Happy knitting and love from