Knitting · Vintage

Reimagining vintage knits

I mentioned last week that I wanted to write about the knitting patterns included in the April 1968 issue of Woman’s Weekly I had received and I’ve decided to start with the most striking of them.

The thing that hits you first about this hand-knitted suit is the colour, and I don’t think I’ll be alone in finding daffodil yellow quite a bold choice. Let’s set that aside for a moment, though, because I want you to think about one important question which is: when you look at this photo, do you think the knitting pattern is dated? And why?

A while ago, the marvellous Melissa from the Knitting The Stash podcast suggested that vintage knitting patterns often seem dated not so much because of the patterns themselves, but because of how they are presented. Locations, accessories, hairstyles, make-up, even the way a model poses lock things into a recognisable timeframe and it is very hard to see past that and focus on an actual garment.

So let’s try to deconstruct this vintage shot and see what we’re left with. From a modern viewpoint the suit seems too formal for the woodland background and the ‘holiday feeling’ in the title. I struggle to see myself wearing this outfit for a stroll in a wood. I could, however, imagine wearing a chic but comfy suit on a short break touring the art galleries of Florence. Of course the hair and makeup are very much of their time and that blocky, bold, sans serif font which would say ‘modern’ in 1968 now needs replacing with something softer. I am also on the fence about the buttons, unsure whether they add to or detract from the outfit.

Looking past all that staging, we are now just left with the suit itself and the question “Is this fancy rib suit strictly 1968 in concept?”

The ‘new and easy cardigan jacket’ with its classic structure and the skirt, neither too tight nor too full, give this suit a very Chanel vibe which is emphasised by the waffle effect of the rib stitch. You could knit this suit in black or navy-blue, perhaps with white trims and metal buttons (I dare you to head over to The Textile Garden and not find at least half a dozen perfect ones) and it would be very classy, although that doesn’t mean it would be any less dated. A classic Chanel-style suit always has a slightly vintage look to it and let’s face it, how many of us actually have a lifestyle where such a suit has a place?

Well now I’m going to zone in even more and just look at the cardigan, because to my eye that is where the potential really lies. A classic, waffle-stitch, Chanel-style cardigan would smarten up a skirt or a pair of trousers and would fit perfectly in a lot of modern wardrobes. The daffodil yellow could be swapped out for camel or grey for an easy neutral tone, but for a summer cardigan I am drawn to the dusty pastels I’ve illustrated. The pattern is designed for DK weight yarn so this would be a relatively quick and easy knit, with the fancy rib stitch providing the right amount of interest to keep things feeling fresh.

All of which begs the question, am I going to knit a dusty pastel version of this cardigan? No, I’m not. Not this year, anyway. Don’t be surprised, though, if it makes an appearance in my autumn knitting plans in an altogether richer shade of wool.




4 thoughts on “Reimagining vintage knits

  1. I love the cardigan, perfect length, perfect shape, V neck so you can wear something underneath that enhances your look. I don’t necessarily go for the yellow, but imagine it with something navy underneath and it’s a lovely bright feel on a miserable winter day. I think the dated look is the skirt, but on the other hand I’ve never liked a knitted skirt so maybe it’s not dated, but more not my thing.

    1. Perhaps the best thing the pattern does is add the classic Chanel suit to the long list of things we can look at and then say “Oh, you could knit that…” I do agree that the cardi is ideal and you’re right, in the yellow it would definitely be a pop of colour.

  2. I loved this post. I really enjoyed the way you deconstructed the photo and pattern. I love wearing my Chanel suits when I am traipsing through the wood.

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