Saturday, August 28, 2010

What is Vintage?

As most knitters do, I have a stash. For non-knitters, a stash is yarn you HAD to have NOW to knit something, RIGHT-THIS-MOMENT. As soon as you get it home, you admire it, look at it a while, pet it, put it in the yarn basket in the living room, then move it to the box in the craft room to make room for the new yarn you HAD to have RIGHT NOW, then it gets moved to the tub under the stairs in the basement to make room in the craft room and remains there until you have no more room for anything else and have to sort through all the storage tubs so you don't end up on a program like Hoarders.

As part of my 2010 resolution, I am knitting from my stash, one project from older yarn, one from newer yarn and not buying anything new until 10 projects are complete. So far so good. I have yarn that goes back to my yarn shop years in the 1980's. Yes that makes it 30 year old yarn. Yikes. Most of it is very high quality wool yarn that I still love and I have lost very little of it over the years to anything like m**hs or any other disasters.
I took out 500 yards of a pinky-purple Phildar yarn called Alpalima, an Alpaca blend that I have 7 skeins of, to make the Flower Basket Shawl. I don't remember what I originally bought this for but it must have been a colorwork sweater of some kind because I have 4 skeins of green, two of the purple and one cream. As I knit, the yarn was pulling apart. I re-wound it to check through the skeins to see if I could spot the weak parts but to the eye it looked okay. As I continued to knit, however, there were too many breaks and actual spots that were worn through one or two ply, to make it a worthwhile knit. It breaks my heart to say it, but this got thrown away. I am going to see if the green and cream have weakened in the same way and they too may met the same fate.
So as a cautionary tale, don't let your stash linger for 30 years. That "vintage" yarn may no longer be a viable knitting source.

I was doing a Google search for vintage images when I spotted a picture that took me to the blog Unraveling Sophia. She has a great blog and posts vintage patterns and books along with her own patterns. This particular vintage book rang a huge bell with me because it was the book I learned to knit from. I contacted Sophia for more information about the book (publisher, author) so I could look for a copy for myself. She very kindly gave me the info and also a website to order it from and this week I received it in the mail. Here it is in amazing condition, considering its age!

Christmas morning of 1951, when I was 7 years old, I opened a package that contained a knitting kit. Included in the kit was this book with a Christmas story, knitting instructions and patterns for doll outfits, yarn in red, white and blue to make the outfits and a knitting nancy shaped like the penguin in the story.

As I paged through the book and reread the story (which I vaguely remember and which has one scary-looking Santa), this page jumped out at me! I must have spent a lot of time looking at these instructions because it was like a trip in the way-back machine!
The first page is a letter to Mothers advising them that "Knitting cannot be learned through the medium of books as are the alphabet, grammar and history. Little girls cannot learn to knit by themselves unless mothers have the time and patience actually to show them how to do it."
My mother must have had an enormous amount of patience. I remember chasing her down to show me the stitches, just one more time. And I actually completed these two outfits, I am sure with a lot of help from mother.
What really amazes me is that the gauge is 7 stitches to the inch using size 3 or 4 needles. That makes it a fingering weight or light sport! I have been teaching my grandchildren to knit and use a worsted weight and size 7 or 8 needles. Some difference!
So a question is: Is it vintage if you remember using an item or does that make you vintage, too?
Thanks Sophia for enabling me to get my hands on a book that has so many good memories and thanks mom for giving me the gift of knitting that has sustained me all these years!

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