Tasha has been running the Knit for Victory challenge for the past three months, and as we near the finish line (victorious, I hope!), today I have a special little treat for you, an interview with Tasha herself.
If you've ever wanted to knit vintage patterns but have been a little put off by those pesky vintage instructions, Tasha goes into some pretty amazing detail about knitting with vintage patterns and how to modify the instructions into the modern day equivalent. But enough waffling from me, over to Tasha -
How long have you been knitting for and what got you started?I’ve been knitting for 7 or 8 years now, I think. On a vacation about a year before I learned, I
taught myself to crochet from a booklet. During this time, my mom, who hadn’t knit since I was
little, was re-teaching herself to knit. In spite of my protests that I’d never be able to get the hang
of it, she was able to wear me down and teach me. It just goes to show you - don’t think you
can’t get the hang of it, too!
Tell us about how you came up with the Knit for Victory challenge?Back late last winter, while Rochelle from Lucky Lucille was running her 1940s-inspired Sew for Victory challenge, she and I began talking about a similar challenge but for knitting. So the idea started nearly 9 months before the knit-along began!
You knit mostly from vintage patterns - any tips for those of us thinking of tackling one of
these?Well that’s not entirely true - I do knit a good amount from modern patterns, too! But if it’s a
cardigan or pullover, I give it a vintage twist, if it doesn’t have one already. I love supporting
modern knitwear designers as much as I love knitting from original vintage patterns, too. It’s
something I’m passionate about.
That being said, I think if you consider yourself a confident beginner or intermediate knitter, dive
in with a vintage pattern! Vintage patterns tend to have less hand holding than many modern
patterns, but the glory of the Internet is that you can look up almost any term with which you’re
unfamiliar. I’d also highly recommend getting on Ravelry if you’re not already. It’s an amazingly helpful online community for knitters and crocheters. I’ve gotten lots of help on Ravelry over the years!
*Note from Jen - If you do join Ravelry, let's be friends! My page is here and Tasha's is here.
Many vintage patterns tell you to use a specific brand of wool or needle that may not exist
these days. Any tips for converting vintage instructions into the modern day equivalent?
I usually go by gauge and weight of yarn used to make my own determination on what needle
size I think I’ll need or yarn I may want to use. For example, I tend to knit loose, so by default I
know I’m probably going to use a smaller needle size than the pattern calls for. Of course, this
doesn’t work if the pattern is obviously a very open, lacy sweater knit with large gauge needles,
but it’s my modus operandi for most patterns.
With vintage patterns, needle sizes can be compared to a chart that shows current and old needle
sizes, such as this one. Note that it shows old US and UK sizes, but I’ve also found non-UK patterns using the UK sizes, for reference. (For example, I have Patons & Baldwin booklets from both Canada and Australia and they use the UK needle sizes.)
So here’s how I’d work something out: I’m looking at a pullover pattern from the 40s, calling
for Beehive Caressa yarn and No. 4 and No. 3 size needles. I can tell from the picture it uses a
pretty thick yarn (not a thin and dainty knit), so that gives me an idea already. Looking at the
chart linked above, in the far right column, I see No. 4 and 3 are equivalent to 6mm and 6.5mm,
or US 10 and 10 ½ sizes. Those are pretty big needles - perfect for a bulky weight yarn. And the
pattern tension/gauge is 3 ½ stitches per inch and 5 rows per inch, which also jives with bulky
weight. Of course you’d want to swatch and make sure you like the stitch definition and feel of
your knitted fabric, but with a few knitting detective tricks, you’re well on your way!
Vintage knitting patterns and some modern patterns have mistakes in them. Are there any
steps you use for eliminating these errors before you begin?Fortunately I’ve rarely encountered mistakes in vintage patterns though perhaps I’m just lucky.
Of course, there’s no foolproof way to know ahead of time if a pattern has mistakes. However,
as a general rule it’s a good idea to really get to know the pattern you’re knitting before you
start. I talk about this in my Fitting a 1940s Pullover series where I discussed in depth how I broke down a vintage pattern and changed the gauge and yarn weight. It involved really getting to know the pattern.
I’d suggest swatching the pattern stitch and reading through the pattern to get an idea of what’s
going on. Make some notes. I’m personally a big proponent of not relying on the pattern’s stated
measurements alone, so I always double-check measurements, on modern and vintage patterns
alike. For example, I’ll see what the number of stitches are at the full bust, and compare it with
what the pattern says the garment will measure at the bust (or what size the pattern says it’s for,
because it doesn’t always tell you the finished measurement, and you can only guess at the ease
unless it’s explicitly stated). Even 2” of difference can make a big difference on your body. You
may have to dig a bit in the pattern to find this information, but it’ll be well worth your effort to
make sure the finished garment will end up the size you think it will. I never leave this to chance.
Anyway, these are all things that will help you better understand a pattern and feel more
confident with knitting in general!
You've just released your very first knitting pattern, the Victory Beret. What was the
inspiration behind the pattern and how long did it take to write a pattern like this?The inspiration to design Victory was based on the Knit for Victory knit-along! As I said, the
knit-along was planned months before, so I decided I wanted to release a pattern concurrent with
it. I knew I wanted it to be fair isle, and I wanted fans of 1940s styles to like it, but I wanted it to
have a broader appeal, too. So Victory was born!
There’s so many phases to the design process so I can’t really say how long it took to write it,
although actually writing up the pattern was probably the shortest part of the entire process,
honestly! I definitely spent more time learning how to layout a pattern for self-publishing than
writing it, ha ha. I started work on the actual design in early September during a relaxing trip and
the pattern was released at the beginning of November.
You can purchase the pattern to download on Ravelry here.
What favourite knitting vintage knitting patterns would you point beginner knitters like
me to?I recommend starting small if you’re more of a beginner and would like to test the waters with
vintage patterns, especially because there’s likely to be less unfamiliar terms in a pattern for an
accessory than, say, a cardigan. The very first vintage pattern I knit up when I was pretty much
a beginner was a bow knot scarf. There’s a couple of modern versions, like this one, but I’ve seen it in vintage booklets, too, and the instructions are pretty much exactly the same - very cute and chic, and easy. I’m actually working on another one right now!
A great resource for vintage patterns online is the Vintage Pattern Files. Wendy has done an extraordinary job collecting links to free vintage patterns. Across the top you can search by decade, and down the right sidebar you can search by time. Accessories are a great place to start! And soon you’ll be clamouring to branch out into sweaters, and by that point vintage patterns will hopefully feel a little less daunting!
Any encouraging words for those of us who haven't quite finished our Knit for Victory
makes yet?I know I personally have had some challenges thrown at me during our 3 months of Knit for
Victory! I just finished up my little bolero (which I had almost finished but frogged it because
I wasn’t completely happy with it), and only have to weave in ends and block it. I expected to
complete a whole lot more than I was able to accomplish, but that’s okay! I’ve been having a
blast seeing all of the creative projects that participants have been working on.
As far as I’m concerned, everyone who has participated in Knit for Victory is a winner!
Thanks so much Tasha for answering all my questions! Having pretty much finished my first ever actual knitted thing (it's currently blocking, then I'll sew on the grosgrain ribbon and buttons and then it's DONE!!!), talking to Tasha via email and having the Knit for Victory deadline has been a huge help for encouraging me to get it finished.
I hope everyone has gotten the little boost they needed to finish their Knit for Victory make by the end of the week. I can't wait to see everyone's amazing creations.