Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Everything Old is New Again

Sometimes, when styles come back into fashion, it can be really hard to figure out what's old and what's new. I must be watching too much Mad Men because I found myself getting yet another book of retro patterns.

This one is the new Ohio Knitting Mills Knitting Book. The introduction provides some history on Stone Knitting Mills, founded in 1927 and later renamed Ohio Knitting Mills. We learn a bit about how the mill survived the depression, how it responded to changing needs during the World Wars and subsequent fashion changes, and how it ultimately succumbed to lower-priced foreign competition. The story is interesting but a bit too PR-glossy (for example, the text states that "the company earned a reputation for treating its employees well," yet the timeline shows that a strike was necessary, after which the workers' salaries increased by a factor of 3--I'm sure that was not pretty). Anyway, after the mill closed, Steven Tartar, the author, stumbled upon it and fell in love with it. He bought out the name and designs, along with all the vintage knit samples, and is on a quest to restart production of the designs. That begins with the home knitter.

I am guilty of judging books by their covers, and this dress grabbed me.

Will I ever knit a dress? Probably not. But I would certainly wear this one, and I can always pick up inspiration from patterns even if I don't make them up. These are updated versions of designs made by the mill during the 1940's-70's. The patterns are grouped by decade, and each section begins with a brief synopsis of the fashion direction at the time and what was going on at the mill. Each pattern is also prefaced with its own little history. The modern design is modeled, and there's an inset picture showing the original sample or sketch.

I can see Betty Draper in this one.

In all, there are 26 patterns, including 6 for men. Most of them are for pullovers or cardigans. For women, the sizes range from 30"-46", with patterns typically giving 6 sizes. For men, the sizes go from 34" to 46", with about 4 sizes. In addition, there are patterns for a scarf, hat, vest, bag, bolero, and poncho (guess which decade?). There's something for all skill levels, ranging from simple patterns to others that include techniques such as cables, colorwork, embroidery, and steeks. The book provides a picture tutorial on transferring an embroidery pattern onto the bolero and for lining the bag. Patterns call for yarns from a variety of companies: Lion Brand, Patons, Cascade, Classic Elite, Tahki, Filatura di Crosa, Mano, and Noro.

I'll share with you the 2 I'm most likely to make.

I can't see myself knitting a whole plain vanilla sweater, but I can definitely see myself embroidering this design on a store-bought sweater. I really like it.

Now this one, I would really enjoy knitting.

The blended colors look like a lot of fun, and I'm already scheming yarn options and color palettes.


  1. i saw this book in the bookstore and loved it! The white sweater with the embroidered stars is one of my favorites, too.

  2. Love the retroness of that dress on the cover.

  3. nice book choice...and i totally judge a book by it's cover too! lol!

  4. I hadn't even heard of this book - thanks for posting it!