Thursday, January 23, 2014

Vintage Handknit and Classic Pattern Sweaters: The spotlight comes round again.

My love affair for vintage clothing started when I was in high school in the early 1970s. My grandmother was thinning out her closet and she let me pick what I wanted from the discards... I went off with an armload...sheer nylon blouses with rhinestone buttons, cropped orlon cardigans, pleated plaid skirts, her beautiful war time floral rayon dress and two fitted suits.  I loved my Grandmothers classic vintage style and wore everything until it was threadbare. Looking to expand my wardrobe I made my very first vintage purchase at a little shop called Shaky Jakes which specialized in cool "old" clothes (the term vintage was not coined until years later) I picked out a 1940s star patterned ski sweater which precipitated what became a life long obsession.

Over the years I have amassed a rather large collection of classic vintage wool sweaters. They are a staple of my cold weather wardrobe. Living in New England means long frosty winters and having a large stash of festive sweaters helps to brighten things up. Aside from their fetching designs, I love their fine quality. The wonderful worsted and mercerized wools of yesteryear that do not pill and have such a lovely sheen. After all these years I am still finding new additions for my closet because there are so many styles to choose from, many of them with long histories. From Norway there is the Setesdal Sweater with its intricate designs and hand embroidered collar and cuffs as well as the Selbu Star (like my first sweater). Iceland gave us the Lopi sweater with it's bold yoke pattern and from Sweden the more subtle Bohus Stickning patterns. These traditional styles are timeless and beautiful but I'm also fond of novelty sweaters, especially the Mary Maxim styles.

For decades, classic knit designs have made their way into the fashions of the day. Interest has ebbed and flowed but it never goes away. Over the past year popularity has risen again and both designers and retail customers are snapping them up. It will be interesting to see how they inspire the coming trends and collections.

 Lopi Sweater circa 1970s

 Hand knit mittens from the 1940s with the Selbu Star pattern

 Norwegian hand knit cardigan with pewter buttons

 Mary Maxim "football" cardigan, early 1960s

 Ad from a vintage knitting magazine for worsted wool

1950s ad for knitting pattern, novel interpretation of a Scandinavian classic