Retro Knits: Cool Vintage Patterns for Men, Women, and Children from the 1900s through the 1970s


Everything old is new again in this collection of fun, hip knitting patterns dating from the early 1900s through the 1970s. Within the pages of this book youll find everything from the pattern for those classic embroidered mittens your grandmother knitted to the alluring mohair sweater your mother stitched during her college days.

Retro Knits collects 50 vintage patterns for items as stylish today as they were in their time. Organized by decade, these patterns have been culled ...

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Everything old is new again in this collection of fun, hip knitting patterns dating from the early 1900s through the 1970s. Within the pages of this book youll find everything from the pattern for those classic embroidered mittens your grandmother knitted to the alluring mohair sweater your mother stitched during her college days.

Retro Knits collects 50 vintage patterns for items as stylish today as they were in their time. Organized by decade, these patterns have been culled from vintage pattern books published by yarn makers, and feature old photos, pattern book covers, and original instructions.

The patterns—for hats, mittens, socks, scarves, sweaters, vests, and shawls, all picked to exemplify the era of origin—also offer modern yarn and needle suggestions, new schematics, and updated sizing.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760329771
  • Publisher: Voyageur Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2008
  • Edition description: First
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 971,145
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Kari Cornell is a writer, and avid knitter. She is the editor of For the Love of Knitting: A Celebration of the Knitter’s Art and Knitting Yarns and Spinning Tales: A Knitter’s Stash of Wit and Wisdom, and KnitKnacks: Much Ado About Knitting. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Jean Lampe has been knitting since the age of five and designing her own patterns for more than 20 years. She has been editing patterns for knitting magazines and books since 1995.

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Table of Contents








Winsome Sweater Vest                                                                       

Roseate Sweater                                                                                 

Fairy Bonnet                                                                                        

Fairy Slipover Sweater                                                                     




Mildred Scarf                                                                                      

Lady’s Bow Sweater                                                                           

Men’s Checked Cardigan                                                                    

Winnifred Negligee                                                                              



Women’s Classic Cardigan                                                                              

Women’s Ruffle-Edge Cardigan                                                           

Ear Cosy Baby Hat                                                                             

Women’s Bathing Suit                                                                         



Baby Bonnet and Jacket                                                                      

Bunny Hugger Cardigan                                                                       

Men’s Vest                                                                                         

Seasider Cardigan                                                                               

Men’s Cardigan                                                                                   

Men’s Argyle Socks                                                                            

Men’s Two-Tone Cardigan                                                                 

Stocking Cap and Glove Set                                                                

Lady’s Ripple Stripe Gloves                                                                

Men’s Heavy Gloves                                                                           

Lady’s Pullover                                                                                   

Men’s Turtleneck Sweater                                                                   



Women’s Hooded Pullover                                                                  

Men’s and Women’s Cardigan                                                            

Embroidered Mittens                                                                           

Versatile Shoulderette                                                                          

Boy’s and Girl’s Cardigan

Men’s Pullover                                                                                    

Dolman Bolero                                                                                    



Women’s Shell                                                                                    

Girl’s Lucky Lady Cardigan                                                                 

Men’s Striped Sweater                                                                        

Boy’s Cowboy Pullover                                                                       

Men’s Cardigan with Solid or Striped Sleeves                                      

Men’s Jacket                                                                                       

Women’s Irish Panel Sweater                                                              

Women’s Mohair Sweater with Hood                                                  



Halter Top                                                                                           

Men’s Waistcoat                                                                                 

Kid’s Footsie Sweater                                                                         

Leg Warmers                                                                                      

Paris Look Sweaters à la Mode                                                           

Women’s Folk Cardigan                                                                      

Hooded Cape

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As long as I can remember, I've adored all things vintage. In high school, I idolized James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, poodle skirts, saddle shoes, and smart sweater sets. Rather than shell out cash for one of the poofy, cotton-candy prom dresses popular at the time, I rented a black gown made in the late 1940s from the community theater's costume shop. During my college years, I stocked my wardrobe with retro finds from local thrift shops. And when I got married in my mid twenties, I found a cream-colored, wool cloche hat at an antique store and had a Minneapolis-based designer make me a simple, pretty wedding gown reminiscent of the 1920s. By the time I started knitting in my early thirties, I was a fan of forties fashion.

It wasn't long before I discovered the hundreds of vintage patterns from the 1940s and beyond available on eBay. Needless to say, a knitter who is a fan of 1940s fashion is very lucky indeed; during the 1940s, a decade often referred to as the Golden Age of Knitting, knitting patterns flooded the market. My stars aligned in another way as well; as an editor at Voyageur Press, I happened to be collecting stories and artwork to fill our first knitting anthology, For the Love of Knitting. I spent many hours shopping for vintage patterns and corresponding with top-notch knitters and writers. The book was a labor of love, and the collection of patterns I gathered to use as artwork turned out to be a treasure trove. Once For the Love of Knitting was released, readers began to ask where they could find the instructions for the pattern book covers that appeared in the book. And so the idea for Retro Knits was born.

With the plethora of magazines, patternbooks, web patterns available to knitters and crocheters today, why the need to dig back into the past? What is it about retro designs that continue to entice knitters?

Knitting from vintage patterns not only evokes fond memories of garments mother, grandmother, or a favorite aunt made for us; it also provides an escape to a time when life seemed less complicated. And retro styles have become classic style.

The women's traditional sweater set, made popular in the 1940s, will always be a wardrobe staple, as will the basic men's V-neck sweater of the 1940s. The fit may be snug or roomy, depending on what is in fashion at any given time, but the sweater design remains essentially the same.

As Jean and I were gathering patterns to include in this collection, we were struck by how similar designs from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s are to patterns found in magazines and books published recently. The vintage pattern for the Versatile Shoulderette from the 1950s has made a comeback as today's basic shrug. Our retro version is made in a wonderful fingering-weight yarn that gently drapes over the shoulders. In the 1960s, specialty yarns such as mohair and angora were big, especially for knitting shells and other women's sweater styles. Turtleneck and rollneck shells have reappeared on the modern fashion scene, as have sweaters made in mohair or angora blends. And designs very much like the Hooded Cape and Leg Warmers from our 1970s collection are common in today's fall clothing catalogs. Everything old is indeed new again.

Before You Begin

Our plan in creating this book was to print a large collection of cool vintage patterns as they were first published, with very few changes. We would include updated yarn and needle suggestions, of course, but otherwise we wanted to retain as much of the wording as possible, and publish the fun photos that accompanied the original patterns. For the most part, we've done just that. But along the way, we made a few discoveries that prompted us to adapt the patterns to make them more useful to the modern knitter. We've added abbreviation explanations, schematics, a glossary of terms used, and, where possible, extra sizes, offering at least three for most projects.


The sizes referenced in vintage patterns are quite different from the sizes we are accustomed to today. For example, a women's size 12 of earlier decades would actually fit a size 4 or 6 in current sizes. In the 1940s, a women's size 20 fit a 40" bust circumference. In a recent Lands' End catalog, a size 20 is listed to fit a 45 1/2" bust circumference. Using that same bust measurement, we checked the Women's Size Charts listed by the Craft Yarn Council of America (CYCA) Standards and Guidelines for Crochet and Knitting, only to discover that a 40" bust size was determined to be size 1x. It appears that marketing has played to our vanity over the years, because as the population grew larger and heavier, manufacturers gradually began using smaller numbers to designate sizes.

To make the patterns in this book easier to use, project instructions have been revised to fit today's sizes, and additional sizes have been included where possible. The original instructions for many projects were offered only in one size . . . and not the all-encompassing one size fits many, either. If knitters didn't fit the size 32" or 34" bust offered, they surely had to know how to adjust the knitting instructions, or find something else to knit. The vintage instructions we found, especially those dating from the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s, included very few tips on how to adapt the instructions to make larger sizes.

Yarn and Needle Information

Many patterns from the 1910s, 1920s, and into the 1930s simply listed the yarn brand with no mention of yardage, fiber content, weight, wraps per inch, or other helpful information. Needle sizes listed in these early patterns were just as vague, with US sizes, old English sizes, or, in later decades, revised English sizes being used interchangeably. It wasn't uncommon to find a combination of both systems listed within a single project. So, to solve the mystery of what yarn weight and needle size to suggest for each project, we turned to the gauge, when it was provided. Some projects, believe it or not, didn't include a gauge.

Making every effort to stay true to each designer's original concept of drape and fluidity, we knit swatch after swatch using a variety of yarns until we found current yarns that provided a similar hand to those displayed in the original pattern photographs. Yarns made from natural fibers always closely matched those projects from earlier decades.

Since the actual yarns and brand names used to make the swatches would not necessarily be available by the time this book went to print, we used Craft Yarn Council of America's Standard Yarn Weight System instead. This helpful chart is available for download at Copies of the CYCA yarn weight table and symbols are also included here, and CYCA yarn weight designations are listed in each set of instructions. We've also included current US and metric sizes for knitting needles and crochet hooks for each project. As with all knitting and crochet projects, use the specified gauge as your guideline, and be prepared to change needle sizes as necessary to obtain it.

Charts, Symbols, and Schematics

Patterns published in the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s rarely included charts, symbols, or schematics. Patterns from the 1930s or 1940s included instructions for only a single size, but it would provide body measurements and gauge information. It wasn't until the 1950s that basic charts were printed along with some patterns. Although schematics remained rare in patterns of this decade, hints and abbreviation explanations began to appear in a few knitting publications and multiple sizes were offered with almost every project. By this time, a wider variety of yarns, both natural and synthetic or treated fibers, were available. Although yardage and content information still wasn't included in detail, the terms worsted-, fingering-, and feather-weight were in general use. The word worsted was used in earlier decades, as in knitting worsted, but that generally referred to how the fibers were prepared and spun, not to yarn weight. From the 1950s onward, the word commonly applied to yarn weight as we know it today.

Most of the charts, symbols, and schematics that accompany the patterns in this book were added at the editing stage to bring the patterns up-to-date and make them easier to use.
We hope you enjoy this hand-picked selection of vintage patterns and wish you many years of successful retro knitting to come!
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