deciphering vintage patterns

Hi knitters,

I’ve now posted the pattern for the vintage service pullover, from the same WW2-era pamphlet as the service cardigan. The pullover can be made with short or long sleeves. Make a twinset!

Lately I’ve been in that delicious mode of deciding what to knit. Don’t you love that feeling, when you’ve completed a big project, and the time has come to decide on a new something, maybe even for yourself?

My search has taken me through my vintage books once again. One is a pamphlet of blouses from 1938 by the NY company Jack Frost. They are all very Kate Hepburn, photographed with linen pants and shorts with sailor pant button closures. I’ve chosen one of them to publish in my vintage dept. It’s the Bellecond blouse.


The description reads “because you like nice things you will enjoy wearing this beautiful Lace Duveen Blouse”. Duveen is the name of the yarn, long gone from production so you would have to substitute.

The pattern itself is very concise, which is a polite way of saying short and sweet and leaving much to the knitter’s intelligence. It’s one paragraph written in just one size, 14, and there are no measurements, nor is there a mention of gauge. Knitters back then must have been more independent (not to mention smart and creative) because they were evidently able to size garments for themselves.

To make this, what I would do is experiment with yarn I think is the right weight, make a swatch, and calculate the body measurement based on the swatch gauge and the number of stitches in the pattern. Measurement = number of sts divided by gauge. In this case, there are 111 sts for the Back; 111 x 2 = 222 divided by a gauge of, say, 6 sts per inch = 37″ chest. You could alter the gauge (and size) by changing needle size.

The other stand-out detail in these patterns is that the sleeves are all worked from the top down. Stitches are picked up across the top of the shoulder, then worked back and forth, more stitches being picked up at the beginning of each row, to accommodate the armhole shaping.

I love this kind of project. It’s an adventure!

Here are three more designs from the book. If you’d like to make any of them, let me know and I’ll post the PDFs.

Eldora and Carole (below left and right)


Aren’t they fun? Quick to knit, too, especially Sylvanne which does cite a gauge: 4 sts to 1″.

see you soon,


5 Responses to “deciphering vintage patterns”

  1. Michelle Says:

    I would love to see the pattern for the Sylvanne blouse!

  2. Marian Says:

    I love the detail and trouble the knitters used to go to. They certainly knew their way around wool and needles.

  3. Polly Says:

    WOW I want all of these! I’d wear them with a trusty pair of high waisted jeans and cat eye glasses and they would look amazing!! Elegant but not too girly. Perfect : )

  4. Ngaire Mackay Says:

    Hi, would love the Sylvanne pattern vintage sweater. I love it and anything vintage.

  5. Jessika Says:

    I too, would love to get my hands on the Sylvenne knitting pattern. It is such a lovley knit and looks to be quite a fast knit as well.

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