Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Making Vintage Modern: Rescaling the Pattern, Part 1

It occurs to me that, despite my lack of experience and expertise, I'm once again on the path of creating a vintage garment which has not been revamped for the modern wearer - and which is not discussed in any reviews.

Needless to say, this takes a leap of faith and some fortitude. But since I'm gonna do it anyway, I might as well write about aspects of it which may be helpful to others. Of course, I'm not speaking as a subject-matter expert, but as a free-styling crafter who would very much welcome feedback as I go.

Today's topic, a follow on from this post, will discuss my next step in the process of finding pattern to finished product.

So, I reviewed my pattern to determine what yarn was recommended lo those many years ago. It's a brand called Minerva Mellosheen (I love that name) which was mercerized cotton.  I did a bit of Googling and discovered that the 2 ounce skein (what this pattern recommends) contained 190 yards. (BTW, the shade it was made in was Baby Blue with silver. How positively Grace Kelley.)

I have been carefully pondering a couple of things:
  • What size to make
  • What yarn to use
What Yarn To Use?

First, let's talk yarn...

You should know that I do not like cotton. I don't like how it feels. I don't like how it looks. I don't like how it grows. I don't like how it drapes (though I do love the drape of the Late Day Jacket that was, apparently, constructed in cotton).

Despite this, I've done a lot of developing on the textile-appreciation front lately. Not to dwell right now, but soon I will discuss in detail my confusing appreciation for Brooklyn Tweed Loft, a scratchy, hay-filled thing of rusticity. Alas, I don't think I'm ready for cotton. Its texture creeps me out.

At first, I considered using Quince Finch, a 100 per cent wool fingering weight. It's made by one of those small US artisanal vendors. It comes in lovely colours. It's highly recommended and apparently, as a workhorse of sorts, is very good for many vintage designs.

By contrast to the Mellosheen, the Finch yarn gets 221 yards to 1.75 oz (or 50g).

That's a MUCH lighter weight yarn than the vintage cotton.

I don't know how I can expect the same sort of drape from a modern yarn, if it doesn't have (sort of) the same weight but I know nothing about standard weights, by fibre, of fingering yarn.

My next step will be to search Ravelry for fingering yarn with a particular weight - here's hoping that's not too challenging.

I'd love to know if y'all support this plan, or please do provide some additional info that might help.

What Size To Make?

Moving along, let's talk about standardized (not pattern-specific) sizing:

Size 16 - 34" bust, 28" waist, 37" hip
Size 18 - 36" bust, 30" waist, 39" hip

I'm no expert on whether vintage fits "small" but the last time I tried to make a true size, my end result was huge. I'm inclined to go for slightly smaller (size 14), though not insanely so, cuz I can review actual pattern gauge against stitch-number to determine the exact dimensions of this pattern. Then, if it's only the bust where I need more room, I can add some stitches (provided the kimono sleeve construction doesn't fuck me up as it did the last time) at the bust. If I have to size up or down, I'm probably going to go down. In my experience, it's the only thing that works.

BTW, while the process of looking at the pattern to determine sizing takes a little while, it is NOT HARD. I know some people are wary of it, especially the math-scared. I am no mathie and I can totally handle it. It's completely intuitive, I promise.

OK, getting back to what the pattern says, to make the size 16 I'm going to need 10 skeins of that 2 ounce Mellosheen aka 1900 yards?!?!

Seriously, that's a lot of yards.

I don't think the pattern calls for double knitting, as I mentioned before. Do you see any way that this might require 1900 yards of heavy fingering yarn??:

I would SO appreciate your feedback on this because the most yarn I've ever used on a jacket-like sweater was 1250 yards and I swam in that.

I suppose that I might have found incorrect info on the yardage of the Mellosheen, but I don't think so. In which case, unless the pattern is actually double knit - though it doesn't clearly state that - I'm working with a shit load of yarn.

Thoughts or feelings anyone? Please do chime in!


  1. Hmmm...have you tried swatching the cross stitch or whatever it is called to see how much yarn it gobbles? Also, it is quite similar-looking to linen stitch which I have read doesn't have much stretch and I am guessing is therefore more rigid, so wonder if that is something you need to consider when choosing your yarn.


    I don't see how they would have gotten the structure of the jacket pictured in a mercerized cotton without it being doubled?? I would think it the fabric would be quite drapey unlike what is shown. Unless it is lined?

    I would think Brooklyn Tweed would give you a rather sturdy/crunchy fabric that would work well for a jacket, but it would be quite boxy and not drape.

    I would guess you could work out the approximate yardage you need once you decide on a yarn and have some idea of gauge...? Surely there is a formula out there, no? I

    This is why I am avoiding the vintage patterns for now - too many variables that have to be worked out! I have a hard enough time one modifying moderns patterns to suit my insanely picky tastes.

    (I hear you on the cotton. I find it hideous to knit with. The lack of stretch kills my hands.)

    1. OK, that is incredibly smart - of course I should look up the stitch! Next on the list...

      I also considered Brooklyn Tweed because that Loft is sturdy. But it's quite thin. In terms of drape, I can't say as yet. When I finish the shawl I'm currently constructing, I sense I'll have more info.

      I'm hoping that, as I get feedback like this, and as I think about it further, I'll start to come to some conclusions.

  2. I really like the feel of Knit Picks Shine cotton blend- it wasn't at all ishy and I'm excited to try their new cotton bulky, so I would suggest trying them for cotton, but Shine only comes in worsted & sport weights. So that's all I have to contribute other than expressing my general distaste for cotton yarn. What about silk?

    1. I should get a skein, just to check it out! Believe it or not, I also dislike knitting with silk (though I do like woven silk fabric).

  3. Just from the looks of the photograph the knit looks rather dense and heavy. I wonder what the shape would look like if the model would just let her arms hang down, the kimono sleeves look rather bulky. So I wish you luck in figuring out the bodice fit and hope the sleeves won't look weird (based on the picture, not your knitting efforts.


    1. Oooh, Mona, that's an interesting question. I do agree that it looks dense. I don't know if it looks heavy, but that's something I should consider. So much to think about...

  4. Hmmm... I don't think you can compare cotton and wool directly like that. Cotton tends to be spun denser than wool (except for some very modern chain constructions), and I think it's denser anyway. So, 50g of wool might produce more yardage than 50g of cotton, even spun at the same thickness. The Finch might work after all...

    Do you have any way to figure out the gauge on this pattern? If it's given, then just match the gauge with a fabric that looks good to you. If not (and I think a lot of vintage patterns don't give the gauge), maybe you can figure it out from the number of stitches and the desired finished dimensions?

    1. Thank you so much for this comment G. I was wondering about that - though I do not know how I can get a similar drape with a much lighter yarn. Maybe the goal is to get a similar, but lighter construct.

      The gauge is 8 inches per inch - so modern fingering weight on a size 1 needle (approx). Having said that, I don't think I can buy 2000 yards of fabric for a sweater that looks like it should take 1000-1200 max. I'm going to have to review the stitch pattern more carefully (per Linda's suggestion). Maybe it eats yarn??

  5. I've struggled with this exact thing.

    If you can figure out the gauge, like Gauss suggested, then try the following:
    swatch, in pattern, then rip the swatch out and measure to figure out inches of yarn/stitch. figure a rough number of sts based on the pattern and do the math to figure out yardage. It's easier than it sounds--if there's no craziness on the front, I'd do half the back and one sleeve and multiply by four and two respectively.

    I've done this with success at bigger gauges, so hopefully it would work for fingering weight as well.

    1. Scooter - Very smart idea. Somehow, I just decided to buy 2000 yards of yarn. I figure, I'll have 2 sweater's worth most likely (or socks/shawls galore). If the thing manages to take all of that yarn, well, it'll be there and I won't have to worry.

  6. Knit cotton should be much drapier than knit wool, but I agree with other commenters that the jacket itself looks more like a knit wool garment than a knit cotton garment. I think you could definitely achieve that shape with wool. But, the connection between the knit and blocked guage might be very different between cotton and wool. Maybe a cotton/wool or rayon/wool blend?

    good luck!

    1. I'm glad to hear you say that, about the wool and achieving the shape. I opted for pure wool. I really prefer it. Now we'll see if it works for this project.