Taking the Old and Making It New

Filed in Just Stitches by on February 4, 2016 0 Comments

This month we are thinking about “vintage” and what it means to apply it in today’s knitting world. I like to think of it as a mash-up of “old” and “new”.

Over the years, Kellie and I have learned that having even a very basic editorial calendar makes developing content significantly easier. During the days of EduKnit, our editorial content for Two Sides – Two Points would mirror what was happening over at EduKnit. But as 2016 began, we realized it was time to create an editorial calendar once again and the term “vintage” quickly surfaced. It is not surprising since the craft of knitting itself is rather vintage, but yet is constantly being re-imagined and applied in new an interesting ways.

As a person living in an historic home, but drawn to the modern, this juxtaposition is part of my daily living. For example, my steel sofa (which is surprisingly comfortable), sits in the same room with my great-aunt’s steamer trunk that traveled the world with her in the early 1900’s and the lacquer boxes that tea was imported in from China during the same era. Some might find this unusual combination discordant, but I love the way it makes visitors reconsider the assumptions they had when entering the house.


I love being able to create a similar experience with my knitting designs. Whether it is rethinking what you thought you knew about a particular technique (my goal with Entree to Entrelac) or giving a knitter pause to consider how a particular project came together, a moment of unexpected consideration is often my goal.

One of the earliest books added to my (now very large) knitting book collection was Knitting Counterpanes by Mary Walker Phillips. The reason was simple: Mary Walker Phillips lived only a few blocks away from me at the time and was a guest at the local knitting group. So I dutifully purchased a copy of her book and brought it with me to be signed (my first signed book). Because I had always been drawn to texture, I knew I would find great inspiration between the pages.

Even so, I never really “used” the book in any significant way until decades later when I decide to add a counterpane inspired inset into the back of Kiwi Squares. To create the level of detailed desired, I had to work the inset in lace weight yarn while the remainder of the project was worked in worsted weight. This was actually a fairly “traditional” solution since counterpanes historically are worked on tiny needles, often in cotton thread. As such, a typical counterpane will have 60 – 100 stitches at is widest point across the diagonal but only 5″ – 10″ in width due to the fine nature of the work.

Counterpanes are a truly vintage technique. Individual units (often squares) would be knit and then sewn together to make surprisingly large finished pieces such as bedspreads. Working each unit individually made the project much more portable. Needless to say, creating a bedspread worth was a significant commitment of time. Unfortunately, this is rather unlikely to happen in our current day and age. So I am looking at using the same pattern, but in larger yarn – requiring significantly fewer to complete a project.

If I have piqued your curiosity about my next design, you will just have to wait for the big reveal. My hope is to get it done by Stitches West so Kellie can take one of her fantastic photos while we are together. In the meantime, I am excited about the combination of old and new and the exciting design possibilities it brings!

If you have ever combined (or have thought about combining) old and new in your knitting we would love to hear about it! What were the elements? How did you feel about the results? What worked (or didn’t) in the project?

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