Books & Literature

Book Review: Vintage Knits, from the National Library of Australia

NON FICTION: Tapping into the trend for everything vintage, as well as the ‘handmade revolution’ and resurgence of knitting, this book will bring style and joy to any modern knitter!

Purls of wisdom!

Knitting has seen a resurgence in popularity over the last few years. Once a vital skill which provided the bulk of a family’s clothing, the growth in cheap fast fashion from the ‘70s on saw it fall into the category of “old-fashioned granny skill”. But clearly granny knows best, because knitting now shows up on the catwalk, in the hands of celebrities, and in the form of increasingly fabulous patterns, yarns, and equipment. This explosion has also seen the birth of interest in vintage knitting: patterns from the ‘20s to the ‘80s. After all, the basic sweater and cardigan shapes haven’t changed.

The National Library of Australia, keeper of our cultural archives, has released a beautiful book of vintage knitting patterns from Australian magazines and newspapers.

Vintage Knits contains 25 patterns for women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing, updated for modern knitters. There are some gorgeous tops, jackets, and bolero cardigans for women, classic sweaters for men, and absolutely adorable but highly wearable garments for children and babies. It also contains an introduction which gives brief instructions on how to knit for those new to the craft.

Each section of patterns is interspersed with short essays on topics such as knitting history, knitting on the internet, sheep breeds and their wools, knitting as protest, yarn bombing, and knitting in literature. As wool played such a vital role in the development of the Australian economy in 19th and 20th centuries, this book makes for some fascinating historical reading.

Each pattern includes a full-colour photo, a photo of the original pattern, and the details of where it was first published. The instructions have been updated to use contemporary easily available yarns such as Patons and Bendigo Woollen Mills, along with modern needle sizes, and cleaner updated instructional terminology. Unfortunately, very few of the patterns have instructions for anything other than one size, making this book’s utility as an actual pattern collection extremely limited.

Overall, Vintage Knits is a delightful addition to the bookshelf of any knitter, or lover of fashion history. Just don’t expect to be able make many of the garments unless you’re a “standard” size, or have the time to recalculate sizing for yourself.

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: NLA Publishing
Released: May 2022
RRP: $39.99

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