Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Once upon a time I thought I was going to become the Maven of Knit-o-Graf. I first saw these wacky patterns on VintageKnits.com and quickly became obsessed with owning a copy of the Pixie pattern (at right) and using the graphic to make a stylish yet ironic 1940's retro cardi. Look, they're sitting on toadstools! And look at their little tails... can't you just see those pixies on a grown-up's cardigan, or felted into a sweet purse? Can't you?
I spent weeks on eBay searching for the Pixie pattern, all the while acquiring a decent little collection of Knit-o-Graf patterns that I generally obtained by buying horrible lots of dozens of "vintage" knitting patterns with one or two of these gems among the bunch. In this way I amassed many moldy or torn old knitting patterns, and many that should never have been designed in the first place, let alone pawned off as retro decades later, with or without the ironic wink. But that's another story. The Knit-o-Graf patterns brought me cowboys, crazy argyles, pixies, and all manner of hilarious stuff.
After building up a little bit of a stash of these Knit-o-Graf patterns, I started thinking I would popularize them again and somehow become rich and quit my job to spend my days volunteering, knitting, and tending a lush organic garden (FYI, this dream has not yet come to fruition). Unfortunately I think I started a run on them on eBay. The prices took a big jump, from $1 or $2 a pop to more than $10 each. That's when I decided I had collected enough patterns (the going rate at VintageKnits.com is $8, by the way).
So the idea with these patterns is, there are no 'narrative' instructions like you're used to (ie, cast on 88 stitches, knit in K1P1 rib for 10 rows)... there's none of that. Instead, you just unfold this giant graph, and the sweater pattern is drawn onto it. Not just the graphic, like with an intarsia design, but the whole freaking sweater. This was apparently a popular gimmick in the 1940's and 50's when these patterns were published. There was also a big line of Mary Maxim patterns that use the same graph trick.
I am a visual person, so I assumed this graph-reading stuff would be no problem. There is also the matter of figuring out exactly how much and what kind of yarn is needed, since the yarn they recommend doesn't exist anymore, and the designers helpfully tell you how many ounces rather than how many yards of yarn you will need. Sizing has also changed a lot since the old days. Did you know that a size 2 does not mean it's for a 2-year old? I did not know this.
Once I started getting these brain-teasers untied, I decided it was time to knit a sweater for my friend's adorable two-year old daughter. I chose the wonderfully self-referential 'kittens batting yarn' design and ordered up some lovely fingering weight yarn.
playful kittens. see how they romp with the yarn.
I have mentioned before that I don't really like color knitting. I hate having more than one or two balls of yarn going at the same time. This pattern had me adding balls of yarn like crazy... I couldn't find a realistic way to manage them all. I had dissolved into tears on at least one dozen separate instances before I finally got to this point with six live balls of fingering weight yarn and one hundred and seven impossible tangles, and shoved the whole mess into the closet forever:
frogged july 4, 2006
So one of my holiday weekend projects was to pull this hideous jumble out of the closet, frog the sweater, re-wind the yarn into nice doubled center-pull skeins and use the yummy silk-alpaca yarn for a more realistic project. Now that I've doubled it, the yarn is a nice light worsted weight and all set to make a gift for (yet another) friend's forthcoming baby (it's a fertile world out there).
I think I'll keep the Knit-o-Graf patterns for retro inspiration, especially since one day I'll be able to sell them for a mint on eBay and retire to the countryside to pursue my wildest dreams. You can see most of the rest of the collection on my Flickr page. As for the re-popularizing, I just don't want to inflict that kind of torture on my knitterly sisters and brothers out there. Hopefully this post has fulfilled its public service in dissuading any unsuspecting knitters who might have tried to fool with one of these patterns. If you do try this at home, be sure to have a good bottle of wine at the ready - you're going to need it.