Wednesday, July 05, 2006

knit-o-graf


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.

KOG_Kittens
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:

badkittens
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.

22 comments:

  1. oh but
    the
    sweaters
    are so cute...
    say,
    how much
    bourbon
    will i need
    to make it?

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  2. So I'm finding this post TWO YEARS after you made it. I'm researching the Knit-O-Graf company, trying to find out what happened to them. My grandmother has loads of their patterns from the 40s/50s/60s, which she willed to me because she's so protective of them. LOL.
    Your post caught my attention, because when she was showing them to me (which was just last week), this little pixies on the toadstools one caught my attention the most!
    Do you know what ever happened to Knit-O-Graf? I've been looking online, but haven't seemed to find anything out about them. Thanks!

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  3. Sorry Lorelei, I have wondered the same myself. Though I always wondered whether perhaps Mary Maxim bought them out, since her graph designs continued for some time after Knit-o-Graf disappeared.

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  4. Judy hearthaven@yahoo.comSun Jan 25, 06:38:00 PM

    I have five Knit-o-graph patterns of my mom's. I've been thinking of taking them to a printers to have them copied, as the paper is so old and fragile. I have the kittens, a dog and doghouse, lambs, ducks, and Humpty Dumpty. If the printer idea works, would anyone wnat to share patterns that way?

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    1. I'm looking for the raglan sleeve lamb pattern. My mom had pattern but my father who had a stroke threw this pattern away. Is there any way to get this pattern?

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  5. I have several which are in ok shape that were willed to my by an aunt in Canada. I grew up there with very "handy" aunts who made beautiful smocked dresses (from NO patterns I may add), Knit-O-Graf sweaters, etc. I did do a KoG train sweater for my son years ago and my little grandsons have worn it also. Every boy on my side of the family had one at one time.

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  6. Carol said...

    I have just picked up a Knit-o-Graf sweater that I started for my baby when I was 6 months pregnant. That "baby" is now about to be 41 years old and has just had her 2nd child!.....My brother and I actually had sweaters made from the same pattern when we were little. My daughter has been teasing me about this "project" for years....won't she be surprised when she opens it this Christmas

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  7. Hi there; Not sure when these posts were made, but found your blog when I was looking for photos on Google images....because not only is Knit-o-Graf still alive and well, but I can give you the contact info. My grandmother (Della Fitch) started Knit-o-Graf, my mother continued it, and maybe someday I will take over! For now, you can still order the patterns by mail (and they run about $5-$6, brand new) by writing to 958 Redwood Drive, Apple Valley, MN, 55124, or calling (which might be quicker) (952) 432-5630. Karen Fitch Mott is the owner now. PS FWIW, I knitted the kittens with ball of yarn sweater myself, as a beginning knitter, and found it not that difficult (though maybe my grandma was looking over my shoulder from Heaven!)If I can do it, anyone can.

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    Replies
    1. That is great to know. I am finding this post almost three years later. I have often searched for Knit-O-Graf to see if I could find it. I will write down the number and give a call. I have knit two of the patterns. The kittens and the cowboy. Would be fun to see if Humpty Dumpty was still available. Thank you again for sharing.

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  8. Stacia, how exciting!! Thank you so much for commenting here and letting us know how to get hold of more KoG patterns. In the three years since I first wrote this post, I have become much less afraid of intarsia. Who knows, maybe those pixies will make it onto a sweater around here one of these days! Maybe your grandma will look over my shoulder from Heaven, too. : ) Thank you thank you!

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  9. Anastacia Mott AustinMon Nov 23, 01:06:00 PM

    Hi f.pea, glad to hear of the change of heart! It does look scarier than it actually is, and I had to learn to be okay with the "mess" of different bobbins and strings of yarn hanging out the back - my sweater looked exactly like your photo when it was in progress. But once you can get past that it really isn't too bad. I'm working on the Christmas stocking now! (And PS I'll send a message to Grandma Fitch to help you out too!) -Stacia

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  10. Michele Warner BelewMon Feb 15, 03:18:00 PM

    My grandmother, mother, and aunt all used Knit-O-Graph patterns. My cousins and I had the pullover train sweater and the cardigan clown holding balloons. I also had one in red & grey with a heart on the chest & sleeve. My little brother had the one of the sailing ship with masts and rigging! When I started middle school, my mom made me the cheerleader sweater in the school colors. I'd love to know what weight wool works now since I tried the same kitten sweater you tried, and it just wasn't right. I'm glad patterns are still available since they bring back so many fond memories - I even have pictures of me in those favorite sweaters made with so much love in the late 40's and through the 50's. Oh yes, my mom never carried yarn across the back - even for a few stitches - she said the back should look as good as the front. I'm not as careful when I'm knitting "picture" sweaters - but, I do manage to feel a little guilty.

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  11. I am so glad to hear that Knit O Graf is still in business. I have 7 patterns that i have kept over the years and what memories they bring back. I made them for my daughter when she was in her twos & threes; she is now 52.
    I go through my knitting stuff every so often and when I looked at them today I just wondered if the company was still in business.
    Four of my patterns are just like new and i also have a catalog. I still think these patterns are a fantastic idea. I loved making them.

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  12. I want the pattern for the kitten sweater with the yarn balls. I made this several times years ago and now have 2 great grand daughters. send me an email if you have one for sale please this was a knit-o-graph pattern b mckinney1@comcast.net thanks
    Barbara

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  13. Hi there, I just wanted to mention that there is a (brand-new) lot of Knit-0-Graf patterns at my theater company's online auction. Package includes #865 (ducks), #100 (baby hat), #234(mittens), #925(kittens), and #220(puppy with ears). Also includes the Magni-Guide magnifying tool to keep track of graph lines. Ends May 31, 2011 https://www.biddingforgood.com/platform/items/item/131980173/view

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  14. Am very interested in all ... please let me know the particulars.

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  15. Hi, I'm new to this blog, have been searching for Knit O Graf knitting patterns everywhere. Is there anyone out there owns a copy of the Elf Knit O Graf cardi pattern No.208? Would love to hear from you! littleboat2@hotmail.com

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  16. My mother is looking for the Rocking Horse Sweater pattern, #110. We all wore the same sweater when we were little all 6 of us. Now she is looking to remake it for the great grands to pass along. The original is missing. If you have this pattern I would love a copy. or to buy it for her. theelusive11@yahoo.com Thanks

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  17. I am sooooo excited you are still in exsistance !!!! I first came to your grandmothers home on Holmes ave. in MPLS.WOW !!! I now have a granddaughter and want to knit her sweaters. I made the train sweater for my boys in 1970 and 1973 and I still have them and they look like new !! I am so happy to find you again. Carol

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  18. Anastacia- I'd sure love it if KoG would develop a website. You'd be MUCH easier to find! Mom used the KoG patterns for years. She went to knit the kittens with yarn pattern, and her pattern had disappeared. I got lucky by finding a gently used copy on E-bay. It would have been even luckier to find a website. Your grandma made a fantastic product. Let's keep it out there!

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  19. Are anyone of you in possession of #105 Christmas Stocking Knit O Graf pattern that you would be willing to share or sell to me? I have a friend desperate to have one knitted for her newborn

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  20. Please email me back about the #105 Christmas Stocking pattern at care2quilt@aol.com if you get no response on google! Thanks.

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