Choosing the right yarn to knit up your vintage pattern takes time and effort and most of the enquiries I get are about which wool to use, so I got geekily excited when I heard that vintage knit queen, designer and author Susan Crawford was about to launch her own brand of wool to accompany her Stitch In Time series of books. I caught up with her at its grand unveiling at Unravel in Farnham – she’d only received the first batch that week and was thrilled with the result. Me too when I got it home … I knitted up a sample to find that it combines softness with strength beautifully and lives up to its description: soft handling, great stretch and excellent stitch definition.
Excelana is produced in conjunction with Devon-based John Arbon of Fibre Harvest and is 100% British wool, spun from the fleece of the North Devon Exmoor Blueface and the Blue Faced Leicester (I love sheep names). At present only the 4-ply is available, but DK, Aran and a unique 3-ply are also in the pipeline, with the promise of more shades to accompany the existing vintage-inspired palette of eight colours.
You can read more about it and place an order through through the Excelana website or through Susan Crawford’s Vintage site.
Holstgarn Supersoft 2-ply
I came across Holstgarn Supersoft, a rather interesting-looking and reasonably-priced Danish 100% wool 2-ply, so I sent off for the shade cards and it turns out they’re rather lovely, excellent vintage shades extremely suitable for vintage knitting. Can’t remember how I discovered it but it might possibly be something to do with my ridiculous obsession with Danish crime thriller Forbrydelsen – I’m not alone in my fascination with the heroine’s minimalist approach to her wardrobe, ie: one beautiful Faroese woollen jumper. Anyway, the Holstgarn looks rather promising so I’m planning to experiment with it at some point in the future.
I’m thinking a trip to Copenhagen might be an essential part of my wool research too, you know, just to see it in the flesh before I sample it. Any excuse for a holiday eh?
Emu Wool Ad 1954
Or ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Vintage Knitting’. Planning a vintage knitting project can be a bit like a detective novel … a bit of investigative work will stand you in good stead before you pick up the needles. One of the first parts of the case to solve (and the one most likely to deter would-be vintage knitters from starting in the first place) is which yarn to use.
A fantastic place to kick-off is Kristen Rengren’s all-encompassing guide to vintage knitting; her section on choosing yarn puts you on the right path … tension (or gauge), texture, type of stitch pattern, fibre content and yardage all need to be taken into consideration before you make your choice. She advises us to scrutinise the pattern picture and do a bit of research into the original yarn used, even look through the wool adverts of vintage knitting publications.
So you’ve got to the bottom of the original yarn … what’s a suitable replacement? You’ve got the needle size and with the help of Kristen’s guide you’ll have worked out the tension and yardage so you can pretty much start anywhere, the modern yarn world is your oyster for 4-ply and DK. 2 and 3-ply can be harder to source, and the plot thickens when you want to match the old shades and textures; sometimes the modern yarns can be too bright or the texture too rough when you want the vintage look.
I’ve been on the look-out for some smaller manufacturers for vintage yarn replacements in the UK, this the story so far …
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Knit & Run Stash
This Knit & Tonic article made me grin and rang a few bells … I get so obsessed with one particular craft it almost becomes stressful and I have to take up another craft to relieve the pressure. Admittedly it’s not a professional day job and I’m not writing a book, but you get the gist.
Reminded me too of an article in this month’s Yarn Forward magazine which encourages you to take up weaving if ‘you find yourself in a SABLE position – Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy). The picture on the left is a very small part of my own amorphous and ever-growing Stash – I have to agree with one of the comments on the Knit & Tonic article … I have this horrible feeling that if I took up weaving I’d find I didn’t have the right shades I was after and just end up adding to it. I almost expect to come home and find bits of it trickling out of the door, growing up the side of the house like vines. A knitting horror movie? Now there’s a thought.