Saturday, 1 December 2007


I think that I may have found a new collecting obsession - old knitting patterns. Patons Baldwins patterns to be specific. I've got number 518 - does that mean there are 517 that precede it? I'll have to make room on the bookshelves.

I picked up this current swag at the Salvation Army
op shop in Oakleigh a couple of weekends ago. I always have a look through the knitting paraphe
rnalia when I'm at the op shop - aluminium dpns anyone? - but it's often 1970s Villawool patterns which don't appeal. Unfortunately, there are no publication dates on these black and white beauties. The prices are still in shillings and pence (so pre-1966), measurements in inches and ounces (metric was introduced in Australia in 1947 but not in common use until the 1970s), and the postcode for the company, located at 84-94 Flinders Lane, Melbourne is C1. Four-digit postcodes were only introduced in Australia in 1967 (thank you Wikipedia).

There are so many garments in here that I would love to make. Interestingly (and affirmatively) a couple of respected friends have remarked on the self-same pattern that is at the top of my list. Perhaps it's the asymmetrical fastening, or the batwing sleeves, or the fact that it's front and centre at the top of the pile but Lynda is in gestation (so to speak).

The pattern calls for Patons Beehive 'Lady Betty' - a yarn so discontinued as to be utterly obscure. I know that it was a 3 ply but am curious as to whether it was a crepe or a twisted yarn. Due to the sizing I am actually going to knit Lynda in a 4 ply (I think), possibly a 5 ply - I really have to decide on both a yarn and a colour. Filatura di Crosa Zarina is a 4 ply option - high twist and good colour selection. Patons Bluebell, my favourite, is a 5 ply crepe option, but I'm not sure about the colour choice.

In fact, I'm not sure about the colour at all. That's one of the issues
with these black and white publications - unlike today's full-colour glossy patterns, the old ones don't indicate which colour to use. Do you know knitters who just can't bear to knit a garment in anything but the colour shown in the pattern? I'm not (quite) that extreme although I do sometimes have trouble imagining a garment in another hue. Clearly the version of Lynda photographed wasn't in black or another dark shade, but what colour was she? Any ideas?

ps. news from Linda (!) at Patons - "
Lady Betty came in 2,3 and 4 ply, it was produced in
Australia and was on range from 1930 to 1937."


Moorecat said...

Interesting that they took it off the product list at about the same time as Princess Elizabeth learned that she would one day be Queen.

Coincidence? And I'm very pleased to be right about the pattern being dated to the 30s ;D

Can't wait to see the finished item; get a move on, girl!

Anonymous said...

Hey Lynda, yes that does mean that there are 517 before it because I must own at least 25% of them LOL. In my hands at the moment is No. 249 (Giant) with a pre decimal price of 10 and a half pence and it also has patterns using the Lady Betty 3 ply wool. It also has patterns using 2 ply Fingering Wool (whatever that is?) and also Patons Bonny Sports Wool? If any one could tell me what ply that would equate to nowadays I would be most appreciative.

Amelia said...

Hi anonymous,

thank you for your comment. i am avidly collecting these pattern books as i find them! dk or 8 ply is sometimes referred to as sport weight (i think). check the tension/gauge in the pattern - that will give you an idea of what sort of modern equivalent you might use instead.

kind regards, Amelia

tassiek said...

I measure my vintage pattern collection by the cubic metre! Re dating: patons put out an index of the cover photos by the year. I have such a one for 1941, so the numbers for that year tell me which of my collection are before and after that year.

Re terminology: Fingering weight in the US is 4 ply, in the UK it is finer. I have skeins of this type of yarn. Sports weight in the US is 5 ply , worsted and DK is our 8 ply.

In any case if your work out your tension, then allow for pattern repeats you can knit any pattern in any yarn.

tassiek said...

I measure my collection of vintage patterns by the cubic metre!

Re dating pamphlets: catalogues were produced with photos of all the pamphlets issued that year. I have an issue for 1941, for instance, so that I can date my collection either side of that year. My favourites are those that have a patriotic message about knitting for the troops.

Fingering weight: in the US this is equivalent to Patonyle 4 ply, sports weight is 5 ply and worsted or DK is 8 ply. which brings me to the main point:

Forget the ply or name of the yarn, work out the tension, then work out pattern repeats and you can make it any size out of whatever yarn you like.