One page of a field guide to handknit thrift store sweaters

Several years ago (it seems like a few, kinda like how 2005 was just 5 years ago) so maybe this was 2009? My extended family got together in the small Midwestern city we (sort of) used to call home. A couple of my cousins and I hit our old thrifting stomping grounds – vast warehouses of the discarded in near dead areas of a long dying city. I didn’t expect to find much – the wealth in my current eastern home is apparent in the quality of rejected goods in the thrifts around here – but I was pleasantly surprised to find a few good sweaters to frog and to wear as is out there.

thriftid-cable-cross

One of the sweaters was clearly hand-knit and somewhat vintage, but I couldn’t tell from when – the longish and leanish shape could have been 1960s, more likely ’70s, but slightly possibly ’90s – I had a similar cotton version from Pear Monarchy back in the day. But it was slightly fulled/felted so it was hard to say the precise shape and fit the original was meant to be. And the color was perfect – I’d been hemming and hawing about knitting a dark charcoal grey cardigan then, and my skills were just beginning to finally progress past garter stitch rectangles, but I was still intimidated by things that have to fit (and still am to some degree) so finding this cardigan was a jackpot – double or triple jackpot too since it was old and used but still usable, not to mention the fit was perfect – hip-bone clearing and no waist-shaping – roomy, but no bulky armpits and linebacker shoulders.

(And it has a mis-crossed cable you can only sort of see in a prominent spot on the front, so the maker either wore it proudly, or didn’t notice until after all the careful finishing and was sorely irritated and perhaps why it ended up at the thrift…?)

I wore it as a light jacket and/or office sweater for a few years, and have since mostly worn it indoors – it’s still in great shape but needs some attention to a few pilled areas and perhaps an aggressive blocking to try to eek out a bit more arm length – they look long enough, but don’t quite feel it – and I’m probably to blame for that – since it was already a bit felted, I likely washed it on delicate in the machine in the last apartment, and delicate it was not – so I think it shrunk a tiny bit more… The buttons had a way of falling off too – I seemed to remember taking them all off and reaming them out so they’d stop cutting the threads, but perhaps I thought about doing that and instead sewed them with heavier-duty thread? Either way, a few are missing – I think only one more since I acquired it, but I took the useless ones off the bitter end of the front and off the collar and sewed them on the body and no one is the wiser unless you’re awkwardly close enough to me to see the buttonholes – they never would have functioned buttoned all the way up to the tips of the collar though, or at least on my apparently thick neck.

But that’s also because it wasn’t meant to be buttoned all the way up –

thriftid-cover

I found the original pattern book while thrifting this summer!

I’m always on the lookout for vintage knitting patterns – I’m actively collecting older Minerva books for their loveliness rather than any intention to make a tiny-gauge fitted suit or flowing gown, but I like the fit of some garments from the ’60s and ’70s, so I snatch up those with the intention of possibly making something from them, or at least using them as a jumping off point.

This one caught my eye because I’ve been hemming and hawing still about making a heavily-cabled sweater – something fishermanish, but not to “Celtic” looking, something roomy but not baggy, something vintage-looking but not cropped or high-necked, and preferably something top-down and already written up so I don’t have to work it out, but so far, I haven’t quite found it… But this seemed on the right track – good length, slim but not fitted, armpits didn’t appear to go halfway down to the bellybutton, and there was a v-neck option – all good things to consider. But when I flipped it to the back cover, bam! My thrifted cardigan appeared!

thriftid-match

Bucilla Arans, volume 59, 1982.

I’d made a half-hearted attempt to find the pattern over the years – I figured if it fit and has held up well for at least 30+ years it would be worth repeating, but nothing ever came up in ravelry and I figured it was from the 1970sish, I have a helluva time finding it since so many millions patterns exist from then.

It was once sold for $3.00, then on final sale for $ .50 at Hess’s department store (based out of Allentown, PA, but with a chain of stores in the East). And I was off on the date – 1982 – but many commercial knitting patterns seem to lag a year or few behind, so it does fit the slimmer 1970s silhouette rather than the burgeoning boxy or big-sack one of the 1980s – and the interior patterns must be worn with feathered hair. But it could have been knitted fairly recently after all? Perhaps it was made in the 1990s? (Or even the early aughts?) I certainly have 10-year-old patterns I still intend to make, and perhaps will a decade and a half or more after their publication…

My sweater has reinforced button bands and the bottom ribbing is folded up and stitched on the inside – perhaps to reinforce the bottom hem, or it flared or otherwise misbehaved- both pattern modifications I’ll keep if I ever make it. The upper arms are still slightly wide for my taste – not too terribly, but the felting probably helped them a bit, so I’d take them in a bit. And I have a complicated relationship with bobbles – I like them, but I don’t love making them, or that many.

But maybe I’ll just enjoy my sweater and sell the pattern book and get on with other things…

 

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Filed under collecting, knitting, thrifting

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