When I was looking for fit books to review, someone on Twitter suggested Knit Back in Time by Geraldine Warner. It was the first time I had heard of the book, so naturally I had to get my hands on it. It’s focused on the aesthetics of the early to mid 20th century, and the book is divided up into two basic sections. The first section is on working with vintage patterns. Many vintage patterns only come with one size or an extremely limited size range, and they tend to be short on useful information that you’d normally find in a modern pattern. The book walks you through piecing together the missing information by studying what you do have and using that information to pick out the right yarn and create a detailed schematic of the original size. From there it gives you advice on how to calculate your own size using what you’ve figured out about the original and your own preferences and measurements. The information on calculating your own size is more general and doesn’t offer a lot of hand-holding, and the book suggests sewing mock-ups from jersey fabric to test out your new version, which seems a bit odd to me because the fabric will behave totally different from hand-knit fabric. The vintage-pattern-sleuthing in this section is really good and gets you to the right place to start calculating a custom size, but I’d recommend pairing this book with a book specifically on calculating sweaters from scratch if you’re not already familiar with how to do that.
The second section is on modifying modern patterns to create a vintage-inspired look. This section starts off with basic shaping modifications that are more popular in modern knits, including vertical and horizontal darts. Then it goes on to explain details that can be altered or added to modern patterns to create a more vintage look. It includes examples of different set-in sleeve cap styles like pleated, gathered, and box-top sleeves. It also has examples of different collar, pocket, and cuff styles. This section is great for inspiration, but it does require you to think a bit outside of the box. Instead of giving an explanation on how to calculate all of these details from scratch, it gives written pattern instructions using one gauge for one size as if these were part of a single knitting pattern. You have to figure out how to calculate your own version to match the pattern you’re working with based on the samples given. I can’t for the life of me figure out why everything in this section isn’t written recipe-style.
I should also add that the book does not include any sweater patterns even though it refers to some directly as if they were included. That caused me a little confusion because I went looking to see what the book was referring only to find they weren’t here. The book is a bit odd at times, but it’s also full of good inspiration and the advice on figuring on missing information for vintage patterns is great. There’s just a lot going on here, some unusual presentation choices, and not always a ton of detail, so I feel like this book could be overwhelming and not as useful for a beginner and/or timid knitter. I’d recommend it to experienced and adventurous knitters who like vintage style because it is beautiful and interesting, and I found it to be very inspiring.