Monday, 27 February 2017

The 20 Year Cardigan

So I have been thinking about all things vintage just lately after discovering a great blog by vintage aficionado Lynn Holland called One I Made Earlier Today. I have been into vintage for quite a while as I collect vintage textiles and table linen and also the odd item of vintage clothing especially vintage jackets as I have a particular penchant for jackets. Lynn has a great sense of style and snaps up the most amazing bargains that she wears with great aplomb but what I particularly liked was her recent post of a lovely pink lacy cardigan very much resembling a classic one my mum used to knit in several shades and this got me thinking of course about cardigans. 

I have a cardy in my wardrobe which took over 20 years to knit. It is a Fair Isle pattern which as any knitter knows is a real bugger to knit taking heaps of concentration to follow the pattern chart in order to know when to change colours, not to mention a magnifying glass, so you can't exactly knock off a few rows each evening while in front of the telly.  This is the chart rather like graph paper with one tiny square representing each stitch and knitted up with about 8 different coloured yarns with a different symbol for each colour. I felt like I had cracked the Enigma code once I had figured out the meaning of all the symbols and colours. It was all very mentally challenging and hard on the old eyesight.

During those 20 years I got married, moved house, had a daughter and tried to keep those plates known as work, child care and housework spinning, so the cardy got forgotten about and was swiftly relegated to the spare room aka the dumping ground as I was just too knackered to knit each evening after Emily was in bed. Then as she got a bit older and life seemed a little less hectic shall we say, I started to pick the cardy back up every now and then and knit a few rows. After all, having invested quite a bit of money in buying the wool in the first place, as you need to buy one ball of each colour used in the pattern plus the main colour (and we are talking Rowan here and 100% Lambswool!) it seemed such a shame to leave it all to the moths. I started taking my knitting on holiday to while away the time while marooned in a tent on a Cornish camp site sheltering from the rain.  Knitting and Fair Isle became hip again which gave me the incentive to finish it and in 2012 all the pieces were finally sewn up to become a complete cardigan.  I have to admit though to going off the purple shade a bit and also it was a bit on the short side as it was only waist length. I do wear it though occasionally and it is very snuggly in winter. Annoyingly too I ran out of the main colour to finish the button band and had to finish with one of the contrasting colours. No chance of getting any more of the wool after more than 20 years. Here is my well worn creased copy of the original pattern bought in 1990.


Back in the 80s I would knit up a new jumper or cardy every 2 or 3 weeks. Me and my friend Jayne would eagerly anticipate the latest issue of Woman and Woman's Own to check out the weekly knitting pattern then dash off to buy the wool from WH Smith (yes they used to have a large wool section believe it or not) or Rackhams, or the Phildar shop (a really lovely French brand of wool with shops all over the UK which to our loss all closed. At that time big fluffy mohair jumpers and cardies were de rigeur and the knitting departments and shops were always busy. Remember this was the time when there was a wool shop on every high street and they all offered to keep the wool on one side to stretch out the cost.  Bizarrely after Emily was born I never knitted her anything, not even a pair of bootees.  

I found these patterns on Ebay just like the ones me and Jayne used to knit.  It was the age of power dressing and sometimes we would sew in shoulder pads. 

This is the more sedate kind of lacy pattern my mum would knit. She may even have got the pattern out of the Woman's Weekly which was always good for knitting. Unfortunately women's magazines no longer feature knitting patterns these days. They feed us boring gossip about soap stars and D list celebrities and really who gives a monkeys about them?  Bring back the weekly knitting pattern that's what I say.   

And this is Lynn's lovely lacy cardigan.  Just like my mum's.  It's time to get out those pins and start knitting again. You can never have too many cardigans! 


  1. Loved this post. Brought back memories of the 80's! I remember knitting a 'Jaeger' angora batwing sweater - then had to unravel it all as it didn't fit. Never used 'Jaeger'again after that!

    Can't remember when 'Rowan' first happened but I bought the magazines from the start, and only cancelled my subscription this year. Due to space, moving house frequently, etc., I have passed most of them on but kept a couple of favourite issues. I was fortunate in living near their mill in Holmfirth and went to several of their amazing sales. They were wonderful but you had to get there early!

    Your cardigan is amazing. I confess I have never done any colourwork. I did start a Kaffe Fassett peplum jacket in 1985 or thereabouts, which sadly was abandoned, never to see the light of day again! Love Kim Hargreaves who has done a lot for Rowan over the years, many with a 'vintage' feel, and Marion Foale.

    I too love Lyn Holland's blog 'One I made earlier today'. I have seriously whittled down the number of blogs I read these days, but the outfits she puts together are amazing and her posts and Instagram cheer me up. As does yours!

    I am in my late 60's and am just so impressed with all you young artists and crafters out there. A wonderful resurgence of craft and some amazing skills. Thank you for all the inspiration!

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments Julia. I don't know about young I'm 61 and a half so I think I'm up there with you haha
      Lynn xx

  2. Great to hear your comments. I am a big Rowan fan and bought the magazines from the very beginning but in a mad moment of de-cluttering got rid of a lot of them only to find later they had started to become collectible so spent the next 10 years buying them all back on ebay. I now have a complete set right from Issue 1 and buy the new ones too. Sadly though I think they are past their peak. Their best patterns were in the 80s and 90s and not so keen on many of the new designs or maybe I am just getting older.

    I am currently knitting a big fluffy oversize mohair jumper. I bought the wool probably getting on for 26 years ago around the same time I bought the Rowan Fair Isle wool. I just hope I have got enough to finish it. I will post pictures of it when I have.
    Thanks for ready my blog. xx

  3. Oh Jacqui (and Julia) you have made my day with your lovely write up and comments. I really enjoy dressing up and putting different outfits together. I've no idea about current trends or fashion and just do my own thing which is constantly varied as you will have noticed this week on IG.
    Thank you again Jacqui
    Lynn xx

  4. Omg, those patterns took me back in time! And the hair styles 😃 I used to spend hours in the hairdressers getting a perm so I could have Big Hair! I'd forgotten all about Phildar wool too....
    Thanks for the great article, I enjoyed it very much,
    Lunch Lady Jan (a friend of Lynn's through What's On Your Workdesk Wednesday)

  5. Glad you enjoyed the blog. Yes I used to have a permed bob back in the 80s. Great when it was first done but then when it started to grow out you would have combination of straight and curly then wait for it to have grown out enough to have it done again. Glad when straight hair became fashionable.