Friday, August 17, 2018

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Where to Find Great War Era Sweaters

Original advertisement for 1919 sweaters - image from Wearing History (click through to visit her blog post on these sweaters)
I don't know about you, but when I see September on the horizon, no matter how hot it is outside, I start thinking of Fall wardrobe. Autumn colors and cozy fabrics flood my imagination and I take to the internet seeking the ever elusive vintage-style knitwear.

This year I'm obsessed with Edwardian and Great War era sweaters. The knits of the World War I era were surprisingly modern - think hip-length cardigans with shawl collars and belted waists. This sounds like something you can surely buy today, but as with so many modern items there always seems to be something off about a design. Still, we are undeterred, so here are my tips and ideas for where to source your own WWI style sweater or cardigan this season.

1. The Thrift Store

"I wear my grandma's clothes; I look incredible." Don't I wish! The chances of finding an extant Great War era sweater...and then also wearing it...are slim to none. BUT! You might get lucky and find an early 2000s shawl-collar cardigan that either fits the bill or can be altered to the right look. Don't be afraid to look in the men's section as well. Double-breasted, shawl collar sweaters seem to have been relegated to menswear in recent decades.

An example of a thrift store found sweater. The collar never sat quite right on this garment, but it all had the right look when put together.
2. Amazon

It sounds crazy, but if you're good at keyword searching you might be able to suss out some good sweater juju on Amazon. Searching for things like "shawl collar sweater," "shawl collar sweater coat," "hip length cardigan," and so on. Again, don't be afraid of dipping into the gentleman's realm, but do double check the measurements, especially shoulder width. Prices and quality vary wildly on Amazon, so you may just want to nip to the other options below...

This men's sweater has some of the elements we're looking for - shawl collar, double-breasted front, although it has zip pockets and may be a tad short on the high hip.
3. Etsy

You have several options on the ever-popular vintage-and-handmade platform. For clarity's sake I'll list them individually...

A. Have something knitted for you. I found a few vendors on Etsy who will knit on demand for you, either by hand or machine. Some will knit from original vintage patterns (hallelujah because there are lots of those available!) while others offer pre-made designs that are pretty close. It may be possible to request alterations or customizations. Just contact the vendors you like to ask about custom designs. Prices on custom-knit garments vary, but be prepared to shell out a respectable amount for someone's literal handiwork.

This style from Woolen Fashion Shop is made-to-order for you in Latvia. They offer a variety of color choices and make to your measurements, if you don't mind the wait. This sweater is available in 100% lambswool but in speaking with the shop owner, she has said that is can also be made in merino wool.
Woolen Fashion Shop in Latvia machine knits what appear to be *gorgeous* sweaters (among other things) according to your measurements and in a wide variety of colors. This looks like a stunning deal at $95.00. Just be prepared to wait for any custom-made garment.

Kath's Knitwear currently shows sweaters made from later vintage patterns, but it appears that she is open to custom projects too. It is worth it to contact her to see about doing your own design from a photo or original pattern.

B. Seek a vintage/repro/thrift sweater in the right style, regardless of the age. This could mean something from last week, the 1980s, or the 1920s, etc. You're looking for the design elements - hip-length, shawl collar, belted waist. Be prepared to spend a long time searching, though, which can be an enjoyable Saturday afternoon or untold hours in an internet shopping vortex, depending on how you feel about buying clothes online.

This vintage sweater from Desert Moss on Etsy has the right details and is reasonably priced.
One thing to pay particular attention to is the fiber content. We love the 1970s and 80s for the Edwardian revival pieces, but we don't love the sticky acrylic and polyester that garments from these periods can be made in. Try for full or at least partial natural materials.

C. Find ye olde vintage knitting pattern. There are lots and lots of these on Etsy (and elsewhere on the internet). Download or purchase the pattern and fire it off to the custom knitting maven you found from method A or...

Try an original knitting pattern from Wearing History

3. Knit That Thing Yourself

I personally do not have the prowess to knit anything, let alone a fully-formed sweater with a collar and sleeves and pockets and stuff. BUT! If you are a savvy knitter, bust out your needles and go for it. The next best thing to an authentic original is a newly made, one-of-a-kind sweater made from an authentic original pattern.

UPDATE - Several lovely followers (and Abby) have found other sources for sweaters, either ready-made or patterns. I will list these below:

Vermont Country Store - several options for long, shawl-collar sweaters. I'm getting this one and while it doesn't have a belt, I feel confident that I can find a matching-ish wool yarn and knit one, even with my feeble knitting skills.

Vermont Country Store - I'm getting this one!

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Those are the ideas I've come up with for sourcing your own WWI-era sweater, but if you've got any other secret sauce to spread atop this post, please let me know in the comments section!

p.s. This post is crammed full of affiliate links so I can afford my Starbucks addiction once in awhile Help a chai sister out. <3
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7 comments:

  1. I have mild regret from not buying the knitting machine in the bargain basement at CoCo, but I just don't know how I would have gotten it home beyond shipping it (it was rather long, undoubtedly heavy, and no idea if it came with a box. Still...) Luckily I can and do knit sweaters, so one day I will have one of these lovely options.

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    1. There was a knitting machine at CoCo? DARN! Well, I have no idea how I would have gotten it home either, lol....or how to use it...or where I would've put it, hahahha

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  2. I made a sweater from a WW1 pattern a few years ago. It was easy (miles of garter stitch with a bit of ribbing in the middle) but constructed completely differently from any modern sweater I've made (also: no gauge to speak of, and the needle size was iffy). It was a pullover and made from hem to hem (so start at one hem and work your way up and over, and then make two gigantic side seams to sew it all up. Sleeves were done all in one). It was a LOT of stitches on the needles! Still, I'm glad I made it, even if it was too big for me by the time I finished (I was losing weight and it took me a long time to finish). I gave it to another reeanacter who was thrilled to have it!

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    1. That sounds like a couple of the sweater patterns I've been looking at. I hesitate using that technique since I'm so used to knitting front and back simultaneously, but I love the idea of fewer seams to stitch up at the end!

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    2. Same here-- I knit front/back as one, and usually do both sleeves at together first. Fewer seams and when done with the body, I don't have to wait for the sleeves. The main hesitation with knitting hem to hem though is "what if I run out of yarn?! With so little info about quantity of yarn, gauge, sizing, etc. (Since it's been a long while since I've knit full sweaters I'm out of practice guestimating yarn quantity). At least knitting bottom up, you can always switch yarns as an "I meant to do that" design feature. --another Rebecca

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  3. I got myself a knitting machine last winter and one of the big reasons was to be able to reproduce vintage knitwear (hopefully a little faster than my hand knitting and in bigger/taller sizes). I'm doing it for totally selfish reasons for me and my family, but I hope to get myself setup to be able to offer reproduction sweater for sale too. If that happens I'll make sure to let you guys know.

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  4. There are also quite a few crochet patterns from the era for sweaters, and a lot of them look pretty nice! So if you crochet, but don't knit, you might find something really nice to make!

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