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Yarn Weight for Vintage Knitting Patterns

The first hurdle to overcome when knitting is determining what yarn to use. This becomes a little more challenging when knitting from vintage patterns because over the decades, the goalposts have moved for yarn weight.

Whilst DK (double knitting) and chunkier yarns are popular today for how quick they are to work up, they weren’t popular at all pre-1950s. Even when we do see DK yarns being introduced around the 1950s, it was a completely different beast to what we know today, and was actually closer to a 4 ply.

Now, you’d think that a handy conversion chart would clear this up and we could all just get on with casting on, but… it’s sadly not that simple. Whilst it is a handy rule of thumb to mentally go a weight down from the modern equivalents in the standard yarn weight system, for example using a sport or baby weight rather than a DK, it doesn’t always work out so logically.

Two projects I have undertaken, Listers 329 and Robin 763, both call for DK weight yarn. Now, my first inclination was to turn to a 4 ply instead of a modern DK, but it transpired that a modern DK yarn was just fine and dandy to achieve the correct measurements. I tend to be quite a tight knitter though, so this may very well have influenced this outcome, and the only way to really know whether you’ve got the correct yarn is to make up a swatch.

Whilst knitting up a swatch might seem like a waste of time, and a barrier to getting stuck into the joy of your project, the exercise may well save you hours of work and will ensure that you get a garment that fits correctly. And for working with vintage patterns, it’s even more essential to not skip this step due to the changes in yarn weight over the years.

For all the patterns that Cinnamon Cinders sells, the required tension is available before buying the pattern. We do this so that you can know in advance of buying the pattern whether the yarn you may already have is suitable for the project.

If you don’t already have the yarn, then the tension, rather than what the pattern calls the yarn, can help to guide you towards the right choice. By looking at the number of stitches per inch multiplied by four, you can use the standard yarn weight system to make an informed choice of what modern weight of yarn may work for you.

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