While I first learned to knit at age 5 or so, I was never given a pattern to follow. The knitters in my family were Norwegian women either living on farms or only one generation off the farm. Rooting around in their stash, pulling out the nearest set of needles, estimating the size of a nephew, niece, grandchild, etc. … the result was a custom designed and beautifully knit sweater.
Now they did use patterns from time to time. My grandmother, for instance, went through a stage where she knit me a series of the Olympic ski sweaters designed by Dale. Wearing them to school in California winters, I needed no jacket – though generally looked as if I had arrived on skis.
As a child in Norway, she knit me a Setesdal sweater. I still have the pattern! (There’s no date on the pattern, but I know it is at least 50 years old.) The picture to the right is the front; the picture below is the back.
You might notice the taped portion on the front page of the pattern. For some reason I don’t remember (but I’m sure I thought it was a good reason then) and in an effort to be helpful, I cut out the paragraph of the instructions for “ermene” (the arms). She taped them back in. 🙂
On the left side of the picture below are the instructions for handknitting; on the right side are the instructions for machine knitting. As you can tell, the instructions are not lengthy nor detailed.
Interestingly, the font used for the machine knitting instructions is much smaller than the font used for the handknitting instructions.
Below are several patterns I picked up in Norway, all of them similarly small.
The long white pattern on the bottom to the right of the man’s ski sweater is the inside of the Setesdal pattern (above), unfolded.
Are you wondering how difficult it is to use these patterns with such scant abbreviations? Not difficult at all. To the left is a picture of part of the inside of one of the more modern patterns (“only” 30 years old). Note it is not in the the line-by-line format common today.
I have been in conversation with blogger cbkrug who, like me, is a fan of the reductionist (her term) pattern writing. In my next blog I will both deconstruct patterns written in that style and demonstrate how to write one yourself!