1930s Crochet – Five Things I’ve Learned So Far

Since taking up my new challenge of vintage crocheting I’ve learned hell of a lot. It’s sent me on a journey I really didn’t expect when I first started considering doing this, but I’m so glad I finally took a huge leap and threw myself in. So, for those of you, like me, who’ve never done crocheting before and are considering giving it a go, here’s the five main things I’ve learnt.

1. It’s not as hard as I thought!

1930s crochet jumper

Believing something is hard, and you won’t be able to do it, is probably the toughest thing to get over. It’s easier to just sit there thinking ‘nah, I’ll never get it right’ and so you don’t even try. This obviously relates to anything in life but it definitely was the case for me with crocheting. I’d wanted to give it a go for about 6 or 7 years but kept telling myself it would be way too challenging to get my head around. Well, what a surprise, it’s really not that hard at all!

My very first crochet garment (which you can see here) was the best choice to get started with. Yes, there were some tricky parts but just accepting that and spending time figuring each part out as I went along allowed me to finally complete something. I was so chuffed with myself that I’d actually done it and that it didn’t turn out as a big pile of poo! This really gave me the confidence to just throw myself in at the deep end with my next project.

My goal with all of this was to be able to crochet my own jumpers. Knitwear is the main 1930s based thing that’s missing from my wardrobe and is vital for the winter. Okay, so the jumper I’m currently working on has short sleeves (as you can see above) but I wanted to try something that looked relatively easy before tackling long sleeves. And I have to say, this is the absolute perfect choice for anyone who wants to try a jumper for the first time. I’ve found it fairly easy to do, despite a few mishaps along the way!

2. Figuring out what yarn and hook to use is the hardest part

With 1930s patterns trying to work out what yarn and hook you’re supposed to use, and how many balls of yarn you need, is a bit of an insane mind field. This may be the case for other decades too, but as I’m solely concentrating on the 1930s, this is my only reference.

The pattern for the above jumper suggests Clark’s O.N.T. or J&P Coats Pearl Cotton, size 5, 15 balls. Both of these yarns are now obsolete and there is very little info about them anywhere. It also states to use a Milward’s steel crochet hook No. 2 which sounds straight forward enough, but this is an American pattern. So, after copious amounts of research, I now know that in America during the 1930s this would’ve been a size 2.25mm hook, not the 2mm Milward steel hooks used in the UK today. Yep, like I say, insane!

I’ve added a handy chart below of all the different Milward steel hook sizes for anyone else who may come across this issue, stating the Milward size and the equivalent metric size.

Milward Size (1930s) Metric Size
No.14 0.75mm
No.13 0.85mm
No. 12 1mm
No. 11 1.1mm
No. 10 1.3mm
No. 9 1.4mm
No. 8 1.5mm
No. 7 1.65mm
No. 6 1.8mm
No. 5 1.9mm
No. 4 2.0mm
No. 3 2.1mm
No. 2 2.25mm
No. 1 2.75mm
No. 0 3.25mm
No. 00 3.5mm

When it came to choosing my yarn I took the pattern into the wool shop where my parents live, as one of the ladies who works there is a friend of my mum and I knew she’d be able to give me some advice. Her first reaction was, “I have no idea!”. That didn’t fill me with much hope. However, after looking at the photo and reading a bit of the pattern she advised that a 4 ply cotton would probably work. There were very few colours available in the shop of this, so I chose the prettiest, a bright pink. I ended up buying waaaaayyyy too much but at least I can use it for something else.

I’ve since learned loads about crochet yarns and threads and I’ve found out about the different crochet cotton sizes as used in America. It’s been hard because the information in the UK about this is very, very limited. Anyway, after ordering several different sizes online, and being given a box of various sized vintage Coats crochet balls, I now know that the 4 ply I’m using is slightly thicker than a size 5 thread as mentioned in the pattern. It doesn’t matter though as I’m using a 2.5mm hook, slightly larger than the No.2 hook, so the tension is relatively the same.

3. It’s hell of a lot easier to correct mistakes than in sewing

1930s crochet jumper front

So, I’m now at the stage where I’ve finished the back of the jumper. It’s taken me about 5 weeks to get to this stage, so not bad going for a beginner. It would’ve been quicker but I had to redo about 8 rows of the main section, not once, but twice! I kept getting the end turning part wrong each time, so ripped it back to just the ribbing section and blindly started again. I did the same 8 rows for a second time WITHOUT RE-READING THE PATTERN!!!! DOH! Yep, I got it wrong again and had to rip it all back once again. This time I made sure I checked the pattern each time I got to the end of a row to make sure I got it right.

Annoying as it was, it did make me realise just how easy it is to correct any mistakes. Yes, it’s frustrating to get rid of all the work you’ve already done, but it’s a damn sight easier than sewing. I hate unpicking! Seriously, with a huge passion! I would rather start all over again with sewing than to have to go back and unpick several sections just to correct something I done earlier. Crocheting is much, much easier so I don’t get so frustrated with it.

4. It’s Seriously Addictive!

Oh hell yes, it’s beyond addictive! I take it everywhere with me and do most of it during my lunch break at work. If I haven’t done any during the course of 24 hours I start getting twitchy and really want to find just five minutes to do some.

It’s so easy to just pick up, do a few stitches and put it down again. I could never do that with sewing. I’d have to lug my entire sewing box and machine with me if i wanted to do it at work! My colleagues think I’m weird enough, I don’t need to give them another reason.

When I don’t have five minutes to spare, or I don’t have my crocheting with me, I spend an awful lot of time thinking about it. Now that I know I can actually do it, and achieve something worthwhile, I want to crochet everything! As it’s just turned to Autumn here in the UK, jumpers will definitely be my priority and I’ve already decided on my next three projects. In no particular order these are as follows (click the image to see more):

1930s bell sleeve crochet jumper

1940s chevron crochet jumper

1930s matador belt crochet jumper

5. It’s given me confidence to want to try other crafts

As a result of me being totally blasé about crocheting, and just diving in at the deep end, it’s actually given me quite a bit of confidence to tackle other crafts. Embroidery doesn’t seem nearly as daunting as it did and I’ve even managed to pick up a couple of hoops at a vintage fair. I’ve ordered some threads, and the lovely Sarah so kindly sent me a table cloth with the embroidery template already on it that she found in a charity shop. As the nights now draw in, this is definitely something I’m going to have a go at.

I’m also seriously considering trying to knit again. My mum will be shocked! The few times I’ve done this in the past it’s been a total disaster, usually with me throwing a tantrum and the yarn ending up in the bin. Well no more! Rowena, better known as Vintage Lincoln on Instagram, posted a photo of her very first knitted jumper and it actually looks like something I could tackle. For those in the know, it’s called the 1930s 3-hour Sweater, and it’s available for FREE!! here. I can just about understand the pattern, so the first hurdle is already out of the way.

The only problem with all these new hobbies is that there just isn’t enough hours in the day. Why oh why do I have to work full time?!! Don’t they know I have beautiful 1930s clothes I want to make? Ah well, at least I can keep on dreaming and planning my fabulous wardrobe as I do the more mundane stuff. Does anyone else find they just don’t have the time to fit all of their hobbies in?

Cate

Just a vintage gal suffering from the Golden Age syndrome. Lover of all things old, lingerie obsessive, crafter and enjoys rummaging at flea markets.

31 Comments

  1. Perle cotton is still available in the U.S. Perhaps you could contact their offices here if you still need their input.

  2. I’m really looking forward to seeing the end result of your pink jumper 🙂 I was looking at yarn yesterday but ended up overwhelming myself! I then left with a plain old ball of white so I can finish my shell scarf.

    I’m starting to get the hang of reading patterns now and am not so reliant on pictorial guides which is a nice milestone to hit x

    • I was like that at the beginning. Just walking into a wool shop terrified me but I will say it’s always worth talking to someone who knows about this stuff. The ladies in the shops are generally always happy to help and get excited giving advice to someone who’s trying it for the first time.
      Well done on conquering reading the patterns, that was my first hurdle too. I look forward to seeing you scarf. xx

    • Oh, I’m glad you said that as I think it’s taking me ages! I think it’s because I just cannot wait to wear it so I’m getting impatient. xx

  3. I completely share your frustration on trying to juggle multiple crafts and working full time (not to mention the other bits of daily life). So many ideas, so few hours in the day!

    • It’s so annoying isn’t it? My head is constantly buzzing with ideas of things I want to make but I only ever get about 25% of it done. xx

  4. Congrats on conquering crochet , I love the matador top , I haven’t attempted any crochet garments yet but do agree is addictive and portable -am afraid the reason we have to work full time is so we can buy wool and thread and fabric

    • Yeah, it sucks though 🙂 Maybe I’ll win the lottery this week, I can only hope! Ah, can you imagine the fabrics and wool you could buy with all that money? xx

  5. I love crocheted garments but I have no clue how to crochet. It’s something I always wanted to learn how to do but yeah I’m in the ‘It looks too hard!’ category. xx

    • You should give it a go! Honestly, I never ever thought I’d be able to do it and look at me now. I’m so glad I just ploughed ahead and made myself do this, it’s been very liberating! xx

    • Oh I hadn’t spotted that pattern, it’s gorgeous! Hmmm, that’s another one to go on the list, although it maybe a little while before I tackle something that complicated. I find charts confusing but I guess it’s the way we’ve been taught. I’m glad I learnt this way as charts weren’t available in the 30s as far as I know (do correct me if I’m wrong!). xx

  6. Really? Not as hard as you think? That is encouraging! I have always considered this a daunting skill! But I am so glad you have taken it up so I can live through your creations! And maybe it might even inspire me to learn! What I would love is a beautiful 30’s crochet 2 piece set! I really look forward to seeing what you create! xx

    • Honestly, it’s really not, I promise! I was absolutely convinced I couldn’t do this for far too many years and look at me now. I have to say, because of my knowledge of dressmaking it has helped me to work things out, like how to adjust any sizing issues, and I’m sure you’d be the same. xx

  7. Very pretty color, and your jumper is looking good.

    Regarding size – are you keeping track of the measurements of your jumper pieces? I may have misunderstood what you wrote, but I’m just hoping that with both thicker thread and larger hook, you aren’t going to end up with a too-large jumper.

    • Thank you Dee! Yes, as someone who is very pernickety with sizing on my sewing I’m constantly checking this as I go along. I think it may end up a little bit tighter than I want but still wearable. xx

  8. You can get pearl cotton over here, I use it for my hardanger. One site I’d recommend for crochet-size balls of pearl cotton is Purplelinda Crafts – don’t be put off by the site design, I used to deal with her professionally when I worked on a knitting magazine and she is VERY good.

    Look at all these lovely threads! Click on any one to see all the colours. She even stocks lamé threads, if you’re feeling spangly. http://www.purplelindacrafts.co.uk/crochet-cotton-and-thread-36-c.asp

    (I do not need to learn to crochet, I do not need to learn to crochet, I do not need to learn to crochet…)

    • Oh thank you Mim, that’s a huge help! I just got completely sucked into their site, there’s sooooo many lovely colours. I can see myself buying quite a lot from them.

      Funnily enough they do have the Patons cotton 4 ply I’m currently using and they say it’s equivalent to a size 3 crochet thread, so I was spot on with thinking it was slightly bigger than a size 5. Yay me, I’m definitely learning! xx

  9. I’m laughing at Mim’s comment, “I do not need to learn to crochet”, I too could get quite carried away with attempting to learn new crafts, at the detriment to the ones I’ve already started!! I was thinking about you the other day, I was at a vintage market that had some crochet stuff. Glad to hear that you’re getting on well with it, that’s great stuff – good progress on that pink number!

    We’ve been on hols and are tackling some household DIY, so I’m having craft withdrawal and am itching to get into some sewing again soon and actually finish something I can show off on my blog!

    I really am excited to see what you crochet, good luck with it all xx

    • Ooo, vintage crochet stuff! If you ever come across any 1930s crochet patterns I’d be ever so grateful if you picked them up for me (price depending obviously!) and I’d pay you back for them. I’ve only ever found one, so I think they’re pretty rare. Likewise, if there’s anything you are ever on the hunt for, do let me know as I’m always doing the fair circuit.
      I can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to. Craft withdrawal is awful isn’t it? I did loads of sewing over the weekend but hardly any crocheting and I was itching to do some yesterday evening! xx

  10. Not that I can crochet myself, but I agree with so much of what you’ve said. New things seem so terrifying at first, but as long as you do your research they rarely are. And it is so much easier to find information and help these days than it used to be. As you say though, there just isn’t enough time! I would love to add about 5 more crafts to my life but…when?!

    • Ah, yes, there are sooooo many crafts I’d love to take up if I had the time. Leather work has always interested me and I’d love to do it but there’s so many tools you need. I’m not sure my bank account could cope with that as well! xx

  11. I’m currently doing the 3 hour sweater. It is an easy knit. But it can’t be done in 3 hours. I’m an experienced knitter and have been working on it for about 2 weeks. I can only do an hour at a time. I also had to adjust the pattern as I am a curvy girl, but it is definitely, and easy knit for a beginner. Would you be willing to share your pattern with us for the sweater in this blog.

  12. Really enjoyable post. I practically high fived (you) across the miles when I read point number 5. It’s flat out awesome that crocheting has helped to bolster your crafting skills/confidence in general. Love that!!!

    xoxo ♥ Jessica

  13. I’m so glad that you are enjoying your crochet. The jumper is looking really good and I like the next lot of patterns that you have picked out. You are right, there is just not enough time for all the crafting that I want to do. My wish list of potential patterns and crafts is huge!

    • It’s annoying isn’t it? I never feel I have enough time for anything these days and always end up rushing things at the last minute. xx

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