Vintage knitting, crocheting and macrame patterns for women, men, children and home decor in classic patterns from the 1950s to 1980s – for instant download. by

Most vintage patterns use yarn that is no longer available. Thankfully, it’s easy to substitute modern yarn. As a starting point, look at the gauge called for in your pattern and find a modern yarn with a similar suggested gauge on the label. Knit a test swatch adjusting needle size up or down to obtain correct gauge.

Below is a general guide. Always test the gauge with a 4”x4” swatch to obtain the correct gauge before starting your garment.

Guide to Yarn Weight and Gauges 

Day17 Vintage yarn weight

This is a general guide. Always test gauge with a 4”x4” swatch to obtain correct gauge before starting your garment.

Needle Size Conversion Chart

Needle size conversion chart



 Many vintage patterns were published in only one size, and unfortunately, this size may not work for everyone. But it’s quite easy to adapt knitting patterns to a larger or smaller size and can be done by the average knitter.

The size of a garment depends on the number of stitches and the tension of the knitted fabric. A change in one or both of these factors will produce a difference in size. There are two methods to use in altering the size of a knitted garment - the tension method and the number of stitches method.


This is the method to use if the required difference in size is not very great, for example, two or three inches bigger or smaller than specified in the pattern. It also works particularly well if the design is an intricate one requiring a great deal of shaping, or if it is an elaborate pattern.

First, you must understand what will happen when you alter the tension given in the instructions. Let’s take the example of a 3-ply yarn knit on No. 9 needles with a tension on 7 stitches per inch. 119 stitches would give you a finished width of 17 inches (7 x 17 = 119).

If you knit a little more loosely or use needles one size larger, the resulting tension will be 6.5 stitches per inch, and the same numer of stitches will produce a width of just over 18 inches (119 ÷ 6.5). This may not sound like much, but a difference of half a stitch per inch will result in the difference between a 34-inch and a 36-inch bust.

Remember this rule: a difference in one needle size produces a difference of half a stitch per inch in tension, and about two inches difference in the complete bust measurement of an average garment.

Be sure to check your own personal tension in knitting before making the alteration. If you use yarn of a different thickness as well as changing the size of the needles, the difference in measurement will, of course, be greater.

To apply the tension method, first find out the number of stiches given in the pattern for the bustline – that is, before the armhole shaping is worked. Divide the number of stitches by the number of inches you need for half of your bust measdurement (for example, for a 38-inch bust divide by 19). This will give you the number of stitches that you need for one inch. If the garment is wider in the front than at the back, your calculations must take into account the complete measurement.

Don’t forget that alterations to the width may need alterations to the length as well. Larger or smaller needles will alter the number of rows to the inch as well as then number of stitches, so if your pattern states a definite number of rows or patterns to be worked, then each part of the garment will be longer (with larger needles) or shorter (with smaller needles).


You should use this method of altering your knitting if the required difference in bust measurement is four inches or more. This method is also useful when the stitch is an easy one involving only a few stitches to each pattern unit, and when there are no elaborate increases and decreases.

In this method, you keep the stated tension, but you add stitches to make the required differnce in size. If, for example, the pattern specifies a tension of eight stitches to the inch, and you want to add two inches to the width of the front, then you cast on about 16 extra stitches and allow for these throughout whenever a number of stitches is stated.

When you reach the armhole shaping, divide the extra stitches into four equal parts and allow one part for each armhole and two parts for the body of the garment. Consequently, if you have 16 extra stitches, work four extra decreasing for each armhole and keep eight more than stated when the armhole shapings are finished.

Spread out the extra 8 stitches between neck and shoulder shapings in a similar way. If you are making the garment smaller, then subtract the stitches instead of adding them throughout.

To keep a larger garment proportionate, increase the length by adding an inch or so before shaping the armholes and another inch or so before shaping the shoulders.The armholes should not be less than 7.5 inches deep for a 38 to 40-inch bust.

Of course, to fit the deeper armhole, you must make the sleeves wider, so add an inch to the width of the sleeve at its widest part for every half an inch added to the armhole depth.

To keep the cuff close fitting while adding to the width at the top, cast on the number of stitches according to instructions and add the remainder by working the sleeve increasings more frequently than stated in the instructions, perhaos on every sixth row rather than every eighth row.