Thursday, October 20, 2016

Curb your Enthusiasm: A Picture is NOT Worth a Thousand Stitches

(First of all, I'd like to thank everybody who answered my call when I asked for examples of cool vintage baseball sweaters. I received lots, and I've included as many as possible.)

(Source: @JEMicklos)
Every few weeks, someone will tweet me--or tag me in--a pic of some cool vintage baseball regalia. I gotta say: I love it. I love all of it. The problem comes when someone follows up with: "Hey, you should make one of these!" or "I love this sweater, but can you make one with my team's logo?". I always feel bad responding to those queries, because here's the thing...

I can't. I'd really like to and I wish I could, but I can't.

Unfortunately, a picture isn't enough...for lots of reasons.

Doc Crandall, 1914 St. Louis Terriers (Source: @TheSkimmers)
1908 St. Louis Cardinals (Source: @BSmile)
Sometimes, there simply isn't enough information. Some of coolest pics I receive are just There's nothing about the player or the year; sometimes, I'm not even sure of the team. For example, here's one I really like. The "Sox" logo is great, I love the contrasting colors, and the decorative "belt" isn't something you see everyday. Since I've seen similar logos on other sweaters, my guess would be that this guy played for the Chicago White Sox.

However, look at the photo of Doc Crandall. That's definitely a St. Louis logo, so odds are he played for the Cardinals, right? Umm...nope. He played for the the Federal 1914. What makes this even more confusing that the St. Louis Cardinals were also around in 1914. In other words, without identification (especially in the first couple decades of the twentieth century) I'm at sea.

Weldon Wyckoff, 1913 Philadelphia Athletics (Sources: @TiceSing_3, @TheSkimmers)
Fortunately, lack of identification is usually fixable. People like @BSmile, @TheSkimmers, and @tshieber often know this stuff off the top of their heads, and if not, they usually know where to look. For instance, @TiceSing_3 sent me this (unlabeled) pic of an A's sweater with some cool elephant logos. Shortly after, @TheSkimmers sent me the same photo, identifying the player as Weldon Wyckoff of the 1913 Philadelphia Athletics.

(Oh, if you haven't picked up on it yet, the takeaway here is this: If you don't know where your picture is from, ask. Somebody out there knows.)

Tigers Sweater being auctioned off at (Source: @19802008CHAMPS)
This is a biggie. With the exception of a few colorized pictures (kudos to @BSmile), all of these photos are black-and-white. You can see how this might be a problem. While it's a safe bet any Cardinals and Red Sox sweaters are red and white, I can't tell the shade of red. And yes, I realize I'm displaying my ignorance here, but I'm pretty sure the 1913 Athletics didn't play in green and yellow. Even in cases where the colors seem obvious, they're not--even from year to year. is auctioning of a vintage Tigers sweater that's navy blue and grey (Note:This is probably from 1924 rather than the 1910's, as it appears to be the same sweater advertised here). However, the 1921 Tigers sweater I'm working on is more of a beige-grey, and the logo is black. Not blue. Black. If all we had were photos, there would be no way to tell.

For me, this is the most important part. I know a lot of people want sweaters that look like the ones in these pictures, but my goal is to recreate the actual sweater (hence a "historical replica.") That means knowing exactly how the hem is finished, the pockets are inserted, the sleeves are attached, the underarm gussets are worked, the shoulders are finished...

Is your head spinning yet? (And yes, I apologize profusely for throwing out so much knitting jargon at once. I promise everything will be explained in later posts. Promise.) My point is that you can't get that level of detail from a picture. Frankly, you can't even get it from a museum display (and believe me, I've tried!) Even finding out something as simple as the number of stitches per inch (the "gauge," for those of you paying attention :) requires physically handling the garment.

1924-26 warm-up sweater, worn by Jesse Haines (Source: @TiceSing_3)
Fortunately, every once in a while a new lead pops up. Among the pictures I received was this one from Tice Singleton. (Thank you thank you thank you!) It's a warmup sweater from 1924-26, worn by Jesse Haines of the St. Louis Cardinals and currently on display at the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum. (There's even a YouTube video, which if you're a vintage sweater junkie, you HAVE TO WATCH.) This sweater? This one I can make. In fact, I'd love to. The logo is amazing, and that two-tone collar is fabulous! First, of course, I need to okay it with the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum...

This probably counts as "minor," and no doubt it demonstrates what a stickler I am for historical accuracy, but as far as I'm concerned, the sweater is the sweater. Yes, that particular sweater may look really great, but if it says "Red Sox," you're not necessarily going to be able to find the same style with a New York Giants logo. That's not to say that you can't substitute in your logo of choice. After all, I'm only writing the pattern; you're the one who's going to make it (or find someone to make it for you :). But, unlike the pattern for my Hall-of-Fame Baseball Socks, there won't be options for alternate logos or color schemes. If I did that, these would be "vintage-style sweaters" rather than "historical replicas." For me, at least, that kind of defeats the purpose...