Lost in Translation

Vintage vs. Modern and Left vs. Right

Katrina King Oct 20, 2021 - 5 min read

Lost in Translation Primary Image

Title page from The Art of Crocheting, published in 1904 by the Butterick Publishing Company. All photos by the author.

One of the most interesting things about older patterns is the difference in information as compared to modern patterns. They still contain stitch count but there is little information given, if any, in regards to yarn, needle or hook size, gauge, or even what side of the work you are meant to be on. Obviously, these things are going to influence the finished product. The older patterns also either assume a level of familiarity with the craft or the maker having the intuition to use the products desired for the end result. As we all know from our own endeavors this is not an exact science and takes practice.


What fun to see how patterns were written over 100 years ago!

Another quirk that I personally deal with is being left-handed. This makes many things in crafts like cake decorating, tatting, and crochet flow in the opposite direction. In some instances, there is no difference in the look of the finished item, but sometimes there are. To take a look at this I created an experiment using a motif from The Art of Crocheting that we recently received from a reader. Controlling what variables I can—those being yarn and hook size—I decided to work the motif with both hands from the original pattern and see what happened. To aid in seeing the differences, I purposely chose a pattern with a spiral cant to it.

Here we go! Left vs right inner rounds

Inner two rounds worked with my left hand (shown left) vs. my right hand (on right); the main difference is the tighter tension in the right-hand piece. This is my first time crocheting right-handed!

Chain 17, turn. Now is this up the chain or to flip to the wrong side? I’m going to work both hands keeping the RS up. Our tech editor says to go to the wrong side….hmmm. If I were to do this again turning the piece to the wrong side at this point, would it create a different result? Start of spiral

Spokes of the wheel going in opposite directions, depending on which hand I used to crochet with.

Chain 8, it doesn’t say to turn but it is the only way to get back to the 10th double so I am on the WS of the work now.

3 photo panel

The left-hand version matches the photo! But wait: does the way the stitches lie match the photo from the book (center)? Not quite. The wrong side of the right-hand version matches both swirl and stitch. The right side of the left-hand version matches the swirl but not the stitch.

Another reason for choosing this particular motif is that there is a photograph. Several vintage publications do not contain photos for every project, making even more of working patterns guesswork. Was this pattern written by a left-handed crocheter or did the photographer shoot the wrong side of the work? Or was that first turn meant to put me on the wrong side to begin with?

What did I learn from this? Right-handed crochet is going to take more practice! Also, that pattern interpretation in instances like this can be different for every person. The key? Being consistent in whatever method you choose to create beautiful things.

Katrina King, the newest member of the Long Thread Media team, has yet to meet a fiber craft she doesn’t like. Along with lace knitting, she also has crochet, weaving, spinning laceweight yarn, and tatting in her tool bag. You can follow her craft adventures at Threaded Dream Studio. When she’s not crafting, she can be found teaching at her local yarn shops, reading epic fantasy novels, and chasing her daughters to various activities in and around Fort Collins, Colorado.