Remembering Retro Condo Knitting

Before diving into this post, I would like to ask you a question and your answer will help me make a decision. Do you like knitting directly from instructions on your mobile devices (ipad, iphone, etc.), or do you prefer to knit by a hardcopy (print copy) of the pattern instructions? 

Condo Knitting Leaflet 1983
Condo Knitting Leaflet

As I was going through some old pattern books, I came across a leaflet of “the condo sweater” from the early 1980s. I completely forgot about the “condo knitting” technique, which was a short-lived trend during the 1970s and early 1980s, prior to the explosion of the traditional knitting scene. Condo knitting should have been added to my post on elongated stitch patterns. Although condo knitting is an open, elongated stitch pattern, the method of making it is different; the technique doesn’t utilize yarn-overs or wraps to achieve its effect, instead it is made using two different needle sizes.

Condo knitting was popular for making items quickly, using inexpensive yarns. The look of a condo sweater had varied appeal, and although it’s a quick knit project, it has limitations when compared to classic knitting patterns and methods, particularly amongst diehard knitters. The condo method works well for making scarves, and in its heyday it was mainly used to knit up lacy sweaters and tops. Any yarn weight can be used, and fuzzy yarns like mohair, add texture to the fabric, so the garment doesn’t look so open.

Condo Knitting Technique

A condo knit fabric consists of horizontal bands of loose and tight stitches, and the technique is easy. As mentioned above condo knitting doesn’t use yarn-overs or wraps to achieve the open loops. The stitches are formed by using two different needle sizes. For the sample swatch below, size 5.5 and 12mm needles were used with chunky weight yarn. The stitches worked with the larger needle are more open than those worked on the smaller needle. 

Experiment by swatching to get the look you want. There are no rules to choosing the needle sizes; it just depends on how loose you want the fabric to look. Make sure to block the swatch fully, because this fabric is very stretchy.

Basic Method: Cast on any number of stitches with the smaller needle. Change to the large needle and knit one row. Switch to smaller needle and knit one row. Continue in garter stitch, knitting every row, alternating the small and large needles. Don’t work close to the tips, or you will have difficulty inserting the large needle into the stitches. Also, after working each stitch, make sure to slide them to the fullest part of the needle. Cast off pieces loosely with the smaller needle.

condo knitting with chunky yarn

Condo knitting forms an openwork pattern that you may like to try. It’s easy and quick to make, simply alternating between a small and large needle in garter stitch. Choose your project wisely and modernize a retro look.

condo knit sweater by Tina Rourke
Modern version of condo knit sweater
Designer Tina Rourke