January 1961: Snowflake Sweater

IMG_2256January’s project was — like August 1960’s twin-set — one of the reasons I wanted to start this whole mega-blog-project in the first place, namely, this beautiful round-yoke “snowflake” sweater in the style of traditional Greenlandic designs. I love the combination of curvy and angled shapes produced by the diamond-shaped rings on the yoke, and the dark background colour fits my style.

Traditional round-yoke sweaters made from the bottom up typically call for the body and sleeves to be made separately, then joined in the round for the yoke, casting off stitches under the arms and on the sleeve-underarm edges to add depth to the chest width and make the first few rounds easier to work.  But like all adult garments from this time period, Stitchcraft‘s version is meant to be made in separate pieces. The first part of the yoke is written with back-and-forth raglan decreases, until the patterned part of the yoke gets going, and even that is supposed to be knitted back-and-forth with an opening in the back for a zipper.

Besides being not very traditional, I find back-and-forth knitting on stranded garments not so much fun (stranded purling is annoying) and certainly not as fast to make (knitting is faster than purling, and in-the-round construction means no seams to sew later), so I was determined to make this garment completely in the round and without seams. Making the sleeves and body separately in the round was no problem, but I was at a loss as to how to do the raglan bits plus neck shaping before the patterned yoke began without completely re-writing the pattern. Also, I wanted to add in some short rows to make the front part of the neck drop a little farther down than the back.

img_2306After thinking it over, the most reasonable course was to work the little bit of pre-yoke between the armhole bind-offs and patterned yoke back and forth with raglan decreases as written, but beginning the front neck shaping (pre-yoke, concurrent with the raglan decreases) an inch or so lower than the back. That preserved the proper stitch count, let the sweater hang better, and shortened the yoke a bit. I didn’t mind shortening the yoke, as I like sweaters to be snug under the arms and not too high on the neck. I didn’t need a zipper, so I made the patterned yoke entirely in the round.

img_2311It worked out perfectly! I could hardly believe it. Raglans and round yokes may be somewhat forgiving on the body, but it is a fundamentally tricky mathematical game to make all the interdependent factors of width, depth, and pattern repeat come out right, so I was really proud of myself for making it work. My only other modifications were on the sleeves (longer) and the waist shaping (original pattern had none, I started out narrower at the waist and increased gradually at the sides to give a more figure-flattering look.)

Version 2
Don’t let the tropically-painted background fool you — it’s cold outside!

The yarn was a mixture of plain Regia 6-ply (DK) sock wool for the dark and light blues, and some of the lovely 100% wool that my knitting colleague hand-dyes with plants (the brown and green, made with onion skins/walnut shells and some kind of green reed plant, respectively.) It is very warm and has the right balance of firmness and softness.

All in all, I am 100% happy with this pullover and will probably wear it a lot this winter.

 

 

August 1960: Twin-set returns

IMG_1942I loved this twinset at first sight. I loved the short raglan sleeves on the pullover, the cable-and-mesh panel on the front and the very original mock-turtleneck-meets-peter-pan collar.  It’s one of the reasons I started this whole long-term Stitchcraft blog project, so I’m thrilled to have it come to life.

The yarn I used was ideal in terms of wearability: Lang Merino Bébé which is extremely soft and smooth and can be worn next to the skin with no problems at all. It is a little thicker than Patons Beehive Fingering, for which the pattern is written, so I had to work with a modified gauge (6 1/2 stitches per inch instead of 7) and ended up making a combination of the small (34-35 inch bust) and medium (36-37 inch bust) sizes to get a slightly larger size in the end. I guess in terms of actual measurements, I ended up with the second size, which fits fine.IMG_2033

Of course, the pattern is written to make in pieces and sew together, but I love making raglan-sleeve garments in one piece and working them together without seaming. It was a fun challenge to integrate the different decrease speeds of this compound raglan (the sleeves decrease every 4 rounds for quite a long time whilst the front and back decrease every other round), as the instructions are on different pages.

 

IMG_1994The cables have an interesting twist — literally. You put four stitches on the cable needle, knit the other four and then give the cable needle an extra 360 degree clockwise twist before knitting the stitches off of it. This gives them a cool extra definition. I forgot to do it once and it was almost unnoticeable — almost — but I didn’t want to rip back that far, so when everything was done I looped a little tiny thread around one of the cable stitches and just pulled it over more to the side and tacked it down by tying the thread ends in a knot on the wrong side. Look at the close-up picture above — can you tell which cable it was? I can’t on the finished garment. Good to know.

 

The collar is knitted separately in two pieces that are then knitted onto the picked-up stitches around the neckline, sort of like a three-needle bind off only without the binding off. Then you continue for an inch of mock turtleneck. The back of the pullover is open and you are supposed to put in a zipper, but I went for the keyhole effect and just added a button with a little crochet chain loop for a buttonhole. The final result is comfortable and pretty.

IMG_2081The cardigan is somewhat more plain, as it doesn’t have the cables, but it makes such a lovely set with the pullover — not to mention it’s an excellent “everyday” cardigan to go with lots of other outfits. The sleeves came out a bit long — I was obviously over-compensating for my long arms and the fact that I always have to lengthen the arms a bit — but it looks just as good with the cuffs turned back, and I can turn them down for extra warmth under a coat and gloves. I hadn’t expected the raglan sleeves to have so much armhole depth. I thought about adding facing ribbon to the button bands, but it turned out to not be necessary, as the cardigan fits fine whether buttoned or unbuttoned. In short, I am thrilled with my new twin-set and it will surely get a lot of use this winter.

 

 

 

 

 

April 1960: Popular neckline

Version 2My second project for April (obviously not finished before the end of the month, seeing that I started it two days before) was this cute lace blouse with a “Popular neckline.” I do love the neckline, and the leaf pattern.

The pattern is written for wool, of course, but I made it in cotton for summer. It is very, very difficult for me to find any kind of yarn, especially cotton, that is fine enough to get the pattern gauge of 8 stitches to the inch in stockinette stitch. I can hardly even get 8 stitches to the inch on lace-weight wool on 2 mm needles! But crochet cotton thread would be too thin, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in black. So I found a cotton that gets me 7 stitches to the inch on 2 – 2 1/2 mm needles and fiddled with making the middle size and having it come out as the large size.

popneck_wipThe biggest problem was making the side-seam increases. The lace pattern has a repeat of 12 stitches, but a sort of varying number of edge stitches. I honestly had no idea where to fit in the extra stitches, or how to keep them in pattern when the increases and decreases within the pattern are broadly spaced. Time to hit the Ravelry forums! I did try charting it out (the pattern has written instructions only) and at first it made it easier to “read” the knitting, but didn’t give me any fundamental technical answers. I realised I had to chart out  not just the pattern itself but all of the increases and decreases, with the changes that had to be made row by row. That worked, but by then I had already made the back piece, so those increases on the sides weren’t perfect. But everything else was!

The fit is incredible. I was wary of the horizontal cap sleeves, which are really just made by casting on extra stitches instead of decreasing under the arms. I thought it would make a lot of baggy fabric under the arms, like those 1950s (or 1980s) dolman-sleeve fashions that must be extremely inconvenient to wear. But no! The armholes are snug without being too tight, and I appreciated the extra width and give in the upper chest and back, where I am quite wide.

All in all, it is wonderful and I am very happy. Here I am having fun “recreating” the original picture. The bag is from a Stitchcraft pattern, too!IMG_1929