1920s Sports Sweater
Added Oct 6, 2011
London, United K...
This is my ‘research jumper’ – I came across the pattern when I was working through 1920s tabloid coverage at the British Library Newspapers collection in Colindale, and did a good deal of the knitting on it while travelling on the Tube for further research in East London!
The pattern was printed in the Pall Mall Gazette (which was to go out of print only a couple of years later) on May 18th, 1923, and advertises itself as being a unisex design, Fair Isle sweaters having been recently popularised by the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII). “This sketch shows a sweater which is suitable for either sex, and some sisters, cousins, and aunts will probably enjoy making it for one of the popular male members of their family. While if the menfolk decline such a present with thanks, and prefer to attire themselves in shop-made articles, the fair knitter can embark on one for herself or her girl friends, and then she can be as gay as fancy dictates.” (The attitude of men towards unsolicited handmade knits has clearly not changed much over the last ninety years!)
When worked to the tension given the chest measurement is 38 inches – which in the 1920s tubular style translates to massively dropped sleeves, on me at least! By the looks of it the lady in the picture has customised hers to rather slimmer proportions; bear in mind, however, that it has to fit round the hips without any increase in width… I did shorten the sleeves from the specified 18-inch length. As you can see, they are still a bit long – this really is a mansize garment, or at least not a petite womansize.
An interesting point is that the instructions to achieve the ‘diamond’ pattern are minimal at best – it simply gives you the instructions for the first two rows at the point where the diamonds first occur, then ‘repeat these 2 rows for 4 rows in all’, and simply ‘4 rows of copper and white’ everywhere else. If followed literally (i.e. do the first two rows exactly as before) this would not produce the illustrated design, let alone produce the ‘reversed diamond’ effect shown – “the fair knitter” was evidently expected to display a fair amount of initiative when following patterns of this period!
The jumper is worked in plain stocking-stitch throughout, with the exception of the deep cuffs, where the stocking-stitch pattern has to appear on the back so that when they are turned back they match the rest of the garment. The edges are finished with a row of double crochet to prevent the stocking-stitch from curling (the pattern specifies a single row of d.c. in the green contrast colour around the neck, but the illustration clearly shows two rows, so I added an extra row and it looked much better).
The original colours suggested in the pattern were a white background with ‘copper’, ‘royal blue’ and ‘emerald’ patterning – but white doesn’t suit me, so I made it up in pale blue instead.
Two 100g balls of Robin 4-ply acrylic wool in sky blue (getting hold of this was my main motivation for trying out the pattern – I don’t often have sufficient fine-weight wool in a single colour to make up this sort of jumper) plus some oddments of coloured double-knitting wool used for the pattern bands.
- Pall Mall Gazette