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1920s Sports Sweater

Added Oct 6, 2011

by harrietbazley

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.

Material Notes

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.




Spring, Fall
Garment Type
Casual, Classic, Vintage


Pall Mall Gazette

6 Comments Sign in to add a post

  • Flavitar_large

    Oct 7, 2011, 06.40 PMby wearinghistory


    1 Reply
    • 121bcd6a71a_avatar_large

      Oct 17, 2011, 02.28 PMby harrietbazley

      Thank you – that means a lot, coming from you…

      I’m still working on the 1930s dress pattern I bought from you this summer – busy thread-tracing all the individual seam lines at the moment, after going through two toiles! It will appear on BurdaStyle eventually I promise… some time around Christmas if I get a move on….

  • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

    Oct 7, 2011, 12.03 PMby loulourosa

    verry nice! I also love the text from the patternbook! About the little info for the colourpattern, women didn’t need lots of instructions in those days, my mum allready had to knit a pair of knickers(!) when she was only six, and by the time she was seven she knitted socks. So I think that women in the twenties where verry good knitters!!!!

    2 Replies
    • 121bcd6a71a_avatar_large

      Oct 7, 2011, 08.46 PMby harrietbazley

      I think it’s partly that it was a newspaper giveaway pattern rather than a paid-for commercial one; I have a couple of other patterns from the 1920s which are far more detailed (and accurate!)

    • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

      Oct 9, 2011, 09.05 AMby loulourosa

      offcourse, that can be the reason, so you would buy other patterns from the same newspaper,….
      I have a lot of old patternbooks for sewing, and the nicest patterns allways had to be ordered,…

  • Missing

    Oct 7, 2011, 08.40 AMby u120418

    Wow! You are brave to tackle such an old pattern! How hilarious is the copy!

    1 Reply
    • 121bcd6a71a_avatar_large

      Oct 7, 2011, 08.45 PMby harrietbazley

      I wonder how many readers of the newspaper that week ever knitted it up? It would be fascinating to know….

  • Anna_large

    Oct 6, 2011, 07.47 PMby in-stockholm

    wow! Really impressive work! And I really appreciate you taking the time to document it for us here in writing.

    1 Reply
    • 121bcd6a71a_avatar_large

      Oct 7, 2011, 08.44 PMby harrietbazley

      I’m always afraid I’m writing far too much for these projects (I seem to produce about six times as much text as anyone else…) so I’m very relieved you find it interesting!

  • Headshot_large

    Oct 6, 2011, 04.31 PMby MaggieMoise

    really lovely. It looks wonderful on you and the colors complement your very well. Really nice work

    1 Reply
    • 121bcd6a71a_avatar_large

      Oct 7, 2011, 08.49 PMby harrietbazley

      Thank you. I don’t usually wear it with that hat (not at all vintage… other than being bought in a charity shop) but it was the closest to the one in the illustration – in fact I was amazed how close the effect was, as it’s not at all what one thinks of as “Twenties” headwear.

  • Img_7609_large

    Oct 6, 2011, 11.49 AMby cequimby

    This is really beautiful. Love the style and the way you fit it.

    1 Reply
    • 121bcd6a71a_avatar_large

      Oct 7, 2011, 08.42 PMby harrietbazley

      Thank you – what you can’t see from the pics is the heavy-duty elastic underpinnings enabling me to achieve that ‘boyish’ line! (Also very period, of course: the underwear advertisements in the same newspaper were quite a revelation….)

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