Sunday, February 7, 2021

A 1920s "Two Day" Sweater...

20s Sweater 1

I made this sweater almost by accident. I bought the c. 1921 Bear Brand Blue Book on Etsy and found a few patterns in it I wanted to make. They called for Shetland Floss, so naturally I wanted to find out more about it.  I do have a sample of it from Peace Dale Yarns, which I wrote about here, but was interested to see if I could find any from Bear Brand, details about the weight, or how much yardage was on a skein.  Instead, I came across The Diane Sweater in an ad for Fleisher's Yarn in the April 1921 Ladies' Home Journal that claimed it only took a day and a half to make.  While I knew that it would take longer--it took about a month--it gave me an actual reason to make something and consistently work on it--something I haven't been able to do since all events were cancelled--as they should've been--this year. 

I took these pictures by myself with a tripod, and so look forward to when we can get together again. 

My version of the pattern can be found here. I've rewritten it and fixed a few of the errors in the original pattern. 

Ladies-Home-Journal-April 1921

This sweater has something in common with the sweaters and dresses in the Bear Brand Blue Book--negative ease. The dress I'm currently working on has a finished measurement of about 29 inches, yet is sized for a 34-36 inch bust. This sweater doesn't give gauge, but assuming that it has the same gauge as the similar patterns in the book, has a finished bust width of about 26 1/2 inches.  I found this interesting, and it made me want to see just what was going on. Garter stitch is stretchy, but that's a lot of negative ease!

Clearly though, it does work! And I think would work better with a fingering weight yarn that's closer to Shetland Floss.

I happened to have a cone of JaggerSpun Maine Line 3/8--a sport weight yarn that gives a gauge of 5 stitches an inch--that I was using for a shawl that I probably wasn't going to finish, so decided to use it for the sweater. The 3/8 yarn is heavier than the sample of Shetland Floss that I have, but it gave the same gauge. I think this is why there are differences between my sweater and the sweater in the ad.  

I'm using JaggerSpun Maine Line 2/8 for the dress I'm knitting now. It's a fingering weight yarn, and when knit on size 8 needles, gives a gauge of 5 stitches an inch.  The pattern calls for size 5 needles, but modern size five 5 were too small. Even if I adjusted it, the fabric would be too thick for the dress. It took a few tries to get the gauge for the dress right, but finally worked on size 8 needles, which, coincidentally--are 5 mm needles.

I think we tend to think of knitted fabric in one way, a fairly dense fabric. This wasn't always true--in the past you'll often see fine yarns on larger needles. I would actually like to make another one of these sweaters in fingering weight yarn on size 8 needles to see what happens! 

I found a page with a version of the pattern as well--which although I didn't use, is still good to share! 

20s Sweater 5 20s Sweater 6

Still, I'm very happy with this sweater! It paired nicely with my 1920s hemstitched tennis dress, which was a pleasant surprise--I had an accidental full costume! All I needed was a hat, which I made from view 1 of Mrs. DePew's 1920s Tam O'Shanters and Hats pattern. It's unlined purple taffeta. The only adjustment was I needed to take about an inch in from the band.

20s Sweater 7 20s Sweater 8 20s Sweater 9

In addition to the bust measurement having negative ease, the sleeves do too. They're 70 stitches, or 14 inches long.  When I tried the sweater on (very carefully because it was pinned!), they were barely past my elbow.  The advertisement shows wrist length sleeves. I thought this was strange, but the sleeves appearing to be too short was true of the patterns in the Bear Brand Blue Book, so I didn't try to change it. I thought that maybe the tightness of the cuffs pulled the sleeves to the length they were supposed to be. The cuffs are only about three inches long, but are fairly tight---and would be tighter if I followed the pattern exactly. It doesn't mention increasing back to the original size after the decorative dropped stitches and was just too tight to make it over my hand easily.  

The cuffs did work as expected and lengthened the sleeves--just not all the way to my wrist. I could pull the sleeves to my wrist--the cuffs just weren't tight enough to keep them there. I think though, that if you used the original weight yarn, you'd be able to keep the tighter cuffs in the pattern, and the sleeves would go to your wrists. Fingering weight on size 8 needles is much stretchier than sport weight on size 6 needles!  

20s Sweater 10 20s Sweater 11

I took pictures at a school built in 1936. It has a gorgeous courtyard, which I think was supposed to be locked when I visited last March! Still, the corridors outside the school were quite pretty, and it was quiet for me and my tripod on a Sunday afternoon. The parasol is one I recovered in 2012. 

20s Sweater 12 20s Sweater 13 20s Sweater 14

A few more views. I found the way the tie looked best was to just tie it once. The texture of the wool keeps it in place. I did have to tighten it once or twice, but it looked better than a knot, so I thought that was an acceptable choice!

20s Sweater 15 20s Sweater 16

In front of the doors at the side of the school's original gymnasium. The front entrance is very pretty with a triple archway--and fenced off!


  1. Lovely! The whole outfit looks great and it's neat to hear about the knitting experiments. :)


  2. This project was SO great to find! I knit the 1922 Irvington sweater as my first COVID project a year ago, but aside from some nominal sizing adjustments, it was pretty straightforward. Your thoughts about fingering vs. sport are really intriguing. Your finished sweater is just gorgeous, a really lovely fit, and I love the whole ensemble - thank you so much for posting your thoughts AND your edits on this pattern!

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