KBOW’s Comfy Cardigan

I don’t knit many sweaters. And when I do, they aren’t usually for me. But I was drawn to Pam Allen’s Comfy Cardigan from Clara Parkes’s Knitters Book of Wool. A friend knit it and recommended that it was one of her most comfortable sweaters. I’m a fan of slipped stitch and the honeycomb pattern of the bodice looked like it would be fun. It was. Twice.

First, I decided to modify the pattern to make it larger by adding honeycombs. Hmm. It seemed like a good idea, but before I was done I had a sweater with a 79 and 1/2 inch chest. That’s about two Dolly Partons and would not do. In my own defense, the sweater is unusually constructed and I did not understand exactly where I was in it most of the time. You start in the middle of the back with a provisional cast on and work to the edge of the back. Then you make a similar piece for the front. You join the pieces, and that’s where the sizing change occurs. Knit for a bit, cast off for the sleeve cut-out and then knit down to the cuff. Now back to that mid-back provisional cast-on and knit all the same sections for the other side. You pick up hundreds of stitches at the bodice and knit until it’s the length you want. A bit of ribbing, and you’re done.

After my Dolly Parton sojourn, I ripped back almost to the beginning and began again. This time I followed the pattern exactly, for the largest size. I was about 1/2 stitch per 4 inches above gauge, which ended up working out fairly well for me size-wise.

Maybe because of the somewhat lightweight worsted I used, Berrocco’s Vintage, this doesn’t have quite the “body” that might be best. The feel of it is soft and quite nice. But it isn’t doing too well with its rather dainty buttonholes, buttonband, and ribbing. Despite steaming, the buttonband and ribbing is curling some. I will tackle it again with more aggressive steaming.

Rather than shop for the perfect buttons, I used some nice wooden ones I had in my stash. They’re a bit too beefy and I’ll probably swap them out soon for something more lightweight. I’d like the sweater’s honeycomb pattern to catch the eye, more so than my button choice.

This turned to be a rather quick knit, as sweaters go. True to it’s name, it’s very comfy. The side-to-side construction assures that nothing binds.

Aunt Cecilia’s 1917 Corticelli yarn booklet

This booklet is 62 pages of knitted and crocheted patterns, published by the Corticelli Silk Mills of Florence, Massachusetts. The copyright is 1917 and is attributed to Nonotuck Silk Company.

Corticelli was into “olas.” Its floss yarn was Flosola. Its fingering yarn was Knitola. Its angora was Angola. And there’s also “Tezola.” It’s “far superior and quite different from the many so-called Teazle yarns on the market. When brushed up it does not have a shaggy appearance.” Oh. Instead, it has a “long, thick nap similar to Angora fur.” It has a “soft, full, loose twist, and will knit up into a much handsomer looking garment than any other Teazle wool.”

Teazle is actually a genus of tall plants that dry to a prickly tough compact head with protruding small spines. One plant, the Fuller’s Teazle, was often used in the textile industry of earlier times to comb out, clean and raise the nap on fabrics, especially wool. So, apparently these “so-called Teazle yarns” were meant to be brushed into fluffiness. Who knew?  Thanks to my co-worker’s husband’s Great Aunt Cecilia, I am learning about knitting in the World War I era.

Corticelli offers this advice for washing wool garments:

Wash in tepid water in which pure white soap has been dissolved. Do not rub but knead and squeeze the garment between the hands.  Do not at any time raise the garment above the water as the weight of the water tends to stretch the wool. When perfectly clean lower a pillow slip into the water, push in the garment and hang on the line where it wil be exposed to the sun and high wind.  Change the pinning of the slip every hour until the garment is thoroughly dry, then remove the garment, shake thoroughly and leave it in the wind for fifteen minutes. It will then look like new and retain all its original loft. Do not press.

Yipes. Washing a garment was basically an all-day task.

The booklet contains patterns for all ages, mostly sweaters, vests, caps, and gloves. Mrs. Vernon Castle models “Sports Vest No. 512,” knitted in Teazola. FYI the photo shows a fabric that definitely looks very shaggy. But Mrs. Castle likes the finished project. She advises that “for motoring, golf or mountain resort, this Sports Vest is ideal” and her “opinion on matters of this kind is always le dernier cri.” (Google translates that phrase as “the latest.”) We are informed that “Mrs. Vernon Castle’s taste in dress is exquisite.”

Here’s a sample–a snazzy looking vest and a buodoir jacket (but not modeled by Mrs. Vernon Castle):

World War I would wage on for two more years after publication of this pattern book. There are some specialty items included, apropos of the era. Consider the “Swagger Cane with Silk Bag Crocheted in National Colors.” This is “not a walking stick, but a swagger cane to carry jauntily under the arm. It holds a little red, white and blue silk bag that testifies to the patriotism of the owner.” Wow.  A “swagger cane.”

The last four pages provide patterns for “Knit Garments for the Army and Navy.” The author explains the need:

The following instructions are issued to help the women throughout the country who are at this time utilizing every available moment in making warm and comfortable garments for the boys who have responded to the call of our country in its present crisis. Many women, while anxious to help, are wholly at sea as to what garments are suitable or how best to make them, and much good material and time have been wasted in making garments that are wholly unfit for the service for which they were intended.

Knitters are told to knit “evenly and firmly.” “Drop stitches should be avoided.” “The garments should be free from lumps and knots, especially the socks, as they are liable to blister the feet.” Patterns are included for a sleeveless sweater, two kinds of wristlets, a “sleeping cap,” “muffler,” “cap for convalescents,” an “abdominal belt,” socks, bed socks, knee caps, and a helmet liner that continues on to include front and back garter stitch extensions that would act as a neck warmer.

The price? Fifteen cents.

Aunt Cecilia’s Woolco Knitting & Crocheting Manual, copyright 1916

The explanation for how I came to be acquainted with my co-worker’s husband’s Aunt Cecilia, several years after she died, is explained here. She was a lifelong knitter and hooker (you know I mean a crocheter). I was gifted with her large stash of Italian mohair, some of her books, and her glass cigar tube of crochet hooks. Those of us who love these crafts know that we want our treasured tools and yarns to find a good home after we die. I’ve tried to do right by Cecelia’s stash. Her booklets and books are safely protected.

More of Cecilia’s books surfaced recently and my co-worker gave them to me. The new gift includes this gem from 1916, published by F. W. Woolworth Company, a “dime store” of old. And, in fact, the book cost exactly that: one thin dime. The book cautions, repeatedly, that “to insure success you must use only Woolco Yarns.”  With “a little practice” you will become “a proficient worker.” Then “you will find that the work goes quickly and that instead of tiring you it will rest you and soothe the nerves.”  Indeed.

Several crochet and knit stitches are illustrated and described. There are patterns for babies, children and adults.  There are sweaters, vests, gloves, socks, leggings, shawls, scarves, slippers, and hats (Tam O’Shanter, helmet, toque). While the baby leggings don’t really “speak” to me, the kimono and “porch jacket” are quite sweet:


1916, when this book was published, was smack dab in the middle of World War I. That the war interfered with Woolco’s supply of dye, including for their popular Germantown line, must be the explanation for this plea at the start of the book:

Woolco Yarns have always been dyed with the finest dyes obtainable. The well-known condition of the dyestuffs market at present forces us to buy dyes in small lots so that we are no longer able to maintain our usual uniformity of shades.

It is a condition which we would overcome if it were possible, but as there is positively no remedy we must urge our customers to buy more carefully than has heretofore been necessary.  Buy enough yarn to finish your garment and see that it matches before you leave the store. By doing so you will avoid disappointment for yourself and assist us in overcoming an awkward and regrettable situation.

May we count on your cooperation?

I bet knitters didn’t have to be told more than once that the war had screwed up dyelots big time. I can picture knitters asking for permission to carry their yarn out to the street to be able to see the colors in natural light and make sure the skeins matched.

Tucked into the back of Cecilia’s Woolco book was this 1918 newspaper clipping of a sock pattern, knit on “4-10 yarn” and “Red Cross needle No. 1.”  The author had good advice for handling measurement, splicing, and a somewhat overly specific way (tie finished socks loosely together…) to make sure that there were no holes or dropped stitches:

To measure a garment, lay in on [sic] on a level surface and measure with a dependable measure (wood, metal or celluloid, not a tape).

Always join threads by splicing or by running threads through each other with worsted weight.

Tie finished socks loosely together at the top of leg, in such a way that the hand can be inserted for inspection.

If sock is thin at the point of gusset, reinforce by darning on wrong side very lightly with split thread of yarn.

Still good advice. (Clicking on the clipping, then clicking in to increase the size, will allow you to read a bit more.)

And, flipping the sock pattern over, this slice of life, lopped off in mid-sentence because all Cecilia was preserving was the sock pattern, not what Martin Radilyack, of Gary Indianna had to say about his wartime experience:


“I wouldn’t take anything for the things that have happened to me
during my recent experience with the Hun,” writes Martin Radilyack,
brother of Miss Agnes Radilyack.  Radilyack, employed by the American
Bridge company, who has been “missing in action” since May 1 and who

We won’t know more than that, I’m afraid. But the ad for the Freezone corn removal potion is almost fully intact.  “Try it. No humbug!”


St. Patrick’s Day and almost ice out!

The unseasonably warm weather is hurrying up ice out this year. The big thaw is being hastened by temperatures in the mid-seventies! This “river” cuts a swath near shore in the first bay, if you are coming out of the Narrows, on the east side of the big part of Long Lake. My theory is that a late season snowmobiler headed out on the lake, and then thought better of it. As the lake melts, the ice peels like an onion skin, showing evidence of winter’s activities.  You can see where snowmobiles moved about–and there weren’t many this year. You can see where the ATVs headed to ice fishing holes.

Speaking of holes, check this one out. The sun has heated the cinder block, sitting in about two feet of water, where we attach our aluminum paddle boat in the summer. This is the result:

The camera could not quite capture the many shades of green and blue showing through the ice.  But here’s a sample:


Oops…another Calorimetry

Calorimetry is a really addictive quick knit. I’ve made so many now that it’s getting a bit embarrassing. I should probably quit posting them, but every one comes out different and cute in a new way. You can find this Knitty free pattern here. Kathryn Schoendorf, Calorimetry’s designer, deserves to be recognized in a knitter’s “hit parade” for this gem of a pattern. It’s been knit and posted 14,448 times on Ravelry. It’s waiting in 7092 queues as of this writing.

Here’s what Calorimetry looks like laid out flat:

Here’s a glimpse of the B.C. (before Calorimetry) time when the yarn was just a ball of Plymouth Yarns Boku: