Pattern: Diane Sweater from 1921

1921 Fleisher Yarn ad

Recently I was looking through the book For The Love of Knitting, which includes many pictures of vintage knitting patterns and books, and I noticed that one of the illustrations was of a Fleisher yarn company ad from 1921. The ad included a complete pattern for a very cute drop-stitch sweater, which it claims takes “less than two days’ time”! Now, here’s the neat thing — anything published pre-1923 is in the public domain in the United States. So this ad and the knitting pattern it contains are in the public domain (probably why the book included it). So I’m reprinting the 1921 pattern here for anyone who is interested.

More photos and the pattern text after the jump!



1921 Fleisher Yarn ad

According to the ad, this was called the Diane Sweater, and required 8 balls of Fleisher’s Shetland Floss. No gauge is given, though this may be a sportweight yarn. I do not know what a modern equivalent of this yarn would be, but I’m hoping commenters here or on Ravelry can help fill in the information needed to knit this. (But see below where I’ve filled in what I do know.)

Here’s a closer look at the sweater. You can see that it appears to include garter stitch. Here are the instructions exactly as printed in the original text. However, I’m going to retype them here, along with annotations as we figure out parts of this pattern.

Comments in italics (and rose-colored) are modern annotations to the original pattern.

Materials: Fleisher’s Shetland Floss (Ravelry currently indicates that this is a sportweight yarn. It seems likely that the skeins were about 150 yards, as that seems typical for a 1 oz. skein of Shetland Floss from most manufacturers [such as Minerva]. However, it is possible it also came in 2 oz. skeins. 1200 yards is likely to be enough to make this sweater. “Floss” apparently indicated a blend — was this wool/cotton? ), 8 balls Rose No. 35; 1 pair needles, No. 5. (I am not sure whether this is the same as a modern US 5, but most of what I’ve been able to find online indicates that it probably is equivalent.)

Cast on 60 stitches. Knit plain for 1 inch. “Knit plain” means garter stitch.
At this point, you can create a base for your drop-stitches as follows:
In the next row, *K1, K2together, yo; repeat from * until 3 stitches remain, K3.

Then knit 1 row, purl 1 row, for 4 inches.
Next row—drop every third stitch. (Before unraveling the dropped stitches, darn a thread through the first row of ribbing.) “Ribbing” in old patterns was often used to refer to horizontal “ribs” such as the garter stitch ridges seen in this pattern. However, you don’t need to “darn a thread” here if you knitted the k1, k2tog, yo row mentioned above.
Next row—increase 1 stitch every second stitch.
Knit plain for 8 rows. (The “8 inches” given in the original pattern seems to be a typo.)

This seems to be a back-to-front construction — starting the knitting in the back (above the waistline) and knitting over the shoulders to the front. This vintage pattern for a doll sweater is structured similarly.

Cast on 10 stitches each side of work, 7 times. (This is where you form the sleeves. The original pattern says “6 times”, but this doesn’t give you the correct stitch count.)
Then knit 36 rows (or 18 ribs) even.
Next row—knit 91 stitches ( then put the first 91 stitches on a holder), bind off 18, knit 91.
On the last 91 stitches, knit 6 rows.
Next row—cast on 15 stitches on the neck-end of the work.
Knit 42 rows (21 ribs) from the shoulder. (This is still on the 91 stitches you’ve been working.)
Bind off 10 stitches 6 times. (Finishing the sleeves.)
Knit even until front opening measures 7 inches.
Make the other front to correspond. (This is where you work the first 91 stitches that were on the holder.) Join to the first front.
Knit plain for 1 inch.
At this point, you can create a base for your drop-stitches as follows:
In the next row, *K1, K2together, yo; repeat from * until 3 stitches remain, K3.

Knit one row, purl 1 row, for 4 inches.
Bind off, dropping every third stitch.

Cuffs: Pick up 30 stitches at the end of the sleeve.
At this point, you can create a base for your drop-stitches as follows:
In the next row, *K1, K2together, yo; repeat from * until 3 stitches remain, K3.

Knit 1 row, purl 1 row, for 1 1/2 inches. Drop every third stitch.
Knit 1 inch plain.
Bind off.

Belt: Cast on 25 stitches.
Knit 54 inches.
Bind off.
Sew to front of sweater, leaving ends loose to tie.
(This is frustrating, because we cannot see a tie in the picture. Also, I think in this case they meant “knit plain”, as the waistband appears to be sideways-knit garter stitch. One thing that is useful about this section, though, is that it might tell us the gauge. Look at the width of the waistband on the model — that’s going to be just under 25 stitches in width. (Allow a stitch for the seam.) If we can figure out how wide that waistband is, we’ll know the gauge in garter stitch.)

Collar: Pick up the stitches from one end of the lapel to the other.
Knit plain for 2 inches.
At this point, you can create a base for your drop-stitches as follows:
In the next row, *K1, K2together, yo; repeat from * until 3 stitches remain, K3.

Knit 1 row, purl 1 row, for 1 1/2 inches. Drop every third stitch.
Knit 1 inch plain.
Bind off.

(I guess at this point some assembly is required. ;) But not a terrible amount, as so much of this is knitted in one piece.

So, there is the Diane Sweater. I’d like to eventually get it fully translated into modern knitting terminology, but I think I’ll need some help with it as I’m having some trouble wrapping my head around this pattern. If you have any suggestions for annotations or other info, please comment here and I’ll keep adding info to the transcription of the pattern as we come up with it.


7 thoughts on “Pattern: Diane Sweater from 1921

  1. ok, this is going to be very difficult because my English is not up to the task. But let’s see how it goes ;-)

    First thing is that the waistband seems to be knitted in garter stitch from side to side but I can’t see where this fits in the pattern. Next thing is that the front must be wider than the back because no decreasing is mentioned: 60 stitches to start with, after the dropped stitch section increase to 120 stitches. Another 120 are added and bound off, but no decrease back to 60 – doesn’t is sound funny?
    And the third is that the front is also shorter than the back – the first one inch before/after dropped stitch section is missing. I also think that the dimensions are funny, not at all as it is shown in the picture: the dropped stitch part is as large as the waistband. Those 8 inches that are 120 stitches wide (that would be around 80 cm/30 inches) must be the beginning of the sleeves – but does the upper section really look longer than the other one?

    Puh, hard work and I am not sure if you would be able to understand what I meant. I really love this pattern and would like to work it out.- it is already in my Ravelry Queue. Perhaps we can manage to make it clear :-)

  2. Hi, thanks for commenting.

    There is a decrease back to 60 — it’s where they say “Bind off 10 stitches 6 times.”

    I am wondering if the reason for the missing 1 inch of garter stitch on the front is because the waistband is supposed to tie in the back. It’s attached in the front and open in the back, so that one inch of fabric provides an area for the ties to overlap. Does that make any sense?

    The waistband must be the section of the pattern that is called “Belt,” even though they don’t say it’s attached sideways… because it’s 54 inches long, so that’s the only way to account for it. :)

    I’m knitting through it right now to see what I get, so hopefully it will make sense as I work through it.

    Oh, about the size of the dropped stitch part — it expands when you drop the stitches. So you only knit up 4 inches, but it grows after the stitches are dropped.

    I think this will be a fun pattern; it just takes a few of us masochists to try to figure it out for everyone else! :)

  3. O dear, I have been stupid last night. It all looks so much easier this morning. :-)

    Of course there are 60 stitches after finishing the sleeves! I just made the same mistake twice. When I woke up I found that I was still dreaming of Diane and suddenly it made all sense. The Belt is the waistband and it is indeed tied in the back over the 1 inch garter part. Cute and romantic somehow.

    I am recently working on a simple vintage pattern but this on here will come to life, too. Towards spring I guess.

  4. I have a complete collection of the Fleisher manuals from 1895 through 1939, so I’m pretty familiar with their terminology. I’ve knit several of the sweaters from this series and this one is on my “to do” list. I think you’ve figured out the terminology admirably and if you just “follow the yellow brick road” you will see how it all comes together. It was very common oin those days to make the sleeves along with the sweater. Fit wasn’t as exact, but it was adaptable to a wide variety of figures by doing it this way. I would keep the ties myself, because thats what pulls the waistband in in that uniquely 20s way, but thats just me. This pattern is easily adaptible I think to amny modifications you’d like to make….
    It funny how many pratical things these vintage patterns leave out isn’t it? For instance, they tell you to put in a lifeline, but they never tell you how to finish up that part of dropping stitches down to the lifeline and they don’t talk about seaming the sides, etc….
    I have hundreds of beautiful Fleishers sweaters and plan someday to post them! There is one site that has a large number up….
    http://www.agoodyarn.net/PT_Main.htm
    and then of course there’s Iva Rose for repreints…
    http://www.ivarose.com/fleisher_s?b=1

  5. In my prototype I think I will probably try to keep the ties. I may have to make the waistband in a different color yarn to make this possible, though. I don’t actually know how much yarn I have here, just that it is more than 300g. I have decided to go ahead and knit the sleeves as written even if I run out of yarn. I suspect I will have to frog this in the end, make adjustments, then reknit anyway. *sigh* But this will give me a good idea what I need to do.

    “For instance, they tell you to put in a lifeline, but they never tell you how to finish up that part of dropping stitches down to the lifeline and they don’t talk about seaming the sides, etc….”

    Yeah! That is strange. I did the drop sts differently anyway; I knitted *k1, k2tog, yo, repeat from * and that worked nicely. (I should add that to my annotations above.) I just knitted the last 3 sts so the row wouldn’t end on a yo.

    I would love to see your Fleisher sweaters! I just loved this one from the moment I saw the pattern. But that might be because it is pink. The illustration with the rose colored sweater and the woman in the rose garden is so charming. :) I also love her cloche hat — and I just realized I already have two cloche hats in my queue at Ravelry. So I can make a proper period ensemble!

  6. oh my gosh… i CANNOT believe this is a vintage knitting pattern. We have had this woman painting in our living room at home for years, purchased because my mom says it reminds her of her sister (her best friend), particularly because of the sweater the woman is wearing! I love my aunt to pieces, so when i found this pattern (all on accident, mind you) I let out tears of joy. this will be a perfect present both for her and my mother. thank you SO very much for this wonderful accidental found treasure.

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