Vintage Fair Isle Jumper

Normally this is Caroline’s day to post on the blog, but she’s taking a couple weeks off from blogging. So instead here I am with a knitting post! It works out well because I was debating whether to blog about this project or not. Now here is an open Wednesday and a good opportunity to share it!

Plus, I’m really proud of this project. Here it is! My first sweater knit from a vintage pattern.

fair isle yoke from a stitch in time-6

The sweater is Fair Isle Yoke, from A Stitch In Time Volume 1. The original pattern is from 1946. Ravelry notes here.

I bought the book A Stitch In Time two years ago but it was too hard for me. Now it’s not and I can knit anything I want from it! Oh the freedom! It’s an amazing thing when you realize you’ve progressed to the next skill level and a whole new range of projects is now available to you.

fair isle yoke from a stitch in time-5

(I’m looking away in most of these photos because it was ridiculously bright.. though it’s hard to complain about a sunny day in February!)

Ok, so what is different about this pattern? What makes vintage knitting different from other sweater projects?

  • Gauge: this is knit with fingering weight yarn, which is the same thickness as sock yarn. On small needles. That alone can be intimidating when you’re starting to knit!
  • Pattern: The pattern is written with minimal instructions and no chart for the colourwork part. Instead it’s written with words: knit 2 pink, knit 3 natural, etc. The colourwork is purled, which means the first row is knit from the right side, looking at the pattern, then you turn it over and knit without being able to see the pattern. That’s harder for me.
  • Fit: I absolutely love that it sits at the natural waist! My hips curve out immediately below my waist, which means that fitted sweaters creep up and sit in the smallest part of the waist. A sweater that is meant to sit at the waist is comfortable and flattering on my shape. Other fit differences are the sleeves, the shoulders are narrow and the sleeves are angled more like a tee shirt than a blouse with set-in sleeves. The neckline is very high, sitting straight across the neck from shoulder to shoulder.

Really, none of these things are that hard. It’s just different, and the thin yarn makes it more of an undertaking if you make a mistake. At least this pattern has a modern, rewritten version with extended sizing, and there are projects made by other people to check out. It’s the vintage patterns that come in only one size that are much more challenging, especially if no one has knit it up and posted photos & notes online!

I had to redo the sleeves entirely because they were coming out too big and I was running out of yarn. I ended up buying the updated e-version of the Stitch in Time book, which has new sleeve shaping. So my sweater is actually a mix of both patterns: body of the first edition, sleeves of the second. The second edition includes charts! Colour charts, and a slimmer sleeve, and the sleeve is graded to fit the different sizes where in version 1 all sizes had the same sleeve. Plus the new version is knit with a slightly tighter gauge and includes more sizes. (My recommendation: buy the new version! I’ll be using it for any future Stitch in Time projects.)

I knit the smallest size, 30-32, and when I figured out the sleeves to add, I chose the 34-36 size for the sleeves because it had the closest finished body measurements. I used the exact same yarn and colours as in the sample, except for the orange which was discontinued. I chose two different oranges to sub in, and picked the darker of the two.

fair isle yoke from a stitch in time-7

In the book, the sweater is styled with a red skirt, and I liked the idea of a colourful skirt with this sweater. I started sewing a Hollyburn skirt because it has a forties feel, and I knew it fit well. I picked a green wool-cotton so it matches one of the colours in the pattern without being overly coordinated.

fair isle yoke from a stitch in time-3

But I didn’t finish it before finishing the sweater, so here it is with a black skirt. A colourful skirt will bring out the colours in the yoke, I think. Which are so pretty!

fair isle yoke from a stitch in time-9

It’s a little large through the bust so I will wear it with my most padded bra. I almost regret not knitting the entire sweater from the revised pattern, because there are new sizes with less ease in the finished measurements, but I was too close to finishing when I discovered the new version. I would make this again one day in new colours, from the most up-to-date pattern. You can see the extra fabric in the back view especially.

fair isle yoke from a stitch in time-8

The yarn is a little bit scratchy at the neckline, where it sits high across the neck. I didn’t notice the first day I wore it, but the second day it was more itchy.

button and loop detail

It closes with a button and loop at the side – this is because the neckline is so small you couldn’t pull it over your head. I sewed up the seam too much the first time, and it was tight to pull it on. Luckily I hadn’t worked in the loose end of the seam yarn, so I undid a little bit and now it’s much better.

fair isle yoke from a stitch in time-10

My only question now is: which sweater to knit next? I have a handful of unfinished knitting projects to complete but what I want to knit most is another little vintage sweater!

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43 Responses to Vintage Fair Isle Jumper

  1. Sam February 18, 2015 at 6:20 am #

    This looks great on you! And I’m mad impressed with your skill- purling fair isle is not fun!

    For your next sweater consideration, have you knit a CustomFit one yet? They are seriously amazing (I’m in the midst of my third right now).

  2. Lauren McGill February 18, 2015 at 7:59 am #

    Very pretty, Tasia! I think the Hollyburn skirt will look amazing with it.

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

      I hope so! I’ll have an excuse to show the sweater again then, maybe a side-by-side comparison with the black skirt. :)

  3. Emily February 18, 2015 at 8:22 am #

    Ooh this is very pretty. I really want to have a go at fair isle knitting, I get a bit bored when it comes to knitting jumpers though, not yet managed to finish one!

  4. rachel February 18, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    Super cute! So glad you chose to share it!

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 3:08 pm #


  5. Katryna February 18, 2015 at 10:05 am #

    Wow, Tasia this is beautiful! I have just begun my knitting journey and even a basic rectangle sweater seems like a lot of work. I admire your patience and skills and hope to one day be able to make things as lovely.

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

      Welcome to the world of knitting! Don’t worry, it takes time to get to the point where a pattern like this seems possible. I’ve been knitting for almost four years now, and only now can I imagine knitting sweaters on tiny needles and using multiple colours. Practice, learn a new skill or two with each project, and you’ll get there!

  6. Jeri February 18, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    This turned out lovely Tasia! I love the look of vintage sweaters and they seem to fit pear shapes so much better.

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

      I agree. I often find any sweater worn below the high hip tends to ride up, and any longer just draws attention to the hips. This is a good style on us pear-shapes! :)

  7. Tasha February 18, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    Gorgeous! I’ve always loved that sweater but haven’t knit it yet. It looks wonderful on you!

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

      Oh you should! It would look so nice on you. Your posts on colourwork and vintage knitting in general have been so useful to me! (In fact, I am working on a project from the Date Maker pattern you shared right now!)

  8. Brigid February 18, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    Oh, it turned out beautifully Tasia! You are so brave to try color work. I attempted it once, only to fail miserably. Perhaps I shall try again someday. You certainly inspire me to try again. :)

  9. Annette February 18, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    So pretty and nice looking! I too knit and have for many years (almost as many as I have been sewing!). My mother, who was and will always be, for me, the Master of Everything, taught me! Natch! Anyway, Fair Isle is the one I have not yet tried but will, I am taking an online class (at Craftsy) with Sally Melville on Intarsia, another one I had not yet tried, until now! Good luck and TFS, Annette

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

      Ooh, good luck with the intarsia class! I’ve tried it in a swatch but never a real project yet.

  10. Anne February 18, 2015 at 10:46 am #

    That shape sweater would have been worn with a skirt such as you are wearing in the photos, straight, with little fullness, so the shoulder emphasis would have been right. Clothing and fabrics were rationed in the Forties because of the war, and in 1946 when the pattern was first published skirts were still short and narrow to conserve fabric. Your Hollyburn skirt may look OK with it but the skirt in the photos is great. Great knitting!!!

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

      Thank you! You’re right, it wouldn’t be too full of a skirt during this time period! I thought from pattern illustrations that A-line skirts were the 40’s look, not straight skirts, but then again I’m only going by images and illustrations.

  11. Katy February 18, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    That’s gorgeous! I must admit it doesn’t look like a fingering weight, more of a DK weight. I have bought the Geraldine pullover from Untangling Knots so I’m looking forward to trying colour work.

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

      It’s knit a little bit loosely, on size 5 US needles (3.75mm) so a little more open than other fingering-weight sweaters. The updated version has you knit it at a tighter gauge. Good luck with your colourwork! It’s really quite fun to watch the pattern emerge, and can be addicting wanting to see just one more row!

  12. Amelie February 18, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    Wow, Tasia, this sweater is so cute! I really love the colorful detail at the yoke. My knitting skills are still very horrible, but someday I’m hopefully able to make such beautiful sweaters.

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

      We all start somewhere, I never thought I could make something this nice either when I first started knitting. In fact I bought the book for this pattern two years ago, and only got to the skill level to knit it now. :)

  13. Tiffany February 18, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    Beautiful sweater! Something I always wonder about when I see these vintage patterns with the high necklines is how did everyone not go crazy with itch. There were a lot fewer choices for soft yarn back in the 40s!

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

      I know right? They all had high necklines, it’s rare to see a deep V or scoop neck. Perhaps to keep warm? Modesty? Because no one liked wearing scarves? I imagine they wore slips underneath, to help with the torso itch, but what about the necklines? Tougher skin, perhaps. :)

  14. Jillian February 18, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

    This is seriously pretty! I scored a whole heaps of vintage (50’s-80’s) patterns at my local opp shop (charity shop?). And I mean a lot, all for $1 (not each, in total!). They are seriously beautiful, but as they were written by yarn companies they don’t specify yarn weight, just yarn name. It can be difficult to work out a substitute even when checking recommended gauge. And often it’s a less common yarn weight like 6 ply. One day I’ll have to figure it all out. It’ll be worth it by the looks of yours!

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

      Oh wow, what a great score! We call them thrift shops here, but I’ve also heard charity shop or secondhand shop. I’ve seen that before, patterns that only suggest one yarn, in ounces, with no weight or substitution listed. (Makes sense as they are trying to sell you the yarn!) You might be able to search the yarn on Ravelry to find out more about it. Or try this: there’s a list of vintage yarns and some clues about their composition and weight.

  15. laura February 18, 2015 at 2:43 pm #

    Great job! It’s beautiful. If the neck is a little too itchy and it puts you off wearing it, you could always sew a soft band or ribbon to the inside.

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

      That’s a good idea – since it doesn’t matter if I reduce the stretch as there is a side opening!

  16. Dale Odberg February 18, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

    Absolutely stunning!

  17. Kate Carvalho February 18, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    This is awesome! I love the colourwork and the snug fit. It’s got me inspired to branch out from hats and scarves!

  18. Carol S. February 18, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

    Add a bit of hair conditioner to the rinse water when you next wash it. Wool after all is just sheep’s hair and it should soften the yarn a bit.

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

      Good idea! I’ve used Eucalan and Soak, wool-wash products that soften the wool a little. Conditioner might make it even softer! (Especially my heavy-duty curly hair conditioner.)

  19. eimear February 19, 2015 at 1:20 am #

    its so so so gorgeous – seeing projects like that make me wish i could knit properly (i am a crochet-er). i agree with carol above, some conditioner should take the scratchy from the yarn, or you could tack some silk bias tape along the inside neck. its really fabulous

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

      And I cannot crochet! :) Though some of the patterns from the same book have both techniques, so I’ll have to learn eventually.

  20. Shelly February 19, 2015 at 3:59 am #

    Wow! Recently I’ve been wanting to do a fair isle pattern and you have really inspired me to give it a try especially since I have the same book. I must admit that I wasn’t sure about that pattern though because it’s hard for me source the wool (I can only get that weight in baby colours here) and the fit in the photos is so loose but yours is perfect. I’m glad you decided to share it with us. Thanks

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

      I think the one in the photo is not the right size for the model, or it’s worn with more ease than intended. There’s extra room in mine, but it doesn’t look overly big. The improved sleeves help as well, as the original sleeves are quite large on the smaller sizes.

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

      I bought the exact wool as in the sample, and I remember shipping from the UK to Canada seemed reasonable at the time! (I bought it years ago and only had the confidence in my skills to try it now. )

  21. Julia February 19, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

    That is so beautiful! I’ve been eyeing this jumper for awhile and have considered purchasing one of the volumes of a stitch in time. Do you plan on another make from the collection?

    • Tasia February 19, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

      Absolutely! I have both volumes, and I’ve swatched ‘It Cannot Fail to Please’ from vol.1 and ‘Trimmed with Roses’ from vol.2
      If you haven’t bought them yet, I recommend the new version of Vol.1 – it has updates, more sizing, and charts! In case you come across both the original and the newest version, you want the newest.

  22. Jennifer February 19, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    I love, love, love your sweater, Tasia! I am a beginner knitter and have yet to start my own first sweater. I am still a bit nervous about a sweater. Baby hats, and hats are fun as well as scarves. Yet, I am so interested in making one. I love how beautifully it goes with the skirt in your photos. Thank you for all of your inspiration!

  23. Seattlerain February 19, 2015 at 9:07 pm #

    What a beautiful sweater and great backdrop! I’m curious about your photo shoot location. I’ve been on the fence about picking up knitting (another hobby to fight with precious little sewing time), but your fantastic color work is inspiring me to get a move on!

  24. Brittany February 20, 2015 at 5:57 am #

    This is absolutely amazing!! I have been wanting to get the Stitch in Time books for ages but my skill level isn’t quite there yet! I’d love to try the color work though and I think the spelled out instructions would be easier for someone who has never done it before. You did a fantastic job!!