Wednesday 26 January 2011

Five 1920s Jumpers

As promised, I describe here the five jumpers from the 1920s Fancy Needlework Illustrated mentioned in the last post.

The "Hendon" knitted jumper with crocheted
shoulders and crochet sleeve trimmings.
The "Dieppe" crochet jumper.

They are all quite simple shapes, but use a mixture of stitch patterns, and both knitting and crochet in the same jumper, to give different textures.   The crocheted jumper, Dieppe, is pretty (though it looks fairly shapeless in the photo), but crochet isn't my area of expertise, so I'm not going to say any more about that one.

I like the Hendon jumper too. I am sure I have seen recent designs with a drawstring waist and different stitch patterns above and below it, so I think that it could be easily be adapted for today. The mixture of crochet and knitting is perhaps uncommon now, but I have seen it used in early Rowan magazines, for instance.

(The model's pose, in Hendon and Hurlingham, nonchalantly toying with a long necklace, seems very characteristic of the period. I have seen it before in knitting patterns from the 20s, I'm sure.)

The jumpers are put together from simple rectangular shapes, for the most part. The knitted part of Hendon consists of two T-shapes for the front and back, except for neck shaping. A basket-weave stitch is used below the waist, and a lacy leaf pattern for the rest of the knitted pieces. The sleeve edging and the shoulder insert are crocheted separately before the whole thing is assembled.

The "Hurlingham" knitted jumper
with crochet edgings.
The other jumpers are not so appealing now, I think, but to me it is still interesting to see the jumpers that women were knitting, and the techniques they were using.

The Hurlingham jumper, in Peacock Green, is mostly moss stitch with a central panel back and front of stocking stitch (I think - some of the instructions are not legible). I think that the back, front and sleeves are knit in one piece.  There are 4 rows of single rib at the waist and then a peplum of moss stitch, with a scalloped edge (a nice idea). There is similar scalloped frill at each elbow. Finally, quite a deep crocheted edge is worked around the edge of the scallops, and a narrow edging around the neck. To finish it, two cords are made of crochet chains, and threaded through the jumper at the waist, and four crocheted balls stuffed with cotton wool are attached to the ends of the cords. The finished jumper looks a bit matronly to me, though perhaps that's just the model.

The "Leda" knitted jumper with crocheted trimming.

Leda is described as "very suitable for full figures".   It must have been a difficult time for women with "full figures" - Edwardian fashion was all about big bosoms and tiny waists, and then only 10 or 15 years later, the fashionable shape was very slim and straight. As with Hurlingham, the back, front and sleeves are knit in one piece, in moss stitch.  The waist band is knitted separately, sideways and in finer thread.   All the jumper patterns in the magazine use size 3 Star Sylko, except for this waist band which usesr size 5 and is knit on size 16 needles. If needle sizes are really the same as the current British sizes, size 16 is 1.625 mm. The waist band is only 30 stitches wide, but it must take a lot of rows (of garter stitch) on such tiny needles. The body of the jumper is sewn onto the waistband and gathered slightly to fit.

The "Cambridge" knitted jumper.
Finally, the Cambridge jumper is the only one that does not involve crochet. It is a much more close-fitting jumper too. The cuffs and hem (in Raspberry) are in rib, and the rest (in Lilac Grey) is in reverse stocking stitch with every 7th stitch in moss stitch. The back and front are worked separately, and as far as I can follow the instructions, short row shaping is used for the shoulders! (The instructions are legible, but very unclear.) And then there are detailed instructions for grafting the shoulders, though they would be hard to follow, I think, with no diagrams or photos. It appears to be what we now call Kitchener stitch. The sleeves are worked from the top down, with a straight top.

Apart from the usual seams, several of these jumpers also require various bits of trimming to be sewn on. Like many knitters I hate sewing up, so I am on the alert for any signs of excessive sewing, and there are lots here.  The Cambridge jumper has a separate edging, knit on 5 stitches in a pattern that I haven't figured out, that is knitted first and then sewn on to the neck, the bottom of the jumper, the cuffs and the ends of the belt.  The Hendon jumper, too, has an edging for the neck that is made first and then sewn on;  three strips of stocking stitch on three stitches are knitted and then plaited. All very fiddly. It is as though a plain cast-on or cast-off edge was unacceptable, and it had to be covered up with a crocheted edge or some sort of braid.

It is 90 years since the magazine was published, but reading through the instructions and following them mentally makes that period seem more accessible. The model for the Hendon and Cambridge jumpers looks a little bit like my Grandma (my father's mother) who had masses of curly auburn hair, in her prime. So I imagine her knitting and wearing one of these jumpers as a young woman.


  1. Hi Barbara, love the Hendon top, it’s great. Which volumes are these 1920 editions?

    1. Hi Sarah, It's Number 60, which I have since dated to December 1921 - see


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