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Archive entry for April 2019

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April 2019

Colourful Bolero


Printed towards the end of WW2, in an era of extreme shortages **, this is knitwear designed with a view to using left overs or even maybe "pulled back" wool.
Despite that I think it looks really attractive - and is a very interesting design being knitted sideways.


Instructions for one size.
The pattern stitches are given below.
Try out a piece of the pattern for practice by casting on 24 stitches.


1st row (wrong side facing): Purl.
2nd row
: * k2, p4, k1, p4; repeat from * ending row k2.
3rd row
: p2, * k4, p1, k4, p2; repeat from * to end.
4th row: k1, * twist A, p3, k1, p3, twist B; repeat from *, ending k1.
5th row: p3, * k3, p1, k3, p4; repeat from * all along, ending p3.
6th row: * k2, twist A, p2, k1, p2, twist B; repeat from * ending k2.
7th row: p4, * k2, p1, k2, ending p6; repeat from *, ending row p4.
8th row: k3, * twist A, p1, k1, p1, twist B, k. 4; repeat from *, ending k3.
9th row: p5, * k1, p1, k1, p8; repeat from *, ending p5.
10th row: k4, * twist A, k1, twist B, k6, repeat from *, ending k4.
Change to white yarn.
11th row: purl.
12th row: knit.

Repeat these 12 rows throughout.


The bolero is knitted sideways.

With No 10 (3¼mm) needles, cast on 90 stitches and work 5 rows of the pattern.

Now increase at the beginning of the next and end of every following row at this side until there are 108 stitches, and 23 rows are done.
On to the end of this row cast on 37 stitches to complete the armhole shaping.

Work straight until 2 more complete patterns are done, and then work 1 row of the next pattern, which brings you back to the top of the shoulder.
Cast off 16 stitches for the back neck insert (to be knitted later).
Finish this pattern and work 5 more patterns, and then 9 rows of 6th.

At the beginning of the 10th row cast on 16 stitches, and then finish the shoulder to correspond with first side, casting off 37 for the armhole and decreasing on every row thereafter until 90 stitches remain.

Finish off with 5 rows straight.

There are 15 patterns in total across the back, omitting the last 2-row white stripe.

Left front

Work as for back, but cast off 26 instead of 16 stitches on the shoulder.
Then work straight, finishing this pattern and 3 more, but omit the last white stripe.
Cast off.

Right front

Work to correspond with left front.

[Editor's note: They are assuming rather a lot here and expect you will work this out for yourself. You could continue to work the in the same sideways direction: as you have just cast off at the centre front, so you could cast on for the right front at the centre front which would mean casting on 119 stitches - then casting on 26 at the shoulder, and completing the shaping as you did for the back.
You could work exactly as you did for the left front but reversing all the shapings - so you would be doing the armhole increasing at the end of the rows and you would cast on the 37 stitches at the same edge and casting off the 26 stitches at this same edge.]

Neck Ribbing

Join back and front shoulder seams.

With No 10 (3¼mm) needles, and front of work facing, pick up and knit 80 stitches across the back of the neck. Work in k1/p1 rib, decreasing at each end of every alternate row 5 times.

Change to No 12 (2¾mm) needles and continue in rib, decreasing as before until 48 stitches remain. Cast off fairly tightly in rib.

For each front section pick up and knit 44 stitches in the same way, and decrease 5 times on alternate rows at the side edge before changing to No 12 needles. Then decrease as before until 22 stitches remain.
Cast off in rib.

For each shoulder piece pick up and knit 42 stitches across each shoulder and then shape as for back, casting off the remaining 10 stitches.

[Editor's note: It may or may not be obvious here but you are knitting on the sides of a rectangle here and decreasing towards the middle; when you sew these together you will have mitred corners - you can just see this in the photograph.]

Front Borders

With No 12 (2¾mm) needles, cast on 13 stitches and work a length of k1/p1 rib long enough to go up the left front.
Work a piece the same for the right front, but make 3 buttonholes: one in the 3rd row from the top, and the remaining 2 at one inch intervals.

To make a buttonhole: rib 5, cast off 3, rib 5; on the next row cast on 3 over those cast off in the previous row.

Continue strip for the length required, then cast off in rib.


Worked sideways in pattern.

With No 10 (3¼mm) needles cast on 13.

1st row: Pattern to end.
2nd row: Increase in 1st stitch, pattern to end.
3rd row: Cast on 4, pattern to end.

Repeat 2nd and 3rd rows 3 times more.

10th row: As 2nd.
11th row: Cast on 17, pattern to end.
12th row: Increase in 1st stitch, pattern to end.
13th row: Pattern to last stitch, work twice into this.

Repeat 12th and 13th rows 15 times more, then the 12th row again.
There are now 84 stitches on the needle and 44 rows have been done.
Work the next 42 rows straight in pattern.

87th row: Pattern to the last 2 stitches, k2tog.
88th row: k2tog, pattern to end.

Repeat 87th and 88th rows 15 times more, then 87th row again.
119 rows have now been done, and there are 51 stitches on the needle.

120th row: k2tog, pattern to end.
121st row: Cast off 17, pattern to end.
122nd row: k2tog , pattern to end.
123rd row: Cast off 4, pattern to end.

Repeat 122nd and 123rd rows 3 times more, leaving 13 stitches on the needle.
Work 1 row in pattern; cast off.

This finishes the 11th coloured stripe.

Making Up

Press work lightly on wrong side under a damp cloth.
Sew together side and sleeve seams; insert sleeves.
Sew on buttons.
Join ribbing at corners neatly before stitching front strips to edge.


3 ply yarn: 1 oz in main shade (M) plus 1oz each in 5 different shades of the same wool, or odd balls of different colours to make up this amount.

[Editor's note: Looking at the photo and instructions, presumably one of these colours needs to be white.]

Pair each No 10 (3¼mm) and No 12 (2¾mm) needles.


32 stitches to 4 ins on No 10 (3¼mm) needles.

Size matters

To fit chest 33-35 inches;
length from top of shoulders: 18½ inches;
sleeve seam: 5½ inches.


Twist A: Knit into back of 2nd stitch on left-hand needle, then knit into front of 1st stitch, drop both stitches off needle together.

Twist B: Knit into front of 2nd stitch on left needle, then knit into front of 1st stitch on left needle, slip both off together.

k2tog or p2tog: work 2 sts together to decrease.

A word on the wool

Susan Crawford, who specialises in vintage knits, offers lovely Fenella wool which "knits up to that elusive vintage ‘3 ply’ tension".

Jamiesons have an excellent range of colours in "2ply laceweight" which states: This yarn can be used in vintage patterns which call for "3ply yarns".

John Arbon has some wonderful laceweight that looks suitable.


In transposing any pattern it is always a risk that errors will be introduced, in spite of dedicated proof reading.
If you have any problems with this pattern, please and I will try and assist.

** The 'Make Do and Mend' campaign - which is currently quite a well known slogan from WW2 - was launched to encourage people to make their existing clothing last longer. Clothes care was a key part of the Make Do and Mend message. Shortages of basic materials and consequential clothing rationing necessitated imaginative use of materials; this included recycling and renovating old clothes, and the innovative use of home-made accessories, which could alter or smarten up an outfit. You see a lot of these ideas in magazines of that era appearing as little knitted collars and cuffs or just inexpensive embellishment ideas. This type of pattern continues from its humble beginnings well into the 1950s - and not surprising since although the war ended in 1945, clothes rationing did not end until 1949.

Rationing worked by allocating each item or category of clothing a 'points' value which varied according to how much material and labour went into its manufacture. Each person was allocated a fixed number of coupons to "spend" when they purchased clothing. In 1941, at the inception, adults receive 66 but this allocation shrank as the war progressed: to 48 in 1942, 36 in 1943 and 24 by 1945. As for knitwear specifically - a jumper, for example, used up 5 coupons and socks 1-3. Making your own knitwear did not help much since knitting wool was also rationed (almost pro rata) with two ounces of knitting yarn requiring one coupon; however, with essentials such as boots and overcoats requiring 7 coupons you can see why people were reluctant to spend any coupons at all on knitwear when they could reuse old "pulled back" yarn.

One interesting result of this evolved from the fact that "mending cards" of yarn were not rationed at all - presumably to encourage the make-do-and-mend mentality. They were traditionally dull buff or grey colours being intended to darn mens socks. [I have inherited many of these cards which sit at the bottom of my work basket - commercial socks are much tougher these days]. However during this period the commercial yarn companies started to produce "mending cards" in all kinds of wild colours which fitted perfectly with multicoloured designs such as this bolero, or the ubiquitous Fair Isle sweater patterns of the period. The influence of rationing some items and not others could be seen much wider than just in knitting yarn in that people would find ways of using many different or less usual materials for clothing if they happened to be "off the ration".

The popularity of multicoloured sweaters, and specifically Fair Isle, was very much to do with being able to use smaller amounts of yarn from different sources and make a garment that looked fresh and new, rather than the collection of oddments which it really was. Sewing patterns were also offered with this in mind - I have a lovely blouse pattern from the period with terrific square shoulders and nipped in waist that is designed to be made in 2 fabrics out of "2 of your husbands old shirts" with the pattern pieces shown laid out accordingly on the shirts, (noting that men's shirts of the period were positively voluminous).

© Christina Coutts 2007

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