Perfect 1950s cropped pullover, by way of modern knitwear design

I’m someone who has a pretty distinctive style generally speaking, but there’s always room for trying new shapes and lines. And that’s something I enjoy doing now and again. It doesn’t always work out. Case in point, I made a dress last summer that I loathed as soon as it was done and it taught me I don’t like straight dresses with no waistline, but belted at the waist. I’ve had other fails, too. But many times, it works out. It’s always worth a shot to try because you’ll never know if you may find a new love. In this case, I did!

I’ve been wanting to try a waist-length cropped sweater or top of some sort for awhile now. I think I first got the idea seeing this sewing pattern from the 1950s several months ago, Butterick 7557. It’s undated but a previous owner (original?) wrote July 1956 on it and someone selling it online dated it to 1955. We’ll go with thereabouts.

I also have another Butterick pattern which has a similar look, Butterick 8640 in a slightly different style, and from a bit later in the 50s. It features a bateau neck instead of a funnel/turtleneck, with dropped shoulder sleeves and a wide band at the cropped waist in two of the views.

They’re fantastic, but I hadn’t made a move to try either out yet. I’ve been slowly warming to the idea in the meantime. And then in January, Kate Davies, one of my favorite modern knitwear designers, released her Carbeth knitting pattern.

Source: Carbeth knitting pattern, copyright Kate Davies

Well, well, well. In many ways, it’s sooo similar to the style I’d been wanting to try, but in knitwear! I immediately wanted to knit it. And it’s in bulky weight yarn, so a super quick knit. I still have plenty of time to wear a heavy sweater this winter, so I thought it would be a great starting point to try out this style.

Boy was I right! I don’t just like the result, I LOVE it.

I went with black. I do love a black turtleneck, goes with so much in winter and adds a nice little beatnik touch. But it’s impossible to photograph, so bear with me on that and the fact that I wore a vintage quilted skirt that’s partially blending into the background. Can’t win ’em all!

I used two strands of Rauma Strikkegarn (same yarn as my yellow bolero). The pattern is likewise knit with two strands of yarn (or one strand of bulky), though sport weight and I used DK. That means that while I got gauge, mine is probably a bit more dense. I couldn’t find really a bulky wool I liked the sound of that didn’t have reviews that it knit up more like a heavy worsted, and I didn’t want to get 3.5 stitches per inch on something that would end up with a loose drape. So I’m happy for it to be nice and dense. In my climate, the warmer the better, anyway.

The pattern has a bit of a bell shape as it hangs from your upper body. It’s knit straight from the hem to the armhole, and has a good amount of positive ease at the bust, so significantly more at the waist which helps provide that shape. That was the only thing I wanted to change for my version. I definitely wanted the positive ease as that was part of the appeal of the pattern and style lines (same as the two vintage sewing patterns I showed above), but I wanted it to be just sliiiightly tapered in towards the waist to have a wee bit more of a vintage look. So essentially I wanted the same amount of positive ease at my bust as at my waist.

The pattern called for 4″ of positive ease at the bust or going up a size if you’re in-between. With size 1 I’d have had closer to 2″ positive ease and size 2 nearly 6″. But I really wanted about the same ease as the pattern. I just added 4 more stitches in the body and decreased them away up in the decrease section in the yoke with no problem. I went with size 1 for the sleeves and it was perfect. Over the years, I’ve learned about my own knitting that I tighten up when knitting smaller diameters. That means on the same needle size, I might get a tighter gauge for the sleeves than for the body. So for this sweater, I knit the ribbing on a smaller diameter than the body, and the sleeves on a larger diameter than the body. That got me about the same gauge for both sleeves and body. And I’m a loose knitter so you might be surprised to hear I achieved 3.5 spi on size 8 needles when the pattern calls for 10s, but that’s often the case for me. I don’t even bother swatching with the same size needle a pattern calls for since I know I’ll likely go a size or two down.

To achieve that very slight taper in the body that I wanted, I just added a bit of waist shaping. I cast on 20 stitches less than size 1 and worked 5 sets of paired increases at the side seams about every inch for the waist shaping (finishing below my full bust). To clarify, 4 sets would have given me the size 1, but I wanted those 4 additional stitches to make the full bust between sizes 1 and 2, hence the extra set of increases.

Then the literal only other change I made was to just knit the sleeves a bit shorter… 16″ for bracelet length, without fold-up cuffs. Everything else I knit per the pattern, including the body length of the size 1, which is 7 1/2″. Because I was concerned about the length I actually put in a lifeline a bit above the ribbing, so if I had to either add or take away length I could do so a little more easily. The length has a huge part to play in the overall look, so I wanted it to be exactly right. On my short torso, that 7 1/2″ length was indeed exactly right to me!

Here’s something I particularly enjoyed. While on a hunt for something that had nothing to do with knitting but was during the time that I was knitting Carbeth, I encountered an amazing similarity between Carbeth and this yellow top shown in the spring 1956 Sears catalog. It even has a similar triangular design detail on the yoke (just the opposite direction). Note the model’s black turtleneck underneath, probably in part to prevent showing her midriff when raising her arms. And her outfit is so similar to the items shown on the Butterick 7557 pattern envelope, complete with harlequin capris!

You can’t even grasp how excited that makes me when I find a parallel through time like that!

Source: Sears catalog, Spring 1956

And yes, it’s maybe worth mentioning that you do need to take precautions with such a cropped sweater. If I raise my arms high, it’s going to come up above my waist. A black tee underneath solves that issue, just like the catalog model above.

There were already hundreds of finished Carbeths on Ravelry in a very short amount of time (I rarely remember to link to my Ravelry project page in my blog posts, but here’s mine for Carbeth). That was great because I was a little nervous about how I’d block the neck, so I was able to see many variations of how it looked. I didn’t want the ribbing to sit quite as low and wide on the yoke, and wanted the turtleneck to fold over a little more. Actually I’d have knit the turtleneck a bit longer even but had about 2 feet of yarn left…! Barely won the game of yarn chicken.

When I blocked it, I let the ribbing stay as tight as possible and I kind of tugged the center of the decrease lines (that make the peak of the triangular shape) to not fall as low on the yoke. I’m very happy with how it all blocked. It’s such a simple and clever yoke.

Obviously my opinion on the actual sweater is that I love it. I mean really love it. Very rarely do I put something on that’s different than I’ve worn before and fall in love immediately. I’m usually slow to warm up. But I fell in love with this Carbeth the second I tried it on. The positive ease is perfect, meaning it’s roomy but still has a trim shape. The length is perfect, falling right at my waistband. And the roominess has just the look for a cropped sweater without looking sloppy with my style. Overall it looks cute with skirts and doesn’t make me feel strangled. I could probably wear this every single day in winter with a skirt and be perfectly happy. I love it that much.

When I make this sweater again (and oh, I will… I’ve already ordered yarn to make a red version but have to wait until it’s back in stock), I will change nothing from what I did this time. Nothing. That’s essentially unheard of for me to say. I’m not actually sure I’ve ever said that?!

I haven’t been this pleased with introducing a new item into my closet in a long time!

Because it’s me and I love to tweak things, I’d love to also take what I’ve learned about the body length and fit of this pullover and apply it to one with set-in sleeves, maybe even drop shoulder like the Butterick 7557 sewing pattern, for a slightly different look. With or without a turtleneck. And on the sewing side, I’d love maybe a French terry version of either of those patterns with cute cropped trousers (of course I already have a pair in mind). In fact, I’ve got a casual outdoorsy trip lined up later this spring and that might be just the ticket!

But in terms of this particular sweater, I feel like I’ve unlocked a cold weather wardrobe achievement I didn’t even realize I needed, but solves a lot of winter problems for me! I always have a difficult time figuring out what to wear in winter. I wear a lot of vintage and vintage-style ski pullovers, but those don’t work when I want to wear a skirt. This sweater and any future versions are going to be a huge help! I’m so excited!

outfit details

sweater – knit by me (my Ravelry project page)
vintage quilted circle skirt – Etsy
vintage earrings – gift from my mom
Bakelite bangles – misc.
shoes – Rothys

Filed: Knitting, Vintage Wardrobe

Tagged: , ,

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Golly, 36 Comments!

  • Great job as usual. I will definitely be making one of these with your mods. Thanks for sharing.

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  • That looks awesome! I think I’ll “borrow” your mods for when I make my own; I love the bell shape, too, but want a slightly more nipped in one, myself. Also, I don’t know what it is about black, but it just *looks* cozy-er and warmer than other colours.

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  • Looks great. Have you seen the cardigan version?

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  • “Yarn chicken…” Oh I laughed and laughed! I enjoy following you and your work so much! Thanks for everything!

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  • Marilla Walker February 28, 2018 at 1:26pm

    I absolutely love this! I have just started knitting the cardigan version as was inspired by how quickly your sweater came together. The bell silhouette suits my style, but I really like how you’ve modified it and may apply it to a future version x

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  • O wow I love this silhouette on you!
    I like your shaping better than the original.
    You make me want to knit a cropped sweater!
    Though I’m not sure if it would look as good on my 1,81m frame as it does on you.
    I guess I’ll need to try to find out 🙂

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  • Super cute. Love the entire outfit.

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  • I love to wear skirts, but rarely do because, like you, I don’t always have tops to go with them. I don’t know how a cropped sweater and my extra-voluptuous build would get along; but you do inspire me to try out different styles and see what I like.

    And I *love* your earrings!!!

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    • I was concerned about my own not-insignificant bust would look with the triangular shaping, but I’m very pleased. So you might be surprised it’s a style you like more than you’d suspect! 🙂

      And thanks on the earrings, my mom got them for me for Christmas!

      Reply

  • Tracey Nixson March 1, 2018 at 4:35am

    Looks fab. I am a great fan of a cropped top with a tshirt underneath( don’t want to frighten the horses as I am no longer in the first or second flush of youth) I am now pondering harlequin capris……

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    • Ha ha! Yes a shirt underneath is needed for sure. I have squirreled away some bottomweight vintage harlequin print I’m saving for capris or cropped pants!

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  • I love it! This outfit looks great on you.

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  • Marie Roche March 1, 2018 at 5:31pm

    The sweater looks great, it really frames your silhouette nicely. The modifications you made certainly personalized it for your style. I notice that you used the yarn before in another project. Is it a yarn that holds up? I am always searching for a yarn that does not pill so quickly.
    You are right this top goes well with dresses and skirts, I just may give it a go. Thank you again for your inspiration.

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    • It’s very hardy yarn and I’d say it holds up pretty well. The only thing I have that’s old enough to tell is my Princess Harald stranded pullover which is over a year old now, and not much pilling at all. Certainly not compared to a merino!

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  • Oooooh this looks fabulous on you! Someday, I am going to REALLY sit down and practice my knitting. I only just started to teach myself last year, and I love it, but I never seem to quite have time to sit and do it. Possibly because I have toddlers and they, much like cats, find yarn to be endlessly entertaining to unravel and tangle. Ha!

    xo
    Kristina
    eyreeffect.com

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    • Thank you! You know my cat is 16 and only just now seems to be interested in yarn, she’s missed out all those other years. LOL Maybe naptime or bedtime is your best bet! 😉

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  • I really like your version. That’s a great style for you. Also that skirt is fabulous.
    I am hoping to finish my Carbeth this weekend. It’s a fast knit but I put it aside for a couple of weeks.

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    • Thank you! I ordered red yarn which has finally shipped, to make another. Debating if the weather warrants another yet or maybe I’ll hold it until fall when I’ll need it again, and maybe between now and then I’ll make sure a few things can match it. (I bought it since my favorite color is red but it doesn’t appear in as many of my vintage skirts as an accent color as I’d like.)

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      • I finally finished mine. it’s kind of a tomatoey color. Mine is more of a slouchy tunic. I made it longer, and it grew with wet blocking. The thing is, it’s a genius design, that yoke. it works many ways. I may make her new cardigan version.

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  • Carbeth is a fabulous pattern and sweater looks great on you! 🙂

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  • Hi Tasha! This is my first visit to your blog (via Kate Davies, of course). I love your sweater, and your style, and your creativity in general. As someone who loves research, I have to admit to being first caught by the date question about the Butterick pattern. A cursory glance at the chart linked by this blogger really does make it look like July 1956 is the correct date. https://witness2fashion.wordpress.com/tag/chart-of-butterick-pattern-numbers-and-dates/

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    • Welcome, Laura! Thanks you! 🙂

      Aha, I hadn’t delved too deeply into the pattern dating on this as usually I’m fine with an approximate. But everything else I found did seem to point to about 1956, and now we know that’s definitely right in the sweet spot. And looks like the other is probably 1958-9 which is what I’d have guessed too. Love a little crafty sleuthing! Thank you!

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  • Oooo! This the answer to the “how to wear skirts in winter” problems! I adore this style, it’s perfect and it looks so great. Thanks so much for sharing Tasha!

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

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  • Ooh, I seriously want that Butterick 7557 pattern, I’ve been lusting after it for awhile now! I think you’ve done a fabulous job though of recreating the look and feel of the top with your jumper – I may have to dust off my long neglected knitting needles and try to make one myself one day! I do think yours looks far better than the original knitting pattern photo – I guess it’s a combination of your alterations plus the colour. Black would absolutely be my first choice for a jumper like this too. Well done and thank you for the inspiration! 😀

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  • Erika Otter March 22, 2018 at 7:18am

    Would look amazing with high black boots and that gorgeous skirt.

    From one seamstress/knitter to another, thanks for all the detail! It’s great to hear how you think about fit. Very helpful.

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  • Beth in Maryland March 29, 2018 at 2:17pm

    Thank you, Kate Davies, for turning me on to this wonderful blog! What a fun, creative spirit! And you look like a million bucks in that terrific outfit. I love the whole thing.

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  • OMG this is so amazing! Well, all your makes are amazing anyway :), but this is the sweater pattern I’ve been looking for for sooo long! I will buy it, and knit it with your mods – thanks for detailing them! Are you on ravelry?

    One thing baffles me – how on earth do you unpick from your cast on edge? A while back I chopped off the bottom of a sweater I made which was unwearable as too long with my full skirts etc… I tried so hard to unpic it, but ended up pulling out row after row and then eventually picking up stitchs and knitting down to cast off. The hassle…. Somewhere I read how a knitter cast on provisionally so as to easily adjust the length of a bottom up sweater, and I plan to do that when I make my next one which is meant to be fropped.

    Reply

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