Knit for Victory: spotlight on boleros

Happy New Year and a fresh start to 2014! We’re officially in the last month of the Knit for Victory challenge. Some people are wrapping up their projects, some starting over (ahem—that would be me), and some just joining us (hello to the folks who’ve just mentioned joining in the fun!).

As you may know from my last knit-along post about working on the Victory beret charts, I mentioned I had to change my own project plans. Since I can’t work on any fair isle projects right now, I turned my attention to something plain that wouldn’t aggravate my shoulder or arm, i.e. something with one color.

With my own thoughts on my 2014 wardrobe in mind, I decided to knit something that I really needed and wanted in my wardrobe. A bolero! You see, I find that I don’t often turn towards wearing the longer cardigans in my closet, and feel like I’m at a loss for solid-colored boleros or shorter, more fitted cardigans. I knit my Curlicute cardigan last year and it’s absolutely ideal and I wear it all the time. I also have two vintage boleros that get worn a ton in the warmer months. So I decided I needed to knit something in that vein. I do have an old WIP bolero on the needles, but it definitely has a 50s vibe with batwing sleeves, so I needed to come up with something 40s for Knit for Victory. Or at least a style that was popular in both the 40s and 50s, which was a lot of types of boleros… but of course not the one I had started awhile ago, right? You know how that goes.

I thought I’d share with you some of the images I used as inspiration on my hunt to plan a knit bolero project! (Note: all of the knitted boleros shown below are available as PDFs online, just follow the source link below each photo.)

The shape of this first bolero is one of my favorites and a true classic. Set-in sleeves, hits at waist, slightly rounded at the hemline, and a straight line up the center front on up to the shoulders. Love it! (Well, wouldn’t love knitting miles of ribbing, but that probably goes without saying.) This is basically the shape upon which I modeled my own bolero.

And here’s one with long sleeves, which is great for those colder months. This one features a straight hemline but overall similar shape.

In fact, you can see almost this exact same style in sewn fashion, too. It’s pretty much the same as view 1B of the below Advance pattern from 1948. (Ahem, a 1940s bolero would be great for Rochelle‘s next round of Sew for Victory later this winter, wouldn’t it?!)

If you’re looking for a fancier pattern stitch, the bolero below has a pretty drop stitch pattern. I like that it gives you to the idea to close it with a brooch or a ribbon. You could cleverly fix the ribbon to the inside with a few stitches or a safety pin to make it easy to remove and swap out as you like! I like the deeper curve of the hem, which is also sometimes seen on boleros with less coverage (i.e. ones that are more open at the front and don’t actually close, which is how I’m knitting mine).

And here’s another with a straight hem, and an interesting neckline with a knitted bow! How sweet.

(ETA: Rachel kindly pointed out in the comments that Liz has this pattern available free, which I missed last month!)

Last but not least, the below bolero has a similar shape, but a shorter overall length and classic 40s box pleat sleeve caps (which I’ve learned over time don’t do it for me in my wardrobe). Look at that beautiful clematis embroidery! I’m intrigued by the idea of adorning knitting with embroidery at some point.

So what about my own bolero?

I knew I wanted it to be a bulky weight, and knit out of my stash, so I planned to achieve that with two strands of DK weight held together. I wrote myself up a basic pattern and decided to use moss stitch, which is essentially as annoying as knitting an entire project in 1 x 1 ribbing. However with bulky weight, I knew it would go fast and so I was willing to do it for the final payoff.

However, I got this far… within hours of finishing, almost! And I frogged it. (Sorry for the iPhone photos below, that’s all I have memorializing this version.)

frogged bolero

Yes, it looks lovely, but it had two major problems. The first was that while it knit up exactly the size I planned it to be, with 1 inch of positive ease, I realized that I really didn’t want it to be that big. With the bulkier weight it looked fine, but just… didn’t feel like it looked quite right. It was that difference between “I can wear this and it will be fine” and “Everytime I wear this I’m reminded how much I love it”. It was definitely closer to the former than the latter, unfortunately.

That was compounded with the fact that I didn’t anticipate the moss stitch to bias when knit in the round, which I I did for the sleeve, so it had ripples spiraling down the arm. If the fit of the body had been okay I might have overlooked that fact, but with both it was just a double whammy of “meh”. So in my heart of hearts, I knew it was best to start over. And really, it takes a lot to get me to do that, rather than just stuffing it all into a project bag and banishing it away in the closet.

But here’s the deal: I really want this bolero! I really need it in my wardrobe! Boleros are one of the key elements I’m planning on working on this year. And as Rochelle recently discussed, let’s be real with what we make. I didn’t want to finish it just for the sake of plowing through and finishing it, only to not be truly happy with it. I want a bright green bolero, damnit! And so I frogged the first incarnation, and am onto the second.


This time, I’m knitting it with only one strand of yarn. (FYI, should you ever need to know, it takes 2 1/2 hours to frog a bolero that’s knit with two strands of yarn and separate them into two balls as you go. Not an activity I would recommend.)

I’m also knitting it several inches smaller, and in plain stockinette. Because that’s too much moss stitch to knit again. I just can’t even go there. Especially since my 50s bolero WIP, which I plan to finish this winter, is in seed stitch, which is just as eye-stabbing to knit. FYI for my British friends, I think you call seed stitch moss stitch, so I’m not sure what you call moss stitch, but it’s basically just two rows of seed stitch that are the same, then swapping the knits and purls for the next two rows.

This version will be plain, but it will be a gorgeous shade of green. And I may even make a little felt appliqué to adorn it, if I have time and can come up with something I like!


Boleros tend to be items I sometimes forget about, and I have no idea why. They’re absolutely a perfect addition to pretty much any vintage wardrobe, no matter what decades you favor. They can make some revealing summery tops a bit more modest, lightweight ones can add warmth on cool evenings, heavier ones or ones with long sleeves can be perfect for colder weather when you don’t want the bulk of a pullover, or they can be a stylish way to add a little punch to your outfit. They’re just a great layering piece, through and through.

There will definitely be other boleros in my knitting (and sewing) plans this year!

Filed: Knit-alongs, Knitting

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Golly, 20 Comments!

  • The one bolero I’ve knit is probably the most worn knitting project in my closet! Good luck with version 2.0!


  • I am loving that shade of green! You always pick such gorgeous colors! I finished my KFV cardigan before Xmas (a new design in cable stitch) and somehow it turned out much shorter than the pattern picture, basically a bolero! But what a happy accident, it is the perfect length 🙂 Just need to get a picture of it up on Ravelry 😉

    Eager to see your finished product!


  • Love, love, love that green! Boleros are awesome and I can understand your determination. 🙂 I can’t wait to see your finished project.


  • You have chosen some gorgeous patterns as inspiration for your bolero. I need to make a couple for my wardrobe this year.


  • Funny, I’ve been thinking about boleros a lot lately. They seem the perfect thing to wear over the high-waisted skirts and fit/flare dresses that dominate my wardrobe.

    Frogging double stranded yarn is probably my least favourite knitting-related task. You have my sympathies.


    • Emma, I’ve been thinking a lot about more fit and flare shapes in my wardrobe this year which is one of the reasons I have had boleros on the mind! 🙂


  • Being of the short heighted variety of gals myself, which in turn means a fairly short waist, I’m really partial to boleros and shrugs (and cropped cardigans), and it’s all too easy for bigger knits and jackets to swallow me up and make me look like I’ve either gained 20lbs or as though I’m a little kid playing dress up in her mother’s closet. Neither are looks I ever aim for, so it’s cropped pieces likes these mid-century charmers to the rescue all the way. I love the vibrant green you’ve selected for this one – it makes me think of a particular green Bakelite bangle that I have.

    ♥ Jessica


  • Love the colour and the moss stitch- so much so that I almost thought you’d posted the photo I’ve just loaded on to Ravelry at
    Great minds!!!!- although I’m not frogging


  • Frogging…. yeah…. totally killed my project. I have this weird thing with knitting where my gauge is off but only in one direction. It’s perfectly fine up and down, but always about 1/4″ off left to right. I thought I could fudge it with this sweater but ah-nope. So frogged it was (the sweater body was 90% knitted and jus tnot fitting) and I just haven’t had the intestinal fortitude to start again.


  • I found that Liz has a copy of that lacy bolero as a free download- YAHY!


    • Ooh eagle eyes, thanks Rachel! So hard to find things with generic vintage pattern names like that unless you happen to remember seeing it someplace (I know I’ve seen a free pattern or two I’ve posted for sale on Etsy for example). I’ll update my post with the link!


  • So inspiring, a gorgeous knit! In awe we are… Home For Handmade


  • I love boleros and the ones you chose for inspiration are awesome especially the first one. You always choose amazing colours and I love the green you are using. If only I had the colour choices you have. 🙁 Maybe you could recommend some brands and where they can be purchased.


  • You are incredibly brave and incredibly talented. And I’m in love with this colour green!


  • After almost frogging my Victory knitting-project I decided to go on with it, even if I’m currently not 100% happy with some of the choice I made. I hate frogging!!! And frogging something made with double stranded yarn?! Respect!


  • […] may recall from my bolero inspiration post that I had to change my original knitting plans as my shoulder hasn’t been allowing me to […]


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