Inspiration for planning a vintage ski pullover

If there’s something I’ve wanted to knit for ages, it’s a ski sweater!

Especially when it starts to get really cold out, my thoughts always return to the idea of knitting a somewhat Scandinavian-inspired pullover, but I haven’t made it happen yet. This winter, I’m already wearing my oversized pullovers a lot, so I’ve been in the mood for knitting something in a similar vein. Something you’d typically sit around in drinking spiked cocoa at a fancy ski chalet in a big plush chair by a bearskin rug in front of a fireplace. (If only!) Of course, these pullover styles are also great with cigarette pants, and you know I’m on a kick with those, so it’s a style win-win for me!

I was initially planning a completely different project, but like it sometimes happens, I veered off in another direction and suddenly I absolutely had to knit this vintage pullover on the gal below rightnowthisminuteomg.

Pullover from Bernat Handicrafter (1956)

Pretty wonderful, right?? I don’t typically go for turtlenecks, but that’s just silly since my neck is often cold, so I know I should rightfully love them. And how could you not love that you can also style this slouchy turtleneck as a hood, too? Seems like a good way to get me to like them.

It’s a pattern in my 1956 copy of Bernat Handicrafter, issue number 53. Since Bernat is still a brand today I feel iffy about posting the pattern free on my blog, but if you’re interested in finding the pattern yourself, here it is on eBay for $9.50, and on Etsy for $8.00. This one seems to come around a lot, so you can always keep your eyes open if those sell!

One of the things that intrigued me about this pattern is the unusual way the upper body is constructed. You knit the front and back pieces flat, then a few inches above the armhole you join in the round and knit the ribbed yoke (with decreases) and turtleneck in the round to the end. So there’s no shoulder seams at all, like a round yoke where the sleeves are knit separately and joined for the yoke, except this has drop shoulder construction where the sleeves are knit out from the armhole. Isn’t that interesting? At my first read-through of the pattern, where you start the colorwork compared to where the armholes start seems a bit wacky, so hopefully it’ll work out, but if not, I can always just rip back.

Pullover from Bernat Handicrafter (1956)

I actually intend to knit this basically straight from the pattern. The gauge is 5 stitches per inch, and I’ll use a grassy green Stonehedge Fiber Mill Shepherd’s Wool worsted that I initially bought for a different project, plus some white Misti Alpaca worsted (which is really natural-colored, not white) I ordered specifically for this, so that the white areas of the pullover will have a nice lovely halo. I got this idea from one of my vintage pullovers, where the white motifs are angora, which I think is such a nice little touch.

But even after I knit this one, I may not be done thinking about ski sweaters yet. I’d love to do another one at some point, too. While many colorwork sweaters that I adore have lots of colors, I’m really feeling the love for the ones with only two main colors. Here are a some pullovers that are inspiring me right now!

One of the styles I’ve always loved includes a contrasting yoke of some sort, especially when combined with a speckled body, which is attractive but also adds a lot of warmth since it makes the entire sweater stranded (except for the rows between ‘speckles’). I really love the plain one on the left below, but the pullovers with animals are always so much fun. Bears!

ski-pullovers1Sources: 1950s sweater pattern PDF on Etsy //
old listing for handknit sweater by Natalie Knits on Etsy

I love that the below pullover features diagonal stripes along with the contrast yoke. Perhaps a bit of a pain to knit, but what a fun take on the traditional! I also like the winter sportsmen on this. I recognize the speed skater on the right and skiier in the middle (although actually, being the astute Olympic fan that I am, I think he might be a ski jumper who’s just landed), but what’s the guy on the left doing?

pullover from Dated: An Online Vintage Showroom Source: vintage pullover from Dated: An Online Vintage Showroom

Below are two great examples from copies of Scandinavian-inspired knitting booklets in my collection. The left (a man’s pullover in navy blue and white) is from 1946 and the right (also a man’s pullover, with colors left up to the imagination) is from 1953.

Vintage Scandinavian pulloversSources: Scandinavian Sweaters (1946) / Doreen Sweaters, Scandinavian Designs (1953)

And then I’m always inspired by real life examples of bright and colorful two-color pullovers. And right now, I’m fond of the ones that have large motifs that just pop right off at you, not unlike the type I’ve settled on knitting. The left one below is another featuring a typical animal motif with some particularly great changes in the background colorwork patterns. The right one is a lovely and bold geometric design and I like the bright turquoise, too.

ski pullovers from Vintage VixenSources: womens 1940s ski sweater from Vintage Vixen //
mens 1960s ski sweater from Vintage Vixen

How about you? Are you planning a warm and cozy sweater sometime this winter? Perhaps a ski pullover? Do tell!

Filed: Knitting


Golly, 16 Comments!

  • oh i love the one you are planning to knit, and the polkadot one you posted. i am dying to get knitting but i am having a carpal tunnel flare up so i can’t! very annoying. so i will cheer you on from the sidelines.


  • I have a couple of ski sweaters in my queue that are calling to me but real life is calling louder; if I can get all of these other projects out of the way, I am hoping to knit Snow Queen by Sarah Redwood – Bestway 1823 in untraditional winter/holiday colors. Also, #05 Fair Isle Yoke Pullover by Josh Bennett from VK winter 2010/11.
    Wishing you well on yours


  • I am going to live vicariously through you with this one. I would absolutely love to knit any one of these (after a bit more color work practice). However, with all of the Christmas knitting I’ve got going on and the few projects I’ve had to put off to the side in order to focus on the holiday knits, I fear that my knitting basket will be full for quite a while. Please keep sharing your progress on this one, I sure love your knitting posts.

    She Knits in Pearls


  • With the pattern in the background, it kind of looks like that guy is carrying a demon head with horns. Maybe he’s simply playing football? Although combining the two would make the game much more interesting, imo. 🙂


  • I still have to finish my ski sweater that I started last winter for the 1940s knit-a-long. i have the back and sleeves done. just have to finish the front (2 color snow flakes pattern) and turtle neck.

    I love the way that first sweater has dropped kimono style sleeve and the drapey turtleneck.


  • The guy looks like some kind of stealthy ninja. I love all the sweaters. It’s downright cold where I live and we have an ice storm coming in. I’ll be working double time to get my afghan done.


  • All cables all the time over here! I’m knitting my husband a cabled vest and myself a modern aran in purple. I don’t know if I’ve the patience for a colorwork sweater.


  • I’m really jealous that you’re knitting a ski sweater. I attempted to knit one a couple years back, and I got the sizing all wrong. Of course, I didn’t realize it until I’d knit 3/4 of the thing. It wasn’t a complete loss. The front and back pieces made for great dog sweaters after a little tweaking. 😀 I’ll get around to a ski sweater again someday. In the meantime, I’ll be living vicariously through your sweater knitting adventures.


  • The traditional sweaters (kofter) are sooo popular right now here in Norway as well (I work in a yarn/ sewing machine shop). Everybody is making both the old versions of the sweaters, and the new that are adjusted for different yarn types.

    If you are aspecially interested in the scandinavian sweaters, you could join Koftegruppa on Facebook, and see all the beautiful sweaters and cardis made by mostly Norwegian, but also some Swedish, Danish and Icelandic people (but we do all understand each other, so it’s all in scandinavian languages as well. Thought some people would enjoy the pictures anyway 🙂 )


  • I love those sweaters 🙂 They look really nice, and look really warm too. It’s still on my wishlist!
    x Angela //


  • […] for my current knitting? I have just the turtleneck left on my vintage ski pullover. I knit almost the entire body in the time we were in D.C. over the holidays, but it seemed to take […]


  • I’m actually knitting a 1956 Bernat ski sweater as well, though it’s from book no. 39. It’s a pullover, ski hood, mitten and sock set it grey, red & white with red smocking on the yoke. I’ve already finished the hood and only have one more sleeve to go on the pullover. I’m a little nervous about the smocking but everything else is going great!


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