Finished: 1940's Swedish Cardigan, or: My First Steek!

17:41 Renée 8 Comments

I couldn't be more excited about the Finished Object I am showing you today, I honestly think that this is my favorite hand knit to date. It has sparked a serious colorwork obsession.

The cardigan pattern comes from a Dutch knitting magazine called Nitwell, edition Fall 1946. Or rather: it is actually a Swedish magazine called Stickat that was translated to Dutch and published under the name Nitwell. (If you watch the wonderful Kammebornia podcast you'll see one of the original Swedish Stickat magazines in the intro, of which I also have a Dutch version.)

After my experience with the Christmas Jumper, I knew I would want to avoid having to purl colorwork as much as I could. Unfortunately - as most of my fellow vintage knitters will probably know - despite the fact that "fair isle" was very populair in the 1940's due to rationing, the patterns themselves generally aren't constructed in the traditional Fair Isle way. They are usually knitted flat and seamed rather than knitted in the round with steeks. So was the case with this pattern. So I made the decision to convert it to circular knitting and then steeking it to make a cardigan, something I had never done before. To help me get started, I read some entries on Kate Davies' blog and purchased Alice Starmore's book of Fair Isle Knitting.

The original pattern is knitted at 27 sts per 4 inches, but the yarn I used - Cascade 220 fingering - is rather thin and with 3.5 mm needles I got a gauge of 36 sts. per inch in stranded knitting. I didn't want to go up more needle sizes because I was afraid that the fabric would be too open so I went with the 36 sts and re-calculated the whole pattern. (In retrospect I could have easily gone for a looser gauge). Annoyingly it meant that I had to knit the non stranded parts on 2.75 mm needles to get the same gauge and for the body I had just over 300 stitches on the needles. Needless to say, the cardigan took quite a while to knit!

I decided to steek the center front and the armholes with a 9 stitch wide steek. I started knitting in the round right from the beginning but have since discovered that it is better to knit the ribbing flat, that way you don't have the steeks potentially sticking out at the bottom and it reduces bulk. I knitted the body in the round up to the neckline. This is where the colorwork actually stops, so I just knitted flat from there on. I had also been dying to try Tasha's wonderful tutorial on knitting seamless 'set in' sleeves, where you pick up the stitches around the armhole and knit the sleeves down in the round, but still get sleeve cap shaping as for a traditional set-in sleeve by using short rows. When I was knitting the sleeves I was actually very close to ripping them out because they where puckering around the armhole, but luckily I decided to be lazy and just left it, hoping that it would block out, which it did.

For the steeks I opted for a crocheted reinforcement and cutting the steeks open was probably one of the most fun and rewarding things I have done in knitting - definitely not scary! I do still need to finish the steeks somehow - either sew them down or cover them with a cute ribbon. I knitted the sleeve cuffs and waist ribbing in a 1 x 1 twisted rib (where you knit the knit sts trough the back loop) because I have been wanting to try that out for garments, but to be honest I think I like the look of a plain rib better. For garments anyway.

I do still need to get better at getting an even gauge in stranded knitting. When I was knitting on this cardigan I got quite a lot of puckering in the colorwork (luckily 95% has disappeared with blocking). I also made the mistake of switching the yarns from one hand to the other - if you look at the upper chest section of the colorwork you will actually see some sort of striping which was caused by switching the yarns. But I foresee a lot more colorwork knitting in my future, so I'm sure I'll get plenty of practice ;)

Pattern: "Sportjakje" from Nitwell, Fall 1946
Yarn: Cascade 220 Fingering - Burgundy and Doeskin Heather
Started: Fabruary 22
Finished: May 8
Used: Doeskin Heather: 4.72 skeins = 1180.0 meters (1290.4 yards), 236 grams / Burgundy: 1.3 skeins = 325.0 meters (355.4 yards), 65 grams
Buttons: Vintage glass, eBay


  1. This is just fabulous! Such a pretty cardigan and well done with the steeking :)

  2. It looks super - very neatly knitted and finished. I've never yet dared to tackle steeking, which means I have been avoiding stranded knitting. But seeing what you've achieved tells me I should be braver.

  3. what a great piece!! It's really pretty and you did a great job!!! Cheers bjmonitas

  4. This is an amazing cardigan. What a great piece of knitting! I'm impressed with all the techniques that you have tried out. Steeking sounds scary to me!

  5. This cardigan is really, really beautiful, you have done an amazing job of working it all out and converting it to knit in the round and the thinner gauge yarn makes it look much more authentic! I have never tried steeking but its something I have been curious about for ages, as colourwork purl rows are so fiddly and anything I can do to avoid them I will!

  6. Do you have a copy of this pattern? Please pretty please?

    1. I'm afraid it's a pattern from one of my vintage Dutch magazines so it's only in Dutch.

  7. I don't mind, I'm sure I could work it out. I've done so in Danish before! ha ha I just love this pattern, it's so beautiful.


Please don't hesitate to leave a comment or ask any questions - they are very much appreciated!