"It Cannot Fail to Please" is a pattern that was originaly published in Woman's Weekly magazine in 1938. It has been republished twice. In 1972 it appeared in it's original format as part of Jane Wallen's A Stitch in Time. It is also included in the new Stitch in Time alongside a new, "modern" version of the pattern. I used the original pattern.
Although a total pain in the butt, it is not uncommon for patterns from this era to gloss over finished measurements or to only offer one size . I sallied forth and trusted in the skinnyness of the model.
The pattern called for "Grenock", a 3-ply Super Fingering (which was apparently hard to get even in '38) and No.10 and 13 needles. I substituted Zitron's Trekking Pro Natura, a fine sock yarn, and used vintage needles in the same sizes. I almost always use sock yarn with vintage jumper patterns. It's a good substitution for 'jumper weight' yarn. If a pattern calls for 4-ply, I use a heavier fingering weight. Bottom line, I substitute according to gauge. Often times a vintage pattern will give gauge over a pattern repeat. Sometimes the gauge will be over stockinette and so extra gauge swatches must be made (but that's another post).
I enjoyed knitting this firm but lacy fabric very much. Unfortunately, once I was done and had blocked, I knew it was going to be way too big on me (okay, I knew before that). I didn't much mind; the point had been to recreate this sweater as it would have been. Typically, there were next to no finishing instructions in the original pattern, so I seamed the sides and shoulders the way I usually do. A little fiddling was needed because the lace pattern made the edges wave in and out on it's own. To tailor it to myself, I put on the seamed sweater (a vest at this point). Using mattress stitch I cinched in the sides. Imagine those Mad Magazine comics that had you fold in the sides, A meeting B, so that a new image appeared.
Then there were the sleeves.
Really, the sleeves were the whole point of the sweater for me. I wanted them to puff as they do in the original pattern's photo and, although I am not adverse to shoulder pads and padding, I wanted to see if I could make them puff on their own, unsupported.
That said, I didn't want to change the way that the sleeve was knit. I knit them true to pattern but did use the smaller, ribbing needles to cast off very tightly. I left a very long tail of Trekking. I then pleated the tops of the sleeves and sewed these folds in place using the tail. I also seamed the arm ribbing with the cast on tail.
I tried the vest on at this point, sliding the sleeve up my arm. I played with placement and found that for the kind of puff projection that I wanted I needed to attach the head of the sleeve not to the armseye, but to the side of the neck edging which is square and worked in garter stitch.
Not only did this place the puff early and high on the shoulder, it also allowed the puff something firm and stable (the garter stitch) from which to project. In a puff sleeve the most important section is the very head of the sleeve and the section to which it is attached. In a lacy sweater it can be hard to avoid deflated puffs; the fabric just isn't strong enough to stand up it's own.
After sewing down the pleated section, which was determined by the sleeve's various rates of decrease, I lay the sweater out and eased the sleeve out so that the bottom of the sleeve hit the body at the right place. I tacked this in place.
The sides of the sleeve now lay on top of the sides of the front and back sides of the sweater. Using the same mattress stitch technique I used to tailor the sides, I attached the sides of the arm to the sides of the sweater, matching lace motifs as closely as possible.
I have extra fabric on the inside now, but as the yarn is so fine and the fabric lacy, it didn't really add bulk.
In my experience xs or vintagey sized jumpers can have very tight arm bands.
I recommend blocking the ribbing on the arm if you have thicker upper arms like me. Do not block the bottom body band ribbing. The nipped in waist of these sweaters are responsible for a big chunk of their charm.
After doing all this I decided I had better sit down and write a post about puff sleeves. Then it turned into a tutorial. Then an article with tutorials, then a series of articles with background, silly drawings and tutorials.
I feel the need to take a stand against puff nay-sayers. I couldn't look like an American football player, or a muscle man if I tried. I think the de-puffing of vintage patterns is a crying shame and that anti shoulder pad fury is misplaced.