Knitty: little purls of wisdom
Lion Brand

For almost as long as I’ve been a knitter, I’ve been fascinated by the history of knitting. I’ve especially enjoyed the mind-twisting process of working with the often obtuse and obfuscatory language of antique patterns. There’s a thrill, I find, in watching a project emerge row by row and knowing that other knitters, long gone, followed the same path.

The process of decoding, testing and correcting isn’t for everyone, though; and so in this column I hope to share the excitement of the journey by removing as many of the roadblocks as possible. You don’t need to be a historian to come along – just a knitter with a curious mind.

beauty shot

by Franklin Habit, translated from Lion Yarn Book: A Manual of Worsted Work for Those Who Knit and Crochet by Lion Brand Yarns (1916)











spacer model: Maggie spacer photos: Franklin Habit

2-3 years



Chest: 24 inches
Hem to Underarm: 10 inches
Arm: 9.5 inches


Lion Brand Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool Blend [65% acrylic/35% wool; 165 yd per 100g skein]
spacer [MC] Gray Pearl; 2 skeins
spacer [CC] Bakery Box White; 1 skein

Recommended needle size
[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]
spacer US #3/3.25mm needles: straight or 1 24-inch circular as you prefer

spacer yarn needle
spacer scissors
spacer tape measure
spacer scrap yarn
spacer 1/2 yard of white or pale cream 7/8" wide satin ribbon


20 sts/20 ridges = 4 inches in stockinette stitch before blocking


[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here.]

The piece is worked entirely in garter stitch. The body and sleeves are knit first, in one piece, beginning with the back. Cuffs and collar are added before the two side/underarm seams are sewn.  Note that the front panel is considerably larger than the back due to stitches that are cast on when working the collar’s front placket. This creates a nice a-line shape.

Gauge and needle selection: You’ll find that the gauge indicated creates a firm fabric – not stiff, but tight enough to minimize stretching and drooping. To get gauge, you may well find yourself using a needle two or even three sizes smaller than you would normally choose for knitting the same yarn in stockinette.

Historic gauge and fiber: The figures used in the original pattern indicate a slightly finer gauge of 6 sts to the inch, to be worked in a pure wool yarn equivalent to a modern sport weight. If you wish to work at this gauge, substitute the following numbers for those in the modern pattern:

  • Cast on: 60 sts,
  • Cast on for sleeves: 40 sts each,
  • CO for collar fronts: 15 sts each side;

and adjust the rest of the numbers accordingly.

Counting Garter Rows. Garter stitch (working flat, knit all stitches) forms ridges which are more prominent in the finished fabric than individual rows. The pattern therefore counts ridges more often than rows. Two rows create one ridge. Unless otherwise noted, always count ridges on the RS of the fabric.

Knitted Cast On. For a tutorial, see "Knitting On" here

BO in Purl on RS row. This small detail isn’t called for in the original pattern, but it results in a garter stitch edge so neat and elegant that it has become my go-to technique for binding off garter stitch. There’s a tutorial here.

Sewing Seams. I strongly recommend mattress stitch, which is strong, flexible, and becomes virtually invisible in this project.


Starting at the lower edge of the back. With MC, CO 50 sts.

Work in garter st (k all sts) until work measures 9 inches, marking the RS of the work with a stitch marker or safety pin. End with a WS row.

Sleeve cast on row: Turn work and, using knitted cast on, CO 30 sts. K across all sts.

Repeat the Sleeve cast on row once more. 110 sts.

Work in garter st until portion above sleeve CO measures 4 inches, ending with a WS row.

Divide for fronts:
K 50 sts. Sl these sts onto a piece of scrap yarn.
BO the next 10 sts for back of neck.

Left front
On the remaining 50 sts, knit 5 ridges (10 rows) ending with a WS row.

Cast on for neck placket: Turn work. Using knitted cast on, CO 12 sts. Do not turn work, but knit across these 62 sts until sleeve portion of work measured at cuff measures 8 inches, ending with a RS row.

BO 30 sts. 32 sts rem. Work 7 ridges. Break working yarn (leaving 6 inch tail) and place the 32 sts on a length of scrap yarn.

Right front
Return 50 live sts of left sleeve and shoulder on left needle. At neck edge of live sts, join yarn and knit 5 ridges (10 rows) ending with a WS row.

Cast on for neck placket:
Turn work. Using knitted cast on, CO 12 sts. Do not turn work, but knit these 62 sts until sleeve portion of work measured at cuff measures 8 inches, ending with a RS row.

BO 30 sts. 32 sts rem. Work 7 ridges, ending with a WS row.

Turn work and k to end of sts. Return reserved sts from left front on left needle and knit across all sts, joining right and left fronts together.

Work on these 64 sts (note that front panel has more sts than back to create an a-line shape) until front equals length of back, ending with a WS row. Break working yarn, leaving 6 inch tail.

With RS of front facing, join CC and work 7 ridges, ending with a WS row. BO in purl on a RS row.

With RS of back facing, starting at upper right corner of back hem (the original CO row), use CC to pick up and knit 50 sts (one for every CO stitch).

Work 7 ridges, ending with a WS row. BO in purl.

With WS of collar facing, beginning at right corner of collar, use CC to pick up and knit 15 sts across right collar, 12 sts across back of neck, and 15 sts across left collar. 42 sts total.

Work 19 ridges, ending with a WS row.

BO in purl.

With RS of sleeve facing, beginning at right corner of lower edge of sleeve, use CC to pick up and knit 36 sts.

Work 16 ridges, ending with a WS row.

BO in purl.

Repeat for second cuff.

Wash and gently block. Sew side/underarm seams. Weave in ends.

Beginning at lowest point of neck front, lace the ribbon into the collar (in the same manner you would lace a shoe) for about 2 inches. (Fastening a safety pin to the end of the ribbon will help you to maneuver the ribbon in and out of the fabric, about 2 sts in from the selvedge.) Tie a neat, floppy bow. Trim ends to a suitable length.

Franklin Habit, the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press) and proprietor of the popular knitting blog The Panopticon is five feet, four inches tall.

This middy jumper has afforded him the welcome opportunity to knit a garment for someone who is smaller than himself, but not actually a doll. He doesn’t mind being small, really. It makes airplane travel easier. He spends a lot of time on airplanes, flying around to teaching gigs at fiber festivals. Gosh, his life is hard.