The inspiration behind the sweater
Brigitte Bardot has always been my muse. I love her iconic woke-up-like-this hair and sense of style. When I am in need of some cute and flirty 1950’s vintage style inspirations, I always turn to Pinterest and enter “Brigitte Bardot style” in the search bar.
This picture of Bardot with her wide bambi eyes, alluring lips, unbrushed look and bright red sweater is something that caught my eye a while back. I have always wanted to have a red sweater like that.
Obviously, with a design that simple, I could always just find a similar one from a high-street store. But why would I want to do that when I know that I could make my own?
Finding the pattern
When I came across the Knitting It Old School book in a secondhand bookstore in San Francisco in 2016 and saw the pattern “Swing Time” by Kirsten Kapur, I knew I had found the right pattern. It has just the right design details: round neckline, ribbing in the body, short sleeves.
Unfortunately (and rather unsurprisingly), the smallest size offered by the pattern is for a 32″ bust. I *could* have a 32″ bust if I wore a good bra and kept my chest out all the time. But ain’t nobody’s got time for that.
I have always wanted to try grading a knitting pattern. I have graded many sewing patterns but grading knitting patterns just seems like swimming in dark waters to me. Unpicking sewing stitches is less painful than frogging a whole knitted sweater!
After reading this article from the archives of the online Knitty magazine, I decided to jump in and take a swim. Moreover, I have a ton of vintage knitting patterns that I would LOVE to knit but aren’t my size. I just have to try grading a pattern at some point.
Finding the yarn
The next problem I faced was finding the right yarn for the project. I have knitted a fair share of projects using cheap acrylic yarn that I have bought and hoarded over the years from the time I was a poor university student. As I am starting to become more concerned about the amount of plastic amassing in landfills and floating in the ocean on planet Earth, I wanted to make the switch to using natural fibres. Living in the tropical island of Singapore where summer happens ALL YEAR ROUND makes using cotton the obvious choice. I bought my cotton yarn via a shop on Taobao.com (which is basically Chinese Amazon). The name of this stunning shade of red is, believe it or not, called “China Red” (when directly translated from Chinese).
I absolutely love this yarn! It’s a cotton blend that consists of 60% cotton and 40% milk fibre. It’s soft and easy to knit with. I have worn the sweater a couple of times and it seems to be holding up pretty well so far. Well, you can ask me again in a few months’ time!
Grading the pattern
So, for anyone who is interested, here’s how I graded my pattern:
I made a gauge and studied the different sizes of the pattern. This pattern is written for S (M, L etc) – 32 (36, 40 etc)” chest. I wanted a 30″ chest (so kinda like an XS). That means that it is 2″ smaller than the smallest size.
The difference between XS and S is 2″, while the difference between S and M is 4″.
So, when the pattern asked to CO 98 (110, 122 etc), I decided to CO 92 for my XS sweater.
110 (size M) – 98 (size S) = 12
Difference between XS and S = 0.5 x difference between S and M = 0.5 x 12 = 6
Number of stitches to CO for size XS = size S – 6sts = 98 – 6 = 92
I applied the same concept throughout for the number of stitches required and the length of certain parts that were stated.
Details: Gold-tone buttons saved from a vintage dress I changed the buttons for
The end result
I guess… it worked? The only other modification I made is reducing the length of ribbing for the sleeves so I won’t have the weird thick sleeve cuffs folded over and it would look more like the sweater that Bardot has. My sweater has a snug fit, which is what I want and need for the vintage look. Can you imagine what it would have looked like if I hadn’t graded the pattern!?
The original pattern describes the sweater to be a 1940’s style design. For some reason, knitting it in red made it look more like a 1950’s style highschool cheerleader sweater of some sort. Don’t you think so?
Showing you the seams under the pits!
Pattern: Swing Time by Kirsten Kapur (from Knitting It Old School)
Yarn: Basic cotton red yarn from TaoBao.com
Modifications: Reduced length of ribbing for sleeve cuffs, graded pattern to fit XS