A Red Cross Sweatervest ca. 1942

ring ring... hello? who is this? it's me? and i'm looking awesome?

Cisco in the Plotting Room at Fort MacArthur Museum. San Pedro, CA

Well, hello again, ladies and gentlemen. This is another piece that I finished more recently; this time, knitwear, not sewing. Allow me to set the scene for you:

The room is dark, musty, and smells of Army. It’s the smell of TA-50 that hasn’t seen the light of day in months, the smell of old ponchos and rucksacks… all of a sudden, there’s a gleam! A shimmer! I see the tiniest bit of light in a drawer in the bottom of the archives at the Fort MacArthur Museum (located on Gaffey Street in San Pedro, CA, stop on by!). Cisco, by my side, kneels to the drawer and pulls out a giant piece of cardboard that is shining and golden and lovely… a sheet of paper atop the carboard reads, “KNIT YOUR BIT! Our Boys Need Sox!” Poor spelling aside, I snatch the pattern up and read it… it’s easy enough, why, this vest is all in garter stitch! The neck band is just square! It should take me two weeks, TOPS. Cisco smiles and declares that he’s seen this vest in a picture somewhere… somewhere…

I copy down the pattern as he engages in a search through binders and binders of photographs from the glory days of the Fort, and sure enough, he returns to me with an image, an image of a man wearing a sweatervest over his mustards and smiling broadly atop The Breakers Hotel in Long Beach. Then I look closely. It is not the same sweater. There’s a three inch rib border, increases, ribbing along the V-neck and the sleeves, it’s done with only one strand of worsted and smaller needles… sure, it’s prettier than the one described in the Knit Your Bit pattern, but it was going to take much longer. Some housewife on the homefront put her heart and soul into making that soldier atop The Breakers look snazzy, and I felt compelled to do the same.

In the end, my project, predicted to take two weeks, took me about 4 months, though admittedly there were quite a few weeks where I was so sick of stockinette that I didn’t pick up my needles, so I guess in man-hours it took about a month. You have no IDEA how long 22 inches is until you do it twice in the most boring stitch pattern of all time. Plus, I kept second guessing myself, which meant I’d have to go back and frog inches off, and there was the occaisional dropped stitch at the worst possible time (always followed by my desperate search for a crochet hook, which wiggled its way into the seat cushions between drops), but in the end, there it was, in all it’s glory. A replica of that much more beautiful and much more complicated sweatervest (not like it was cable-knit and fair-isle, but it’s much more complicated than Cast On 100, knit 22 inches, repeat on reverse) has been completed.

ah yes, here i stand, basking in the blood, sweat, and tears of a girl who thought this would be simple

Cisco showing off his sweater vest for the camera


In the end, I’m glad I made it. And now I have a waiting list three deep for more, but I think I’m going to take some time and do a few “me” projects before I get started on those. But eventually I’ll hit Joann’s for more olive drab wool, and eventually these sweatervests, lost in the records of history, will be seen on re-enactors far and wide! And my dearest darlingest Cisco will be the trend-setter for it all. He says he’s incredibly happy with it, that it keeps him warm, and that it fits well, so all in all, this was a positive experience in my book.

Thanks for reading!


Next Projects In Line:

Blue Sweater circa 1943

Brown pants circa 1942

“Katherine Hepburn” style green blouse, circa 1942

Brown skirt circa 1942

Stockings circa 1941

Rosey dress circa 1947

Published in: on December 10, 2010 at 9:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. We should have a knitting party so I can learn your skills 🙂

    • Absolutely! I’ve actually been wanting to start a vintage knitting group that meets to knit in historic places… like, bring your needles and yarn, we’re knitting aboard the Queen Mary/in the Rose Garden at Exposition Park/the like. What do you think? 😀

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