I’m someone who has a pretty distinctive style generally speaking, but there’s always room for trying new shapes and lines. And that’s something I enjoy doing now and again. It doesn’t always work out. Case in point, I made a dress last summer that I loathed as soon as it was done and it taught me I don’t like straight dresses with no waistline, but belted at the waist. I’ve had other fails, too. But many times, it works out. It’s always worth a shot to try because you’ll never know if you may find a new love. In this case, I did!
I’ve been wanting to try a waist-length cropped sweater or top of some sort for awhile now. I think I first got the idea seeing this sewing pattern from the 1950s several months ago, Butterick 7557. It’s undated but a previous owner (original?) wrote July 1956 on it and someone selling it online dated it to 1955. We’ll go with thereabouts.
I also have another Butterick pattern which has a similar look, Butterick 8640 in a slightly different style, and from a bit later in the 50s. It features a bateau neck instead of a funnel/turtleneck, with dropped shoulder sleeves and a wide band at the cropped waist in two of the views.
They’re fantastic, but I hadn’t made a move to try either out yet. I’ve been slowly warming to the idea in the meantime. And then in January, Kate Davies, one of my favorite modern knitwear designers, released her Carbeth knitting pattern.
Source: Carbeth knitting pattern, copyright Kate Davies
Well, well, well. In many ways, it’s sooo similar to the style I’d been wanting to try, but in knitwear! I immediately wanted to knit it. And it’s in bulky weight yarn, so a super quick knit. I still have plenty of time to wear a heavy sweater this winter, so I thought it would be a great starting point to try out this style.
Boy was I right! I don’t just like the result, I LOVE it.
I went with black. I do love a black turtleneck, goes with so much in winter and adds a nice little beatnik touch. But it’s impossible to photograph, so bear with me on that and the fact that I wore a vintage quilted skirt that’s partially blending into the background. Can’t win ’em all!
I used two strands of Rauma Strikkegarn (same yarn as my yellow bolero). The pattern is likewise knit with two strands of yarn (or one strand of bulky), though sport weight and I used DK. That means that while I got gauge, mine is probably a bit more dense. I couldn’t find really a bulky wool I liked the sound of that didn’t have reviews that it knit up more like a heavy worsted, and I didn’t want to get 3.5 stitches per inch on something that would end up with a loose drape. So I’m happy for it to be nice and dense. In my climate, the warmer the better, anyway.
The pattern has a bit of a bell shape as it hangs from your upper body. It’s knit straight from the hem to the armhole, and has a good amount of positive ease at the bust, so significantly more at the waist which helps provide that shape. That was the only thing I wanted to change for my version. I definitely wanted the positive ease as that was part of the appeal of the pattern and style lines (same as the two vintage sewing patterns I showed above), but I wanted it to be just sliiiightly tapered in towards the waist to have a wee bit more of a vintage look. So essentially I wanted the same amount of positive ease at my bust as at my waist.
The pattern called for 4″ of positive ease at the bust or going up a size if you’re in-between. With size 1 I’d have had closer to 2″ positive ease and size 2 nearly 6″. But I really wanted about the same ease as the pattern. I just added 4 more stitches in the body and decreased them away up in the decrease section in the yoke with no problem. I went with size 1 for the sleeves and it was perfect. Over the years, I’ve learned about my own knitting that I tighten up when knitting smaller diameters. That means on the same needle size, I might get a tighter gauge for the sleeves than for the body. So for this sweater, I knit the ribbing on a smaller diameter than the body, and the sleeves on a larger diameter than the body. That got me about the same gauge for both sleeves and body. And I’m a loose knitter so you might be surprised to hear I achieved 3.5 spi on size 8 needles when the pattern calls for 10s, but that’s often the case for me. I don’t even bother swatching with the same size needle a pattern calls for since I know I’ll likely go a size or two down.
To achieve that very slight taper in the body that I wanted, I just added a bit of waist shaping. I cast on 20 stitches less than size 1 and worked 5 sets of paired increases at the side seams about every inch for the waist shaping (finishing below my full bust). To clarify, 4 sets would have given me the size 1, but I wanted those 4 additional stitches to make the full bust between sizes 1 and 2, hence the extra set of increases.
Then the literal only other change I made was to just knit the sleeves a bit shorter… 16″ for bracelet length, without fold-up cuffs. Everything else I knit per the pattern, including the body length of the size 1, which is 7 1/2″. Because I was concerned about the length I actually put in a lifeline a bit above the ribbing, so if I had to either add or take away length I could do so a little more easily. The length has a huge part to play in the overall look, so I wanted it to be exactly right. On my short torso, that 7 1/2″ length was indeed exactly right to me!
Here’s something I particularly enjoyed. While on a hunt for something that had nothing to do with knitting but was during the time that I was knitting Carbeth, I encountered an amazing similarity between Carbeth and this yellow top shown in the spring 1956 Sears catalog. It even has a similar triangular design detail on the yoke (just the opposite direction). Note the model’s black turtleneck underneath, probably in part to prevent showing her midriff when raising her arms. And her outfit is so similar to the items shown on the Butterick 7557 pattern envelope, complete with harlequin capris!
You can’t even grasp how excited that makes me when I find a parallel through time like that!
And yes, it’s maybe worth mentioning that you do need to take precautions with such a cropped sweater. If I raise my arms high, it’s going to come up above my waist. A black tee underneath solves that issue, just like the catalog model above.
There were already hundreds of finished Carbeths on Ravelry in a very short amount of time (I rarely remember to link to my Ravelry project page in my blog posts, but here’s mine for Carbeth). That was great because I was a little nervous about how I’d block the neck, so I was able to see many variations of how it looked. I didn’t want the ribbing to sit quite as low and wide on the yoke, and wanted the turtleneck to fold over a little more. Actually I’d have knit the turtleneck a bit longer even but had about 2 feet of yarn left…! Barely won the game of yarn chicken.
When I blocked it, I let the ribbing stay as tight as possible and I kind of tugged the center of the decrease lines (that make the peak of the triangular shape) to not fall as low on the yoke. I’m very happy with how it all blocked. It’s such a simple and clever yoke.
Obviously my opinion on the actual sweater is that I love it. I mean really love it. Very rarely do I put something on that’s different than I’ve worn before and fall in love immediately. I’m usually slow to warm up. But I fell in love with this Carbeth the second I tried it on. The positive ease is perfect, meaning it’s roomy but still has a trim shape. The length is perfect, falling right at my waistband. And the roominess has just the look for a cropped sweater without looking sloppy with my style. Overall it looks cute with skirts and doesn’t make me feel strangled. I could probably wear this every single day in winter with a skirt and be perfectly happy. I love it that much.
When I make this sweater again (and oh, I will… I’ve already ordered yarn to make a red version but have to wait until it’s back in stock), I will change nothing from what I did this time. Nothing. That’s essentially unheard of for me to say. I’m not actually sure I’ve ever said that?!
I haven’t been this pleased with introducing a new item into my closet in a long time!
Because it’s me and I love to tweak things, I’d love to also take what I’ve learned about the body length and fit of this pullover and apply it to one with set-in sleeves, maybe even drop shoulder like the Butterick 7557 sewing pattern, for a slightly different look. With or without a turtleneck. And on the sewing side, I’d love maybe a French terry version of either of those patterns with cute cropped trousers (of course I already have a pair in mind). In fact, I’ve got a casual outdoorsy trip lined up later this spring and that might be just the ticket!
But in terms of this particular sweater, I feel like I’ve unlocked a cold weather wardrobe achievement I didn’t even realize I needed, but solves a lot of winter problems for me! I always have a difficult time figuring out what to wear in winter. I wear a lot of vintage and vintage-style ski pullovers, but those don’t work when I want to wear a skirt. This sweater and any future versions are going to be a huge help! I’m so excited!