Knitting like it’s 1974

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Sweater on Two Needles in Berocco Vintage

Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Sweater on Two Needles in Berocco Vintage

I just finished this shower gift for a friend who’s expecting in April, and I think this one’s about to become a staple.  I’ve previously expressed my love for and fascination with seventies knitting patterns, and our recent Freaks and Geeks  Netflix binge has just reignited my love of seventies knitwear.  This time, I used Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Sweater on Two Needles (Practically Seamless) from the February chapter of Knitter’s Almanac.

Much like Zimmerman’s other patterns this one bares a significant resemblance to stream of consciousness.  She does not lay out a needle size and her thoughts on gauge and measurement in general are pretty vague, since as she points out, babies come in all different sizes. I don’t know if this is indicative of Zimmerman’s individual style or if it simply reflects that the pattern is nearly forty years old. Either way, the instructions are a bit inscrutable and show a clear relationship to the oral tradition of sharing knitting patterns and skills.  When reading Zimmerman’s books, with their long asides and vague directions, you feel as though you are in conversation with the knitting guru herself. On one level, it’s appealing, but it’s nice to have some guidance before you set out:

1. Zimmerman doesn’t mention the button holes until after she describes the yoke.  You need to put button holes in while you are constructing the yoke, so read through the entire pattern carefully before you start. You can choose how many button holes to make.  I looked at the 7500 (!) projects on ravelry and decided to create a swing cardigan with three buttons.

2. There are few instructions about needle size and gauge.  I used size 5 needles and followed the directions regarding length exactly.  The end product is a little larger than a Baby Gap 3-6 months.

Waste yarn (brown) holds the sleeve as I finish the body

Waste yarn (brown) holds the sleeve as I finish the body

3. The sleeve directions are strange.  When I got to the sleeve row, I put the 28 sleeve stitches on waste yarn, cast on 14 across each gap, and then finished the body.  Afterwards, I returned to the sleeve, cast on 14 and knit in the round (no purling!) and then seamed the armpits.

The end result is really lovely. When I make gifts before a baby is born, I am a little anxious about when they will fit the baby.  You can never be sure if the recipient will give birth to a dainty 5 lbs baby or a 10 lbs baby that haunts the dreams of pregnant women everywhere.  A thick sweater that baby grows into and out of over the summer months is pretty useless.  The lace pattern in this sweater added to it’s appeal, since it has an all-season usefulness. I can imagine this baby wearing it on cool summer nights over a little dress or under a jacket in the spring or fall.

This pattern has confirmed my love affair with Zimmerman’s timeless designs.  I’m so pleasantly surprised that her books are still in print and so widely available. Has anyone discovered any other gems from the 70’s? I’d love to try them out….

7 thoughts on “Knitting like it’s 1974

  1. Jenn

    What a cute little sweater!!

    I’ve had this in my queue forever – I intended to knit it for my now 12 month old, but never got to it. I have half a dozen friends expecting babies this year, so hopefully I’ll knit it for one (or more) of them. Thanks for the heads up on pattern directions. I love EZ for her timeless appeal, but you’re right about her instructions leaving a little something to be desired.

    1. lisagono Post author

      Katie, I continued the lace pattern, but rather than having a “purl all stitches row” in between yarn over rows, I knit that entire row in between.
      You can see in the little picture where I put brown scrap yarn through the sleeve stitches. Once I finished the body, I went back put double pointed needles through those stitches, cast on 14 stitches across the gap (but you could also pick up 14 stitches along the gap – I just think the seam is a little neater). I then used the lace pattern, but continued in the round, and substituted a knit row for those purl rows.

  2. Songbird Mama

    Desperately need help. I am knitting this sweater for my baby, due in less than a month. I am confused by the sleeves and trying to do them in the round. Added the 7 stitches on each side of the 28 as EZ instructed to do and put on scrap yarn- for a total of 42 sts, which she suggests. Then I knit rest of sweater and cast off. It seems like you are saying to now pick up an additional 14 sts at underarm for a total of 56 sleeve sts. Am I correct in understanding it this way? Should there be 56 sleeve sts?

    Thank you!

    1. lisagono Post author

      No, there should only be 42. Sorry it took me so long to see this! I added the 14 when I put the sleeves on DPNs instead of when you did before putting on scrap yarn.


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