There comes a time in the fall when a knitter’s mind turns to thoughts of Rhinebeck. The New York Sheep & Wool Festival is one of those fiber-crafts events that I had read about for almost as long as I’ve been knitting, but never thought I’d attend since it was on the other side of the country. And then I moved to the other side of the country and forgot all about it until last year, when I made a very impulsive and last-minute decision to go.
This year I planned a little better, and when I realized I had a partially completed 1890s cycling sweater on the needles, I knew what I was going to be trying to finish for my Rhinebeck Sweater.
The sweater was a result of a conversation with my good friend Hannah about what her dream piece of knitwear would be. We discussed various colorwork 40s sweaters but eventually she confessed that her pie-in-the-sky knitwear dream that she hoped to be able to commission one day was a Victorian sweater. Two such sweaters are readily searchable in museum collections, one photographed in high resolution at The Met, and a second (harder to link to and lower resolution) at the DAR Museum. I wasn’t sure I was equal to the task of completing such a tedious project in fingering weight yarn, but given something a little heavier I was game to try it.
I based my design off of this reprinted pattern from the Delineator Magazine and a lot of guesswork. I obviously had to readjust gauge for everything, plus I modified to knit in the round as much as possible and added stripes and ended up pitching most of the sleeve shaping instructions since I was impatient and wasn’t sure they’d translate properly in larger yarn. I’m not sure that everything is exactly how I’d want it, but it sure presents well and I’m not sure I could find the motivation to make another for quite a while… although I bet it’d be a good candidate for a knitting machine!
Hannah wanted a luxurious yarn, so the sweater was made with Knitpicks Gloss, a silk and merino blend. I’m not sure I’d pick a yarn like this again for this project, I’d rather use something with a bit more body to it. I did end up sewing small shoulder pads to puff the tops of the sleeves a bit more which I think went a long way towards combatting the drape. The whole thing is very cozy, though, which was excellent since it was a rather brisk day—as you can see in the photos, it was cold, slightly damp, and rather blustery! I made sure we snapped these first thing, before even eating our apple cider donuts, because I knew I would only wilt more as the day progressed.
True to Rhinebeck style, I finished the project the night before, and there are still ends I need to weave in before I can send it to its new home. Hannah graciously agreed that it was only fair I get to wear the thing once (we’re close to the same size, and an entire sweater of 1×1 ribbing is very very stretchy) before I sent it off so I did my best to pull together a suitable ensemble with a sort of neo-Victorian feeling 1940s hat.
The other big highlight of Rhinebeck aside from seeing all the amazing knitwear and buying all the yarn is seeing other knitters! This year I ran into Tasha of By Gum By Golly and Sydney of @squidneyknits who of course both had amazing sweaters for the occasion (Sydney knit her whole suit. Skirt too. I can hardly believe it.) and who are even more delightful in person than on the internet. It was fun to walk around with the two of them for a bit as they planned their next makes—I definitely came less prepared than I should have, it’s very hard to think properly when surrounded by so much amazing yarn!
I did end up buying a few things to make a few more cardigans with, so if I’m very diligent in my knitting you may see a few new things this winter!
1890s Leg-of-mutton sleeve sweater: Heavily adapted from 1895-97 Ladies’ Leg-of-Mutton Sweater, on my Ravelry here
1940s gray and cream feathered hat: Purchased from Solanah (I think)
Cream eyelet belt: Swiped off a vintage dress
Brown 6-gore skirt: Made by me in a terrible hurry a few weeks ago
Opaque peach tights: Capezio
Brown suede shoes: Royal Vintage Shoes “Alice” in Nutmeg