1940s pattern: help with altering measurements?

Hello everyone… new here :happydance:

I’m a reasonably new knitter and attempting my first item of clothing that isn’t a hat scarf or gloves!

I have a gorgeous 40s cardigan pattern, I measured myself against the finished measurements on the pattern and all appeared well. I began by knitting one of the sleeves as I’m using vintage wool and not sure if I have enough (maybe a bit unwise there) so thought as the sleeves are puffy and would use a fair amount of wool I would guestimate whether there’s enough wool from how much one sleeve took.

Anyway, going a bit off thread there. I may have to find different wool now as here’s my question: The sleeve fits me around the top of my arm but is way too small around my shoulder. As the rest of the measurements appear to fit, can I (and more to the point how do I?!) alter just the sleeves so they fit, or do I need to enlarge the whole pattern everywhere, and if so how do I do that?

I think I’m ready to approach the mystifying task of increasing the pattern size but would be really grateful for some advice how to do that - none of the books I have show me how and I can’t afford to buy more books at the moment!

Sorry for the long post and thank you to anyone who can help!


If the pattern shows a “dropped” shoulder it may not be too small afterall. A dropped shoulder will give some fullness at the shoulder/sleeve area.

Could you knit a larger size, or increase more sts for the shoulder area? And it may be better to measure a sweater that fits you to compare against the finished size of the pattern.

Thank you both for your suggestions - unfortunately it is not a ‘dropped’ shoulder so that wont solve it, and the pattern is only in one size! I guess people in 1940s were all the same size… with small shoulders!

What I really need is some sort of calculator to work out how to increase the size from the pattern I have. I realise that this problem isn’t going to be solved soon so it’s going to sit in the pile of ongoing ideas while I begin another project!

Thanks again for your help, and if anyone else has any ideas please keep them coming! I’m determined to knit this pattern up, it is so nice and I’ve not seen anything else like it around. It’s the mega puffy sleeves that have hooked me so if anyone knows of any cardigan patterns with puffy sleeves, please let me know!

I love this website, I’ve got so much inspiration and courage to try new things from here :yay:

clothing from the 1940’s, (and 50’s and even the 1960’s!) was much more fitted than today styles.

armholes were smaller, and higher. waist were smaller too–with a 36 inch bust being “paired” with a 24 inch waist(and clothing more fitted between bust and waist!)

you might find that going up a size or two, will give you a better fit (going one size will still give you a fitted sweater, going up 2 sizes will give you a sweater that fits like a present day sweater)

thank you of troy - I absolutely LOVE the old style of clothing and the way it fitted! Hence my attempt to knit an original vintage pattern. This pattern in fact isn’t as classically fitted as many, it is more of a ‘swing’ type shape. But my mind is boggled about how to make it bigger as it only gives one size. I even managed to get some vintage wool true to the pattern but now think there wont be enough even when it does get to the point to start knitting as I will obviously need more to make it bigger. I’ll have to get back on the search for more vintage wool! :happydance:

suzeeq, I only just took in what you said about more increasing around the shoulder area… if I did that, would it mean that it wouldn’t hang as flat on the back and front, and look a bit strange? Or would it not be that noticeable? I need a good few more inches give to the shoulders… unfortunately its not just a cm or two… It would be great if I could just increase the shoulder area rather than the whole piece as then I still might have enough wool. Trying to keep positive that I can do this!

If it’s a set in sleeve, space the decrease rows further apart, or do less of them, so they’d end up looser across the shoulder. Sleeves (in fabric patterns) are a little larger than the armhole and you `ease’ them in to fit. You could also do less decs for the back/front shoulder shaping or do more rows to make them longer.

What you could do is figure the measurements of the pattern for the width across the shoulders, the length of the armhole etc, and compare it to one of your own sweaters you like the fit of. Then adjust the pattern to match those measurements.

thanks suzeeq, that’s really helpful. I’m going to get back to work on it at the weekend. Keeping my fingers crossed I have the skills to do the math!

You might also grab a copy of Vickie Howell’s book Knit Aid. It’s a handy little knitting guide full of all kinds of helpful info. and in it there is a sizing chart that might help you. I have a copy and use it constantly! Good luck!!