1940s Scrap Yarn Sweater

Flashback Summer: 1940s Scrap Yarn Sweater - Sun-Glo, On Duty Cardigan

I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy packing up a house to move. I enjoy unpacking a house after moving... but not the "before" phase of purging and packing!

In anticipation of moving this spring, I've been working largely from my stash for projects, especially knitting projects. (If I use my stash, I'm not acquiring more... and I have less to pack later!) I've got lots of leftover yarn balls from other projects, but they're all different colors and weights, and I don't know the amounts of a lot of them since they're partial-skeins or I ripped the labels off. I wanted to make a project using them, but it's harder to fit scrap yarns to a project rather than just buying a bunch of new yarn!

Flashback Summer: 1940s Scrap Yarn Sweater - Sun-Glo, On Duty Cardigan

Here's how I went about it:

1. I narrowed down a bunch of the yarn to fibers of similar weights that could work well together. Although they're from lots of different companies, all of these were wool yarns.

2. Out of all those yarns, I looked at different color combinations to see what would look good. I found a warm color palette that gave me a large amount of yarns to work with because of all the colors. More yarn=more pattern options.

3. I had more yarn than I thought, but I didn't have enough of any one color to make it the primary color of a sweater and just use the others for accents (like extra embroidery, intarsia, or Fair Isle designs). I needed to think of something that would use a fairly equal amount of each color without looking ridiculous. My mind immediately went to stripes!

Flashback Summer: 1940s Scrap Yarn Sweater - Sun-Glo, On Duty Cardigan

4. The problem with stripes, however, is that you have to know you have enough yarn of each color to continue the pattern through the whole garment... I had no such guarantee since I wasn't sure on the yardage of a lot of the yarn balls. I decided to find a basic sweater pattern to which I could add stripes, but the stripes wouldn't be in a consistent pattern. I decided the only real "pattern" would be that every fourth stripe would be yellow. That way, if I ran out of a particular color halfway up the sweater, it wouldn't be so noticeable.

5. The pattern I picked was a plain 1940s cardigan from a 1940s Sun-Glo booklet: series 57, the "On Duty" cardigan. I like the stripes, but I figured it would make the sweater look a bit more cohesive if I picked one yarn color for the cuffs, waist ribbing, and button band. To make sure I didn't run out of that yarn color, I knitted all of those parts first and kept them on stitch holders.

Flashback Summer: 1940s Scrap Yarn Sweater - Sun-Glo, On Duty Cardigan

6. Although the original pattern is a solid color, it was quite easy to add stripes. It's knitted in five pieces, so I just made sure to stripe the front and back pieces the same way so the stripes would line up at the side seams and across the front.

7. I didn't care so much about making the sleeves line up until it got to the armscye seams. It bothers me when the stripes don't line up there, but I also wasn't quite sure how to ensure the stripes on the sleeve head matched up at the bodice... but I gave it a shot and it succeeded!

Flashback Summer: 1940s Scrap Yarn Sweater - Sun-Glo, On Duty Cardigan

All I did was make sure the striping sequence was the same starting at the armhole shaping on the bodice pieces and the sleeve head pieces. Since I knew the pieces would definitely line up at that point, I used it as the striping starting point.

When it came to sewing everything together, I eased the stripes in to fit up to the shoulder seam. Then I pleated the rest into a box pleat (which is actually how the original pattern was done as well). 

Flashback Summer: 1940s Scrap Yarn Sweater - Sun-Glo, On Duty Cardigan

Extra notes:
While I normally weave in ends as I knit, it just wasn't working well on this piece and I was afraid it wouldn't be as stretchy as I needed by the end. Because of this, I waited to weave in the ends until after knitting each piece. I pinned the pieces flat to the correct size and wove in the ends of each row. I was still afraid that the edges wouldn't be secure enough to stitch together and take the stress of wear, so I single crocheted around the edges of the bodice pieces just in case. Total overkill, probably, but it will *definitely* last!

Then I stretched it back out and pinned it, then sprayed it all with water and let it dry to properly block it before sewing everything together.

Flashback Summer: 1940s Scrap Yarn Sweater - Sun-Glo, On Duty Cardigan

Weaving in the ends took FOR-EV-ER. That took at *least* as long as the actual knitting. Because of this, I almost scrapped this project several times, haha. But I kept thinking of how nice it would be at the end and how nice it would be to FINISH this project, and that kept me going! (It goes in the "projects that almost never were" club, along with my 1930s Greta sweater, also striped.)

Just as a bonus, I also learned two new skills to make this sweater: a long tail ribbed cast on (for a very stretchy cast-on for the cuffs and waist ribbing) and the mattress stitch for sewing the sweater together... which I am kicking myself for not having done this for every other sweater I've ever made!

Flashback Summer: 1940s Scrap Yarn Sweater - Sun-Glo, On Duty Cardigan

TLDR Knitting details
Yarn: Various! All wool, ranging from fingering/sport to worsted
Needles: 3.25 mm for ribbing, 3.5 mm for stockinette
Pattern: "On Duty Cardigan" - Sun-Glo series 57
Year: 1940s
Notions: four buttons, grosgrain ribbon for stabilizing button area
How historically accurate is it?  It's quite 40s accurate! The make do and mend, stash-busting style is especially in the spirit of WWII garment making. The fibers are wool, and the pattern is original from the 40s.
Any tricky parts to the pattern?  Nope, it's quite a simple pattern to follow.
Did you change anything?  I striped it instead of knitting it solid. 
Time to complete: I didn't count hours; it would have been too depressing! The longest part was weaving in the stripe ends to the back after knitting each piece.
First worn: I'll wear it after having my baby!
Total cost: The yarn was from my stash, so I'm considering it $0 since the cost has been calculated into my other projects. I originally bought the PDF pattern for $3, but I've used it and knitted several things in it many times, so the cost of that is minimal as well.
Notes: The pattern is a quick, simple pattern. It would be easy to alter and customize in other ways, and striping fit it well. 


  1. Wow, that is a stunning sweater! The colours look great together, you would never know that the yarn hadn't been bought specially for the project. A perfect make-do-and-mend example.

  2. This is fantastic!!! I love how it came together!


  3. I love this! The color palette and the fact that it was stash busting are excellent! Looking forward to seeing it on!