Friday, 22 January 2016

Sleeveless Sweaters

From The Times, 22nd January, 1916.


Sir,-- Some time before Christmas you let me offer your readers through your columns what I dared to call the perfect sweater pattern for their kind knitting for the men.  A result really wonderful has reached, and left, me.  Will many more ladies please write for the pattern?

“But why has your sweater pattern no sleeves?” Do let me answer this daily breakfast conundrum here.  Last year, in the great rush to the colours, our old friend of the river and playing fields was, I learned, about the most useful garment to send to the Army in the making (officers still speak of the sweaters sent out by your readers in the pneumonia time of 1914).  To-day, under other conditions, a garment light to carry, offering small surface for wear and tear, and making a good extra or change is, I am told, more useful still.  There is a limit to the number of sleeves even the coldest or wettest soldier can wear, whereas a sleeveless sweater goes on comfortably at any stage of his toilette.  You, Sir, like a change when you come back from the links, and you, Madam, will wear an extra when you potter round your garden to see the bulbs put in, and our good brothers who fight for us are more like you and me than not.  Now listen to the men – from Alexandra Park to Alexandria – and anywhere in between.  “Thank you very, very much for my section.  The men can’t show their appreciation to the senders, but they do to those who give the sweaters out.  You can’t possibly send me too many of this type of sweater.  I have looked out for this type of sweater a long time.  They are so very good, and ought to last well.”

The above are only quoted to reassure the many kind knitters of pattern A, the sleeveless sweater.  Pattern B has a short and melancholy history of its own.  It was my first and last aberration from my ladies’ control, and produced some very salutary letters and a small crop of kimonos.  I think I confused stitches and inches, or purling and ply wheeling.  The incident is now closed.  Pattern C is at the service of any skilled knitter, and no one else, who wants to make a first–class sleeved sweater.  Glad occupants for these can of course be found; in some respects they are better for men training in England.

Now will many more ladies please ask me for pattern A?

Yours faithfully,
8, King’s Bench Walk, Inner Temple, E.C., Jan. 21.

[The previous letter from John Penoyre offering a knitting pattern appeared here.  I wonder if the usefulness of sleeveless sweaters for soldiers at the Front was the origin of their post-war popularity?]  

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