Godey’s Undersleeves

Last week, I shared an abbreviated history of undersleeves.  If you haven’t given it a read, click the link, give it a read, then head on back here! Don’t worry, I’ve got time!

A few months back, I found this pattern in Godey’s Ladies Book, and I knew that woolen undersleeves were just the thing my Victorian costume needed, especially since in March, we have a table at a local maple syrup festival, which means talking to people dressed in 1860s fashion, in the cold. Because, Canada.

It was a few months between pattern discovery and casting on because of holiday knitting.  I was DETERMINED to finish my dad’s sweater and all the other wonderful gifts before starting new selfish knitting.  Once I got going with the undersleeves, they were a fast project with a lot of garter stitch, a great mindless project to work on.

godeysladysbook1862hale_0491
Godey’s Knitted Undersleeves Pattern, 1862.  Click the image to be directed to archive.org, the source of the pattern.

The pattern reads:

Materials: A large pair of boxwood knitting needles, one-quarter of a pound of white and six ounces of a pretty share of violet single Berlin wood.

This warm and pretty article is comprised of two kinds of wool, and is knitted to form two small and one large puff.  It is nearly entirely made of plain knitting, and is therefore quickly done.  It is best when knitted loosely, to give it a very elastic appearance.  It is worked in the following manner, and is commenced from the bottom by casting on 36 stitches in white wood, and knitting twelve rows.  The violet wool is then joined on and 24 rows knitted with this color.  After these are completed the commencement of the work should be taken up upon the needle to form the first puff.  The white wool must then be joined on and 2 rows worked, the first knitting two stitches together to fasten the puff.  Two rows of violet and 1 of white, and 23 rows of violet are then worked.  After the bank is worked the second puff is commenced in the same manner as the first, with the white wool.  This puff is also fastened like the other, and 2 rows of violet, 2 of white, and 1 of violet worked for the band.  For the third puff, which is the largest, 40 rows must be worked with the violet wool, and in the first row 24 stitches must be made, so that at the end of the row there are 60 stitches on the needle.  This increase is made by knitting 2 stitches into 1 stitch at intervals along the row.  After the 40 rows are completed, join on the white wool and knit 1 row, taking 2 stitches together, and so decreasing the number till there are only 30 stitches left on the needle.  The top of the sleeve is then knitted to form ribs, which is done by knitting 1 stitch plain and 1 stitch purl alternatively to the end of the row.  After knitting 24 rows in the same manner the sleeve will be the required size; it should then be cast off and sewn together on the wrong side, with some of the same colored wool.  The colors may be altered to any the worker may like, such as pink, scarlet, blue, or green.

What a set of directions!

I followed the instructions to the best that I could understand them. It started very easy with casting on and knitting plain.  I was thrown for a complete loop, however, when it said: “After these are completed the commencement of the work should be taken up upon the needle to form the first puff.  The white wool must then be joined on and 2 rows worked, the first knitting two stitches together to fasten the puff.” What in the what?

Here’s how I interpreted this – I picked up stitches along the cast on edge, and knit two together across the row.

PicMonkey Collage
L-R: fabric before ‘taken up upon…’ instructions; picking up stitches along cast on edge (two pictures); knitting two together; the completed ‘puff’

And for the second puff, “commenced in the same manner as the first,” I picked up stitches on the wrong side and knit two together across the row.

PicMonkey Collage2
Top to bottom: fabric before second puff; picking up white stitches on the wrong side; preparing to knit two together.

The first two puffs and how to construct them was really the only challenging part of this project.  The rest of if, increasing, plain knitting, decreasing, ribbing, was all very straight forward.  I did make my own adjustment for the top arm band, however.  Before each puff, there is a lovely striping of the white and purple, which doesn’t seem to have continued for the top band.  The pattern says to switch to white and nowhere does it say to switch back.  So for consistency and to match with the rest of the undersleeve, I knit two rows of white, two of violet, two of white, then the remainder in violet, so to match the rest of the undersleeve’s patterning.

When I started making these, I had no idea we were going to be enjoying such a mild Spring.  Previously at this outdoor maple syrup festival, we had to wear layers on top of layers and hope that the mercury didn’t dip too low, so warm woolen undersleeves would have been a perfect addition for this event.  The temperature for this past Saturday was in the teens (Celsius, because, remember, Canada), a perfect early Spring day.  The woolen undersleeves weren’t required, but they are the perfect addition to my Victorian costume for when the weather gets cold again.


Here is my written interpretation of this pattern, including my modern needles and yarn used.

Yarn: Cascade 220, white and Cascade 220 Heather Purple Brown (but really, you can use any worsted weight in whichever colours float your boat)7

Needles: 4.5mm (Size 7US)

Cast on 36 stitches

First Puff

  • Knit 12 rows (garter), using white
  • Switch to the Purple Yarn; Knit 24 rows (garter)
  • Next Row, with white yarn, pick up stitches along cast on edge, one at a time, and knit picked up stitch with a stitch on the needle (k2tog = 1 c/o st and 1 live st) – knit across needle in this manner (36 stitches on needle)
  • Next Row – knit across with white

Band

  • Knit 2 rows, garter, in purple
  • Knit 2 rows, garter, in white
  • Knit 24 rows, garter, in purple

Puff 2

  • Knit 12 rows, garter, in white
  • Knit 24 rows, garter, in purple
  • Next row, with white yarn, pick up stitches along the 1st row of white which was knit for puff 2, from the wrong side, one at a time, and knit picked up stitch with a stitch on the needle (k2tog = 1 picked up stitch and 1 live stitch) – knit in this manner across the needle (36 stitches on needle)
  • Next row (WS) – knit across in white, garter
  • Knit 2 rows, garter, in purple
  • Knit 2 rows, garter, in white

Puff 3

  • With purple, *KF&B, K1* across needle (54 stitches)
  • Next row, KF&B 3 times, knit to last three stitches, KF&B 3 times (60 sts)
  • Knit 40 rows, garter, in purple

Top band

  • With white, *K2tog, K1* across needle (40 sts)
  • Next row (WS) – *K1, P1* rep, with white
  • Next 2 rows, *K1, P1,* purple
  • Next 2 rows, *K1, P1,* white
  • Knit 18 rows,  *K1, P1,* purple

Cast off in pattern

Seam together

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