Vintage Pattern Question...

Hi Guys! I found a vintage cardigan pattern from the 1940’s that I want to make, but I’m not sure what kind of yarn or needles it’s calling for. The pattern is from Beehive, which I believe is a Canadian company. Here’s what it calls for:

18 (1 oz.) balls Beehive Fingering 4 ply Patonised
No. 10 Queen Bee Knitting Needles
No. 12 Queen Bee Knitting Needles

Gauge: 7 ½ stitches and 10 rows = 1 inch (with No. 10 needles)

From what I found on the internet, 4-ply fingering is basically sock yarn, right? Can you knit a sweater out of sock yarn? Did needles have different sizing in the '40's? I knit a test swatch using #3 (US) needles and some sock yarn in my stash and the gauge came out about right. The material seems so light. I’m afraid it won’t have enough weight for the sweater to drape nicely. Anyone out there have any advice?


Beehive also had mills in England. The needle sizes are in 'English' and translate as 3.25mm or US4 (for size 10) and 2.75mm or US2 for size 12. 4 ply was the most used yarn in England in the '40s and early '50s and it does have enough weight for a sweater. Swatch another, bigger, piece and you will see it has enough 'weight' for your needs. Good luck with it.

PS to the above. Rowan yarns ( have some very nice 4 ply yarn (felted tweed) and WEBS ( and Elan also have a selection of 4 ply yarns.

kylewilliam's picture

chiming in... I LOVE rowan felted tweed!! :) - and as long as you get gauge (always swatch!) you'll be just fine... keeping in mind that your torso or whatever might be longer, wider, etc. etc... there's always room for modifications!



I am originally from the UK, and my needles, patterns, etc. are all English.
A size 10 needle equates to about a size 3, using a Susan Bates gauge. A size 12 needle equates to about a size 2, using the same gauge.

I have a collection of patterns and books (English and European) dating from the early 1900s. If anyone is interested in obtaining a copy please contact me. No charge, just be glad to see them used.

KnitsWithBalls's picture

you can totally knit a sweater out of sock yarn i takes a bit longer but its doable and it comes out GREAT! I knit mine on size 4

Born Gay...FABULOUS by choice...

Born Gay...FABULOUS by choice...

thairapist's picture

Knit a much bigger piece lets say 60 stitches and do at-least 20 rows. Test out some of the stitches too. When you have your swatch done then take a small knitting needle and insert it before one stitch and then count out at-least 15 stitches if not more. Just stay at-least 2-3 stitches away from the edge. Then insert another thin knitting needle after the 15th stitch. Now measure very carefully and do your calculation. 1/4 inch off can ruin the look of the sweater. I often spend up to a week swatching and testing out most of the stitches in a pattern and measuring until i feel very confident. Then i spend more time just making the sweater than correcting mistakes. Also the swatches are great to keep in a collection to remind you of how certain wools knit up. You sound like you are difficult to fit. I tend to make up most of my patterns now using Knitting In The Old Way. Raglan is my least favorite as it makes my shoulders look really slumpy. I like a square set in sleeve. With that book thought you can make sweaters fit perfectly and just the way you want them. A fingerling wool is going to produce a very light sweater, good for wearing over shirts and under jackets. Not for outerwear at all. If you want to work with a heavier wool you can probably convert the pattern if it isn't too complicated.