a darling little sweater from a bygone era

April 04, 2024

Today I have the sweetest little sweater knitted from the dearest vintage pattern I own. I'm sure that as a knitter you are very familiar with cabled owls, but do you want to know the story behind them? And how this pattern has been knitted for decades, and more likely 100 years or more? Knitters have been manipulating stitches into cables to resemble owls for a long long time and while no one has been able to accredit the design to any one person, it took one shop owner to finally write the pattern down for knitters around the world to enjoy.

Sometime in the 50s or 60s, Janice Straker, a knit shop owner, decided to write down the pattern that she had been knitting for her own children. She sold the typewritten pattern in her shop for a decade or so until her daughter Penny decided to make it available world wide along with other classic patterns under the name "Penny Straker Designs". Both Penny and Janice have passed away, and while there was an effort to keep the pattern company alive so the designs could be reprinted or sold as PDFs, as far as I've been able to tell, that hope was abandoned a decade ago. This is very sad because so many of her patterns are lovely and her original owl cardigans are classics. If you are looking for the pattern and are having no luck, please contact me though private message, my email is on my website, I think I can help you. 

The pattern is traditionally written, meaning that it's knitted flat, bottom up, in pieces with sewn seams and the finishing that goes along with that sort of pattern. To modernize it a bit I knit the sleeves in with the "set-in, top-down" technique", and if you have not tried this technique yet, please do, you'll never go back to sewing in sleeves again! But let's face it, this pattern is old-fashioned and that is part its charm. Many knitters and designers have since used the cabled owl to make top down patterns (Kate Davies and her popular adult Owls) and I love them too, but this sweet and charming pattern from a bygone era just tugs at my heart and is the most fun baby sweater to make. 

The pattern is knit in fingering weight and comes in three baby sizes. Penny also wrote a pattern in sport weight with four sizes for children. I cannot tell you how many times I have knit this, maybe a dozen or two? I love each one. I will be attending a baby shower in May and I cannot wait to give this to the new mommy.  My Ravelry pattern page is here with all the details. I used Debbie Bliss Rialto 4 ply and was very happy with it. I have also used Baby Ull several times and loved it. I also understand that Cascade makes a 220 Superwash fingering version and they had some pretty baby colors and I would be comfortable trying that too. When gifting a baby sweater I feel it's important, no, necessary, to knit with a superwash wool. I've never known a young modern mother who does not throw everything into the washer so it's important that your hand knit doesn't come with a list of fussy instructions. It will last longer and look nicer if hand washed and patted into shape to dry flat, but the reality is something different from that, so superwash it must be!

Owls on the back!

When my grandson was a baby and I asked him what an owl says, he looked solemnly down his sweater, then lifted his chin and looked me dead in the eye, formed his mouth into a perfect little cheerio, and said "hoo, hoo". I died!

Here is a close up of the owls and the neat and tidy knitted in set-in sleeves.
I love that each owl has it's own personality depending on how the buttons land!

Look what's blooming! I had to cut my peonies down pretty severely this winter because they were leggy and had a lot of deadwood, but I still counted 14 buds this morning, not too shabby. I'll take what I can get!

That baby grandson is now six and lost a tooth! In first grade, get this, he has to research and write an essay on an animal habitat and make a diorama. First grade! He chose to take advantage of all the goodies in my craft room and made the diorama with me, but then I sent him home to do his essay! He choose a snake for his animal and chose a mountain habitat. After this picture was taken, we added typical foods for a snake, and found little figures of rabbits and mice, even a dog and a chicken because snakes eat all those sorts of things. We sure had a lot of fun making it. As you know I deep clean every winter and have finished but for one room. I've got the sewing/craft room to tackle with some new organization plans. I'll be writing up that post and giving a tour in the next week or two.

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  1. Love that pattern which I own…somewhere. Peonies are pretty much my favorite flower. Boys and snakes…:). And then they have the designer of the Rattlesnake sweater. Female and lives in Alabama. Gender shattering, right? Chloe

  2. Oh she is a mom and loves all kinds of snakes which is the gender shattering part. Chloe

  3. I have always loved that owl sweater! Thanks for posting it again.
    The peony is beautiful. If I remember correctly, it is a very large flower that resembles crepe paper.

  4. Adorable! So sad this pattern is no longer available, at least I got no results from my searches.

  5. Wonderful post. As it happens I had been considering the owl cardigan pattern (which I bought eons ago) for my next baby gift. Did you ever consider subbing embroidery for buttons for the eyes, for the sake of safety?

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