When I saw this mustard yellow knit fabric at Eurokangas fabric shop, I knew exactly what I wanted to make out of it. I have planned to make a Victorian bicycle sweater after seeing some very nice examples online. They all are based on this lovely example on Met. It is from circa 1895 when the sleeves were huge and bicycling was trendy. Of course, the original sweater has been knit but my poor shoulders can’t stand knitting anymore. Luckily, this kind of sweater can be sewn quite neatly, too!
I found three videos/blog posts online that were really helpful. The first is the YouTube video by Lady Rebecca Fashions. Her video had links to two excellent blog posts, one from Fresh frippery and the other by Eras of Enchantment. Fresh frippery’s blog post even had a sleeve and collar patterns that I decided to use. However, I already had a sweater bodice pattern that I had created a long time ago and that I knew fit me, so I used that instead of the bodice pattern also given by her.
Sewing the bicycle sweater
My fabric had two different sides to it. The other side (that I determined to be the “wrong” side) looked a bit like ribbing so I decided to use both the right and the wrong side of the fabric to create an interesting texture. I wanted to make the lower sleeves, the collar and the waistband using the wrong side.
Waistband insertion with a Kitchener stitch
There were different ways people had treated the waistband insertion. I wasn’t happy with any of the methods as any machine seaming looked so obvious. Despite me not being able to knit currently, I am actually a good knitter and have made numerous sweaters, socks and other items of clothing. So, I decided to use my knitting knowledge and join pieces together with the Kitchener stitch. What is the Kitchener stitch? The Kitchener stitch is a way joining two knitted edges together seamlessly by sewing a seam that mimics knitted stitches. It is a slow method but it is often used to finish the toes of socks and things like that.
In order to use the Kitchener stitch method, I had to have live stitches on knitting needles. What I needed to do then was to straighten the fabric edges and unravel enough to get clean edges with live stitches.
My fabric had a knitted pattern that didn’t make it easy to dig out the live stitches as the pattern had stitches stretched over three knitted rows. Slowly I picked out small pieces of yarn and finally had an edge from which I could pull yarn leaving out neat edge from which I could pick out stitches. I also needed yarn to match my fabric so I pulled out some rows to get enough yarn for the seaming.
Below is a snapshot of the seaming process. I have the upper part of the bodice on the wooden knitting needle (I use circular needles for convenience) and the waistband stitches are on the metal needle. Seaming is done with a tapestry needle which goes through stitches in both needles in a particular way to get a seam that looks just like another knitted row. (If you are interested in this method, just Google it. There are numerous good tutorials online. I used this tutorial as I never remember the exact way to do this either.)
The finished seam is a bit uneven at some places where I didn’t tighten the stitches enough. However, I think it was worth all the trouble as now I have no extra bulk there.
Fitting the bodice
After the waistband insertion, I sewed the shoulder seams. To check the fit I draped the sleeveless sweater over my dressform and pinned the side seams. (Yeah, it would have been easier to drape it the other way around…) Then I sewed the side seams.
When sewing knits like this, it is necessary to change the settings of your overlocker/serger. As the fabric is both thick and stretchy the serger tends to stretch it. I turned the differential feed knob to a minimum and increased the stitch length. I also lowered the presser foot pressure a lot.
The gigantic sleeves
It’s a good idea to finish the seams with gathers before sewing them as gathering will make them very thick. As notches or chalk markings didn’t show properly in my fabric, I marked the centre points of the upper sleeve with pieces of pink yarn.
I decided to sew the upper and lower sleeves together flat and only then sew the sleeves into two tubes. Then I inserted them into the armholes. I pleated the sleeve caps so that they fitted. After sewing them on once, I saw that the shoulders looked too wide compared to the huge sleeves. As my puffed sleeves had plenty of room for my shoulders, I could shorten the shoulder seams for about an inch. I also sewed a piece of twill tape to strengthen the shoulder seams and to prevent them from stretching.
Making the collar and the cuffs
I started the collar with the collar pattern at Fresh frippery. However, her pattern was a basic straight turtleneck and I wanted a collar that folded down. I still made my collar narrower at the upper edge and cut it in two parts but I left the room to finish the opening edge by making a double fold. The side seam is sewn in two parts so that the serged edge stays hidden all the time. I also finished the edge that folds down with a single fold after overlocking/serging the edge to keep it from unravelling.
The collar closes with sew-on snaps that I covered with pretty metal buttons. The collar can also be worn open which actually looks really nice.
I sewed the cuffs the same way as the collar side seam so that I could roll them up. Besides serging/overlocking there is no other finishing at the cuffs as the cuffs are supposed to be rolled up.
To finish, I sewed a chain stitch rows to the edges of the waistband since it made it look a bit neater and because the original sweater had different patterned knit rows on both sides of the waistband.
The finished bicycle sweater
Here is the finished bicycle sweater, worn together with my Victorian bicycle bloomers – of course! I think this turned out nicer than what I expected. I tried my best to hide the fact that this sweater is sewn and not knitted and I think I did pretty well. What do you think? Comment down below!
Here is the sweater with the collar open:
Those sleeves are really big!
Here the collar has been buttoned and folded down.
The leftovers made me a pretty little beret that I decorated with little embroidery:
Finally, I have a beret that is not too big for my tiny head. I didn’t have a pattern, just traced a circle using a plate (diameter 23 cm) and a cereal bowl. The inner diameter is a bit smaller than my head circumference, as the fabric stretches. I finished the edge with a band of the same fabric but turned it the “ribbed” way out.
This sweater is really warm as it is 100 % wool. However, it has been raining since I got it finished, so I have yet to test it outdoors.
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