Category Archives: Firefly Pullover


My try at replicating a sweater I knit back circa 1983 has both failed and succeeded.

I started out wanting to redo this Penny Straker original – her Eye of the Partridge men’s pullover.

I remember having done it in Germantown, a 100% wool true worsted (5 spi). Younger Spawn (the target recipient) and I took a detour to Webs back in January, and we selected some Babe 100, more of a DK (5.5 spi) than a worsted, but very soft, in the perfect colors, and bargain priced.

I took it home and using the kid’s measurements against those of the Straker pattern, and compensating for the finer gauge, I set in. The original was worked in four pieces, front, back, sleeves, and then seamed. Front and back flew by quickly, no problems. But the sleeves were problematic. I knit them both at the same time, and I ripped back and restarted three times. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the length and the rate of decrease on the sleeve tops to mate neatly enough with that on the front and back. And without that direct match, neat seaming would be impossible.

So after crying about much spilled milk, I gave up, unraveled the entire thing and began again. This time though I thought I’d attempt a one-piece/top-down construction to gloss over the whole matching decreases for seaming problem.

With the specifications of “narrower ribbing, boxy, oversize body to a specific length, and sleeves of a specific length” I began, roughly using Knitting Fool’s percentage system. I input gauge and measurements. At a couple of places, I modded the instructions as per instinct. And it worked.

Yes, there’s a glaring anomaly in the thing – the below-elbow double-wide yellow stripe. But since both sleeves match (I worked them side by side), I decided to claim it as a feature instead of a bug.

The recipient has tried the thing on and is totally thrilled with fit, especially liking the deliberately baggy and swiftly tapered sleeves. So I count this one as both a failure for not being able to wrangle the initial pattern properly, and as a success, for having pulled off a satisfactory finish that’s more or less faithful in look to the original.

Now back to stitching, maybe with an occasional side trip into socks because they are the poster child for a quick finish, portable summer beach project.


It’s true I haven’t knit in a while. But I did do nine pairs of socks for the holidays this year, some of which are shown below. And while I was at it, I dropped hints to Younger Offspring, who was enthused by the thought of a new pullover.

I first knit this classic Penny Straker unisex design decades ago. It was probably the third sweater I made and was a present for one of my sisters. This is the cover photo from the original leaflet. Note the armhole depth (we’ll get back to that later).

It was the early 1980s – long before blogging, so I don’t have pictures or notes detailing my first attempt, but it was a happy success. I’m pretty sure I used Germantown worsted, in a deep burgundy and a lighter, coordinating plum. I do remember that it was super thick and stiff because of the Eye of Partridge stitch uses a lot of slip stitches, making a double-thick fabric. In fact that stitch often used as a self-reinforcing treatment for sock heels, to make them both cushier and more wear-resistant.

My sister’s sweater ended up being a great outdoor activity wearable – perfect for someone engaged in winter exercise like cross country skiing, and too warm for indoor wear. But as we were flipping through some possibilities it was the one that caught Younger Offspring’s eye. So I downloaded a copy of the revised pattern from the Straker website (it’s now offered in an extended size range) and off we went to Webs, making a small detour out in western Massachusetts on the official Deposit-Child-Back-At-Home-Away-From-Home trip to Troy, New York.

At Webs I found a candidate yarn that came in the desired black and screaming chartreuse colors – Euro Baby Babe 100. It’s a butter-soft acrylic/polyamide (nylon) blend, and at 356 yards for 100g, a great value.

But it’s not a true worsted. It’s a DK. That means that instead of the standard 5 stitches per inch (spi) in stockinette, it works better at 5.5 spi in stockinette.

Complications ensue.

Although the pattern is clearly written for a heavier yarn, but I took a risk and bought the Babe anyway. I swatched until I found a needle combo and gauge that I liked. In this case, 6 spi/8 rows per inch (rpi) on US #7s (4.5mm) in Eye of Partridge instead of the pattern’s specified 5 spi/7 rpi on US #8s (5mm).

I’ve done the math for Younger Offspring’s chosen size (a swim-in-it oversize fit), and have cast on the revised number of stitches, plus two more – I always add selvedge stitches for easy seaming. I will work my new number until I am close to the specified length for the below-arm torso, then I will figure out the raglan shaping, taking notes so I can match the row count on the sleeves. I know that these Straker patterns were all written with very tight armholes by modern standards. It was the style back then. So there is room for me to err on the up side. If I need a few more rows to accommodate the raglan shaping than the original used, that will be ok. The armhole will end up a smidge larger, and that won’t be bad at all.

So to finish this already over-long, stitching-free post, here’s three evening’s worth of progress on the back. The drape is fluid, and the yarn is super soft and luxurious, uncommon in an acrylic. The color contrast reminds me of fireflies on a dark night. With luck this one should knit up quickly into a bundle of fun.

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