Fold it, knit it!

Canadian Patent No. 535,571

In the 1950s, Mary Maxim, the well-known purveyor of crafting supplies, began selling a series of sweater patterns incorporating alternate views for set-in and raglan sleeves:

In this particular pattern, the knitting charts on the front of the leaf show the body and sleeve charts, in their entirety, for a set-in sleeve garment:

On the back are printed partial charts for a raglan-sleeved garment, upside-down in relation to the pattern front. If the knitter wished to make a raglan-sleeved garment, the upper portion of the leaf could be turned down along a pre-creased fold to cover the upper portion of the set-in sleeve and body, to yield a complete chart for the raglan style:

Note the delightful cowboy motif. When I bought this pattern at an antique mall, I felt compelled to explain to the staff that I had no intention of knitting it, and that I was only purchasing the pattern as an example of patented knitting ephemera. I don’t know if my explanation was convincing.

This particular pattern configuration was the subject of a Canadian patent issued in 1957 to Miss Mary Maxim Ltd. The inventor was a Lawrence B. Gibson. The cowboy pattern bears a notation that a United States patent was also pending, but I could not find an issued United States patent, so perhaps the application was filed and never issued.

Patents are onerous documents to draft, and are still more onerous to read. However, the subject matter and the simplicity of the invention make the Gibson patent relatively easy to read. Below are excerpts from the description, as well as the single claim defining the invention:


My invention relates to new and useful improvements in printed knitting patterns, the principal object and essence of my invention being to provide a device of the character herewithin described which enables me to incorporate on one sheet, patterns for both raglan and set-in type sleeves…

My invention eliminates the necessity of providing two patterns for the two types of sleeve, and reference to the accompanying drawings will show that the pattern consists of a rectangular planar sheet 1, having a lower edge 2, and upper edge 3, and side edges 4 and 5. Approximately one third of the way down from the upper edge 3 I provide a fold line 6, which is illustrated in Figure 3, thus dividing the pattern into an upper portion 7 and a lower portion 8. This fold line extends clear across the pattern and is parallel with the upper and lower edges 2 and 3, and in Figures 1 and 2 of the drawings this upper portion is folded downwardly upon the lower portion, so that the actual upper edge 3 is illustrated below the fold line 6.

Upon the lower portion 8 of the pattern I print knitting pattern indicia 9, 10 and 11; 9 in this embodiment representing the right front portion (which of course is duplicated on the opposite hand for the left front portion), reference character 10 illustrating the back pattern, and reference character 11 illustrating the sleeves. The upper portions 12, 13 and 14 of the printed patterns 9, 10 and 11 respectively illustrate the patterns for set-in type sleeves, and these upper portions extend from the upper extremities 15 thereof to adjacent the dotted line in Figure 3 indicating the position which is taken up by the upper edge 3 of the sheet when the upper portion is folded downwardly.

Upon the obverse side or face 16 of the upper portion 7 of the pattern I print the upper portions 17, 18 and 19 of the patterns designed for raglan type sleeves, 17 indicating the upper portion of the right front, 18 representing the upper portion of the back, and 19 representing the upper portion of the sleeves.

The upper portions of the printed indicia 17, 18 and 19 extend clear to the upper edge 3 of the sheet, and when they are folded downwardly along the fold line 6 to take up the positions shown in Figures 1 and 2, the patterns overlie exactly and fold on to the lower portions 9, 10 and 11 respectively of the pattern.

In operation, the sheet is unfolded if it is desired to make a garment having set-in type sleeves, but if it is desired that raglan type sleeves be incorporated, the pattern is folded downwardly along the fold line, so that the portions coincide exactly, thus enabling the knitter to carry straight on with this type of garment.

The single claim of this patent, which defined the exclusive rights of the patentee, reads:

1. A knitting pattern for garment sleeves of the raglan and set-in types, comprising in combination a rectangular planar sheet having a top edge, bottom edge, and a pair of parallel side edges, a horizontal fold line parallel with said top and bottom edges situated approximately one third of the distance down from said top edge and extending clear across said sheet, thereby dividing said sheet into an upper portion and a lower portion, knitting pattern indicia on said lower portion of said sheet for set-in type sleeves and knitting pattern indicia on the obverse side of said upper portion for the upper part of the raglan type sleeve, said last mentioned indicia extending clear to said upper edge of said sheet and positioned so that the indicia extending to said upper edge registers exactly with the corresponding portion of said first mentioned indicia when said upper portion of said sheet is folded downwardly over said lower portion of said sheet along said fold line.

There are obvious drawbacks to this type of pattern. First, the entire chart for the garment must be reproduced, and not merely represented in text instructions. As these Mary Maxim patterns generally incorporated pictorial designs, the full charts were necessary in any event. Secondly, the printing process must produce precisely registered charts on either side of each leaf; otherwise, when folded, the raglan chart would not correspond with the common portion of the sleeve or body chart. Also, each fold in the page creates a weakness in the paper; the cowboy pattern I purchased is on the verge of tearing.

These patterns from Mary Maxim aren’t too hard to find. You could probably do web searches or hunt in antique paper shops and find several examples.

Even cowboy ones.

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One Response to Fold it, knit it!

  1. jo in ottawa says:

    This historical stuff is really interesting. Keep it up.