Simple Simon Met a Pie Man Lice Colorwork Vintage Sweater

Old hand knit colorwork child's sweater with figures and house

I am staying home, as we all should be, which gives me time to organize. As I was digging out things I hadn’t viewed since I moved, I came across the “Simple Simon” sweater. I’m not exactly sure of the image, but it looks like that nursery rhyme to me. It was knit long ago by my Nana who is not around to remind me.

The pattern also includes white “dots” all over, which is called a Lice pattern and originated in Sedestal, Norway (as best I can tell). Because my Nana grew up in Denmark, it stands to reason she would knit this type of pattern. As for the images, she must have followed a pattern.

Old hand knit colorwork child's sweater with figures and house
My grandmother’s hand-knit sweater for a child with lice stitch and images of people and house.

The Simple Simon Verse

Just in case you are not familiar with this nursery rhyme, let me refresh your memory. The first part goes like this:

Simple Simon met a pie man, going to the fair. Said Simple Simon to the pie man, “Let me taste your ware”.

Truthfully that is all I know of the rhyme… but to read it in it’s entirety, view it here. The figure on the right, on the sweater front, looks like a man holding a pie. Because Simon, and the Pie Man are boys, I believe this sweater was made for my son. I only have one sister, so this boy-themed sweater was not made for us. It is “newer” and was knit in the late 70’s – is my best guess.

Digging Through Keepsakes

There is a container in my closet which holds some old baby clothes which were worn by my boys (who are now ages: 43, 37, and 21). When I moved, I left my daughter’s special baby clothes with her.

In that container, I came across two sweaters, this one and another that I wore as a kid – now that is old…..! Also, there were some mittens which were knit by my Nana, probably made for my oldest son as well (photo below). We moved to Florida where the rest of my kids grew up and there was not much need for sweaters and mittens. However I do have the coolest back-zipper sweater she made for my second son.

Vintage hand-knit kid's mittens
Nana’s mittens

My Nana had been knitting sweaters and mittens for kids, and adults, in the family since I was young. She may have begun knitting as a kid, for all I know. She came to New England from Denmark as a teenager. My father was her son.

Nana would knit mittens like mad for us kids, because we wore them out quickly. Back in the 1950’s and 60’s kids played outdoors all the time! We especially loved to play in the snow. I remember puppet type mittens – similar to the ones in this vintage pattern book sold on Etsy – which had buttons for eyes and long braids along the back of the hand. I loved those!

Of course I never appreciated all the work that went into those hand-knits.

lice pattern sweater knitting
Child’s cardigan with lice stitch on back and sleeves

In her nineties, Nana died of a heart attack, while knitting in her favorite chair. She had a little room off her kitchen which held a tiny Jotul woodstove and that is where she sat to knit. I remember visiting her and talking while she knit. I was never very interested in her hobby ….. not until now, when it’s too late to learn anything from her. Such is life. It’s pretty stupid.

I wonder today how many hand-knits are still around which were made by her. I also wonder what she was working on at the time of her death. Something wonderful, which was never finished? Or did one of her daughter’s finish the knitting?

Now that I do knit myself, I look at this handiwork with marvel. I love seeing all those carried stitches knowing that my Nana’s hands created them all! I wonder where her yarn came from and what her needles looked like. I always think of her when I knit and wonder what wise advice she would give me. She’d be able to teach me a lot.

I imagine us sitting together knitting away and comparing patterns and ideas. She would marvel at the internet and how easily patterns and yarn can be purchased these days.

Inside floats of stranded knitting on child's sweater
Inside floats of stranded knitting on child’s sweater

I don’t have anything else that belonged to my Nana, except a hooked rug she made for our family when I was young. She was a crafter, with busy hands, who also grew beautiful flowers, canned vegetables and fruit from their huge garden, baked “monkey faces”, and did weaving on a big loom.

She was only 4’10” tall and she was one of my favorite people.

Three ducks vintage, hand-made hooked rug
Vintage hooked rug (1950’s) with three ducks walking on a log in the water with cat o nine tails and one cloud.

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