Calling all Cardigan Lovers! Get Lovely and Layered by Making Your Own Knits.

I've been seeing a lot of cardigans and pullovers this season. It's cold, and it's pretty much necessary to add an extra layer this season. Why not make your own?

This blog post was going to be a tutorial on repurposing a pullover sweater into a cardigan and I was all into that idea at first. But then I realized I want to make this specific cardigan- this was on EditbyLBP's feed, and I've been wanting one of these. I can't go shopping right now, or I'd support this lovely local store, but I see this as a chance to put my skills to the test. And don't we learn how to sew so that we can make the things we want when we want them?!

cardigan_sewing_9

I'm was excited- I had this pattern in my collection, and since I didn't quite know how this was patterned, and I didn't want to spend time drafting it, I decided to try this pattern out to see how it sews up.

There it is- Look C. Since it was cold out, I decided to go with sleeves. Turns out the sleeves are WAY wider than the picture. That's typical of commercial patterns, you must go in and make alterations as you sew.

There it is- Look C. Since it was cold out, I decided to go with sleeves. Turns out the sleeves are WAY wider than the picture. That's typical of commercial patterns, you must go in and make alterations as you sew.

I'm always telling students, if you want to sew but don't have a lot of time- get into sewing knits. We wear them all the time and they sew up fast. It was time to put my words to the test- how long would it really take me to sew this project? And was it worth the time and effort?

I found some great luxuriously soft and stretchy knit striped fabric. The total for the knit cost $15. The pattern was a $1.99. Not bad considering what the cardigan would cost me if I bought it. 

Now, my time does matter and I don't take on a project that I don't have time to complete. So I counted 4 major seams and a big overall hem.  The whole thing isn't a lot to sew- I estimated I can sew this in an hour.

Let's see how I did. And then, you can try it too.

I can sew it in an hour- if I focus....

First challenge, this fabric is really, really stretchy. Its a four way stretch and its 2 whole yards of fabric. That actually gets to be a bit heavy, so I have to be careful when handling it to not stretch it too much as I sew out due to weight. 

2nd challenge, this pattern is really really big- and bit abstract. Knit patterns are different than wovens in that often times they have less curves and and have lots more straight seams since you can't "tailor" them the same way. And the pieces are big- when I design for knits I try to get things sewn in as few seams as possible. 

3rd challenge, I chose stripes. That means I have to get the grain line perfect. 

4th Challenge, Stitches, my cat, wants to help.

5th Challenge, is this whole pattern going to fit on the fabric?

It did, but I wrestled a bit- with the fabric and my eager cat. It took me 15 minutes to get it all pinned and cut. Not bad, but for only 4 pieces I did lose a little time.

Next phase, batch the seams. I talk about this all of the time. To sew fast, you should do every seam that you can to really get the main pieces made. No- I didn't match the stripes. If I wanted to be very very precise, I could have, but I thought the stripe was small enough that it wasn't going to bug me if they didn't match. Also, the fabric stretches a lot, messing with the stripes moving would have made me crazy. Look at that tiny Center Back seam! That means the collar is included in the front pieces, hence the abstraction with the pattern. One I sewed that, things started to make more sense. I love seeing the 2D be sewn into 3D and how it all comes together like a puzzle.

This is the back. It unfolds and that tiny seam at the top is where the collar gets sewn from the previous picture. The sleeve is a raglan design, so I'm going to pin the back of the sleeve to the back of the cardigan. Stitches is back to help. And she brought some baby carrots.

I went ahead and serged off the end of the sleeves. If you have sewn knits with a serger, or even sewn knits with your zig zag stitch on your conventional machine, you may see that they start stretching and rippling as you sew. Its time to set the differential feed to a more gathered stitch. I wish I could put an arrow in to point where exactly on my picture, but its that knob to the right. On your serger, it may be labeled differential feed and have a dial with 4 to 6 numbers. We teach more about differential feed in the Basic Knitwear class, but play around with it. You can really change your results and it can help you sew better.

Now, we get to the point where my pictures start looking like striped lumps with pins in it. Sorry folks, this sweater is BIG. The seams in this project are so big, they are hard to capture. But what's happening is I am matching the front of the cardigan to raglan sleeves to make the seam. And look what happens- the collar finally appears. I flip it and close the hole, gently stretching a bit to make them match. 

I've serged the front raglan and collar. This thing isn't looking so abstract anymore. But Stitches is not happy that she can't be on the project- however we found a good cuddle and work compromise. Finally after rolling all over my project, she jumped in my lap and I finished pinning the super long side seams. I'm almost there, all this baby needs is both side seams sewn and this cardigan will take real shape. 

But wait... my Aunt is messaging me pictures of sewing toys! There's me as a plastic Fisher Price Little Person!

Since I'm using my iPad to take pictures, as I'm pinning I start to see notifications coming in. My Aunt Steph is posting the best thing ever on my wall- sewing Little People. I don't remember if these toys were really called "Little People" or if that's what I called these Fisher Price toys, but I LOVED MY LITTLE PEOPLE and collected many as a kid. Of course I need these Aunt Steph! Add a beard and take away the collar on the ginger and you have me and Paul's weekend portrayed in Little People. But wait- where am I at on time??? It's 4:12! I'm already over an hour because I cat wrestle, check FB, take pics, and eat baby carrots while I sew. I may be losing on my time trial, but at this point, I don't care, I'm enjoying my day.

Look at the lovely serged seams, I couldn't make this as professionally without this machine. This knit was harder to deal with because of its softness and stretch. The instructions say that you can sew this using a double stitch, but I know I would have struggled to complete the construction as nicely with my conventional machine. Knowing how much I use the serger, and how many knits that I sew, the serger is truly a worthy investment. 

I coverstitched the front and bottom hem all the way around. You can do this on your conventional machine- if you don't know how, refer to this post. You can make a mock coverstitch by using a double needle.

Okay, so with all of my enjoyable distractions while sewing the cardigan sweater, it really only took me 1.5 hours to make this.  The sleeves I might take in a bit, but I want to wear it to see how the cardigan feels. Not everything has to be skinnied. I'm going to wear this cardigan a lot before spring comes, I'm so glad I made something so wearable and useful. I want you to know how to sew knits too! If you want to learn how to make and customize your own knitwear, join us for Basic Knitwear class starting February 8th.