Moving on with my Sew, Wear Are They Now series I thought I would next take a look back at all of the sweaters and cardigans I have sewn over the past decade. This isn’t as extensive of a category as some of the others, but I felt it should be distinct from coats and jackets because they are very different categories in terms of construction and fabric preferences.
By 2012 I was already pretty far into my sewing journey, so basic cardigan construction wasn’t too difficult. However, I had been much more of a baggy collegiate sweatshirt person, so it was something of a style departure for me at the time.
- BurdaStyle 03/2012 #122 was a cardigan I made because I really loved the way the style looked in the magazine. In hindsight, I think this was actually a really great pattern, but the fabric I used wasn’t the best. It was a bit too thin and didn’t have the best recovery, and the sleeves were always super close fitting, so I didn’t wear this that much. I don’t know if I still have this, but I think it might be worth re-making. I’d definitely use a different sort of closure though because the extra-long bias ties were always a bit too much for me.
- My Image M1003 was my first My Image pattern I ever made. Even though there are imperfections, I still wear this all the time! The fabric has held up super well, and I love the length and the fit. I’ve also received so many compliments on this cardigan over the years, which has always been super surprising because it’s just a plain grey cardigan, but I think it really has that magical combination of fit, style, and color for me.
Overall I think that my first couple of cardigans were pretty successful. One went out of favor due to fabric choice, but the other is still in heavy rotation, which is pretty good for a garment made in 2012!
I made a lot of cardigans in 2013, but none of them ended up being wardrobe favorites.
- BurdaStyle 03/2013 #107 was a cardigan I made specifically to copy the look out of the magazine. I tried really hard to find a mint lace to copy the style and I ended up with this cardigan top. While I think the style was actually pretty good for me, the fabric was sort of miserable. It only stretched in one direction, and because it was a synthetic lace it wasn’t particularly warm or particularly comfortable to wear on on the skin. I never really wore this out much, and I eventually gave it away. I would like to remake this pattern though in something a bit warmer and softer.
- McCall’s 6844 was a cardigan pattern I was so excited about I made it 3 times in a row. Unfortunately, all of these were ultimately wardrobe fails. The teal version was made of a double knit that was too tight in the arms and was never comfortable to wear because it didn’t have much stretch. The fabric of the black version had a fuzzy lurex aspect that made it so itchy! Plus it shed everywhere. Finally, the crazy zig-zag version was made out of a cheap looking fabric that wasn’t what I had thought I’d ordered, and really wasn’t comfortable to wear at all. I think this style looked really cute belted, but it was never my favorite worn loose, and I have to admit I never really wore any of these that often. At this point I think I’ve given them all away.
2013 was definitely a total fail in the cardigan category. While I think that I was choosing good patterns, I wasn’t using quality fabrics, and that really led to none of these garments having much use in my wardrobe.
I made a mix of cardigans from 2017-2019, and with mixed success.
- BurdaStyle 01/2017 #102 was part of my Wardrobe Sudoku collection. While I loved the colors and the sequin sweatshirt, the black fabric I used had no stretch and the sweatshirt was never super comfortable to wear. I would love to make a similar style using a different pattern and with a better sweatshirt knit fabric as the base. I have worn it on several occasions, but it has never quite felt like it fit comfortably, and it’s never been a go-to for me.
- My Image M1003 was a re-make of my beloved My Image long cardigan. This version was made with a less robust fabric, and hasn’t held up as well as the original version. It’s also much thinner, so it isn’t as warm. I’ve worn this a decent amount, but not nearly as much as the original version. It probably would have seen more use this past year had I not made it so close to the pre-pandemic times.
- Burda 6476 was a sweater I made because I bought a small amount of a really cool knit and I thought it would look good in this cropped sweater style. While I love the style, I’ve rarely worn this. The knit fabric sheds everywhere, and I don’t have any garments that look good under this cropped sweater. I would love to try to find better ways to style this, and to try making the other view of this pattern because I do love the look of it, and I think it would be more versatile in my wardrobe in a way that this cropped version just hasn’t been.
- New Look 6330 was a cardigan I made at the start of my Sew Your Kibbe challenge. I actually do really like this, and I wear the top I made from that pattern all the time as well. I did wear this to work a few times back when work was a thing that happened in an office, and I will probably wear this more often in the future if I ever need to go out again. I do like the style, but it’s definitely not as easy and relaxed as some of my other sweater/cardigan options, so it’s never the first thing I grab for when getting dressed.
Overall this period of sewing was about 50/50 in terms of success rate, and the issues stem from a mix of problems with fabric choice and pattern choice. I really need to be able to move and function easily in a garment or I just won’t wear it.
Looking at all of the sweaters and cardigans I’ve sewn over the past decade has given me a few insights:
- In general, I’ve preferred the longer patterns to the shorter styles. I also prefer things that are looser and more relaxed in fit, and nothing that is too tight, stiff, or awkwardly fitted through the shoulders and arms.
- My fabric choices have been very hit or miss. In general, I’ve tended to sew with cheaper fabrics when making cardigans and sweaters, and this hasn’t typically ended up working very well for me in the long run. I think I need to use beefier knits but with good recovery and plenty of stretch to really make something I’d enjoy wearing on a regular basis. This means no stiff double knits, and no nasty poly that feels scratchy and gross next to the skin.
- I don’t think the improvement of sewing skills is very evident in this category; in some ways I think my earlier garments may have been better than later ones! I do think I sewed more challenging fabrics over time (that cropped sweater knit was definitely a challenge!), so I suppose that in some sense you can see skill improvements there.
- I think I would like to wear more prints in this category, but I haven’t really used good fabrics with prints up to this point. I would also love to made more sequin sweatshirts because I think that garment was super fun, just very uncomfortable because of the sweatshirt material, not the sequin material. If I had a version that was sparkly and cozy though, you better believe I’d wear the shiznozzels out of it.
- In general the colors I’ve chosen have been pretty good. The blue cardigan from 2012 may have been a bit too bright for me, but other than that I’ve tended to stick to deeper or more muted colors. I think that the super rich jewel tones and the greys and blacks all work well for me, but I’d love to use more colors. While winter coats and jackets might be more versatile in more neutral colors, it would make sense to have more sweaters in colors and prints since they are more like layering pieces that can be a bit more outfit specific.
- I need to sew more sweaters and cardigans. I actually wear them a lot (because I’m always cold) but I keep going back to the one or two I have that is comfortable. I need to make more snuggly comfortable things, especially in the quarantine times.
- In general, I think I’ve followed Kibbe’s suggestions and focused on longer draped styles, or shorter styles in more textured (but not rough) materials. I think it’s really been mostly an issue of fabric quality and not necessarily the intended style; in the photographs I actually really like the way a lot of these garments look, and it was just the actual wearing of the garment that was uncomfortable and annoying.
I do have to say that, in general, I tend to wear sweaters and cardigans a lot, so it’s a bit strange to me that I haven’t sewn more of them. I think it’s definitely something I need to have on the radar for upcoming sewing projects, but I have to be super mindful about the cut of the garment, the fit through the arms and shoulders, and the fabric I use, because I just don’t have the patience to deal with heavy, stiff, or plastic-y gross fabrics. I think recognizing that I wear comfortable clothes more than I wear anything else has been a running theme of this series, but I think that the way fabric choice impacts that is most evident in this post. I have a large, large stash, but I may need to be very mindful about which fabrics I use from it in the future, and may need to realize which fabrics just won’t work to make practical garments for my wardrobe.
6 thoughts on “Sew, Wear Are They Now: Sweaters and Cardigans”
I definitely agree long and draped is much more you. The trouble is those styles are such fabric hogs! And nice knits are difficult to find. John Kaldor Isabella wool jersey is great if you can get it and comes in teal.
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Oooh that sounds lovely! I will have to see if I can find some. 😊
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Thanks for the look back at these projects and patterns. For me, cardigans and sweaters are mostly a fail. Something about the designs always read “homemade” to me – you wouldn’t buy a cardigan with the shapes and bands that sewing patterns need to have – you’d just knit the garment that way on the machine. The only successful thing I’ve made is the Jalie Drop-pocket Cardigan – you might like it as it’s long, light and nicely finished inside.
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Thanks! I’ll look into that pattern.
I agree with you that quality fabric is everything1 After years of sewing, I finally have a minimal stash and only buy fabric for current projects.
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Trying to find good fabric is the really difficult thing. Occasionally I’ve found fashion offcuts that are good, but in the UK it’s almost impossible to find good fabric on a roll that will do, and it’s so hit and miss. I envy our Australian sew-ers who can find merino wool jersey😍. I think all your choices have been good but the nice stretchy fabric that a cardy needs has been the stumbling block. The colours look great on you, and I like the drape styles on you too. They’re very chic.
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