I sewed a cardigan.
Now there’s a sentence I never expected to come out of my mouth in a million years.
Being a knitter, cardigans are the domain of my knitting needles. Not my sewing machine or serger. The idea of actually sewing a cardigan was never something I had ever contemplated, although I readily admit I’ve complained plenty at the frustration of trying to find suitably vintage-appropriate lightweight cardigans. And by lightweight, I mean machine knit fabric—much thinner than even laceweight yarn would get you. This has always been an area of my wardrobe that’s rather lacking. The length isn’t right, the look isn’t right… you get the picture.
But let’s backup a step. I had already seen a few versions of the Muse Patterns Jenna cardigan floating around, but I didn’t sew with knits at the time, so I thought they were cute but they didn’t register at all on my mental list of things to make in the future. It was kind of in one ear, out the other.
Then a short while later I did start sewing with knits. So when Kat contacted me to see if I’d like to try out one of her patterns and give her my honest opinions as a knits newbie, it brought the pattern back into view. Her Gillian wrap dress is also cute, but I kept staring at Jenna. While it seemed way above my skill set at a glance, I started to wonder. Other people are sewing cardigans. Could I too? Maybe.
I mean, hello, it’s obvious this is a garment I’d wear. It’s a vintage-inspired cardigan that’s right up my alley. And I probably wear a cardigan of some sort about 200 days of the year. Maybe more. But but… sewing a cardigan? It sounded so scary.
I did look at it and think, “Okay seriously. Button bands? Hem and sleeve bands? Yoke gathers? Buttonholes? You have got to be kidding me.” I really wasn’t sure I should say yes, because I just didn’t know if I could do it. But how more could this simple cardigan scream my name? I kind of had to find out if I had the skills. So I thanked Kat and said yes, I’d love to try Jenna.
At the time of sewing this, I had exactly 5 knit projects under my belt. Two Monetas dresses, one Lady Skater dress, and two Cocos. All pretty much a variation on a theme—stick some sleeves onto a bodice, sometimes add a skirt. So can a newbie to knits sew a cardigan? Yes. This post is proof!
The instructions are very detailed, and I had no problem following them at all. In spite of the fact that there looks to be a lot going on, the construction really is simple if you just follow along as directed. I did everything except the topstitching on my serger, but you don’t have to use a serger. It’s just proving to be my favorite way to sew knits. Love the clean finish and speed!
I waffled between sewing the size 32 (closer to my high bust and waist measurements) or the 34 (closer to my full bust, but bigger than my waist) and in the end went with the 32, and am glad I did, and the next size up would have been too big. There’s a bit of ease in the upper bodice due to the gathered yoke, but I love the whole fit. The lower sleeves are a little relaxed on my toothpick arms so I supposed I could have taken them in, but the fit is nice and comfortable. If I ever go for the long sleeves though, I’d probably taper them a bit so they didn’t look too sloppy.
But this sleeve length is perfect for a stack of Bakelite, right? 😉
I think the vintage-inspired gathered shoulder yoke is absolutely darling. If I was planning to wear it exclusively open, I’d probably opt for the version with a plain front. But the pattern has a lot of variations, which is great! You can do the gathered yoke or plain, hip or waist length, and short, 3/4 or long sleeves. And the instructions tell you which pages to print for your size and variation combo, which is awesome since it saves on printing.
For the record I went for 3/4 length sleeves, waist length body, and gathered shoulder yoke, and made no fit alterations whatsoever. I used a lightweight cotton spandex knit in a bright kelly green that’ll go with all sorts of things in my wardrobe, and it took barely over one yard. I think I laid it all out on 40 inches (101 cm) of fabric! It was my first time using a knit that rolled at the edges a bit after cutting, but it was easy to tame with pins.
Though I’ll go on record saying that topstitching jersey around the yoke curve? Not my favorite activity or best skill, and I had to unpick and re-do part of it. But the curve of the neckline and the straight lines for the button bands were fine. And I have to say that’s a pretty professional looking finish if I do say so myself! (And gah, I so so love those vintage buttons I used. Little green flowers!)
The worst part of the project for me was attaching the button bands, towards the very end. Can you murder button bands? Man, I sure wanted to. The bands have to be 100% exactly the exact same length (can I be more clear?) as the bodice, because you apply interfacing to them so that the actual buttonhole process isn’t a nightmare (genius, because the buttonholes really were easy), but it means that the bands no longer stretch like the rest of the fabric. So when you attach them to the fronts of the bodice, there’s no real fudge factor. “Ahh, I’ll just ease that half inch in somewhere”… nope. Not easily anyway, or with my fabric, at least!
Trust me on this one. If your bands aren’t the same length as your bodice fronts, make them the same length as the bodice (and each other) before you sew them on, or you’ll swear, scream, rip out serger thread, take in one waist seam after stretching out your fabric, send sulky text messages, and need beer and pizza to properly cope with nearly ruining your project at the very end.
In the end, I obviously made it work. Perfect it is not (the seam is visible on the lower right band and I accidentally managed to not quiiite line up the waist seam on both sides). But you know what? I don’t care. I sewed a cardigan and I feel like a rock star!!
So would I recommend Jenna? Umm that would be a resounding YES. If you’re looking for either a vintage-inspired or just a plain cardigan pattern to sew up, this is for you. I’m still looking at this thinking, “Wait, I really made that?!” Yep. And my lightweight cardigan conundrum? Resolved!
A big thank you to Kat for gifting me this pattern, because if I didn’t have that little push, I’m not sure I would have let myself think I could handle this. And obviously, I could. So if you’re on the fence, let this be your push to try it out! Guys, if I can do this having only sewn 5 projects with knit fabric ever, you can do it!
I sewed a cardigan, and I’m truly taken with it. Now I have visions of a printed cardigan worn with denim cigarette pants. I think I’m going to have to make both of those things happen!
cardigan: made by me
red top: Pinup Girl Clothing
skirt: won from The Black Pinafore
Bakelite bangles: misc.
fan-shaped earrings: misc.
boots: Miss L Fire Havanas
As someone who is a horrible knitter, I’ve contemplated making a cut and sew sweater. I guess lingerie and dressmaking has gotten in the way because I haven’t yet. This is a great 1st pattern to start with. I’ll keep it in mind. Thank you!
Thanks Maddie! I could definitely see this (or one of the other variations) fitting into your wardrobe. 🙂
Oh my goodness, that is so adorable! I’ve been looking for a cardigan sewing pattern for ages (I don’t knit) and this is perfect, your post made me squee! Thanks so much for sharing your finished Jenna, you’ve greatly helped out this knitting-challenged seamstress. :-)))))
Yay, glad to hear it!
Oh goodness Tasha!! Your cardigan looks stunning. I simply love that color.
I’ve sewn my own sweater for a costume ages ago when I was first learning to sew, now I think I’ll give it a try again.
I’m sure we will be seeing a rainbow of lovely sewn cardigans coming from you now, yes?
Yeah, I would say that’s a pretty safe bet. lol Although given that it’s currently way too cold for this cardigan, it might be mostly next year! 😉
Tasha, great job. It looks amazing on you! Love the color and the style. I’m terrified of sewing k.n.i.t. fabrics but you make me want to try it again. Or maybe not.
Hee hee! Well I’m glad I gave it a try, it’s a LOT less scarier than I thought, but I did prepare a lot first so I was armed with enough info to not mess it all up right away. 🙂
I’ve been umm-ing and ahh-ing over this pattern a bit…. I really love the idea of the curved, gathered yoke, but I’m not sure I’d want it AS gathered as it is in this version…. I’m wondering whether I could alter the pattern pieces slightly so it’s less gathered here.
It looks super cute on you, and that’s pretty awesome for your fifth knit item! Congrats!!
Kat H says
Hi Alexandra, it’s pretty easy to adjust the amount of gathers going into the yoke – there’ll be a tutorial for how to do this up on the Muse Patterns blog sometime in the next couple of weeks if you want help with it. 🙂 (But basically, what you do is slash from the middle of the gather section down to the bottom of the cardigan and fold one of the gather section over the other until you have it the final width you want it, if that makes sense?)
Hi Kat, that DOES make sense, thanks! I think I’ll definitely be tuning in to the sewalong! 😀
Thanks, Alexandra! Hope you do tinker with it and sew it up too. 🙂
The cardigan looks great! I’m just starting to sew, and I know it’s going to be a while until I’m at the level of doing something like this, but it’s still really exciting to see what other people turn out. I love those boots too, a little more every time I see them. I think I know what’s going on my Christmas list…
Thanks, Jessica! I love those boots too. And good luck with the sewing, it’s addictive as you’ll soon find out!
Sold! I also thought this might be out of my skill range but you’ve just convinced next it isn’t! Thanks for all the construction tips, especially the one about the button band, I’ll be paying close attention when I come to make it. Your version fits into your wardrobe perfectly Tasha and I love the colour on you. Bravo! x
Oh Jane it would SO be you!! Yay! And thanks so much. 🙂
p.s. guess what– I have some black polka dot I want to sew up into another one, too. 😉
Pink Haired Princess says
There will be no stopping you now! Well done. it’s going to further confuse my nephew who doesn’t understand the difference between knitting and sewing. Least he’s better than his wee brother who calls it ‘snowing’!
Snowing, that is adorable! 😀
Amazing job! Me thinks I should give this a whirl!
I’d definitely recommend it!
This looks awesome! The Jenna is definitely on my radar. I need some little cardigans for work, so it would be perfect!
I mostly work from home but when I do go into the office, it’ll be great to have a few of these for warmer weather to cover up!
Sew Lonnie says
This knit cardi is beyond gorgeous, im so excited about sewing this! Vintage knits are always on the heavier warmer spectrum and as gorgeous as they are, in australia in 30* weather it just wont do. So lightweight short sleeve jersey with some darling embellishment above those 1940 gathers has me salivating lols tmi
Yes, sounds like the perfect kind of thing for your climate! 🙂
Kat H says
Oh, this looks fantastic on you! Yay! 😀 I’m so glad you like it – I had a feeling it would work well in your wardrobe of gorgeous vintage styles. 🙂
Thank YOU, Kat! I absolutely love it and can’t wait to make more. 🙂
Casey Maura says
Looks fantastic! And I really love the Kelly green. I’ve been curious about that pattern since I first saw it. Like you said, knitting a super lightweight cardi is pretty impossible, and I’ve often wondered about adapting a tshirt pattern for a cardigan. But this is so much better (and the work is done for me!). Going to have to keep this one on my wishlist for my spring wardrobe sewing!
Thanks, Casey! I can definitely see this pattern working for you. So wonderful to have a lighter alternative to a knitted cardigan!
your cardi is sew cute! love the buttons and it’s perfect with that outfit ;o)
What a great color you chose! Despite your troubles, and the flaws I think I only saw because you pointed them out, it still looks swell! I especially love the little tucks near the shoulder!
Thanks, Janey! I think the shoulder details is one of the best parts! 🙂
Hello there, you artist!
Adorable sweater. Never had an idea you can sew one. I did do some re-touching on my own cardigans (those that were ill-fitted) n a sewing machine. But NEVER ever had an idea you can make one.. Now, you got me thinkking… 🙂
The color is perfect, the sleeves ARE great for a stack of bakelite bracelets (you’re right!), the buttons you chose are magnificent.
My humble verdict – I think I rather like it! 🙂
Thank you! And yes, I never would have thought to sew an actual cardigan either, especially with all the knitting I do. But I’m so thankful to have a way to make lightweight ones now! 🙂
Silver Cat Tea Party says
Love this new cardigan! I’ve been wondering about sewing cardigans for a while now! Glad you have a post up! It’s so great to see that it has been done! This is an absolute darling cardigan and I love the gathered shoulder yokes and the buttons you picked out for it! <3
Thanks! And the buttons are one of my favorite parts. 😉
This is so you! It’s perfect on you!
Thanks! Yeah I admit it did kind of scream my name, how could I say no! lol
Jessica Cangiano says
So classically, sweetly pretty! I love that length cardigan. For short gals like me, or really anyone regardless of height who want to define their waist (more, in some cases), it is splendidly flattering, while also looking the mid-century part so very well.
Janine Kloubert says
Thank you for sharing this pattern and idea. I reused old sweaters by using a vintage knitting pattern. German Knitting magazines from the 50’s offers pattern, which are great to lay on an old pullover and cut. Thanks Janine
I love all the vintage knit wear. The patterns are so cute. Yarn is so pretty! But I simply can not get the hang of it. I, too, have been lamenting the lack of vintage-style cardigans. I now can not wait to sew this up in every color.
What a cute cardigan! Your skill shows. I’m loving all of your posts. Keep it up!
I have altered a couple of fine gauge cardigans to make them shorter, cutting them apart just above the ribbing, cutting out the necessary length and sewing the bottom band back on. It has worked a treat and is a great little technique to have in your sewing bag of tricks.
I have yet to tackle knits even though I have two knit projects with fabric waiting for me to get over it.
This is going on the list and I may even have to move it to the top!
Where did you find this love green knit fabric?