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!