All I wanted
for before Christmas, (so I could wear it with my my red and white striped dress!) was a plain, short, slim fitting, navy cardigan. Something from Dangerfield would have been perfect but I’ve sworn off them as sadly they aren’t on anyone’s list of ethical manufacturers. I couldn’t find one anywhere else on the ethical list either, so I decided to make one.
I scored the perfect rib knit at Spotlight. Dark navy, not quite as much stretch as I’d like but a nice weight. I generally like my cardigans close fitting and usually buy a smaller size than my regular size, so I looked for a t-shirt pattern to use. Ottobre 2/2006 fit the bill. The pattern pieces are the same size as my actual measurements. I just cut the front in two separate pieces and added on several extra cms for a twice folded self-facing. I also shortened the pattern, but shortened the back about 3 cm more than the front and cut across the hem to match them up.
The main pieces went together very quickly, but the important thing was to work out how to finish the hems and bindings to a good standard. I thought about binding the neckline with a strip of the knit itself, but didn’t feel confident I could get a good enough finish at the front corners, which are obviously really obvious if they’re not well done. I also thought about using bias binding, but I wanted something with more stretch. The answer was some narrow fold-over elastic which Milly spotted in Lincraft. First I stitched a flat piece up one side of the front (the side that would have the buttons attached). Then to do the neckline I also didn’t fold it over, but used it flat, sewing it first to the inside of the neckline, wrong sides together; then turning the whole width to the outside and stitching it down. At the top front corners I then wrapped it around to the inside and hand stitched it in place, tucking the raw edge under. The sleeve and bottom hems are done with a double needle.
Over the years I’ve learned that one of the secrets to a good finish with home sewing isn’t just knowing what you can do, but knowing what you can’t do. My machine (and me) have our limitations… so sometimes if you’re just not going to get the finish you want it’s better to look for a way around it. I bought this machine as a super-sale-bargain two days after my previous 20-year-old one broke down for good. I’m very happy with it overall, but very disappointed with its button-holing. Plus it doesn’t have the capacity to regulate the presser-foot pressure. My old machine was more basic in many ways but did have a knob for presser-foot pressure which was very handy. Anyway, I had a few tries at doing button-holes on scraps but there was no way I was ever going to get them looking good on the knit. With the reasonably thick facing and the rib, the pressure of the foot was too much, and despite being interfaced, the knit was stretching out of shape and looking horrible. Not what you want on the front band of a cardigan! So, easy solution – I’ve left it buttonhole-free. I tend not to do up my cardigans anyway apart from a single button so I’ve put a hook and eye at that point, with the hook hiding behind the button. If I decide I want to do more of it up I might put some more hooks and eyes on but it’s all good for now. I think I’ve managed a store-bought standard if I do say so myself, and it’s a perfect weight and style for wearing over dresses and singlets to work.