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A gathered merino wool cardigan

4 June 2013, 14:02

It’s June, I hear you cry – why is she sewing a wool cardigan in June??!? Well, I selected this cardigan in my Spring 2013 Sewing Ideas because I’m a realist, and I recognise that I need a lightweight cardigan for 80% of the British summer! I’m grateful to not have the disgustingly hot & humid East Coast summers I grew up with (nor the swarms of mosquitoes everywhere!) but it does mean some wardrobe concessions must be made.

This cardigan appeared in the March 2013 Burda magazine (or it’s available for purchase as a pdf here) and I thought it was one of the nicest, prettiest, and most versatile cardigan patterns I’d seen in a long, long time.

This is a basic, slim-fit cardigan with shaped, faced bands, front gathers, and button closure. I love the slim fit, the beautifully drafted, curved bands, and the delicate and pretty gathering. I get annoyed when patterns have skimpy gathering, but there’s a nice amount here, which is a great detail and offers bust shaping.

THIS PATTERN RUNS VERY SMALL! One reason I sew so much Burda is because they’re always so consistent, so I’m very, very glad I read the other reviews first.

When I compared the front and back to my self-drafted knit sloper, which has 10% negative ease (perfect for tight-fitting running tops, which is my usual usage), this cardigan pattern was even smaller still! If you can – go up a size, but if you’re the largest size already, like me, I recommend cutting larger seam allowances throughout the waist and hips at the very least. I personally tapered to about 1” allowances on the waist and hips in the side seams, then sewed ~3/8” (1cm) from the edge.

Previous reviewers commented on what a PITA it was to attach the curved bands to the garment, involving lots of cutting and notching of the curves. I had zero issue with this, which I think is down to my choice of seam allowance. I used to sew everything at 5/8”, but recently I switched to using 1cm (3/8”) or sometimes even 1/4” seam allowances on my knit projects. I’d definitely recommend using smaller seam allowances here, as it makes it MUCH easier to handle the curved sections and you don’t need to fiddle with any clipping!

As with 90% of knit tops, I’d recommend leaving the side seams until last so you can “sew the sleeves in flat” (ie: attach the sleeve head to the garment, then sew the sleeve seam and side seam in one go). The bonus of doing that here is that it’s also a lot easier to sew the band on if you leave the side seams until last, as the garment can be opened up flat and easier to work with.

Normally with a banded knit, I’d construct the band (understitch the facing), then serge it onto the garment as one, and topstitch if necessary. In Burda’s instructions, they have you approach it more like a woven – attach the (interfaced) outer band, sew the facing onto the outer band, flip inside, then topstitch. I ended up doing it Burda’s way, but I’m still not convinced that my serging-as-one approach wouldn’t have been better and easier.

I made this is an utterly delicious 100% merino wool jersey, in a chocolate colourway. I saw an Etsy seller a few months ago had purchased a few rolls of Italian merino wool jersey, in black, chocolate, and plum. I’d missed the black, and ended up buying the very last of the plum, and had some chocolate thrown in to make up the 5m yardage she was selling (she’s now completely sold out).

(This is my Napoleon pose! ha.)

If you recall, I already made a gathered Burda top in the plum merino and I love, love, love wearing it so much that I knew I needed more of it in my wardrobe, and this colour is just so versatile! The merino itself is a dream to sew – so thin and fine, but robust enough to not stretch all over the place, and takes a pressing really well. I used a mix of the sewing machine, overlocker/serger, and coverstitch here and the merino took to all of them beautifully.

I always first think of matching buttons for something like this, but I didn’t have any small, brown buttons in my stash, and John Lewis’s selection on a bank holiday Monday was pretty dire (MacCulloch & Wallis across the street were closed, bah!). Then I saw these pretty turquoise square vintage buttons in my stash and thought the colours were just lovely together. I think I bought these buttons at the Amish dry goods store in Perry County, PA, when I was back there a few years ago, and I’m sure I paid less than the $1 marked on the cards!

I don’t often repeat patterns, but I would definitely consider sewing this again – I’ve got a few colours of stretch lace in my stash that would work really well here. I need my merino version for British summers, though, so I think a lace one would be for decorative use only!

I entered this in the Pattern Review “Natural Fibers” contest. If you’re a Pattern Review member, perhaps you’d consider pushing one of your 5 votes my way? Voting is open NOW!

Also, Londoners – my moorings’ last Open Garden Days of the year are this weekend if you fancy coming and smelling our roses in person! Tip: there’s also a charity bake sale in our pop-up floating caff. Details here.)

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  1. Hi there! :)
    The jacket looks lovely, great job! The buttons really make it special, I love the colour. :) It’s perfect for spring and autumn and being German – it will probably work this whole summer grmpf
    I’ve been a lurker here for some time now, and before I step back into the darkness, I must ask: Have you seen the current Burda? There is a “surf wear” section. When I saw that, I wondered what you would write about it …

    Verena    Jun 4, 03:37 PM    #
  2. Beautiful cardigan, great combo with the buttons. And thanks for the heads up on running small, it’s on my to do list as well (Dutch summers are very like English summers!)

    Sigrid    Jun 4, 04:05 PM    #
  3. Lovely cardigan! It looks so comfy!

    Shannon    Jun 4, 04:12 PM    #
  4. I like your cardigan just the thing for summer in the north. I have been eyeing this pattern since I saw it. Now I know I need to make it. And thanks for the sizing tip I will use it too.

    — AnnetteAK    Jun 4, 05:44 PM    #
  5. Now that the latest US east coast heat wave has passed I am wishing for a new light sweater or jacket. That looks like really nice light merino…so perfect for the pattern. Strangely I was going to make up a jacket in an old Vogue 2790 that has the same gathers up the placket but is sized for wovens.

    — Mary    Jun 4, 10:49 PM    #
  6. This is definitely worth repeating in all your favourite colours.

    Katherine Howison    Jun 4, 10:53 PM    #
  7. I guess I’m living the inverse summer sewing life. You probably know that we just got over our first major North Eastern super humid heat-wave. Some years prior, my summers were those of San Francisco; chilly and foggy. Makes me a little homesick to think of pulling on a jacket in the afternoon as the marine layer rolled in! Anyway, thank you for the review of the cardigan. I’m glad to hear your assessment of this particular pattern. Love the merino too!

    — Jen    Jun 4, 10:53 PM    #
  8. What a great cardigan, Melissa! I love how it looks with those contrasting buttons, and that fabric must feel like a dream! I bought that Burda issue for this cardigan, but when I saw how small the pattern was, I put it aside (I am a 44 in Burda sizes)

    — Olga    Jun 5, 08:49 AM    #
  9. Great cardi! Very helpful review!

    Clio    Jun 5, 03:18 PM    #
  10. That’s a gorgeous pattern and it looks great on you. I love the turquoise buttons on the chocolate. Doesn’t matter what season it is, a cardigan never goes astray!

    Melinda    Jun 5, 09:40 PM    #
  11. I’m really keen on this cardigan. Cardigans are what I call ‘trans-seasonal’ – wear them all year round.

    Gail    Jun 7, 07:53 AM    #
  12. Love it, I would never have thought to put blue buttons on a brown cardi, but they really make it. I’m working on the Style Arc marie knitted jacket and its 30C here – now that is crazy sewing!

    allisonC    Jun 7, 10:05 AM    #
  13. Beautiful cardigan. Suits you so well. I love the front gathers. Great job!

    senaSews    Jun 13, 08:50 AM    #

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