Friday, March 09, 2012

Cardigan Follow-up

There were quite a few questions about the seam down the back of the B5760 cardigan.  My first response to the question was, "Why not?"  My second response is a little more involved.  Of course any time you add a seam you add a fitting opportunity.  I do admit to adding seams to garments so that I don't end up wearing large expanses of fabric on my plus size body.

However, about 12 years ago when I first started making cardigans, my friend Colleen, suggested that I put a center back seam in my cardigan.  I, of course, was appalled because RTW cardigans didn't have center back seams.  Colleen in her wise way simply said was I trying to get RTW fit or was I trying to fit the garment to my body.  

from a twinset made in 2008 with a back seam

from a twinset made in 2010 
w/o a back seam

So, I've pretty much lived by those words of wisdom...quite a few of the cardigans I've made have a center back seam.  If the fabric has an interesting pattern or design, I don't put a seam in, but that is rare.

Trena made a statement about homecky looking cardigans and I have a few suggestions to help avoid that look...

Fabric Choice: 
I think its easier to find fabric that looks like RTW sweater fabric now than when I first started making cardigans.  And that should be your first question when you consider using a piece of fabric to make a cardigan - would I see one like this in the store?  If the answer is yes, then use it.  If not, then toss it back and save it for another project.  

Second part of the fabric/RTW question is what level of RTW are you knocking off?  I try to sew higher end garments rather than something I can buy in WalMarts, Jessica London, etc.  You know those upscale places where a cardigan costs upwards of $100 or more, that's what I'm trying to duplicate.

The third part of the fabric choice is the type of fabric.  I don't use cotton knits. I've never gotten a good result using one.  My preference is to use rayon/lycra knits.  I've also noticed that knits purchased at a higher price point work better except for the inexpensive, high quality goods that I get from Fabric Mart, as long as I don't use a cotton knit!  Some of my other favorite fabrics for cardigans are ~ wool blends, rayon jerseys, silk jersey, cotton lace, and wool jersey.

Knowing what areas should be interfaced helps eliminate the homecky look...and then the type of interfacing used is also important.  I use a soft flexible knit interfacing that doesn't change the hand of the fabric but does provide some support for buttons and buttonholes.  My two favorites are:  The Pro Sheer Elegance Fusible Interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply and from Farmhouse Fabrics, Baby Interfacing.  The front band is totally interfaced and then folded in half.  The sleeve hems are also interfaced.  And on most of the hems, I use stitch witchery either with a machine stitched hem or sometimes alone.  I'm always looking for that RTW look and the stitch witchery hem does that but you could substitute Steam A Seam and achieve the same look.

Button Placement:
The best thing about making your own cardigans is that you can decide the number, size and placement of buttons.  I usually place a button in the middle of my bustline and then measure from there up and down the button placket for button placement. Personally I like an odd number of buttons, it just looks more pleasing to my eye. Lately I've been using smaller button plackets as well as smaller buttons because it looks more RTW.  Also, determine if you want the buttons to stand out or blend in.  For this latest cardigan, I wanted them to blend in...

...for the one I made in the Lavender & Gray collection, I used buttons that stood out:

Additional Information:
~always check cardigan lengths in RTW to make sure that the length you are making is current.
~check button size and buttonhole placket size in RTW cardigans and use something similar
~sleeve lengths change from season to I would check those also.
~sewing the cardigan together using flat sewing techniques also help to insure that you don't have bunchy sleeve heads and a homecky look.  I always sew sleeves in flat and not in the round.

I hope that some of this information helps someone make a RTW looking cardigan but with a custom fit!

Since it's the weekend, I'm once again going to attempt to work on one of my two dress ideas.  I'm a little more relaxed this weekend and hopefully will get to spend some quality time in the sewing cave.  The mild winter continues here on the East Coast with temps in the 60s next I would love a new dress to wear to work! always, more later!


  1. Thank you so much for this and so many other helpful posts!

  2. Love your Cardi and I too usually do a CB seam. It is so much better for fitting my narrow upper back and my shoulders which hyper-extend backwards. It helps position my shoulder seams where I need them. I was thinking whilst sewing one this morning that they probably don't put a CB seam in RTW as it's an extra seam to sew!!

  3. Thank you for another wealth of helpful information. I am trying very hard to improve my sewing and am telling everyone about your fantastic blog. It beats any books! I wonder would you mind explaining the concepts for putting in the sleeve - what is sewing it in the flat or round? I would love to know and am keen to try a cardigan pattern for myself.
    thankyou so much , love your blog!

  4. This is wonderful advice, Carolyn! I've yet to make a cardigan because I'm afraid it will look homemade. I'm saving this post to use when I'm ready to tackle a cardigan - thanks so much!

  5. Great post! I appreciated your tips on fabric types, interfacing, and buttons. It's almost time for me to find a good pattern and make twinsets! I love yours!

  6. Great tips, many thanks. I plan on making a couple of these in the near future. And am going to get the pattern you recommended as well. What an enabler you are!

  7. Once again, great tips!!! I want to make some twinsets in the near future, so have bookmarked this post so I can refer to it again...

  8. Excellent post! Thanks for your info.

  9. Thankyou for sharing this info. So helpful. I have never made a cardigan from sweater fabric. So really want to try it.

  10. Great information, Carolyn! I always get confused when I'm doing a placket down the front. Should the buttonholes be horizontal or vertical? Now I have a good understanding of a CB seam. I also might be adding a seam like that. I just completed my wearable muslin on the SuperFantastic Shirt from Hot Patterns in a cotton voile and I'm making another in a very hard to handle rayon challis. I always love reading your posts. They inspire and motivate me.

  11. Thanks for the heads up in carigan making. Just purchased some gorgeous sweater knit an was a little apprehensive about cutting into it since I hadn't made a sweater like this before. You have given me all the information I need to start cutting and assembling my first sweater set.
    Thanks again.

  12. Thank you for this awesome post! So many good tips, that will make all the difference. It's all in the details! You are always so generous with your sewing experience/knowledge. Thanks again!

  13. thanks for this answer.

    Carolyn, I have a quesiton about interfacing. You have mentioned 2 different types of interfacing you use for the cardigans. Is there different fabrics you use with the 2 different ones or are they interchangeable?

    Hope you can answer.

  14. Your cardigan tips were very helpful and thanks for sharing.

  15. Thank you for your cardi tips. I do the same with button placement and I like how you make higher end garments. It really shows in your work and skills.

  16. Thanks for the info on where to get good interfacing. I just used my last "good" piece and lamenting the fact that I didn't make it to the Atlanta Expo this year and was wondering where I would ever find more. Just place my order ...hope have it soon. Keep up the wonderful posts and great sewing.

  17. What a terrific job you did on this cardigan. It truly looks like high-end rtw, without the high price tag! I haven't ventured into sweater knits but now you've given me the know-how to do so.
    I'm in total agreement with the benefits of a center back seam. I do everything I can to break up a print on my plus size body!
    By the way, I work at Sawyer Brook and I shipped the last of the Dogwood Majesty knit to a customer today. I'm glad you have some in your stash. I purchased some of it a few weeks ago, 'cuz it's so darn beautiful! Fun to see SB fabrics on your blog. I'll be watching to see the wonderful garments you make with them!


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