Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ottobre Woman Says This is "Everywoman's Favorite Cardigan"!

Clio's been exploring a sewing paradox on her blog: cake vs. frosting. In the sewing context, cake is the kind of clothing we need and wear most of the time: practical garments and basics. Frosting, on the other hand, is that stuff we spend all our time sewing: party dresses, leather jackets, floral pants. Clio describes her resolution to focus on sewing more cake very well, but I have a hard time with her metaphor. My pesky food allergies (gluten being just the tip of the iceberg) make it rather painful to even think about cake, in any context.

So I've been mentally singing Fats Waller's All That Meat and No Potatoes as I think about how to induce myself to sew more practical garments. I definitely wear lots of frosting/meat (for evenings out swing dancing), but I need and want more things that make me feel good and look put together during my stay-at-home mom/freelance journalist daily routine.

This cardigan is potatoes.

From Ottobre Woman 5/2009

I've made it a couple of times before, though those versions have by now passed into memory. The first was a fuzzy burgundy wool blend knit from FabricMart. That was a good sweater, but it was too wide in the neck and shoulders and the color didn't really suit me. I wore it into a mass of pills nonetheless! 

Here's the second version. Although you can't tell it by looking at it on the hanger, I altered the pattern by filling in the neckline on the sides and at the center front. This advice is often given for altering a pattern when the neck is too wide, but it doesn't make perfect sense (or work very well). The width is just the same, but the opening is less large. The resulting cardigan didn't fall off my shoulders, but the shoulder seam still hit beyond the actual point of my shoulder, down on my upper arm.

For this version I took a long dart from the neckline to the side seam at about the level of the high hip on both the front and the back. This alteration removed 1" of width from each side of the chest area (2" total width), tapering to nothing at the lower part of the garment. Learning this alteration has been a real epiphany. I used the size 36 at the shoulder, the next-to-smallest size for this pattern. Yes, I could have gone down to the 34, but the difference in width was minimal (perhaps 1/4" total width). I'm starting to think there's an important reason for me to avoid going for the smallest size in the shoulder area: it affects depth as well as width. When I use a very small pattern size at the neckline and shoulder area, I start to feel tightness in the armholes, while the chest is still too wide. It must be that the garment is getting too small from front to back. If I select a small but not too small starting size and then alter for width, the resulting garment is much more comfortable.

This goes against a lot of the fitting advice I have read. 

I also tapered up to a size 38 at the hip area, shortened the cardigan 4" and added a center back seam and a swayback adjustment.

With center back seam and swayback adjustment

Covers meat and potatoes nicely

Very happy with the fit of this version, especially the beautiful curve of the neckline, something Ottobre drafts so well
This fabric is navy wool doubleknit (from Waechter's, my hometown fabric store, bought at their fall 25% off sale), be still my heart. I was at pains to do justice to this wonderful and not-so-cheap fabric. The interfacing is the Pro Sheer Elegance from Fashion Sewing Supply and it was, as usual, perfect and easy to work with. The right buttons were happily waiting in my stash (salvaged from a Goodwill find, I believe), and my Juki F600 did a bang-up job on the buttonholes. I used the #14 stretch buttonhole and it worked out great.

Tomorrow I will have a couple of tips about topstitching the curved neck facing and front facing.


  1. A warm cardigan is so useful, but yours is beautifully fitting and the neckline is just the right depth. It looks as if you have a real TNT pattern there.

  2. A wool double knit cardigan sounds divine about now! Love the neckline on this--the high crew neck of RTW cardigans is superbly unflattering on me; a round neck had never even occurred to me!