It’s no surprise, I LOVE sewing challenges! I’m not always great at participating within the time limits, but they often inspire my sewing. I’m a person with A LOT of ideas. I have way more ideas (& fabric, notions, patterns…) for things I’d like to sew than I can possibly execute. I find that the constraints of sewing challenges help focus my creativity into specific projects. Sometimes they even get completed! Like this cardigan!
This is my fifth time with this pattern–it’s become a TNT. It’s a classic cardigan design, with a full button placket, round neck, a hemband & sleeve bands. I never blogged my first go with it. I made a questionable fabric choice, a drape-y black knit with zero recovery. I don’t love it, but I still wear it sometimes. For my second try, I hacked it into a knit shirtdress. I never got around to blogging the others, but they are a yellow hacci knit short-sleeved waist-length version with the gathered shoulder detail, & a black waist-length version in a really luxe, heavyweight sweater knit, with snaps in lieu of buttons, & pink embroiderd floral appliqués on the chest/shoulders.
The Sewing Bee challenge was to sew a cardigan inspired by Pantone’s Color of the Year, “Living Coral”. My immediate reaction was, “Nope. I’m not wasting my time sewing something coral-colored.” Coral is hideous. But I read the prompt again & realized that “inspired by” created a lot of possibilities beyond using coral-colored fabric.
Slate recently feautured an interesting piece about the misguided socio-political optimism Pantone has brought to their Color of the Year choices. My gut response to “Living Coral” was, “Not for long.” We’re currently iving through a man-made ecological collapse…& the human race may not survive it. Coral reefs all over the world are dying as the ocean warms beyond their capacity for endurance. We’ve all seen images of once-vibrant, colorful reefs bleached bone-white & devoid of healthy ocean life.
That was the dark inspiration I took to the fabric store. Jared’s parents gave me a very generous Mill End store gift card for Christmas, so I went wild. I found this cream-colored cotton French terry, & having it made the Jenna pattern so many times now, I knew it was a beefy, firmly knit textile that would give me the fit I prefer.
Of course, me being me, I needed embellishments. Ramona was with me & she was incredibly patient while I dragged her all over the store contemplating accent fabrics, dyes, & trims. I found some wide pink scalloped lace with pink sequins in the lingerie fabrics area. The pink pearl shank buttons coordinated perfectly. I was in line waiting to pay when I realized I hadn’t looked at the beaded trims in the bridal section. That’s where I found the pièce de résistance: pale pink seed bead fringe! Something about it just screamed coral to me (the animal, not the color; fun fact: corals are animals!).
I made a size 38 with a LOT of alterations. Muse Patterns sizing is based on the full bust measurement in inches, & the knit patterns are drafted for a B-cup. So a size 38 corresponds to a 36-inch high bust measurement. I started there & then:
- 3″ FBA using the slide & pivot method (my go-to for dartless bodices)
- kept the extra width through the waist for my full tummy
- 1.75″ swayback adjustment
- adjusted button band & hemband to accommodate extra length/width
- shortened sleeve by 2″
Construction was straightforward–thank goodness for TNTs! The embellishments made extra work, but that’s okay. I secured the stretch lace to the sleeves & bodice with a small zigzag along the upper scallops before the sleeve bands & hemband were attached. I basted two layers of beaded fringe to the neckline before attaching the neckband.
Attaching a narrow knit neckband can be tricky under the best of circumstances. Attaching a narrow knit neckband to a neckline that has been trimmed with beaded fringe upped the difficulty factor exponentially! The fringe moves–it’s just little seed beads on thread, attached to a ribbon. I had to stop every centimeter to untangle the presser foot from a nest of fringe, or move beads out of the way of the needle. & I topstitched too, flipping the fringe up over the neckband & topstitching underneath. It looks so beautiful though, it was totally worth the fuss.
Those buttonholes on the other hand. …Did you know each buttonhole option on your sewing machine is specifically designed for a particular application? Such as knit fabrics? I mean, I totally already knew that, I definitely wasn’t just choosing buttonhole applications at random for years on end & then wondering why they weren’t working on my fabric…
On my first try, I managed two good buttonholes & seven awful buttonholes that needed to be ripped out. It was extremely frustrating. I tried doing hand-worked buttonholes (I keep basic hand-sewing supplies at home so I can still sew when I’m away from my studio), but the sweater looked really delicate & elegant, & my inexperience with hand-worked buttonholes was wrecking it.
Eventually I lost patience & ripped off the entire button band. I had overlocked the seam allowance & topstitched…but it had to go. Ripping out the button band without damaging the sweater was a trick, & took forever, but I cut a new button band at the studio the next day & managed to put in ten decent buttonholes without fucking any of them up. Yay!
The new button band was a chance to be patient with my buttonhole placement. I’d been rushing the first time & spaced my buttonholes 2″ apart starting at the neckline. That meant the final button was actually about 1″ from the bottom of the sweater. I didn’t like it, but I was like, whatever, I need to finish this.
I was more thoughtful with the new button band. If you look closely, you can tell that my buttons aren’t perfectly equidistant. They are mostly 1.75″ apart, but slightly closer together across the bust in order to mitigate any gaping issues there. That’s also why I used ten buttons, rather than the six the pattern calls for. More buttons = less opportunity for pulling or gaping. I also felt that the extra buttons played well with the embellishment of my trims. It evokes the long rows of closely-spaced buttons on some formalwear or historical garments.
I hand-sewed all of my buttons on, miraculously without losing any in the process (every single one got dropped at least three times–those things are slippery!), & buttoned it up. Guys. Guys! I am in love with this sweater. I don’t have any other white/cream garments in my wardrobe right now–once Ramona was born, I embraced a dark-colored mom wardrobe. But she’s older now (six years old!), not as likely to get sticky, dirty hands all over my clothes. I’m still a hobo who spills on herself all day everyday. I spilled coffee on his sweater literally within the first 15 seconds of wearing it! Luckily, coffee is easy to wash out if you act quickly. Later that night, Jared & I went on a date & I spilled masala sauce on myself. Thankfully, I had the foresight to take the sweater off before eating.
I’m considering using this cardigan as one of the four pieces for the Sewalongs & Sewing Contests Inside Out Capsule challenge. The goal there is to sew four coordinting pieces to make up an outfit, including an “under” layer (camisole, bra, layering tee, etc). I’m thinking about making the Cloth Habit Watson bralette from the leftover French terry scraps, & I’m already working on a pair of pink heavyweight linen True Bias Lander pants. I just need to come up with the fourth piece, preferably some kind of top to be worn under the cardigan.