A gathered merino wool cardigan

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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