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The Cabernet Cardigan: Sewing with Sweater Knits

Posted by Betsy Cook on

Have you heard the news? Yup, got a new Cardigan pattern for sale- The Cabernet Cardigan. Perfect opportunity to give sweater knits a try.
I’ve always avoided the sweater knit section of the fabric store because it just didn’t seem practical to me. One should actually knit something, right? Well, I have given up on any attempts at knitting for two reasons: I move way too much. Like I can’t sit still for more than 20 minutes. Secondly, I’m wound a little tight, so my tension of all knitting and crocheting projects goes from thick and dense to complete rigid as I knit with my stress.
Ponte was my go-to for the Cabernet Cardigan. But one day I wandered into the thickness of the sweater knit section of the fabric store. I glanced and looked away. On my way back through my hand reached over to touch some yardage and the lightbulb went off and connections were made. So thus begins the new found love of sweater knits. I honestly still have no clue of the proper way to handle and use them, but I think with some applied common sense they are manageable and a way to stretch your sewing muscle.

Here are a couple of words from my newly formed (sorta) wisdom about sewing with sweater knits:

1) Sweater knits come in many different textures and tensions, just like regular sweaters. That said, if you choose a really loose fabric then you will probably want to size down on your pattern as it will expand wider when worn.

2) Sweater knits grow faster than a baby who was just bought a pair of designer jeans. You go to put the pieces together and they never seem to match up. It is important to use the notches. But in the case of the Cabernet Cardigan, if it is the hem band or the neck band not matching, I would definitely cut them shorter as ease will not look so nice. In fact, I suggest to stretch the hem band to fit the body ever so slightly.

3) Don’t forget the interfacing. Anything that has buttons or buttonholes needs to be stabilized to sustain repeated tension. Your sweater will not survive otherwise. The interfacing does not have to be military grade tensile strength and thickness, just a light weight tricot will do. You do not have to interface the whole piece, just the area that needs it. In fact, interfacing can take away from the softness if you use it too heavily. I like to think of interfacing as salt- it’s great to punch up the flavors of a dish, but when used too liberally it can be a disaster.

4) Get yourself some clear elastic tape. It is stretchy and thin and easy to include in the seams. Really, you just need it to stabilize shoulder seams as this seam takes the brunt of the weight of the garment. However, if there is shirring or a lot of draping and construction, use the clear elastic tape along those seams.

5) A serger is your best friend to finish the seams. Not only does it create a nice finish but helps control the bulkiness/thickness.

These are just a few of the things that I have found along the way. If there are anything else I need to keep in mind or some good tricks, let me know.

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