Reine Cardigan

To go along with my stash challenge, a mini-resolution I have for myself this year is to actually finish my projects. I know, what a revolutionary idea! I have this problem where I LOVE to start new projects, to learn new stitches and techniques, and generally spend a lot of time knitting. But when it comes time to put the finishing touches on, my interest plummets. I just do not find it very fun to weave in ends, seam pieces together, block, or sew on buttons. These things are crucial, though! Blocking is critical for determining the final shape and size and for getting the fabric to lay correctly. Seams and buttons can add a great degree of visual interest, in addition to their obvious functions. So it’s time for me to get over my aversion to finishing.

Today I am happy to report that I have a finished cardigan to share with you. All of the knitting for this piece took place in 2014 – in fact, it has been about a year since I started the project. As usual, I procrastinated the less fun parts, which included sewing on pockets and buttons. But I felt a huge sense of accomplishment yesterday as I sewed on the last button.

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The pattern for this cardigan is Reine by Alexis Winslow, from the Brooklyn Tweed collection Wool People 3. (By the way, have I mentioned how much I love Brooklyn Tweed’s patterns? Always so good.) I was struck by the details of the design – particularly the garter stitch accents on the shoulders, sleeves, and hem, and the double-sided cable that lines the front edge, collar, and pockets. I used a soft lavender alpaca yarn – Galler Yarns Prime Alpaca Heathers.

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Garter stitch accents

I always like to learn new techniques, and this project gave me a few opportunities to do so. First, the double-sided cable was a fun change from the standard cables I’ve been accustomed to, and it’s pretty easy. Rather than knitting all the stitches in the cable section with cable twists every 6th row, you work 1×1 rib with cable twists every 6th row. The ribbing naturally contracts to appear like a normal cable on each side, which makes a great look for edging.

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Double-sided cables and pockets

I learned how to sew on pockets using mattress stitch, which makes the knitting look nearly continuous. For pockets, the seam is a bit obvious because of the extra bulk from the edge of the pocket that gets trapped in the seaming operation. I think I did a pretty good job of making the two pockets symmetric and secure. This was also my first project with full-length arms, so I was pleased that they look pretty good and seem to be the same length (whew!).

The last new technique I learned was sewing buttons on with backing buttons. This one kind of blew my mind. Essentially, if you sew single buttons to a knit piece, they can pull on the fabric and cause it to deform and droop. Backing buttons are tiny buttons that go on the inside of the piece at the same place as the functional buttons. You simultaneously stitch the two buttons on, sandwiching the knit fabric in between. The two buttons hold firmly against each other so the knit fabric doesn’t get pulled at all. It seems to be easiest if the buttons have the same number of holes. I chose decorative pearlescent buttons for the front, and simple two-hole white buttons for the backing. I was really pleased with how this finishing detail turned out – no drooping fabric here!

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Backing buttons

Overall, I am happy with the finished product. There are a couple things I would do differently in the future, though. My row gauge always tends to be a bit different than the pattern calls for, so I have to improvise to get the right size. In this case, the garter ridge details at the top ended up being a little higher up than I would have liked, so I would shift them down. It was hard to tell while knitting. The sleeves are a little tighter than I expected, so I would consider adding a few stitches in the upper arm. And finally, I think I would sew the pockets a little farther out from the center – but I’m not going to rip them out and try again! I will enjoy wearing this soft, beautiful cardigan throughout the spring.

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Loving my new cardigan!

2 thoughts on “Reine Cardigan

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