Baby Cardigan

Update! I found some football-shaped buttons that I had bought for this project a couple years ago, so I decided to replace the plain white buttons.

Cardigan with football buttons

In November I made a cute little cardigan (Ravelry) for the new baby, using the Fuss Free Baby Cardigan pattern by Louise Tilbrook. I got 95% done with one of these for the first baby in 2018 and never quite finished…oops! I had quite a few other things on my mind that year, and knitting was not a big priority then. I also made one as a gift several years ago.

This time, I wanted to chronicle all the modifications I made to the original pattern. The pattern is great as written, and it includes a few suggestions for customization that are easy to expand upon.

Unfortunately, I can’t figure out what yarn I used. I bought it and wound it in 2018, when I originally intended to make this sweater, and lost track of the ball bands. I know it is a wool DK weight yarn, and I used a US 6 needle to get 5.5 stitches per inch gauge.

Cardigan with original buttons

Modifications

  1. Instead of starting with the garter stitch border, I started at the beginning of the stockinette section at the top. This allowed me to pick up and knit the garter stitch border after the body was done, making the top, bottom, and sides as one piece.
  2. For the raglan increases, I used M1 instead of KFB. Specifically, I did: knit to one stitch before marker, M1R, K1, sl marker, K1, M1L. This makes a double column of knit stitches in between the increases.
  3. I alternated colors as follows to create the stripes: *6 rows orange, 2 rows blue, 2 rows white, 2 rows blue, repeat from *.
  4. After completing the stockinette body, I picked up stitches on the left, right, and top (in addition to the bottom stitches that were still live). Then I joined in the round to work the garter stitch border as one piece. I did 8 rounds of garter stitch (knit one round, purl one round) and increased 2 stitches at each corner on every RS (knit) round to help the border lie flat.
  5. I wanted to make long sleeves in the stripe pattern without working in the round so I could avoid jogs in the stripes without any special techniques. For each sleeve, I did the following while maintaining the stripe pattern to match the body: Row 1: Starting from right edge of held stitches, pick up and knit 2, knit held stitches, pick up and knit 2. Row 2: sl1, purl to end. Row 3: sl1, knit to end. Row 4: repeat Row 2. Row 5 (decrease row): sl 1, k1, k2tog, k to last 4 sts, ssk, k2. Continue in stockinette st, working decrease row every 4th row (rows 9, 13, 17, 21) and slipping first stitch of each row. Rows 23-28: work even in stockinette, slipping the first st of each row. Switch to blue and knit one row. Seam together the two edges, then join in the round and continue to work garter stitch for 5 more rounds. BO all stitches.

I really like how this turned out and can’t wait for my little one to start wearing it!

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!