Square Sleeves for Cozy Cardis

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I’m cold.

I’m cold all the time. I actually don’t think it matters whether it’s subzero outside or if there’s just a chill in the breeze- unless we’re having a picnic on the surface of the sun, this girl is going to be looking for layers.

My hands and feet are usually the coldest, although if I’m not wearing a sweater you can just about count me out. I used to bring a heating pad to the lecture halls at school because they had outlets for laptops that I could use to plug it in. Sometimes when my workmates put the air conditioner on in our office, my hands turn blue and my middle toes go so numb that it feels like I’ve got something stuck between my other toes. Except it’s just more toes.

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That was probably more information than you needed, but if you’re ever thinking to yourself, “Man, that Kat sure does make a lot of sweaters…” – know that they’re all being put through their paces, 365 days a year. Also, with regards to the toes thing – I’m going to do a Year of Socks at some point, and knit a whole bunch to help with that.

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The armpit and side seam.

But enough about that – let’s talk about the sweater at hand. It’s one of those sneaky things that doesn’t look all that fancy, but I’ve worked into it all the features I thought would make the perfect everyday sweater. I also designed and drafted it to meet a very specific wardrobe requirement, and it’s done so beautifully! The fact that the finished product is pretty low key is perfect, actually: I don’t want to wear a statement sweater multiple times a week!

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My favorite sewing projects start with a ‘problem’, and this is a perfect example. I’ve been making all these wonderful shirts with wide, dropped sleeves, but when I try to wear my normal cardigans my shirt sleeves end up bunched up in armpit-land, and end up looking like the world’s worst wrinkly shoulder pads. Because of the aforementioned Chill Factor, ultimately the cardigans won out at the expense of the shirts.

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I do love a good grunge wall.

I started with Pinterest – apparently I was looking for something with ‘batwing sleeves’ – although none of the ones I found were quite right. While I was out on an expedition (for silk skirt lining) to The Fabric Store, I stumbled across this perfect fabric from their new arrivals and had to have it. Although I still hadn’t decided on a pattern, I immediately knew that I wanted to do a statement sleeve that would accentuate the stripes, and that helped narrow down design options considerably.

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I remembered seeing a schematic for one in my drafting book, and as soon as I found it again I was sold. I also decided pretty quickly that I wanted a regular cardigan body rather than a cocoon shape (they’re just not my jam).

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I did a fair bit of sketching, and as I got closer and closer to finalizing the design, I got more and more nervous that the finished Thing wasn’t going to meet my expectations.

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I stewed for about a week before I decided that life is too short to not at least try, so I loosely followed the book’s instructions for modifying my existing self-drafted cardigan pattern to include a dropped, square armhole. At this point, I considered making a muslin, but didn’t have any suitable fabric and I was feeling confident about my draft so I decided to go forth and cut in. This is the part where I don’t mention the price of this fabric…

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Here’s a little diagram of my regular cardigan pattern against the final square-sleeve modified version:

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As you can see, things are a bit roomier in the side seams, the sleeve cuff is longer and tighter, and the sleeve itself has changed drastically in shape.

[This is a good time for a brief side note: The fabric in question is a 100% NZ Merino double-knit that’s soft, spongy, and practically perfect in every way except one. See, it’s not my first time working with this fabric. I bought it in a rich plum color last year with a mind to make some ‘secret pajamas’ type trousers for work… I think I’ve mentioned that failed project in the past, but basically they sagged to infinity and although they’re basically my weekend house uniform, they do not leave said house. Not even to go to the mailbox. Although it’s delicious, the fabric doesn’t have great recovery, and it succumbs to its own weight easily. Anyways – just know that my mantra the entire time I was designing and sewing this thing was stabilize the seams, stabilize the seams, stabilize the seams…]

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MMMM Look at that SLEEVE. I do realize this thing is a little bit ‘grandpa’ but just love it so much!

Perhaps anticlimactically, she came together beautifully. I serged clear elastic into the shoulder seams and armholes to prevent any potential sagging without sacrificing the elasticity of the seams, and the button band (but not the neckband) is interfaced for stability. The pocket openings are reinforced with a straight stitch so they stay perky and flat. I basted the sleeves into their armholes on my regular machine with a long straight stitch which definitely helped, but I still had to get clever with the serger to make my corners perfect. Also, I’ve stitched an extra button to the inside of the pocket bag, just in case.

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(sleeve seams and shoulder seams are reinforced with clear elastic)

So I guess I should give you the rundown of the features that make this sweater ‘perfect’: Dropped armholes so there’s room for my sleeves, long double-layer cuffs that reach from wrist to elbow to keep my forearms extra-cozy. Butt-covering cardi length with a good amount of ease for layering, big pockets, and of course, warm merino fabric in a color that magically walks a delicate line between ‘brown’ and ‘grey’ and therefore matches 90% of my wardrobe. And perfect it is. Too much excess fabric could’ve been overwhelming but I think I came out on the right side of that battle as well.

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Thoughts: “What do I do with my arms to show off the sleeves??!”

I did all the drafting, cutting, and construction of this thing on a Sunday – and then I wore my new cardigan to work on Monday! I’ll confess I didn’t add the buttons until the following weekend, but to be fair that was because I didn’t really think I was going to finish it in a day, so I had to go out and buy them! Of course, that didn’t stop me wearing it twice without buttons. I even wore it back to The Fabric Store the next weekend and got LOTS of compliments πŸ˜‰

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(this photo is mostly for comic relief. It’s not doing a very good job of showing off the sleeve…

Perhaps most importantly, the four or five wide-sleeved tops in my wardrobe have found happiness in the regular rotation once again, and I have another warm thing just in time for winter! I am contemplating making another one in cream (maybe a closer-fitting but longer version with even more pronounced square armholes???) because I have a few striped and patterned shirts that clash a bit with the stripe of this one. I’ve got plenty of other projects in the works already though, so it may be a while before I come back to that idea.

I actually finished this sweater the weekend before Me Made May began, so if you’re hangin’ out with me on Instagram you’ll have seen a few sneaky pictures. You also may have seen my insta story from the day I made it, which chronicled the process in real time, with bonus background music.

Here’s my Me Made May wrap-up for this week:

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Three appearances from the Thyone cardigan. Good thing I bought more sweater yarn yesterday! Also that skirt is next week’s blog post, finally.

And here’s what’s not handmade:

  • Monday: Purple Merino Cardigan (Very on-sale from Jon’s work)
  • Tuesday: Not a stitch! Today was 100% Me-Made.
  • Wednesday: 100% again today! Man, I wish I could make shoes…
  • Thursday: Third day in a row! Although so many cardi repeats…
  • Friday: The Purple Merino Cardigan again
  • Saturday: 100% me-made! I changed and photographed the cardi on this day too.
  • Sunday: I did have some merino leggings on in the morning, but it warmed up.

I’m still refraining from making observations about Me Made May until the end of the month, but I imagine you see some trends appearing here!

 

 

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Square Sleeves for Cozy Cardis

  1. Merry Pinbender says:

    Extra points for stripe matching!! πŸ˜€
    Wow, you have been so busy. You really have the self drafting stitched down. Are you sure we’re not related? Cause I totally relate←heh to the cold thing. Mom was a low thyroid gal from 14 on. Said she threw away more thermometers when I was a baby because they read low. Turns out it was me. I wasn’t low enough for replacement synthroid until a few years ago. One of the main features is “cold intolerance”(sound familiar? ) I am at least 2Γ— more miserable when chilled than average. (Note I didn’t say normal as we all know that ship has sailed) When I first saw those snuggly sleeve cuffs I wondered “did she draft in thumbholes for hand warming? !? Maybe next time . πŸ˜€ with graphics! ! Ha ha Like you need me to egg you on.
    Gotta go layer up, the temp has dropped below 72Β°.
    Bart says should have been a bear.
    Always, Merry

    • Kat says:

      Thanks, Merry!
      I’m definitely going to use ‘2x more miserable when chilled than average’ the next time my temperature regulation comes up in conversation, that’s excellent! It pretty much exactly describes me, too. I did consider thumb holes, but I have sensitive thumbs from some nerve problems a few years ago, so I tend not to want to stick my thumbs through any loops. Built in gloves, though…? Now we’re talking! I do find myself pulling my sleeves down over my hands entirely, too: the perks of self drafting is that you can make sleeves long enough for tricks like that!
      Lovely as always to hear from you!

  2. Phyllis says:

    Great project. Love the stripes (and the matching!).
    What is the original pattern for the cards? Any I have used weren’t made for buttons & especially buttonholes!
    Thx.

    • Kat says:

      The original pattern is another version that I drafted, which is probably not a very helpful answer..but if you have a good base pattern that fits you, you can add a button band! I didn’t include that pattern piece in my diagram but it’s just a long rectangle. I interface the section from where the V splits down to the hem on both sides to give the button and buttonhole areas a little structure, and then ease the neck and shoulder area in gently (as you would a t-shirt). Sometimes if I’m using a very lightweight interfacing I’ll use two layers on the buttonhole side. I hope that helps!

  3. Lynsey_makes says:

    This is an amazing cardigan, a pattern I would definitely buy, those armholes are amazing and look awesome in stripes. I have put off making big sleeves tops knowing that my cardi’ would kill them, I’m like layering too.

    • Kat says:

      Thank you Lynsey! I’m glad you think so! I’m probably a ways off making patterns to sell, but I’ll definitely consider it. It definitely satisfies a need for us layering types πŸ™‚

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