Me Made May Aurifil Artisan Challenge: Blackwood Cardigan

The thread featured in this post was given to my by Aurifil.

Seven years ago, when they were small, I started making garments for my children. They were fun little projects and much faster than making and finishing a quilt. These clothes were all made out of quilting cotton, though once I made a satin skirt for a friend's daughter. Quilting cotton is easy to sew with.

For years now I've been wanting to make garments for myself. In August of 2017, I started listening to the new, weekly Love to Sew podcast. Co-hosts Helen and Caroline are an inspiration as they "engage with the global sewing community and encourage listeners to create their dream wardrobe by sewing their own clothes." But still, I didn't sew myself a single garment. In January 2018, Caroline's shop, Blackbird Fabrics, offered a black and white bamboo jersey knit (95% rayon from bamboo/5% spandex). One of the things I love about her shop is that the fabric listings include recommendations for what types of garments a fabric is suitable for. This information is gold to a newbie garment sewist! And I'd been wanting to make a Blackwood Cardigan. So I ordered the fabric. And I love it. The more than two-year procrastination of actually making said cardigan was some combination of not liking the size I am, intimidation about sewing knits, and living an overextended/busy life. As an Aurifil Artisan for 2019-2020, I was delighted to see Me Made May as the May Artisan Challenge. I seriously thought I'd get it done way ahead of time and then share it in May. Nope. True to form, I was still sewing at the 11th hour. Last Friday, I started cutting out my fabric.

This project was the perfect opportunity for me to try out Aurifil 40/3. This thread was created with longarmers in mind, but I'd heard of other garment sewists who prefer this weight for their garments. It worked well for me. I pieced my cardigan using a zigzag stitch with a stretch needle. Due to my inexperience with sewing knits, during my test sewing I struggled to get a nice topstitch that didn't create puckers. So I opted to leave the pockets off (where will I put my M&Ms!?) and I should add topstitching to the front band later (the final step). I'll continue with the trial and error of finding the right settings/needle combination to get a result I like for topstitching. More needles are on the way!

My 8-year-old daughter took photos of me in the cardigan.

The pattern was clear and easy to follow. It certainly could have been sewn in a day or two. My cardigan is the long view in XXL of the original version of the pattern (equivalent to a 20/22 B-cup in the current version). I added 2" of length since I'm 5'7" and like my cardigans long. I don't think this was necessary, but I figured that I'd rather it be too long than too short for my liking. :-) It was hard for me to measure myself to really understand how long the pattern would be on me... and I failed to take into consideration that it would stretch a bit when it was on from the weight of the fabric.

Tips from my experience sewing my first knit garment:

  • Be really careful of fabric stretching when you lay it out to cut.
  • Mark notches using a marking pen.
  • Pin liberally.
  • Do a lot of test sewing to find a stitch that works well. Label each sample with your settings/needle. (See above.)
  • Maybe don't choose stripes for your first project. It added a level of difficulty.
  • Try stretch, jersey, and ballpoint needles (as the pattern recommends) as you may get different results with each.

Check out what others are sewing and wearing for Me Made May on Instagram at #memademay. See more Blackwoods at #blackwoodcardigan.

Since I mentioned them, here are a few of my favorite garments that I made for the kids years ago:

18 thoughts on “Me Made May Aurifil Artisan Challenge: Blackwood Cardigan

  1. Johanna Chew

    Wait Wait. Your baby is 8 already? No way!
    That is a lovely cardigan! Congrats on finishing it! And you are right; the fabric is perfect.
    I was going to make an effort to get to the quilting guild in the next town over especially to hear your presentation, but alas! No guild meetings :( But these posts are an inspiration!

    Reply
    1. sarah

      Post author

      Thank you, Johanna! 8 seems so old. It’s shocking, but yes. And the old one will be 10 in July. ;-) I’m glad you are enjoying my blog. It’s an interesting time with guild meeting and workshops going virtual. Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  2. This looks fantastic!!!!! (Though really, where *will* you put your M&Ms??) I'm afraid of sewing garments, too many unsuccessful attempts. This looks amazing!

    Reply
    1. sarah

      Post author

      The M&M storage is a very big concern. My garment sewing started with making clothes for my kids with quilting cotton... kids are so much easier to sew for -- fewer curves. And quilting cotton is easier and more familiar for me than knit. ;-) Thanks for visiting, Emily.

      Reply
  3. Stripes and stretchy are really tough! I never made a lot with stretchy material when I sewed garments, and never felt I got the hang of it MeMadeMay makes me want to pull out a shirt muslin I have been wanting to make. Your piece looks great and I hope you enjoy wearing it!

    Reply
    1. sarah

      Post author

      Thank you, Kathleen. I'd like to make some simple t-shirts and tanks. In solids. ;-) Or maybe some wide stripes. (The skinny stripes, while beautiful, were a challenge!)

      Reply
  4. Pam Jolly

    You did a wonderful job on your cardigan and it fits you well. It is beautiful on you. Your daughter took great pictures.

    Reply
  5. Hi Sarah, I hope that you're doing well. That is a really nice cardigan. I also sewed a lot for the kids and that's really when I started understanding what I was doing. Unfortunately I haven't had good experiences with making clothes for me or my daughter. I would have to take a fitting course....it's on the list when I retire (but pretty low on the list). Good for you for sewing with knit. It really goes well when you have the right needles and stitch. You may want to keep some fabric for the pockets when you get more confident stitching with knit.
    Take care.

    Reply
    1. sarah

      Post author

      Thank you, Andrée. I have the pockets cut out for when I gain the necessary skills. Next time I think I'll use the serger when I sew knits. That doesn't solve my topstitching problem, unfortunately. ;-) Thanks for visiting. I'm back from my inadvertent pause on the blog.

      Reply

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