Sunday, January 22, 2012

DIY Cardigan

DISCLAIMER: I am still completely new to sewing so I do not know all of the technical names for sewing techniques.  Plus I did not follow any patterns or tutorials so this is truly my interpretation of a DIY cardigan.  I simply took one that I already owned, analyzed the stitching and attempted to recreate one similar.   Hopefully I can explain it enough for you to get the idea.

First you are going to trace one of your tank tops to cut out the back of your cardigan.  (You will see in the photo below that I used a sleeveless shirt but the shoulders are longer than I wanted and ended up being more of a cap sleeve.  That’s why I recommend a tank top.) 

To make things symmetrical I have found that it is best to fold the fabric and your stencil (today it’s the tank top) so that you are cutting both sides at once.  Now I wanted this cardigan to be longer than my tanks and tees so I added a few more inches to the bottom.  Cut around the tank and make sure you are always giving yourself at least a ¼ inch allowance.

Now cut out another piece the same size and shape.  Once you do that, slice the second piece (only) right down the middle starting at the middle of the neck.  This gives you the back and the front two panels.  Just think of a cardigan.

With right sides together, sew along the shoulder tops and the sides.  Be sure to keep an opening where the arms will go and where the neck will be.  I wanted it more flowing in front so I left a little on top dangling off.  Now you have something that looks like long vest.

To add more of that flowing look that I wanted, I cut two pieces 6” wide and the length of the cardigan measured from the middle of the neck.  Fold the pieces so that they are 3” wide and stitch the ends of the two pieces together on one side.  Now it creates one long piece that is only 3” wide.

With the right sides together, place the middle of the long piece (where the two pieces were stitched together) and pin it to the open edges of the “vest.”  Then just stitch along that edge, giving yourself a ¼ inch allowance.

Once you turned it inside out, it should look like this.
Fold fabric long enough for your arm.  Make sure you add a few inches for “just in case” or if you are like me, you will want to fold the sleeves back.  Measure the armhole you have in your “vest” and use that to figure out how wide you want to stitch that end of the sleeve.  Mark it on the sleeve fabric.  Then determine how wide you will need your sleeve opening at the end where your hand will come out and mark it.

With right sides together, stitch up along the markers you made and trim the extra fabric.  To keep the sleeves the same size, just place the finished one on top of the other fabric and mark the same spots.  Again, with right sides together, stitch up along the markers you made and trim the extra fabric.
Take the wider side of the sleeve and pin it to the arm opening. ( I’d like to say “OBVIOUSLY with right sides together” but it apparently wasn’t that obvious to me as I first sewed my sleeve inside out.   I’m still learning alongside you folks and will let you know when I make mistakes.)  So…  just make sure that the seams are hidden when the cardigan is on.

To finish off the bottom, measure the distance you want from the bottom of the armpit down the side seam, fold the fabric up and mark with a pin.  For my cardigan, I marked it 19” down.  Once I folder the fabric at each seam I used a ruler to line the two sides up to fold the middle and gave myself a few more pins.

I wanted the flowing part to be longer in front but after I took the photos I realized that I wanted to trim them a bit but still keep them long.  Regardless, it is your choice if you want the front to be straight across or if you want longer fronts.  This is YOUR sewing project so make it how you want it. 

Just top stitch the bottom fold all around to make a nice finish and trim the excess fabric.  I am still contemplating if I will finish off the ends of my sleeve, but I left them long and just folded them over.  The fabric I used is a stretchy, soft fabric so I like burrowing my hands in them to keep warm.
I really love my new cardigan and will definitely make a few others.  While my tutorial may not have been the easiest to follow (and I apologize for that) BUT I just hope it inspires you to try a piece of clothing.  I’ve heard from many of you with sewing machines that you only do pillows or hem pants because clothing seems intimidating.  Really just go to your closest and take out one of your shirts, turn it inside out and check out the stitches.  You will realize there is not much to it and if you used that shirt as your “pattern” you already have the measurements to make it the perfect size for you.  If you are inspired to try a new sewing project, come back to this post and let me know!


  1. Beautiful cardigan!! When I saw it in person I thought you bought it from a store. You are one crafty lady!

    1. Thanks Britt! Since I made Taylor a shirt already, you'll get the next one :)


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