A (Day After) Christmas Cardigan

After weeks of struggling to find time to work on this project, I finally got the Newcastle cardigan done last night! Tom loves it, and I think I did a pretty good job. Photo dump commencing in 3…2…1…


Happy husband!


Collar and back contrast yoke


Contrast cuff


Not too bad! (Well, except for being on the hanger crooked…)


Close-up of the contrast fabric and detail at the shoulder yoke


Bound buttonholes!


Enormous buttons!

I’m really pleased with the fabrics I chose for this project. They were easy to work with and, although they did have some stretch, were stable enough that I didn’t need to do anything special to try to control them. For my first time working with knits, that was hugely important! (If you’d like to see them up close, you can find links to both fabrics in this post.)

For the most part, the pattern was pretty straightforward. I would absolutely make this again if Tom wanted another one. I looked online to see what reviews were out there and what issues anybody else may have had before I got started. I didn’t find anything, so when I ran into difficulties, I just gonzo’d my way through them. The first problem I encountered was with the facings, specifically the neck facing. For some reason, the piece I cut (the correct size) did not fit the neckline of the sweater–it wasn’t even close. No amount of stretching or fiddling was going to make it cover the gap left between the placket facings. Even now, I have no clue what I could have done wrong to make it not fit! I almost re-drafted that piece, but was feeling lazy and decided not to do that. I just sewed the placket facings and collar in place per the instructions; I think I will get a pack of seam binding and hand-sew it to the seam allowance of the collar and the top part of the facings, that way things don’t look so unfinished.

The other issue I had was with the cuffs. I must have read the instructions at least a dozen times, and still could not figure out what to do. I also couldn’t decide which way the cuff pieces should be folded. I’ve chalked that up to my lack of experience, but nevertheless, it was frustrating. At that point in the process, you’re damn-near finished, and all I wanted was to get this thing done and onto my husband’s torso before Christmas was over! I ended up cutting new cuff pieces with different dimensions (long and not very tall, which creates a much shorter cuff than the original pieces) and sewing them on in a completely different way. In fact, somewhere in the 10 minutes that passed between me finishing the first cuff and pinning the second one in place, I forgot what I had just done. After trying to remember for the better part of 20 minutes, I just went ahead and did something else. The finished result was the same, so I’m not too bummed about it. The cuffs I drafted made the sleeves a perfect length for Tom, which was a huge relief!

I didn’t sew in the sleeves as instructed either, opting instead to set them. For some reason, that was just easier for me to figure out. I’m very happy with the result, but if I make this again I will try to do the sleeves as instructed, just to see if I can do it!

Overall, I’m really happy with my work on this cardigan. Tom has already said he might like another sweater in a different color scheme, so I may be making another one of these sooner than I expected!

Newcastle Cardigan – Phase 2

I’ve made a little progress with Tom’s sweater since last week. The front and back portions of the cardigan are now sewn together, and the seam allowances thereof have been topstitched and secured. I have to say that, having been scared of the “home-sewn” look of a zig-zag topstitch, I really love how that detail has turned out so far. I feel like the sweater looks very RTW, in a good way. (And of course I do not have a photo of the details at this time, but I will share one sometime soon!) The plackets are pinned in place, and I will be sewing them on tomorrow sometime, followed in short order by the facings. There is no way in hell this is getting done by xmas. =(


Sweater front with plackets pinned in place (right sides together)

In other news, I’ve gotten a lot of great sewing-related gifts in the last week:

The Gift of Knowledge: I had a class last night at a local quilting shop (which came with my sewing machine as part of the prize), wherein I learned that I have been threading my machine incorrectly this entire time. I was embarrassed and mad (at myself AND the directions in the manual), but now I know what I’m doing. I’ll have to test on scraps to make sure the proper threading doesn’t impact my thread tension, which I lowered for the stretchy knit fabric I’m using for the sweater. I also learned a lot about all the stitches that come with my machine and how to clean it properly, and really felt like this trip was a valuable use of my time. Plus this shop has endless bolts of quilting cottons in just about any fashion you could want, so I’m sure I’ll be back for some shopping.

The Gift of Notions: My lovely friend/co-worker gave me an entire mason jar full of vintage buttons (still on the cards–OMG!!!) for Christmas, along with a dressmaking guide from the 30’s/40’s! Buttons are one thing I do not keep around–I buy only what I need for each project, which can be stressful and frustrating. I’ve always wanted to go button hunting at a flea market or antique mall, but just never find the time. I can’t wait to make use of all of these, and already have some favorites that will likely inspire a few garments!


Just a few of the buttons I got, plus the dressmaking booklet!

The Gift of Storage: My dearest BFF got me a wonderful sewing kit for xmas, complete with several notions and tools hidden inside. I feel bad that she got me so much stuff! I’ve been using a tackle box (which works really well, actually) but I’ll be re-purposing that and moving all my sewing stuff into this case.


Beauty AND function! (Featuring my very filthy ironing board cover–yikes!)

I have one mystery gift under the tree, and assuming that it isn’t a sewing machine cover, that’s something I really want to get soon. (I know, I know: I could just make one. Maybe. In some parallel universe where I have a shit-ton of spare time. Or if I can’t find one I don’t hate–that would be a good excuse to buy a cool quilting cotton!) Getting gifts is awesome, but more than anything, I’ve been reminded what wonderful people I count as friends, and I was astounded by their generosity and thoughtfulness on my account. (My co-worker had been acquiring those buttons for MONTHS, resisting the urge to give them to me early.) I’m lucky, and I hope I can be even half as wonderful to them in return.

Today is my 5-year wedding anniversary, so rather than spending my evening off (!!!!!) sewing, I’ll be spending it getting a nice steak dinner and enjoying some quality time with my husband. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday filled with love, laughter, and good food!

Newcastle Cardigan – First Steps

Before I get into this post, I would like to point out that, technically speaking, moving at a snail’s pace is still moving. =)

Many weeks ago, I decided to make my husband a sweater for xmas. I knew going in what a stupid idea that was: I have never sewn with knits before, let alone STRETCH knits, and honestly have almost no spare time right now (a trend which will be continuing for the foreseeable future, since I can’t bear to stop working at the vintage shop on the side). On top of all of this, I also decided to keep this a complete secret from the hubs. That really wouldn’t have been difficult, since when I’m in my sewing area, he’s usually on his computer and doesn’t often venture into my lair to see what I’m up to (although he does ask, bless him).

Do you ever find the PERFECT fabric for something you’re making for someone else, and absolutely trust your instincts until you get it washed and cut? I love/loved the materials I picked for this sweater (both from Fabric.com, main fabric here and contrast fabric here), and although the buttons were so big that they kind of scared me (also from Fabric.com here; seriously, 1 1/2″ sounds like nothing much, but these are ENORMOUS in real life), I liked them as well. But once everything arrived and was ready for action, I lost my confidence. I became terrified that my poor husband–for whom I bought NOTHING ELSE for xmas, btw–was going to hate this sweater. So I asked him a question: if he were to receive a surprise gift, would he rather have known ahead of time what it was, or be completely surprised? He told me to go ahead and tell him, because he was excited. So I told him. Turns out he loves what I picked out, which is awesome, except that I really wanted to shock him this year! (Which reminds me: I must find time to build a time machine, so that I can go back in time and NOT tell him.)

Here are some photos of what I have accomplished so far which, admittedly, isn’t much at all. Seriously: it’s been a month, and I’m still on Page 1 of actual instructions. =/


Sweater back and contrasting back yoke


I’m a madwoman for opting for bound buttonholes on stretch knit, I know.

(Sorry, folks: I thought I had gotten a photo of the sweater fronts and shoulder yokes, but I guess not!)

As I mentioned in my original post, I do not own a serger, so I am sewing this entire project with a regular machine using a zig-zag stitch. (If I run into trouble, I might make food offerings to my cats, who may then feel inclined to intercede with their great ancestral deities on my behalf.) After testing a lot (A LOT) on scraps, I felt confident enough to sew on the actual pieces. So far, I haven’t had much trouble. Luckily my fabrics are both relatively stable for stretch knits, but I do not intend to move the speed bar above the first level at any point in this project. So far, I have sewn the shoulder yokes to the cardigan fronts and edgestitched them to secure the seam allowances (mostly because I like the extra detail it gives on the right side of the sweater). The back yoke is pinned to the sweater back piece, but I haven’t stitched it yet. I have been hand-basting all of my pieces together using rayon thread for added stability. I haven’t figured out if my machine can handle a twin needle (the busted Brother CS6000i can, naturally), so all of my topstitching has been done using the same zig-zag as everything else. At first I was disappointed to have to do it that way, but I actually don’t dislike how it looks. (Again, if I had gotten a photo of the front and shoulder yoke pieces, you could see it!) I made bound buttonholes because I am a special combination of out-of-my-mind and stupid, but they actually turned out okay. One is a little too small for the button, but since the hubs rarely buttons his sweaters, I’m hoping it’s not a big issue. Not bad for my first time ever making them, I think, and Tom really likes them a lot. I just LOVE the contrast fabric I’m using for this sweater, and may have to make myself a sweater out of it someday. It’s subtle enough that Tom can wear it for ANYTHING, but still gives a nice bit of extra detail and uniqueness to the cardigan.

I haven’t gotten any farther than this, but I’m still foolishly hoping to have it done in time for xmas. I may have to just stay up late a few nights and knock it out, but he is worth it!

Do any of you have holiday projects that you’re trying to finish (or start–hehe!)? Do you often make gifts for friends and family?

Edition 21, In Which The Blogger Plans A Surprise

Wow, it’s been a LONG time since I posted! I guess that having a show every week for 5 weeks and working 2 jobs has cut into my blogging and sewing…

I haven’t started anything new, nor have I finished any projects I had started. That makes 2 UFOs and one muslin that needs some troubleshooting before moving forward. I am thinking of re-purposing the fabric I used for vintage Simplicity 7131. I am just not happy with how it turned out, and I cannot see myself wearing it. =( BUT, I have plenty of material from the skirt portion to make a nice 3/4 sleeve blouse, I think, so it’s not a total loss. I also learned a lot from that experience, which will be helpful going forward.

(So between starting that last paragraph and finishing it just now, our tornado sirens went off. While waiting for the local news channel to address our county and the sirens, we put both cats in their carriers and started putting on rain-proof boots to head to the basement. But apparently our county’s siren system works by setting off the entire siren network if a warning is issued anywhere in the county, so upon hearing that the warning wasn’t for our city, we let the kitties out of their carriers and went back to business as usual. It was scary, but we know we can get everyone gathered up and down to safety in just a couple of minutes.)

To the point of the title of this post, I’ve decided to attempt to make my husband something for Xmas this year. Thread Theory has really gorgeous patterns for men, and the Newcastle cardigan is the one I plan to make for him first. I don’t know about any of you, but my husband is all about those knit cardigans with shawl collars right now. I’m hoping to find two different knits that I like so I can do a contrast yoke. I’m sort of terrified of this idea, since I’ve never sewn with knits before and do not have a serger. But I’ve got the appropriate type of needles (along with a twin needle for my machine) and my Janome can do an overlock stitch and plenty of zig-zag stitches, so hopefully I can make this work and give him something he will be proud to wear!

For myself, I’ll probably focus on blouses next. Then the 60’s pants. I’ve also been doing a little bit of mending for the vintage shop, which is really rewarding. It’s awesome to fix something and make it ready to be put out on the rack for someone to love!