I lied. There was no hot glue involved with the making of this cardigan! This is the next piece of my Spring Palette Challenge – the upcycled cardigan. I’m very particular about my sweaters – I like them on the shorter side, perfect for wearing over dresses! As anyone who shops for RTW clothing knows, most cardigans my size are giant tents of sweaters and I’m not sure if I’ve ever even seen an XXL cashmere cardigan that fits me! I took a trip to Savers and stocked up on man-sweaters that were either cashmere or cashmere and silk blends. My first attempt, while cute, ended up being a little too snug (no photos, alas), but I’m pretty pleased with my second attempt which is based on my worn-in-every-reveal-photo-shoot cardigans that I got last spring from New York and Co. These sweaters are perfect – crew neck cardigans with a nice fit and some flowers on the yoke which makes ‘em interesting. I have one in mustard, green and white. And they’re wearing out… So without further ado… here’s the after shot, taken in the classic Facebook profile photo pose!

And to make it even MORE fun, here’s the super glamorously styled before photo. I was rocking it that morning…


I’m going to do this post backwards – we’ll start with all the ‘reveal’ photos and then I’ll show photos of how I got to the end product. That way, all ya’ll with short attention spans can move on to the next 356 blog posts you have to read for the day, while the interested can dissect my slapdash reconstruction efforts…

Here’s two full length shots, the Sunday dress version and the Friday casual day version (BTW, these are my new Marrakesh Drawstring Pants in the unrolled position – I should probably add this photo to the Marrakesh post!)

Hello pointy toes! Also, it’s sort of creepy how I’m standing in the exact same position in both photos, isn’t it?

I only put three buttons on the sweater, just where I would button up. I was a bit nervous about putting buttonholes in the sweater knit, but it worked just fine. I sort of like the clean look with less buttonholes. I’m not sure if the label is clear – this sweater started out life as a Banana silk/cashmere blend.

The flowers and yoke detail are made from strips of satin (the same satin I used as the sash on the Crepe dress!) This satin is irridescent, woven from hot pink and grey-blue threads. I tore the strips to make the yoke on the crosswise grain so that the blue threads were exposed and I tore the strips for the flowers on the lengthwise grain to expose the pink. The effect is almost too much for me, but I think it’s fun and the colors work for my Spring Palette.

The yoke detail ended up being a lot more hand sewing than I anticipated. The flowers were all sewn completely by hand! The yoke detail was applied with some machine sewing and lots of hand sewing to make the textured effect. Here’s a super closeup of the flowers – you can see how wispy and annoying the loose threads are!

Just for fun, let’s repeat some pics and do a side-by-side before and after, shall we? A fine lesson as to why I should never, ever wear a crewneck sweatshirt!

And with that, the eye-candy-show is over. Those of you with tickets to short attention span theater may head out! For the rest of you, here’s how I did it…

Getting started

The first thing I did was lay my inspiration sweater that I like the fit of over the thrifted sweater. I learned from my first (failed) upcycle to fight off my urge to remove all that width from the side seams. I lot of that will be used up for the button placket overlap, and most of the rest will appear to go away when I take in the shoulders.

After I did my first eyeball-fitting I cut off the sleeves along the existing seamline and set them aside. Then I went to work on the front placket.
                   002_inspiration   003_frontopening

Cutting the front and making the button placket

I wanted to stabilize the fabric prior to cutting into it. The woman who owns the shop where I work recently had some fun repurposing sweaters with a serger (here’s her post!) and I totally think the contrast stitching and lettuce edging are fun, but I wanted something more low key for this project. I fused some tricot interfacing (the stretchy kind) so the stable part of the interfacing ran up and down and the stretchy part goes around the sweater.

After I fused the interfacing, I carefully cut straight up the center, then folded and steamed the center front into submission. I ‘built’ the placket by folding 1” to the inside, steaming, then folding again. After all the steam I stitched along the folded edge. I was pleasantly surprised by how stable this method was! No wavy knits here!

And here I am, modeling my sweater vest. Now on to the sleeves.

Shortening the shoulders and setting in the sleeves

First thing to deal with was that pesky shoulder. Not only do I have unusually narrow, wimpy shoulders; the thrifted sweater was a men’s XL. You can see in the photo above that the shoulder seam is a couple of inches below my shoulder. I couldn’t take TOO much off, as this would look really strange in the back and the sweater didn’t have enough width to completely rebuild the side seams. I’ve marked the shoulder seam in teal below and you can see the wedge I took out. The size of the wedge was just based on how much I thought I could take off without totally messing up the lines of the sweater.

Since it’s such a pain to rip stitches out of knits, I hand basted the sleeves back in, matching up the top of the sleeve (I could tell from the shape of the sleeve where the top had been) with the shoulder seam, and just smoothing everything down (no easing).

There was a pretty big wedge of extra material left over in the body of the sweater after I smoothed everything out – circled in green below. I removed the wedge by stitching and trimming and then I sewed in the sleeves with my machine.

Ah! I have sleeves again! They’re still a bit more roomy than I’d like, but they are MUCH better than the original. The blue line shows my shoulder.

Shortening up and moving the hem band

I laid my inspiration sweater over the thrifted sweater to decide where I wanted the hem – you can barely see how I marked the thrifted sweater with a couple of white pins right above where the ribbing is on the bottom of the yellow sweater. Once marked I fused the tricot interfacing where I had decided to cut – shown in the center photo – the black stuff is the interfacing. The photo on the end shows everything cut apart – note that the ribbing piece on the left has a few extra inches of sweater attached to it.

My next step was to reattach the ribbing where I had just cut it off. I took a photo, but I think it might be confusing! First of all, I’ve folded the sweater back to try to show what I’m doing a bit more. The yellow line is the center front of the sweater. The reason this looks so weird is that I wasn’t sure exactly how much length I needed, so I didn’t trim the extra inches of sweater from the ribbing piece (remember how I pointed it out above?) The pink lines are indicating all that extra sweater. I was matching up the top edge of the ribbing to the raw edge of the bottom of the sweater and hand basting along that line. The bottom edge of the sweater is the part that has the black interfacing attached to it. The green line shows where I’m hand basting. Again, the pink lines are showing ‘extra’ fabric.

I tried it on to see how it looks. You can see how the ribbing is stitched nicely to the raw edge. It’s a good length, so I stitch permanently along my hand basting stitches.                
                     020_hem    021_hem

Now that everything is stitched together, I can trim off my ‘just in case fabric’ (still marked with pink lines!) The photo on the left shows the seam allowance folded towards the ribbing, the photo on the right shows the seam allowance folded towards the sweater.      


I liked the seam allowance folded toward the sweater, as it hid the black interfacing. I steamed away, but it still wasn’t lying great. I didn’t want to stitch the whole seam allowance down, as the stitching would show and look odd. I ended up stitching the seam allowance down vertically every five inches or so – I’ve circled one of these short ‘seams’ below – they’re hard to see (that was the point!) Lots more steam and the hem was done!

Final details and shaping

I went back to deal with the wedge in the side left over from putting in the sleeves. I didn’t want to take too much width out and make the sweater too tight. You can see the wedge in the photo on the right (I’m wearing the sweater inside out.) I pinched out as much as felt comfy, then checked it from the other side (center photo.) There’s a bit of a dimple, but it’s not noticeable when I’m wearing it. I ended up stitching and trimming the dart out as shown in the photo all the way to the right.

Next I moved on to the sleeves. I sewed a wedge out of the sleeve from around the elbow to the cuff as shown in this photo.

The difference was subtle, but much more comfy. The photo on the left shows the sleeve prior to taking out the wedge, the photo on the right shows the sleeve after the wedge was removed. Much more form fitting. I thought of shortening the sleeves to 3/4 length too, but I really sort of like how long the sleeves are and most of my other cardis are 3/4 sleeves, so I thought it would be nice to have a long-sleeved one!
030_sleeves    029_sleeves

I also did a bit of hand sewing at this point, making sure the collar was symmetrical as well as the ribbing at the hem. Ah. A finished sweater. Now time for the fluffy stuff!

Constructing the yoke – the crescent shapes

Here’s a closeup of the yoke detail on my inspiration sweater. I decided to do the crescent shapes first and the flowers second. You’ll think I’m crazy, but I actually measured the width of the strips of fabric making up the crescents, as well as how wide the folds were at the shoulder and at the center front. I also counted how many folds there were. I figured the closer I could get it, the more normal it would look on the first try…

I started out by tearing out 1 and a half inch strips on the crossgrain. I snipped, tore, pulled out all the loose threads, folded in half the long way and pressed. I also ran a line of edge stitching along the fold to keep everythign in place.

I started folding away, using lots of pins on my ironing board. I just made each fold slightly wider and tapped with my iron every few folds. My completed crescent is on the right.

I made a template of the shape of the first crescent by tracing over it onto a piece of scrap fabric (the pink on the left.) I pinned that in place and started on my second crescent. By matching the outline AND the number of folds, I was reasonably sure that I’d end up with symmetrical crescents.


I pulled the crescents off the ironing board. They were a little hard to keep organized, since they were actually yards and yards of strips of fabric. The template shows how many pins were in play!

Here I’ve placed a crescent on the sweater and hand basted it. It looks alright but is missing that texture I wanted! I was a bit stymied for a while, but managed to come up with a solution.

Here’s a close-to-finished crescent in all it’s crazy-stitched glory! What I ended up doing was stitching the crescents on with the machine along each long edge. After they were secure I went back and folded each edge (more or less) back in the other direction and tacking it in place with a little hand stitch. I had to snip quite a few of my just-finished machine stitches to do this folding back step.

Once everything was looking the way I liked I slowly ran a line of stitching along the edges again. It was not easy to do – the sweater knit was wiggling all over the place, the crescent strips were wildly out of control and I was covered in annoying strands of polyester come undone from strips. I eventually got it to work, though, and spent a satisfying evening removing all the hand basting a few nights later!

Creating the roses

Prior to starting on the crescents, I had vaguely thought that I’d do the whole of the detail on the yoke by machine. Silly me. I knew when I started the flowers that most of it would be done by hand. Not only were they small and circular, but my strips were cut on grain, making them less easy to work with! First I cut another template as the base of the flowers, then I cut pieces of satin circles using the template. I roughened the edges with my fingers to give them a more frayed look.

I had ripped and pressed more strips for the flowers. These were torn on the lengthwise grain to show off the pink threads. They are one and a half inches wide, just like the strips fro the crescent. I didn’t edgestitch these on the fold, as for the flowers I sewed inside the fold. In the photo below I’m just starting out a flower. The circular ‘base is against my forefinger, with the strip under my thumb. The blue line shows the center crease and the yellow lines show the raw edges. I’m holding sthe strip open while taking the first stitch – just a bit off from the center of the flower.

After securing the center, I kept wrapping the tape in spirals around that fist stitch and taking small stitches ( a couple back stitches) in the fold. The center of the flower is in the upper left hand corner (around 10 o’clock!)

I found that I liked the look of the flowers more if the centers were more tightly wound, with the outside spirals a bit more on the loose side. ON the right I’m showing you the backside of a flower.

I tacked the roses to the sweater completely by hand, working slowly, placing the flowers on the center fronts first and working back to the shoulders, alternating sides and checking in the mirror to make sure everything looked balanced. The roses were very easy to shape and worked out much better than I anticipated!

Here’s a side-by-side of the inspiration and finished product. I’m quite pleased with the effect, though a monocromatic look is probably more my style! Ah well – the colors really are perfect for my Spring Palette and I’m tickled pink (and grey!) to have another cute cardi!

So there’s my upcycled cardi! I really like it, but will probably keep trying to get exactly what I want. This was more of a side trip into heavily-embellished land, a place not often seen by me…

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