Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Tester version of extended size range Blackwood Cardigan

I really liked the versions of the Blackwood cardigan I made in March 2018. I intended to make another but the fabric I bought specifically for it was distinctly off-grain. At sewing bee, however, Rory showed me how to correct this; she thought I'd be able to use it okay. I didn’t get around to making the cardigan after trying the correction and the fabric was left languishing.

Then, late last year, I got the opportunity to test Helen’s new draft Blackwood cardigan, which will come in an expanded size range and in a D cup as well as the original B cup. She asked for testers and I responded. The testing ran from 4th to 14th January, though I had to get mine done earlier as I was going away for a long weekend. I believe the final pattern could be released as early as the end of this month, after all the tester input is analysed

Completed tester version

I bought new fabric and prepped it but the pattern made my eyes cross so at the end of the day, I used that original fabric, that had been off-grain but which had now been corrected with varying degrees of success. I had cut the pieces into appropriate Blackwood cardigan sized pieces prior to treating.

I chose my size. Although I am ‘officially’ only a B cup by the way patterns including this one calculate this, I can’t get along with that and nearly always have to do a full bust adjustment. I just don't think that this particular measurement can take your particular body shape into account. Indeed, on the previous two Blackwoods I made, I had done a ‘cheater’ FBA and a full biceps adjustment as well as lengthening the short cardigan by 3 inches.

Previous version

Previous version

Previous version

I felt that there were two things I would change from the first time.  The first was that the sleeves were a bit tight when a sleeved tee was underneath.  The matching ‘twinset’ top caused a very distinct VSL  - visible sleeve line - but that fabric is fairly bulky.

This time, I decided to make the 18D at the shoulders; 20D at the bottom of the armscye and grading out to a 24D at the hip. I am an ‘8’ shape - which is a bit like a pear but with a high and full upper hip, which is much the same size as the full hip. My hip starting as high as it does often causes problems. In RTW, skirts and trousers are too tight at this point, even when the waist is loose and the hip fits lower down. I also made the size 20 sleeve.

Trimming PDF sheets

All taped together, thank goodness

There was a comprehensive size chart which helped greatly choosing a size and Helen was on hand to help, too.

What a lot of waste!  I'm seriously considering using a copy shop!

I chose to do an unaltered short version - that is without any alteration for length. I realised this was risky as I’m 5’ 11” and the pattern is designed for 5’ 5”. However, I thought it was better to test without changes - and looking at the finished measurements,  I thought the pattern was long enough (and I also felt my original was a little longer than I wanted). I did the grading as mentioned above but did not make any design changes.

I could not use the recommended cutting layout.  Firstly,  my fabric was in sections.  Secondly,  I cut a full back pattern piece and cut everything single layer, which I prefer to do anyway, to make sure everything was in line. This took a little longer.

Creating a full size back piece (onluy piece I needed to do this with)

Laying out single layer

The instructions are very good and I had no problem following them to construct the cardigan.  I used my sewing machine with a narrow zigzag stitch as I didn't want to overlock until I had tested the fit.  I saw this cardigan as a toile. All marks lined up where they should and construction was very straightforward.  The only thing is that the process is pretty advanced by the time it's possible to really test for size. 

Trying for fit - before bottom band or hem bands

Trying for fit - before bottom band or hem bands

Trying for fit - before bottom band or hem bands

I decided that the fit appeared okay even with the larger 24 hip and continued to completion. The last instruction is to topstitch the band using a zigzag stitch. My fabric and foot combination wouldn't cooperate so I used a straight stitch which should be fine as there is no strain there.

I like this cardigan a lot - and more than my previous versions,  I have more cover at the front with no need for full bust adjustment and the sleeves are looser with no need for biceps adjustment.

I've worn this cardigan a lot since I made it. This is a test version of the pattern and I don't know how the pattern will change as a result of tester feedback.

The cardigan inside was unfinished. I didn't use my overlocker as this was a toile. However, it worked out so well that I was wishing I had finished the seam allowances. I thought about it, wondering whether it was worth redoing the seams and finishing the seam edges. I was all set to do it when I had second thoughts. I’ll save this for the next version. There will be a next version.

On wearing,  I found there were things I'd consider changing in a future version, purely for personal preference. I’d alter the length of body (longer) and the sleeves (shorter) and add some waist shaping. I decided to make these variations on the pattern, with a view to making another with the fabric I bought for it in the near future.  

The changes I made to the pattern:
  • I lengthened the body by 4.7cms; some feel the current length is good for me so maybe I didn’t need to do this or at least not by quite as much
  • I shortened the sleeve by the same; mind you, I did find the longer length kept my hands warmer! I do get very cold hands. On other occasions, I found them a little annoying – not my style, really.
  • I widened the biceps area slightly by simply drawing out the seam edge in a curve, matching both sides of the sleeve to allow a tee sleeve to fit under it without VSL. I'm not sure this is really necessary as I've been wearing sleeved tees under the test cardigan without problem but on my previous version, with a matching sleeve underneath this was an issue – but that fabric is bulkier than regular tees.
  • I marked the  waist position and added some shaping - about 1.5 cms, matching  back and front.
  • In order to have a smooth curve, the hip is slightly narrower than previously.

These are all for personal preference.

All done! Ready to continue on return from my long weekend. Looking forward to it. I had considered entering the Pattern Review Sewing Bee. This time around, for Round 1 (11 – 19 January) the task is to make a knit fabric cardigan (but not knit it) with a ‘living coral’ theme (Living Coral is Pantone’s Colour of the Year). At first, I thought, great, I can do another Blackwood cardigan. The theme needn’t be literal - I’m not keen on the colour coral, but rather can portray memories, feelings and experiences evoked. I considered a blue cardigan (love blue) with some embroidered coral and fish patterns (practice machine embroidery) – then I thought, come on, this isn’t your style! So, I won’t be doing that. In any case, I didn’t have the correct fabric and time is limited since I’m just back home (15 January). I’m looking forward to seeing the ideas that are put forward in the entries; I always realise when I see these that I don’t have a greatly imaginative designer’s mind! That’s fine, though.


  1. The cardigan looks great. Really lovely pattern matching at the side seams. I also like the way the lighter background connects with your hair and the darker print connects with darker items like your trousers and teeshirt. I think its a great piece for your wardrobe.

    1. Thanks, Ruth. I like it a lot. The fabric and pattern were .. difficult, shall I say? But I chose it to fit in with my colours. The darker print is grey. (On another note can I ask how you comment as I'm not notified when you comment though I am for others)

  2. Hi Anne I normally comment with my Google account apparently, trying here to comment with name and URL instead.

    1. Thanks, Ruth. I did get notification of this comment! I don't understand that as I'm on Google too.

  3. Glad you were able to rescue your interesting fabric Anne. I much prefer the fit of this version, it works well on you, and I'm looking forward to seeing the next one.
    Thank you especially for the fitting comments - I have exactly the same situation regarding FBAs, and looking closer I see we have extremely similar shapes, so I shall stop puzzling over why my adjustments don't follow the guidelines!

    1. Thank you. How many bodies actually follow the 'guidelines'? Maybe when I was younger and slimmer (though still tall)...


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