Keeping Warm with the Esme Maxi Cardigan
Every once in a while, the planets align and you find the fabric of your dreams for the perfect pattern— almost like a match made in heaven. It doesn’t happen everyday but when it does you know that all of that searching, designing and sewing are worth it!
Just recently I experienced just such an occasion! On one of our buying adventures this fall we stumbled across the most amazing chunky sweater knit from Italy. Of course we had to have it for the shop, in two colors I might add. When it arrived and I got to see it in a larger piece in all its glory, I knew instantly that it needed to be a long, cozy cardigan. Enter the Esme Maxi Cardigan from Named— the ideal fabric for the perfect pattern!
With everything going on in December, I wasn’t able to get to this project. Of course, the one that I really wanted to sew, right? So I made it my goal to get it sewn in the new year. One week in and mission accomplished! Now for a closer look at the fabric, the pattern and the slight changes I made to suit my style.
First up, this fabric! It is probably one of the most stunning pieces we have had in the shop. It is wonderfully thick and cozy but the best part about it is the texture and the pattern. The undulating lines and varying thicknesses and textures in the knit give it amazing movement, shape and feel. I washed it up like I would anything else and it came out even softer and more huggable. I could already tell this is going to be a cardigan that I am never going to want to take off!
Now, the question of how to cut this maxi cardigan out? I decided to start with the back and have one of the curving designs go right up the middle. I did redraw the back piece so that I had the full back (instead of one half) and could make sure I got it centered correctly. The “straight lines” in the knit also proved to be quite helpful! With the back cut out, it was on to the front. Each side is made up of two piece, above and below the pockets, and I was able to cut these out so that not only they were mirrored but they also would match perfectly when I sewed them together.
The sleeves also got the smaller wavy pattern centered on each of them so they matched. With the fabric that I had left I cut out the front button stand, the cuffs and the pockets. I tried to play with the texture/size of the knit pattern and its placement on the cardigan. I went for the thicker texture down the front and back, especially around the shoulders and chose the lighter texture for the sleeves and the button band. A great use of the fabric and really shows off all its dimensions.
Construction proved to be relatively easy. The only kind of fussy parts were attaching the pockets, which was actually very similar to my Tamarack jacket, and attaching the button stand. I used the stretch stitch on my machine as designated in the pattern but I think I could have just went with my serger for most of these steps. That would have saved a lot of time! That stretch stitch is a slow one! I also went with my cover stitch machine for the stitching the hem and finishing the button band. With the grey thread that I had, the stitches were barely noticeable and it helped give the back side a nice finished look.
Now for the changes… I find myself always tweaking a pattern slightly to suit what I have envisioned for it. My first change on my Esme was the length. After perusing Pinterest for styling over-sized cardigans, I settled on knee length or just above. Before I even cut anything out I took 6 inches off the back, lower front and button stand. After getting my cardigan “mostly” together I decided another 6 inches needed to come off. This gave me the perfect length and I think it is a change a lot of people have made as well.
The next change came in the fit. In trying the cardigan on after it was assembled but not finished I thought there was way too much bulk under the arms. I think that is the style for this cardigan, over-sized and slouchy, great for an overcoat but not the “sweater” I was going for. The thickness of this knit also made it kind of bunching under the arms and felt a little weird.
To adjust this I laid the cardigan flat and marked about 3 inches along the sleeve seam at the underarm. Using chalk, I then drew a line tapering down the body and back out to the original seam, roughly just above the pocket seam. In the other direction I tapered down the arm and back out to the original seam about mid arm. I then serged along this line, taking care to match up the sleeve seams as I went. The results were perfect, they gave my cardigan a bit more of a fitted look while still keeping it relaxed and a little slouchy.
Last but not least, I threw out the cuffs and skipped the buttons! I attached one cuff and decided to just hem the sleeves instead— less bulk and much simpler. I also decided to go with an open style cardigan so the buttons were unnecessary (and it saved me from making button holes!).
Let’s see the results! I absolutely love how this cardigan turned out! Not only does it show of this fabric better than any other pattern could, it is also the warmest, coziest thing I have ever made. Perfect for the below freezing temperatures we have had this winter. And, yes that is snow in the pictures and it is over a week old. That is how cold it is!
Overall, my maxi cardigan turn out exactly how I imagined it— don’t you love it when that happens? I will definitely be revisiting this pattern and hopefully soon! I’d love to try a lighter weight knit, like a jersey or lighter sweater knit. Maybe try something like True Bias’ recent make. Anyway, definitely check out the Esme Maxi Cardigan, it is perfect for this mid-winter weather!
Stay warm and happy sewing,