Knit Wear Love sweater profile: The Cardigan

Knit Wear Love is not a pattern collection.

I don’t really write books that are pattern collections. Instead, I want my books to be a great set of references that help you create garments you can’t wait to put on, and never want to take off.

Knit Wear Love approaches this from a super-practical standpoint: What kinds of clothes do you wear every day? How do you make your handknits work well with that?

The book is centered around 8 “meta patterns”: Pullover, Cardigan, Vest, Cowl, Wrap, Tunic, Tank, Bolero. Everything in the book helps you make sweaters from your choice of silhouette, out of materials and with detailing that you’ll immediately want to wear.

In this ongoing series, I take in-depth looks at each meta-pattern. For each, I share the three samples and styles, talk a little bit about the silhouette itself and what materials can make it shine (or would be tragic), and do a candid photo of how I’d personally style one of the samples. In my first post for this series, I chose The Pullover. Now I’m talking cardis.

The Cardigan.


Everybody loves a good cardi. They’re comfortable, they’re easy-on, easy-off, they go with lots of different outfits. For many knitters, cardigan is synonymous with “first sweater”.

The KWL Cardigans

The book showcases three very different-looking garments that are fundamentally all the same design:

  • A soft, cozy, open cardigan for chilly and casual fall days;
  • A professional, quick-to-knit classic cardigan with subtle texture and some great buttons;
  • A sweeter, vintage style out of some luscious yarn with dainty lace.

Like all of the chapters in this book, these three sweaters were made from the same pattern. When knitting your own cardigan, you could go with one of the variations here – or go further toward your own style! Mix and match detailing (I think lace cuffs would look fantastic in a larger-gauge, super-smooth wool with the worn-open styling), swap out yarn (the pattern is written for sport, worsted, and bulky gauges), really choose detailing that speaks to you.

Personally, I’m looking forward to making the classic variation in a lighter-weight, nubby silk blend next spring. I already have the sea glass-colored buttons picked out… …but you get the idea, right? The choices are completely up to you.

Cardigan Tips & Tricks

Whatever variation you’re making, I have just a few tips to ensure your cardigans will be hugely successful:

  • Make sure your fabric has structure. Cardigans may be more forgiving in terms of fit than pullovers, but they have much less structure: The open nature of the front, combined with the weight of most hand-knits, means that they’re more likely to droop, sag, and have other issues. The solution is a very structured hand-knit fabric – not tight, but strong and with a lot of integrity. Check back here later this month for a video on this topic, or watch Lesson 2 in my most recent Craftsy class.
  • Make sure your fabric matches the way you’ll wear the sweater. Quite aside from how sturdy your fabric is, consider the materials you’re using and whether they’ll stand up to how you wear your cardigans. If this cardi needs to be hard-wearing – it’s your dog-walking sweater, or the one you’ll throw on to head to the park every afternoon, that ultra-soft merino blend that pills when you rub the swatch might not be the best choice. If you’re after something to layer with your work separates, the worsted-weight variegated hand-dye might not be the best match – think crisp linen, instead. To make sure your materials match the context you expect, play around with your swatch! Rub it, shove it in a purse, lay it out on the outfits you’re imagining.
  • Consider closures. You’ll want to keep that cardigan closed somehow, unless you’re going for a worn-open style. You’ve got tons of options, from zippers to tie-fronts (a la the vintage variation) to the classic buttons. There are also movable, removable, screw-in style closures available – super neat for people like me, who like to change their minds!

Amy’s Fave

Although this sample is decidedly not sized for me, I’ve caught myself wearing the casual cardigan a bunch:

yay-book-2 amy-cardigan-kwl-1

This past winter, with its record-smashing snows and super cold days, I wore it regularly – usually over a t-shirt, like on the left. But as I look forward to this fall, I can’t help but get excited about dressing this casual cardi up a bit – maybe with my favorite pair of cords, and that super-cute shirt I found on sale?

(Full disclosure: I have not actually worn the outfit on the right yet. Just taking these pictures in 90+ degree weather was enough to send me scrambling for my cut-offs!)

How about you – what are your feelings on cardis? Do you have a favorite? If so, what’s it made from?

As always, happy knitting!

4 thoughts on “Knit Wear Love sweater profile: The Cardigan

  1. The sweater photos are displaying stretched vertically in the email – not displaying properly. I use Mozilla and gmail.

  2. Hi Amy, great article. You say this cardigan was not knit for you, so I’m curious to know what fit changes you would make if it was for you.

  3. Amy, this is EXACTLY the type of information that is a) rarely addressed by designers and b) many knitters don’t think about and therefore are often unhappy with their finished cardis.

    Please keep educating!

  4. I bought this book earlier this summer, and I can’t wait to start on the sweaters. I am so glad for these extra posts because they are certainly adding to my enjoyment of the book. Thanks!

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