I’m searching for some “you can make that” inspiration out there in the world and it hasn’t been coming to me. I’m not seeing any novel or remarkable sweaters out there. I am seeing lots of great classic shapes in beautiful colors and fibers. These are sweater silhouettes that come back year after year, pieces that we always want in our wardrobe. To me, this makes the case even greater for making your own (if it’s in your ability, of course)! The silhouette that I’m craving most is the long cardigan.
Most of us love a long cardigan. We can treat it like a bathrobe and wear it over our pjs as we run out for donuts. A long cardi looks more refined over your leggings than a hoodie, it’s the ultimate weekend wardrobe piece with jeans and sneakers, and you can wear it over a smart skirt or trousers, belted to chic perfection. What’s really nice is when they cover our bums or smooth our lines on those days that we don’t feel like our best selves. A great long cardi is our friend and ally. We should all have a few that we love. So… why not make one ourselves?
If you’re detail oriented and like something totally classic, check out Veronik Avery’s Emerson (knit in a worsted-weight Shelter) or Michelle Wang’s Palmer (knit in fingering-weight Loft). Both of these patterns from Brooklyn Tweed have fastidious construction and finishing instructions. Both of these patterns are meant to hit mid-thigh, with pockets and no closure. They are classic straightforward shapes, the ultimate blank canvas. Palmer is going to have the legs to take you through more seasons (knit up in a fingering-weight) while Emerson can be worn like a jacket in the fall and spring. While each has its own recommended yarn, these versatile weights leave of options for yarn substitutions. For worsted-weight Emerson, take a look at Shepherd’s Wool, Kenzie, Spud & Chloe Sweater – to name just a few. A lot of other fingering-weight choices will lend more drape for Palmer, but also look at Peerie, La Jolla, Malabrigo Sock to get you started.
I’ve always been drawn to the simplicity of Bonne Marie Burns’ Iba cardigan. Seamless top-down construction has just a bit flair with a purl stitch detail along the fronts and down the center of the back. This simplicity makes this a really fun place to play with yarn. Iba is written for your standard worsted-weight yarn. There are all of the obvious choices like Shelter, Shepherd’s Wool, Kenzie etc. I think it’d be terrific fun to knit up this cardigan using Noro’s Ito. I’m totally obsessed with the new colors in this amazing yarn, and this would be a great simple place to let these colors shine. Or embrace the fashion-forward fuzz and knit up Iba using Juniper Moon’s Stargazer Brushed, which gives the look of mohair with pure-llama softness. Katia’s Cotton Merino is another obvious and absolutely delicious choice for this yarn (which has a bit of fuzz, also). Iba isn’t terribly long. Don’t worry, given it’s top down construction, it’s easy to make it just as long as you want it.
Shannon Cook’s Kapsel is another easy, breezy, casual cardigan. It’s got a great texture with its “purl twist stitch,” roomy sleeves and set-in pockets. Drop-sleeves and simple edgings give it simplicity in all the best ways. I remember when Cook released this pattern, and she wrote about her hesitation of including herself in the photo shoot. I’m so happy that she did. Between the two models, she’s the one who lets us see how easy it is to love a cardigan like this one. All those worsted-weight yarns I’ve been mentioning are great choices here. One that I haven’t mentioned yet but would be totally delicious for this project is Juniper Moon’s Fourteen, which is sublimely soft and would benefit from the shoulder seams for a bit of structure.
If you want to get fancy (and still be super-comfortable) check out Ririko’s Soyokaze. This gorgeous cardigan has a lace motif throughout the bottom of the sweater, the lace motif tightening as it travels from the hem up the body. Ririko brings some very fashionable fuzz into the piece by mixing a lace-weight mohair (ie Silk Cloud or Kidsilk Haze) with another lace-weight or fingering-weight yarn. This would be a great place to mix up Shibui yarns, or to mix Silk Cloud with another yarn like Malabrigo Sock, Loft or Peerie. You could skip the mohair and mix up some skinny yarns to get one-of-a-kind texture, or go with a straight-up sport or dk-weight yarn.
Joji Locatelli has about a hundred awesome long cardigan patterns (okay, I’m exaggerating) and all are worth a good look. Like A Cloud combines an engaging texture with a sublime yarn combination (Shibui Cima + Silk Cloud) for a refined and sophisticated cardigan. The Longline Cardigan is just what it says it is, with a simple and clean front. Knit up this good-looking classic in a fingering weight yarn like Tosh Merino Light, La Jolla, Malabrigo Sock, Squishy or Peerie. Big Old Coat has been on my queue for years, since I saw a Vince sweater that had the same silhouette. I can’t decide if this one would be better in Madeline Tosh Vintage, Malabrigo Rios, or Juniper Moon’s Fourteen.
I have a new obsession in sweater knitting, and it’s Julie Weisenberger’s CocoKnits Method. I’ll be telling you more about this in the coming months, but I’m constantly hemming and hawing over which sweater to try next. I love the fit of these CocoKnits sweaters, and I’m eager to see how the cardigans knit up.
I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to knit up Franca, with its pockets and overall simplicity – and I’m hoping to knit it up into using Juniper Moon’s Fourteen in the Goldspire color. The only sweater I’ve seen out in the world that I want to replicate this year is Isabel Marant’s Baikal in this gorgeous yellow (which you can buy from my favorite shoe & apparel store in the entire world, Scarpa in Charlottesville!). Franca + Fourteen/Goldspire is the winning combination to achieve this. I’m kind of obsessed with the Franca sweater, and I keep thinking of other fabulous yarns for this sweater: Stargazer Brushed for fashionable fuzz, Noro’s Ito for daring color, Blue Sky’s Extra for good clean fun. There are tons of beautiful options for Franca.
That said, the Kiki CocoKnits sweater has also caught my eye. All those cables are calling to me, and I think I may have found the perfect shade of pink to make this the ultimate pink cabled cardigan. Kiki doesn’t have to be knit up in a distinctive pink, and there are countless yarns that would be a delicious choice. A classic, straightforward wool like Shepherds Wool is a timeless choice, as is Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter. HiKoo’s Kenzie will add a fleckle and halo to this fabric while still giving great stitch definition. Kokon’s Merion DK would also be a delicious choice with is gorgeous palette.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this classic sweater shape. Given how much most women love these sweaters, wouldn’t it be nice to bring one of these into the world with your own two hands?