Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please! It’s time for a Pattern Throwdown. Three will enter the ring, but only one will emerge victorious!
Your referee tonight is Jennifer W. from We Bought a Manor. Weighing in at “none of your business,” she is a rectangle from the front, apple from the side, and all party in the back. Her measurements at the time this review was conducted were:
- Bust: 50 inches
- Waist: 44 inches
- Hips: 54 inches
- Bra Size: 40DDD
- RTW: Size 20-24
- Usual Sewing Size: 20-24
Our contenders tonight are:
- Blackwood Cardigan from Helen’s Closet, $14 PDF
- Lisbon Cardigan from Itch to Stitch, $10 PDF
- Jenna Cardi from Muse Patterns, $12 PDF (or $16 PDF for the bundle with additional options)
For clarity, all of the photos in this review are Blackwood (left), Lisbon (center), Jenna (right).
A few important notes from the referee before we begin:
- I tried to sew up all three patterns in similar fabrics, but there are some key differences. The Blackwood is in a luxe linen jersey, which has an open weave (and therefore stretches slightly more, with less recovery than the other cardigans in this comparison). The Lisbon is in a hacci knit, which has less stretch than the other two versions, but maintains a lovely drape similar to the linen jersey I made the Blackwood in. The Jenna is in a thicker sweater knit, which has a medium stretch (somewhere between the Blackwood and the Jenna) but less drape. (You can also see the bulkier seams in the Jenna, which is entirely due to fabric choice and not the pattern per se.)
- The Libson pattern has a long-sleeve and a 3/4 length sleeve option. My version has shortened sleeves, since I was limited by my fabric length.
- For the Lisbon and the Jenna, I did my own thing with button spacing – adding buttons to the Lisbon (because I had them, and I prefer a slightly smaller spacing between buttons) and changing up the location of the buttons on the Jenna to ensure that I had a button right at the apex of my bust.
- I received all three patterns for free from their respective designers, with the understanding that I would write this review giving honest feedback about each pattern’s pros and cons. Thank you to Helen’s Closet, Itch to Stitch and Muse Patterns!
To recap the goal of Pattern Throwdowns: I’m focused on finding the best “knit cardigan” pattern – something I can make and wear 100 times over the next few years. I can play with the details (cuffs, color-blocking, sleeve and hem lengths) indefinitely – what I wanted to find here is the basic block that fits the best through my shoulders, bust, waist/hips.
Let the throwdown commence!
Round 1: Pattern Options and Instructions
Winner: Jenna Cardigan
Let’s start with the fact that there are no losers here. All three patterns are well-drafted, with clear instructions. The notches match where they are supposed to, the technical drawings are sound, and the process for each is quite straightforward. Any confident beginner should have no problem tackling any of these patterns.
Note: these three patterns are PDF only, but each does come with a copyshop version (my personal preference).
Now let’s talk about sizing. For a cardigan, the most important fit is around the shoulders and bust – the waist/hips are easy to grade out as needed. The largest bust size is:
- Blackwood: 48 inches (XXL)
- Lisbon: 46 inches (Size 20)
- Jenna: 48 inches (Size 48)
If you look back at my bust size (50 inches), you’ll see that I’m actually outside the largest size for all three of these patterns. Boo. But fear not, sewing friends, I found that all the patterns ran a little bit generous (moreso than the finished measurements suggested) and none needed to be graded up at the bust to fit me. I did, however, grade out 1-3 inches at the waist/hip to ensure that I had enough ease. So do consider that before you tackled your own versions at home.
I’m giving the edge to the Jenna Cardigan simply because of the variety of options included with the expansion pack. With the three patterns combined, you get two cardigan length options, two necklines, an optional collar, five sleeve options, and three sleeve lengths. As a bonus, all of the sleeve options are interchangeable with other Muse women’s patterns, so you can swap them in and out as desired.
Round 2: Neckline and Shoulder Fit
Winner: (Tie) Blackwood and Lisbon
Both the Blackwood and Lisbon cardigans fit beautifully through the neck and shoulders – snug on my shoulder joint but with plenty of movement ease for my arms. Because the Blackwood isn’t intended to close in the front, it is a bit more forgiving through the entire torso, and that’s something to consider if you’re nervous about fit.
You can see that the Jenna cardi is falling off my shoulders a bit, and the neckline is VERY scooped – so much that my scoop neck t-shirt underneath is showing. After sewing up my version, I went out to investigate if the “too large in the shoulders” problem was just me, but I found similar comments from other sewists. So take heed – if you are narrow-shouldered or extra busty, you will want to consider sizing down and doing a knit FBA to ensure a good fit at the shoulder and across the bust.
Round 3: Bust Fit
I’m normally most concerned with bust fit, but all three patterns pleasantly surprised me. Because it isn’t intended to close, the Blackwood is very forgiving, but both the Jenna and the Lisbon closed nicely without gaping.
I’m giving the win to the Lisbon because I liked the “under bust” curve on the pattern, which gave me a nice bust shape. The Jenna is a bit more boxy from bust-to-waist, and while it fit nicely, I felt like I wanted a bit more shaping.
Round 4: Waist and Hips Fit
It’s a bit unfair to compare two cropped cardigans to an extra-long version, but I’m going with what I have – and I love the fit of the Blackwood through the waist and hips. It feels roomy without being baggy, and skims over the bumpy parts quite nicely. (And yes, apparently I forgot to save the photo of the back of the Blackwood, so you’ll just have to trust me.)
Even though the cropped versions of the Lisbon and the Jenna end before my hips begin, I can tell that the longer version of the Lisbon will need a swayback adjustment.
I do love the slightly wider band at the bottom of the Jenna. It feels both modern and vintage to me, while the Lisbon feels very classic with a moderate band.
Round 5: Sleeves Fit
I’m not declaring a winner in the sleeves category because I used different sleeve sized and made a few on-the-fly modifications during sewing, but I did want to make a few notes:
- The Blackwood has extra-long sleeves by design (so you can pull them over your hands in chilly weather), so if you have short arms (or just prefer a shorter sleeve), you may want to shorten them by a couple inches. At a minimum, consider making the sleeve cuffs a smidge smaller (especially if your fabric doesn’t have a lot of recovery) since they will slip over your wrists and down over your hands in the original pattern.
- The Jenna is known for strangely wide sleeves – especially from elbow to wrist. You might want to compare the sleeve piece to a well-fitting pattern already in your stash for a quick fit comparison – but definitely baste the sleeve together to check the fit before you sew up the final version.
And the Champion is…
I’m giving the win to the Blackwood, because I seem to reach for almost every day. It’s well-drafted, easy to wear, modern, comfortable, stylish, and perfectly suited to my current lifestyle. And isn’t that the mark of a winning pattern? I even made up a second version in stretch french terry!
However, a true “button up” cardigan definitely has a place in my wardrobe and if I had to choose one, I would go with the Lisbon. While the Jenna cardi has more options, ultimately I care more about fit – and the Lisbon has the edge for my particular body type here.
That said, for those of who you like to incorporate vintage elements into your handmade wardrobe, the Jenna cardi is a true workhorse and has many fans in the sewing community. Spending a little extra time getting the fit right in the shoulders and neckline will result in a pattern bundle that can generate dozens of different looks for nearly all seasons.
Basically, there is a winner here for everyone!
Next Time on Pattern Throwdown
There are a couple of different holes in my wardrobe that I’m trying to fill. When possible, I try to compare similar patterns head-to-head so that I can be confident I’ve found the best option (since I tend to make multiple versions of the same handful of patterns, an early comparison really pays off). Right now I’m working on joggers, specifically the 5oo4 Diane Jogger vs. True Bias Hudson Pants vs Jalie Vanessa Pants.
Now that you’ve made it through the throwdown, dear reader, please leave a comment. Do you agree with my findings? If you’ve sewn up any of these patterns, how did they work for you? Are there any other knit cardigan patterns you’d like to recommend to CSC readers? And I’d especially love to know – do you pick a single pattern in a category (like knit cardigan) and make it work, or do you like to compare similar patterns to find the best fit?