Is there anything more versatile than a cardigan? Winter, summer, at the office or on a breezy evening, I nearly always have a cardigan with me. There are lots of great cardigan patterns out there, but personally, I prefer to hack from a trusty t-shirt pattern: faster, cheaper, and it always fits!
When you chose a t-shirt pattern for hacking, I suggest picking one with set-in long sleeves (not cap sleeves or kimono sleeves). My base is almost always a Cashemerette Concord – you can see more of my hacks for Concord dresses, tanks and sweaters in the TNT section of my blog, Crafting a Rainbow!
All t-shirt and cardigan constructions starts with the same three steps, demonstrated in the centre illustration above: 1) Sew shoulders; 2) Attach sleeves; 3) Sew up the sleeves and down the side seams. For the sake of clarity as I explain each hack, I won’t cover those identical steps each time.
All of my sewing instructions follow rainbow order, so sew the red seam first, then orange, yellow, green, blue and purple!
Ready to get hacking? Let’s go!
1. Cropped Vintage-Style Cardigan
This is a classic fitted cardigan, great for layering over fit-and-flare dresses or flowy tops. On the left, I used folded bands to finish the edges, and for the striped version on the right, I lined the front for a cleaner finish.
To hack this look, I’d suggest a knit with some structure, like a double knit or ponte, so that it holds it’s shape. Start by cropping your tee, the follow the instructions below! If you prefer full instructions, I’d suggest the Jenna Cardi by Muse Patterns.
2. Long Cardigan
This hack makes a versatile layering piece! In the red version above, I did a short band with a graphic angle at the end, but you could easily continue the band all the way down to the hem. The longer version of the SBCC Cabernet Cardigan is a similar style, or Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan!
For this hack, almost any sweater knit, double knit or jersey will work.
3. Waterfall Cardigan
I made a bunch of these cardigans lately, and I love how the dress up a simple tank top and leggings! A really similar sewing pattern is the Style Arc Nina, which has been popular with bloggers for years. This style works best in a fabric with drape, like a rayon sweater knit. I think it’s really fun in a stripe, but it works well in a solid too!
This is a style I’d never worn until two years ago, but I couldn’t live without now! I wear these longer cardigan/coat/coatigans all through the cold months. This definitely calls for a heavier knit, like a sweatshirt fleece, french terry, double knit or heavy sweater knit. The blue version above is actually not quite heavy enough to be ideal, and you can see how the wrinkles so a bit more a result.
Bizarrely, I can’t think of a single sewing pattern that matches this style! There are coat patterns and sweater patterns, but nothing in between – can you suggest something in the comments?
Of course, all of those hacks can also be adapted, and there are endless ways to make a cardigan! Above are a few more examples: the short grey cardigan is finished without bands; the red coatigan is made in double knit with a collar and cross-over at the front neckline; the turquoise waterfall cardigan is shorter; and as mentioned above, the striped cropped cardi is lined for a clean finish!
If you are new to hacking, I highly recommend starting by imitating a ready-to-wear sweater that you like. That was you can investigate which order they’ve sewn the seams, and use it to get a length and proportions that you like. I always suggest cheap fabric for the first version, so that you can enjoy the giddy fun of slicing and dicing your pattern without worry!
Pattern hacking is my very favourite kind of sewing, and I hope I’ve inspired you to make yourself a few cardigans soon. If you’ve got links to your favourite hacks or cardigan tutorials, please leave them below!