Knitting

Black and White Cotton Cardigan

A few months ago, I decided I wanted a black-and-white cardigan with some sort of graphic element to add to my “transition” wardrobe. I envisioned wearing it with a white t-shirt or blouse and a pair of ankle-length jeans, with some black flats.

I had all the pieces except the sweater, and I finally found a pattern I thought would work. It’s a cardigan designed by Jeannie Chin from the Spring/Summer 2013 issue of Vogue Knitting. It needed a few revisions to meet my requirements, however.

B&W CardiganFirst, I reversed the colorway, so white is the dominant color and the black is the accent. Not a big deal there. Knitters do it all the time. The second change was a little more significant and affected a few other elements of the design. As designed, the sweater is cropped (and adorable), a style that didn’t suit my needs — or figure.

So instead of knitting 8 inches to the sleeve opening, I knit 12 ½ inches. I also lengthened the ribbing from 1 ¼ inches to 1 ¾ inches, or 14 rows, on everything. This made the styling a little more traditional, but the zippy feeling of the sweater wasn’t compromised.

The original design had six rows of stockinette stitch between each band of four rows of garter stitch (that band also has the dropped stitches). I changed that to eight rows of stockinette stitch, maintaining the garter stitch band as the pattern was written. It seemed to better suit the black-on-white “light” feeling.

The dropped stitches, by the way, were a piece of cake. It did take a little maneuvering to keep the yarn from pulling behind the dropped stitches, and I accomplished this by placing my finger over those stitches and knitting over my finger. It still pulled back some, but it worked out when I blocked it.

I also carried the alternating colors up the side when I switched colors rather than break and join the yarn each section. That would have been way too much weaving in.

The original pattern had you knit the button and buttonhole band as you made the front pieces, and included the stripes in those bands. I debated about keeping that element for a long time, and finally decided to place the five stitches for each band on a safety pin and pick up the stitches later to knit the band all in the main color.

I increased one stitch on each band on the sweater side for seaming and knit that piece one needle size up from the ribbing. So I used a size 5 needle, or 3.75mm, for the band instead of the size 4, or 3.5mm, that I used for the ribbing.

The sleeves proved to be a bit problematic. Even though the suggested needle size for the body of the sweater worked (size 6, or 4mm), I had to go up one size from the suggested size for the sleeves.  (The suggested size for the sleeves is smaller than the body, by the way — size 4.) That wasn’t the problem; that’s just good knitting practice — follow your swatch, which led me to size 5 needles.

B&W Cardigan sleeve
The sleeve before I blocked it (and before I re-did the cap). I wet-blocked it and adjusted it to the correct proportions.

What was a problem was the top of the sleeve. When I set it in the armhole, it was way too short. I ended up ripping out the top of the sleeve and reknitting it by decreasing stitches every other row all the way up, and every fourth row for the last two decreases, ending with the same number of stitches to bind off as the pattern required. Even then, it was difficult to set the sleeve.

The sleeve also needed some good blocking. The lace pattern caused it to slant somewhat. That was fairly easy to accomplish, thank goodness.

And lest I forget, I used Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima. It took five skeins of the white — although I grimaced at how little of the fifth skein I needed — and one skein of the black.

Overall, I’m happy with the sweater, but I’ve been a bit sedentary lately and need to lose about five pounds to make it fit right!! So damn the heat — it’s time to walk!!

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