Time to wrap up
There’s a tipping point every autumn when I embark on a mission which is all too often futile; my search for the perfect cardigan to take me through the winter. With the recent onset of chilly evenings and nippy mornings the 2018 search fell due this week. As the sun comes round in the morning, the ClothSpot studio is usually toasty warm by coffee time – but those first couple of hours can be punishing. Yet there seems little point in lighting the stove just for an hour or two of heat.
Before you ask, the central heating is waiting for a valve replacement which yes of course, we could and should have sorted out back in May but <insert your excuse of choice>. It was heat or hot water over the summer; we opted for the latter and consequently had hot showers (and were socially acceptable) through the summer months. Only now are we facing the reality of forking out for the boiler engineer to come and put things right and I suspect we’re waaay back in the queue. Consequently there’s a bit of a chill in the air.
Back on the cardigan hunt – of course there are those among you who will urge:
‘Just knit one, Alice!’
Cue roars of laughter from anyone who’s seen me with a pair of knitting needles. There are generations of women in my family who could sew beautifully and a few who could knit too. I was taught to sew dolls’ clothes as far back as I can remember and was happy as a sandgirl doing that. Knitting lessons only resulted in my wooden needles being thrown across the room in frustration. In my defence, I do recall my mother telling me that she was knitting me a cardigan when I was about six. I have good reason to believe that cardigan remains the only thing she has ever completed and moreover, she was still wearing it to do the gardening some decades later. Apparently it ‘went wrong’. In the intervening years I’ve tried and tried again to knit, but have been repeatedly foiled.
Last autumn I was determined to have (yet) another go. Lots of you are accomplished and extraordinarily creative knitters I know. I was encouraged by the wonderful Sarah, who pointed out the portability and mental health benefits of knitting. My yoga chum Sara appointed herself as my knitting mentor and before long I was away, making more progress than I might have dreamed of. A number of phone cases were duly produced and I was proud to note a definite improvement in my technique
Knitted phone cases – quite the thing, don’t you know?
Eventually with Sara’s help I embarked on a cardigan. A year later, and I have almost finished one front panel. (It started off as a sleeve but I got carried away)
I do genuinely enjoy the process of knitting and without doubt it’s helped keep my greedy fingers out of the Kettle Chips of an evening. However at this rate, my efforts probably won’t result in a completed cardigan this side of major climate change.
But (doh) it’s true I do have access to lots of knitted fabrics… Finally the penny dropped and it occurred to me that I might actually sew myself a cardigan.
My cardigan criteria are pretty simple. I’m looking for:
Honestly, it’s amazing how many cardigans don’t have them. It’s winter. Wrists and arms get cold. What *is* the point of a 3/4 length sleeve on an otherwise warm cardigan?
Not completely essential as I rarely remove my scarf even indoors but I hate that scarf-cardigan gap. It can lead to a chilly neck. We don’t want that.
It’s more elegant – plus I do like something to wrap around me. Tunic level is the highest I’ll go – preferably longer for cosy wrapping.
We all know how important they are. The question should always be why *not* to add pockets to a garment, rather than justifying their inclusion. Here’s an excellent article about the politics of pockets, should you need to convince a pattern designer.
But really – leaf through the pattern books and websites; wander round the shops. The count of cardigans that meet all these criteria is surprisingly small.
The word used to describe a long cardigan is increasingly a ‘coatigan’. It’s a slightly awkward portmanteau term which hasn’t yet made it into my favourite vocabulary bible but it’s increasingly visible on fashion websites and pattern descriptions. I’ve been compiling a page of patterns and fabrics for coatigans on Pinterest for a while now – so do have a trawl through – and let me know if I need to add any.
The pattern I chose to go with is Kwik Sew pattern 4192.
It’s simple and adaptable with clean lines. In a draping fabric that waterfall front might not be to everyone’s taste but it’s also easily re-cut to a different shape.
It does have one critical flaw however; no pocket! However I had a cunning plan to insert one. Away I went.
It really was easy. First was a version in our new ‘Cocoon’ cosy cerise boiled wool fabric’.
My cunning plan with the pocket was put into action by inserting a pocket piece and opening into the side seam and stitching it to the front of the coatigan, of which more later.
I used a normal straight stitch for the construction. Other than the pocket, the only amendment I made was to press the seam allowances to one side and stitch them down. Not quite a flat-fell seam but it helped keep the seams flat and the inside neat.
It did mean a fair bit of topstitching and I will readily own up to a bit of unpicking and re-stitching. The wonder of boiled wool though, is that a gentle steam revives the fabric under the unpicked stitching – and really – you’d never know.
I left the edges clean-cut and unfinished (ah, the beauty of boiled wool…) but I hemmed the sleeves for durability. I have to say, I’m incredibly chuffed with the result…
…but I had to conced that what I’d made was more ‘coat’ than ‘coatigan’
As a result I decided to try a version in the charcoal colourway of our ponte Roma jersey fabrics.
I hate sewing against the clock – it’s one of many reasons (including my fluency in Anglo Saxon) why you’ll never see me on the Sewing Bee. However I kept half an eye on the time and this version (without pockets for now) took about 90 minutes, despite dealing with phone calls and deliveries.
To construct it I used a stretch stitch on my regular machine for all the seams with the exception of the armholes which I overlocked. I used the same seam approach
The edges were again left unfinished but I did put a single line of (stretch) stitching all the way around the front, the hem edge and sleeves.
I thought it might be wise just to stabilise the edges, particularly where the fabric was cut at an angle. I will probably add patch pockets in due course, once I get sufficiently irritated with not having them. This was the result.
It’s much more draping than the boiled wool version, but still perfectly substantial and able to keep me warm indoors.
Well of course – I make two coatigans and we have a near-heatwave. Having said that, I’m thrilled with both. I can imagine that the boiled wool version is going to be incredibly practical. It’s warm and cosy and I adore the colour. It’ll be fabulous to nip in and out of the house when I’m off on errands. My grey ponte Roma version is destined to live on the back of my work chair between desk sessions, and to be thrown on in the evenings when I finally hit the sofa.
Both will be doubtless be augmented by scarves – since they never leave my neck from September through to April, although I frequently have to untangle them from Melton the Cat since they’re his favourite snooze spot.
A bright idea is born – the ClothSpot Coatigan Kit!
I talk to people about ClothSpot (no, really?) and have done so interminably, I’m afraid, for years now. I do try not to but it’s noticeable that party and dinner invitations have dried up. I’m used to monotonal grunts and people’s eyes twitching to the side as they desperately seek an escape route. However at some point before their eyes glaze over the question everyone asks is:
‘Can you do sewing kits for your customers?’
This week (with apologies to President Obama) is our chance to reply
‘Yes, we can!’
Welcome to the ClothSpot Coatigan Kit!
The conversations we’ve had with some of you suggested that kits might be well-received, especially for anyone who might be less experienced in selecting fabrics and the process of sewing. My coatigans seemed like the perfect opportunity to test out the idea. The pattern we chose is a really straightforward one – this coatigan is genuinely easy to make and not complicated to fit. It also comes with a Pocket pattern hack in the form of a pattern piece and instructions for adding those pockets.
We know the size range of this particular pattern is a bit limited (XS-S-M-L-XL) but we hope you’ll forgive that as we dip our toe in the water.
We did like the idea that one simple pattern could deliver quite different results depending on the fabric used – and we’re offering our Coatigan Kits in the boiled wool version as well as different colours of our ponte Roma jersey.
Please, do tell…
Do you like the idea? I’d love to know! Even if coatigans aren’t your thing (really??) are sewing kits are something you’d like to see more of? And if so, what might you want to make? Might you like the idea for yourself – or perhaps as a gift to get someone else sewing? If we’re barking up the wrong tree then I trust you won’t hold back…
While you take a look and (hopefully) share your thoughts – I’m off to finish up the checked jacket that has been something of a labour of love over the last six months. Now that I can keep warm while I sew, you never know – I might actually get it finished in time for my next post….