Pattern review and Garment sewing excitement: Blackwood Cardi

Yes….I know….some people think we are barking mad for getting excited about sewing. But I know that you know we are not barking mad …….and what’s more, we have new clothes to wear together with that wonderfully good feeling that we look good in what we made! Not to mention all the good that creativity does for us + the sense of personal achievement. I know you know what I am talking about!  And it is highly unlikely that someone else will turn up wearing the same ensemble……if it is important to you to be unique?

Still with me?

So imagine my delight some time back when I discovered an indie pattern designer who lives right here’s in my home city of Vancouver, BC, Canada.  Helen’s Closet has a range of patterns and one which caught my attention was the Blackwood cardigan. I purchased it online and have to date made it 3 times. So far I have only made the longer version as I prefer that style but as there will be more Blackwood cardi’s in my future, who knows, maybe I will try the shorter style?

You might be “allergic” to downloading your pattern and then printing and taping all the pages together? Admittedly, it is a rather tedious exercise but does not really take that long. Do it while a boring TV program is running ……. trust me, you won’t feel the pain of either as you will be concentrating on 2 things at once?!

Not only do you get your PDF pattern but you also get a bunch of ”SewAlong’s” on Helen’s Closet website so you can access step by step tutorials to help you during the garment construction process.  You may need this if you are a beginner garment sewer or need a refresher or maybe you do not need much coaching? …..but it sure is real nice to have it offered – for free.  Just counted them and there are 20 tutorials just on this pattern. I would call that excellent value for money.

I follow a blogger, Sarah of  “Goodbye Valentino” who sews exquisite and very well fitted garments. She has made a few of these Blackwood cardi’s – one just recently (above). Check out this link.  And another Blackwood cardi make from Goodbye Valentino here.

I have also seen the pattern reviewed very favourably on several other sewing websites. Truth be told, I have actually seen this pattern and others by Helen’s Closet pop up quite frequently on a number of UK sewing websites/blogs I follow. So her market is not  restricted to local Vancouver….You go girl!

So it seems I am in good company when this pattern gets a thorough and enthusiastic thumbs up from me.

Here are my makes:

First one (above) is a rather lovely soft cream and black polka dot knit.  I used a contrast polka dot fabric cut from a shrug my daughter did not like and passed to me. I also did not like the style but I liked it for my pockets and cuffs! Do you troll the thrift stores for garments you don’t like much but could upcycle or simply cut up and use for other things?

This (above) was my first Blackwood cardi make and I really love it. Only one issue which is entirely my fault: I ran out of fabric (should have bought more) or possibly planned the layout of my cutting more efficiently? The fabric for my front bands was not long enough so I had to join them. (Yes, it is rather noticeable which is a huge pity and I regret that but it is what it is on that make) Did not make the same mistake a second time!

The dress form is quite bit skinnier than me so the jacket does not hang as well as it does on me……you will have to take my word for that!

And here is a close up of the straight stitching I used to top stitch my band and pockets. I used a grey Wonderfil Confetti thread 50wt cotton after auditioning several different shades of grey. Could have used polyester sewing thread as the fabric is poly but I had more shades of grey in cotton (not 50 shades?!) than I did on poly, so cotton it was.

Second make (above) is this rather different knit: a scuba print. Some people call this neoprene. Essentially it is something similar to what they make wet suits out of only that is a whole lot thicker (if that nasty wetsuit I wore in Mexico when I attempted to swim with whale sharks is anything to go by?!). Shop around as you will find solids, prints and textured scuba. I am seeing more and more of it – probably as it gains in popularity with sewers. However, depending on where you reside, it may be hard to find.

Scuba is a pretty stable knit and does not have much stretch so remember that when choosing your pattern/style and size to cut out. If you require a good deal of stretch in the garment, you might be wise to choose another fabric or a different pattern/style for this fabric. Or make a larger size in the pattern. I have, however, noticed that some scuba’s do have more stretch than others so, as I say, shop around. I have found and bought scuba in Canada, the US and in London, UK where I was fortunate to spend Thanksgiving with family last October.

And now for something entirely different to the 2 other makes : same pattern, totally different feel and look due to fabric choice. This is a rather thick sweater knit (above). Not sure how it is going to wash and wear as it stretches while you look at it. And I’m not confident of the quality of the fabric. It was also a total pain to cut out and sew together. I would not recommend this for a beginner sewer. It took a good deal of fiddling, finesse and revisions to get it done successfully. I used stay tape but only fused it after I had cut the garment out. Big mistake. Should have done it before I cut out – which would have been a little painstaking laying the pattern over the knit to find position for stay tape but would have been worth the effort. Why? Well if you have ever cut into a knitted sweater and watched it unravel as you breathed, you will know what I mean! The stay tape would have kept my edges a little more intact when cutting. As it is, my sewing room needed a major clean up after I was done. Fluff and bits of unravelled sweater knit literally everywhere! About as bad as sewing with minkee for all the debri.

Second issue was the bulk of this knit fabric – really quite thick so I will confess I broke a serger needle at one point and made a right royal mess of the inside of my serger with all the fluff and bits of yarn which was cut off as I serged. It too needed a major clean out after I was done with this cardi. Take care depending on what serger you have. The bulk on some seams was considerable and I had to coax and be very gentle to get my seams to feed properly and successfully. Only goes to show… can be done but definitely not at 100 km/h and taking care and attention to what you are asking your serger to achieve.  I am so glad my Janome serger is so solid, durable and reliable – saved the day for me on this tricky fabric. Not sure I would use this bulky sweater knit too often? I have one more piece purchased at same time so will tackle that but I think I may then move on from thick sweater knits! Or it might end up as a TV blanket instead with neatly bound edges??

Anyway, moving on…..As this was my 3rd make of this pattern I had the sequence and construction down pat. I did leave off the pockets as I did not want any extra bulk. It is wonderfully cuddly and warm so I’m glad I persevered and finished this make.

Totally LOVE the hem on this pattern (see below): it is a big section which gets folded in half and attached to the bottom of the fronts and back in one go once the side seams have been done – clever. So the hem edge is a fold of fabric. It hangs beautifully and is very neat. Good design feature.

Thank you Helen’s Closet for a most worthwhile pattern which I intend to use frequently.




About Liz Thompson

I am the National Education Manager for Janome & Elna Canada and I LOVE to sew! I have been employed full time in the sewing and quilting industry for over 30 years so I bring a wealth of sewing knowledge & expertise to this blog. I enjoy all forms of sewing from quilting to sewing garments to machine embroidery and software. Pretty much everything in my life is seen through the eyes of a passionate sewer! I am constantly on the look out for fun, innovative and inspiring ideas to share with you all on this blog. I also love to sew, read, knit , crochet, travel and spend time with my family and friends.
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