Wednesday, January 20, 2016

So, I Sewed a Sweater from a Blanket

The squirrel on the fence likes my new sweater too!

This sweater was born from the following things:
  1. I love cotton sweater knits
  2. I am slightly allergic to wool, so I can't wear a wool sweater
  3. It is hard to find RTW sweaters that fit me the way that I want them to fit me. Usually they are way too long and pool on my swayback.  Really, I want cute little sweaters.  Sometimes I can find them in the Juniors section of Marshall's (yes, in that pink "The Cube" section) but I hadn't found any this winter.
  4. I don't knit.

In May, I met Olgalyn Jolly from O! Jolly! , the same week I noticed her advertising on PR.  She writes a blog about how to sew with sweater knits, and she designs sweater knits for her shop.  Her cotton is grown in the US and knit by machine in NYC.   I don't think I've ever met a fabric designer before.  How cool is that?!.  I was immediately intrigued, but it was summer.  

Fast forward to the holidays, and I purused her site looking at her sweater knits for sale by the half yard, but she also has what she calls "reclaimed" sweater knit panels, specifically blankets that are an overrun from the factory where her own knits are made.  They are finished on three sides, but the 4th side is unfinished.  The panel was $34, more than a yard long.   I bought it as my trial run, and also bought swatches of her other cotton sweater knits.    Her other cotton sweater knits are $14-$28 per half yard, so I wanted to try my experiment out on this less expensive option.  (I would have bought a swatch of the sweater blanket first, but there are no swatches available for it. Generally I have been swatching before buying fabric online; the result of too many "totally not what I thought" online purchases.)

For the pattern I chose Simplicity 1983, the Mimi G pattern that I sewed the pants and shirt from last year.  This time I cut the shirt in a size 12 for a snugger fit, also knowing that the sweater knit had a nice amount of stretch.  I traced the pattern so I would have the full front and back so that I could center the pattern over the larger cable.    I added 3" to my traced pattern but then decided to add another 1" (the finished part of the blanket) for 4" of length total.

On Instagram I asked about placing the cables vertically or horizontally.
 Most folks said horizontally, but when I held the fabric up against my body, it just didn't look right, so vertical it was.

It was a bit weird to take my scissors to a blanket--it really is a nice, substantial, snuggly blanket even if it's not finished on one edge--but I forged ahead and did it.

It was a straightforward sew.  I basted first to check for fit, then unbasted the side seams to sew the sleeves in flat, then basted down the arm and down the sides.   I wound up cutting a half inch off the entire armhole, then basted again.  I serged at each appropriate step.  In the future I might be tempted to serge before sewing the pieces together because it looked like it had snowed on my sewing room carpet.  Maybe that's an exaggeration, but little cotton bits were everywhere--very much like working with corduroy.  The rug in my sewing room is burgundy, so they really stood out.

I was able to cut the front and back so the bottom of the shirt would be along the finished edge, but the sleeves had to be cut to end on the unfinished edge.  I wound up cutting them too long, after thinking that I had cut them the right length, which was probably partially due to my error and probably partially due to the fabric stretching under the weight of the sleeves.  

Anyway, that particular unfinished edge started unraveling in the dryer before cutting, creating a fun decorative-to-me looking edge, especially once I turned it up like a cuff.  I took to IG once again and was able to ask Olgalyn directly about what to do.  I thought the unfinished edge looked super cute, but I don't knit.  To a knitter, does this edge look unfinished?    She answered right away, which I was totally immensely grateful for, and said I could machine zig zag that edge to keep it from unraveling further.  Others chimed in on IG begging me to keep this design detail while others warned it would unravel further.  I have zig zagged the edge to prevent that from happening.

For the neckline, I basically cut the "selvedge" edge from the rest of the blanket and serged the raw edge.

Then I folded that over the raw neckline edge, sort of like an oversized double fold bias tape.  I zigzagged,  by machine, the back of the binding to the inside of the sweater, but then I handstitched the front of the binding onto the front.  I have been doing a lot of small handstitching lately (the sashiko, the whimsy kits, the Mollie Makes kits) and so this just felt like an extension of that instead of something annoying and tedious, which is probably how I would have felt even just one year ago.


In the end, I really love this combination of pattern with fabric.    The cotton hugs me, there is no swayback pooling, there are NO drag lines anywhere (wow!) and it feels really warm and snuggly.  I wore it on Saturday and again to work on Monday with a tank underneath.  It could probably just a tad longer as the tank does peek out from time to time, but if i wear it with a skirt that hits at the waist, I think the length would be fine.

This little experiment has made me think about buying some of the O! Jolly!  sweater knits that she created, and also about looking at thrift stores for buying big cotton sweaters and then cutting the MimiG shirt pieces out of them.    I'm also thinking about a little frankenpatterning--cutting the Renfrew neckline onto the MimiG pattern and using that giant Renfrew collar.  I think that would be adorable!  I'm also thinking about shorter sweater options, the kind where the tank underneath intentionally is seen.

So, that is how I sewed a sweater from a blanket!  Are you tempted to make one now?

Be well!


  1. This looks terrific Kyle. I love cable jumpers and I think you'll use this a lot. I think everything is open to be sewn once your mindset gets it. Go you!

  2. This is amazing. I'll have to look into your 'source' when I get home. Wool gets too warm on me and starts the 'itch'. I like cotton sweaters and the detailing you kept really adds to the design. Good job seeing the endless possibilities of 'found' textiles.

  3. This sweater is fantastic! It looks professionally done. That squirrel is hilarious...maybe it knows about the squirrels you hand sewed recently and wanted to pay you a visit. I too am allergic to wool so your beautiful sweater is certainly tempting me to buy some sweater knits from her.

  4. fantastic! I even think you could do another one in this color and dye it, or dye the blanket first. Very cute.

  5. Well done, Kyle! Well done! It fits you beautifully. I don't think I am allergic to wool, but I get terribly itchy when I wear it--so maybe I am??

  6. This turned out great - I am so tempted to make one too next winter because I have a few beautiful cot sized blankets that aren't being used but would be the perfect amount of fabric

  7. I love this sweater! You did a great job fitting the pattern and fabric to you. I am impressed!

  8. This is the second time I've seen someone use a blanket as yardage. The other person used a cotton blanket from Target. I am definitely stoked to try this now. This is closer to what I'd actually like to do.

  9. Amazing job Kyle!!! Love this sweater!!!

  10. Awesomeness !!! You did a phenomenal job and looks great on you.

  11. This is amazing! I'm glad you kept the frayed edge as part of the design. Unraveled sweaters seem to be all the rage at the menswear shows in Milan right now. (Yours look better!). the squirrel pic kills me!!!

  12. What a fascinating concept. And, the sweater looks beautiful on you. I'll definitely think about doing something similar next winter.

  13. I'm so excited to see this! I love the choices you made and the sweater looks beautiful on you. Also it's always so good to see someone else who enjoys hand sewing techniques. Congrats on your first sweater! And best regards to your squirrel friend!

  14. This is gorgeous! I have been lurking that site since I first stumbled across it (I think in instagram?)... oh, the sweater-knit lust. Alas, the prices are going to have to wait for a special splurge, or at least a major recovery of the Canadian dollar. >_< $34 USD would be almost 50 CAD right now. :(

    Your sweater looks great! And it sounds like it's almost exactly what you wanted. I love the idea of a Renfrew cowl one!

  15. Your new sweater looks great! Squirrel approved, even.

  16. This sweater is great, and so is the squirrel photobomb! :)

  17. Beautiful sweater and the fit is perfect on you.

  18. Yay! (Great post and great sweater!)

  19. Yay! (Great post and great sweater!)

  20. This is Super Cute! Thanks for the detailed step by step explanation. I am so impressed and now I want to try it, too.

  21. And you did a marvelous job too Kyle. Love the neckline.

  22. wow, that's adorable! That fabric is totally gorgeous. How I wish that we had great knits like that available here... if I wanted something like this I would have to knit it myself!

  23. Everything about this sweater is perfection! Vertical stripes definitely works better and I love the neckline. You might be starting a trend in making sweaters from blankets! =)

    Oh and squirrel photobombs are the best!


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