January 16, 2014

Reconstructed hooded cardigan, with cuff tutorial!

New cardigan!

I started this project back in October of 2012, worked on it a little bit then, a little bit last spring, and then picked it back up and finished it over the last couple of weeks, finally!  Hooray!  I’m so excited to show it to you now!

New cardigan!

I got this ill-fitting but beautiful hand knit cardigan at a thrift store (4 years ago - wow time flies!), knowing I’d someday fix it up and make it wearable:

original sweater original sweater

Once I had my vision, deciding to use a heavier weight yarn for additions (around aran weight, versus the original sweater in maybe sport weight, I’d guess), and picking out this recycled sweater yarn (the same used in these either/or mittens), I got to the deconstructing.  I carefully removed all the edgings, one step at a time, and picked up stitches to knit on my new edgings.  On some parts I could use the actual live stitches, and on others I picked up stitches from sides.

sweater reconstruction close-up

It was all improvised, but I’ll tell you what I can, based on my crap memory and examining the piece now…

The first edging made was along the bottom – I unraveled those stitches, picked them up, decreased across to get a good stitch count in my heavier yarn to match up, and knit 1×1 rib for a few inches.

sweater reconstruction close-up

Then I picked up a chunk of stitches along the back of the collar, and began knitting those (also in 1×1 rib – all of my additions are 1×1 rib), picking up an extra couple of stitches every time I reached the end of a row.  So this resulted in short-row shaping, making the back of the collar the widest.

sweater reconstruction close-up

Once I had picked up down through the yoke, a couple stitches at a time like this, I picked up all the way down to the bottom on each side, ending the short row shaping for now.  I picked up the stitches closer together than I probably should have; I wanted the collar and front panels to be squishy and not pull in.  In the end, I see that I could have significantly reduced my picked up stitches along the fronts, and it still wouldn’t have pulled in, but it’s okay.

sweater reconstruction close-up

So then I knit around all these stitches (oh so many!  It took like an entire episode of a show to knit 1 row, as I’m extra slow in 1×1 rib) until the narrow front parts were a couple inches wide.  Then I made the triangle pockets on each side, using short rows:

sweater reconstruction close-up

After the pockets were done, I headed back up to the top and made the hood, shaped with short rows and decreases.  It turned out weird, and I learned from my mistakes for next time.  I like it enough to not frog and re-knit (omg the thought of taking it apart now that it’s all finished is awful) but it’s definitely not the best hood ever.  But hey, it functions!

New cardigan!

Basically, I decreased 4 stitches on every other row, because it was starting out so huge, so I thought that would be good, but I should have decreased 2, that would have made for a much nicer shape.  Lesson learned, and passed on to you.

New cardigan!

Once I finished the hood shaping, I knit back down to the bottom, and worked one last full row all the way around, then bound off.

One final row, then I bind off 289 1x1 rib stitches and am done with this long-term project! So excited to show it to you soon!

To finish the pockets, I folded them over to make a straight line with the edging above, and sewed them along the bottom.  I thought this would be it, but then they looked weird and needed to be stabilized, so I sewed them shut a couple inches on the tops and a couple inches on the bottoms, and now they are perfect!  Love them!

sweater reconstruction close-up

Lastly, the cuffs.  I actually took process photos so I can give you a full on tutorial for the cuffs!

Cuff tutorial step

Recycled sweaters are like snowflakes, every one is unique (not really), so this is how I did mine, but if you try to do the same, you’ll need to adjust according to your sweater’s specifics.

Cuff tutorial step

First, I tried unraveling the cuff from the edge, but, sadly, my particular hand knit sweater was knit from the cuff up, so it wouldn’t unravel.  Most recycled sweaters will unravel starting at the cuffs, so it will usually be much easier than this was.

Cuff tutorial step

Since I couldn’t unravel it, I grabbed my scissors and chopped it off, a few rows above where I wanted to pick up the stitches – I didn’t want to cut right up to the row I was going to pick up, and risk cutting too much, but this was kind of an unnecessary step, as I just ended up cutting again.  I could have picked up the stitches first, then cut once.

Cuff tutorial step

For your cuff project, you can either unravel all the way down to where you want your cuff to start, or cut it mostly off with scissors, then unravel the last couple rows, as that should normally work, with most sweaters.

Cuff tutorial step

I picked up my stitches, cut the rest off, picked off all the little bits of yarn stuck in there from cutting it, and had the stitches on the needles ready to knit – small needles, sized to match the original sweater yarn (not my heavier yarn).

Cuff tutorial step

Here is where I actually made a mistake with this cuff.  I made my first cuff over a year earlier, and had forgotten the details, so I slightly messed up on my second cuff.  I knew I had to decrease around, to get the stitch count down to match my bulkier gauge, so for the second cuff I decreased around during the very first round:

Cuff tutorial step

But this resulted in the cuff pulling in a bit at the join.  Damn.  Oops.  For the first cuff, I’d done it the right way: first, knit all stitches for one round in the new yarn, onto the bigger needles to match the new yarn.  Then, on the second new-yarn round, decrease around as needed to get a good stitch count in the new gauge.  This will prevent the join from pulling in.

Cuff tutorial step

Once the stitch count is right, work around (in 1×1 rib or the cuff stitch pattern of your choice) until it’s as long as you want it.  My cuffs are about 5 inches, around three times as long as the original cuffs on the ill-fitting cardigan.  Much better!

New cardigan!

So that’s that!  I chose not to put in buttonholes, since I wasn’t sure how the fit would be and I figured I could add closures later to fit best.  It works well closed with a shawl pin like you see at the top, or with 1-inch round pins like this:

New cardigan!

But I do plan to add some kind of permanent closure at some point; I’m thinking maybe a buckle of some kind, or toggles… we’ll see.  It’s fine for now!

New cardigan!

At the time when I first started this project, I began contemplating the idea of writing an ebook/collection of sort-of-patterns for this kind of thing – tutorials for taking apart reclaimed sweaters and knitting on new parts to make them into awesome new items.  The patterns would be better than this (this was an improvised experiment – if it was meant to be an actual design, the hood and other elements would be better!) and there would be lots of different kinds of projects, and different elements that could be mixed and matched together (like, pick your favorite pocket type, and collar type, etc).  Anyway, I currently don’t have solid plans to make this project happen, but I am still considering it for the future.

If this is something you’d be interested in, please let me know!  Either by commenting on this blog post, or by commenting over on the ravelry project page.  If there does seem to be a significant amount of interest, then I will start thinking about it for real and planning it.  Thanks!

Filed under: clothing,knitting,thrifty finds,tutorials — leethal @ 5:25 pm
  • Stephanie

    Wow girl. You are awesome. That was such a cool idea. And the cuffs. I just added length to a hoodie I just finished for my 3 year old….ugh…..they don’t look as good as yours. HA!

  • lilirious

    That’s so cool! I have a few of those lying around but I’m always afraid to do something like this.. :) Maybe I should just try it hehe ;)

  • Rainy Daisy

    I love it! It makes me so sad to see hand-knit-anything in thrift stores. I just want to adopt all of them. And I love to see stuff like this that makes it more tempting to take them home!

  • Rebecca Ward

    I really love the pockets, they are fab! I like your re-claim and up-date idea, think it’s a really good one! Thanks, Rebecca :)

  • Sue Watson Prewitt

    I’m interested!

  • Juliane

    I would totally buy it! I have tons of stuff lying around that I’d like to recycle and reclaim and generally improve. I love things like that, and I love your cardigan. But then, that’s no surprise, since I love almost every project of yours.
    Best wishes – Juliane

  • Annika

    That looks really beautiful!

  • mounen

    Yes I think a book like that is a brilliant idea, loads of people are interested in that kind of thing at the moment

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