Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SAAS (Sewing at Any Size): The Madison, or Sizing up a Cardigan

This is my series on Sewing at Any Size, a protest against overpriced, badly constructed and badly-fitted clothing options available to anyone who isn’t shaped like a fit model.

You can see the rest of the SAAS series by clicking on the category link on the sidebar. As this will eventually become a book, please do not re-publish or re-post this material. Feel free to link to it however, or print/save for your own personal use.

I know I promised more underwear, but I haven't gotten near a sewing machine in months due to vacations, etc. Today I'm going on guesswork, since I can see how this would be constructed, but haven't actually done it.

I get clothing catalogs at work all the time; usually addressed to people who've retired or left. Often I flip through them and find outfit inspiration in ways I'm sure they never intended.
For instance, my first reaction to Chadwick's Madison Cardigan was along the lines of "eewww! Ruffles!" Sure it's available in Womens' sizes...the ugliest things always are.

But then I looked twice...at least long enough to see how it was constructed, and realized it's a great way to size up a cardigan or shirt that's just barely too small to button properly. Or, who knows? Maybe you like ruffles. Or maybe we can use the same idea, but in something less ruffly than chiffon.

First of all, click on the link. What you'll see is, first of all, a great visual example of my problem-solving post on lengthening sleeves that are too long, by adding fabric at the cuffs. All they did was roll a hem on a strip of chiffon (they used a serger of course, if you have one then lucky you!) then sewed it onto the existing sleeve cuff in two parallel rows of stiches. They left what looks like 1" of chiffon hanging over the hand, and 1" behind the stitches as a ruffle. In the graphic below, the white square is the chiffon, the grey is the original cardigan sleeve.
You could stitch the back edge of the chiffon strip (top red dotted line) to 1" above the cardigan cuff (where the 2nd red dotted line is in the graphic) so that you don't have the ruffle. You could also reverse the layers and stitch it with the cardigan as the top layer and the chiffon peeking out from underneath.

If you need the entire cardigan sized up and not just the sleeve length, or just like the look in the picture, take the following steps:

First make sure the edges of the front at least touch, even if it won't button. We'll be adding eyehook closures so that's where the finished cardigan will lie.

Remove buttons and stitch button holes shut. You don't need a lot of stitches; but the gap of the buttonhole will show through the chiffon.

Take a package of hook and eyes from the craft store. Use a needle and thread to attach the two loop on the hook half to the front of one side of the edge of the cardigan, facing out. Stitch the eye (loop) half to the other side of the front of the cardigan.


You'll want the hook to face out, if possible, unless you want to add a strip of protective fabric so that the hook doesn't rub on your skin.

Space the hook and eye sets however you'd like down the front of the cardigan.

Measure the neckhole (to the edges of the front closure), length and bottom hem of your cardigan. Add 1/2" to each measurement and cut a 4" wide strip of chiffon for each the collar and bottom hem measurements . Cut two 3" wide strips of the front length (there is only a ruffle on the outside of the front).

They show a continuous strip of fabric, and you're welcome to try that, but it's easier to explain how to do it with adding seams.

Start by hemming all three strips of fabric with as small a fold as possible, stitching as close to the edge as possible. If your sewing machine is a serger, use that instead.

Match up the halfway point of the neckhole strip with the center back of the collar. Pin so that 1" hangs over the top edge (look at the photo again if you need help visualizing.) Pin all the way around to the front. At the front, fold under any excess and crease so that the fold matches up exactly with the cardigan underneath.

Then cut the chiffon in a slanting 45 degree line from the top corner in the front to the edge of the strip (red dotted line)


Pin the front strip so that the crease of the hem (or overlock stitches) are matched up exactly with the front edge. You will be putting the fabric over the top of the hood and eye fixtures to hide them. Pin, then cut a diagonal line from that strip also, so that the two cut edges match up (same red dotted line above).

Unpin and sew the two cut edges together with a 1/4" seam allowance. Remember that the two pieces will be offset, as the collar piece has a ruffle overhang and the front does not. Follow the fold in the seam allowance when you get to the collar piece, so that the ruffle is hemmed. Re-pin, and it should look like this:Repeat the procedure for the bottom corner, leaving 1" of the chiffon overhanging the bottom hem of the cardigan. When you're satisfied with how the chiffon lies, stitch it on as close to the hems of the cardigan as possible. When you've finished, add another line of stitches 2" from the first.


The buttons they show on the Madison Cardigan are sparkly glass buttons, covered with the chiffon to mute the brightness. They're only decorative, so it's entirely your decision whether to leave them off or not.


To cover a button, cut a circle from the chiffon, stretch it tightly over the button and gather it at the back where the buttonhole or loop is located. Wrap thread around the bunched fabric to secure it and run a needle and thread through the center of the bunch for added strength.


Personally? I'd prefer to experiment with paints instead of buttons.

As an alternative to the Chiffon, you can use silk, polyester, lightweight leather, etc. I'd highly reccomend a strip of silk, but making it only 2" wide and leaving off the ruffle; simply stitch it onto the cardigan at both hems of the silk to secure. Using kimono-print poly silk (which is machine washable) and bamboo buttons would look great.


If you need to size up even further (but the armholes fit) sew a strip of fabric about the same color as the cardigan or chiffon to the hem and front of the cardigan. After you've extended the edge, continue as before, adjusting the width of the chiffon strips as needed to disguise this additional fabric.

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