Four Cardigan Hacks

This post originally appeared on the Curvy Sewing Collective for Pattern Hacking Month in August 2017, but I know not all of my readers are curvy and follow that site, so I wanted to repost it here! 

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Is there anything more versatile than a cardigan? Winter, summer, at the office or on a breezy evening, I nearly always have a cardigan with me. There are lots of great cardigan patterns out there, but personally, I prefer to hack from a trusty t-shirt pattern: faster, cheaper, and it always fits!

4 Cardigan Hacks from 1 T-Shirt Pattern!

When you chose a t-shirt pattern for hacking, I suggest picking one with set-in long sleeves (not cap sleeves or grown on sleeves). My base is almost always a Cashemerette Concord – you can see more of my hacks for Concord dresses, tanks and sweaters in the TNT section of my blog, Crafting a Rainbow!

All t-shirt and cardigan constructions starts with the same three steps, demonstrated in the centre illustration above: 1) Sew shoulders; 2) Attach sleeves; 3) Sew up the sleeves and down the side seams. For the sake of clarity as I explain each hack, I won’t cover those identical steps each time.

All of my sewing instructions follow rainbow order, so sew the red seam first, then orange, yellow, green, blue and purple!

Ready to get hacking? Let’s go! 

4 Cardigan Hacks from 1 T-Shirt Pattern!

1. Cropped Vintage-Style Cardigan

This is a classic fitted cardigan, great for layering over fit-and-flare dresses or flowy tops. On the left, I used folded bands to finish the edges, and for the striped version on the right, I lined the front for a cleaner finish.

To hack this look, I’d suggest a knit with some structure, like a double knit or ponte, so that it holds it’s shape. Start by cropping your tee, the follow the instructions below! If you prefer full instructions, I’d suggest the Jenna Cardi by Muse Patterns.

4 Cardigan Hacks from 1 T-Shirt Pattern!

4 Cardigan Hacks from 1 T-Shirt Pattern!

2. Long Cardigan

This hack makes a versatile layering piece! In the red version above, I did a short band with a graphic angle at the end, but you could easily continue the band all the way down to the hem. The longer version of the SBCC Cabernet Cardigan is a similar style, or Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan!

For this hack, almost any sweater knit, double knit or jersey will work.

4 Cardigan Hacks from 1 T-Shirt Pattern! 4 Cardigan Hacks from 1 T-Shirt Pattern!

3. Waterfall Cardigan

I made a bunch of these cardigans lately, and I love how the dress up a simple tank top and leggings! A really similar sewing pattern is the Style Arc Nina, which has been popular with bloggers for years. This style works best in a fabric with drape, like a rayon sweater knit. I think it’s really fun in a stripe, but it works well in a solid too!

4 Cardigan Hacks from 1 T-Shirt Pattern!

4 Cardigan Hacks from 1 T-Shirt Pattern!

4. Coatigan

This is a style I’d never worn until two years ago, but I couldn’t live without now! I wear these longer cardigan/coat/coatigans all through the cold months. This definitely calls for a heavier knit, like a sweatshirt fleece, french terry, double knit or heavy sweater knit. The blue version above is actually not quite heavy enough to be ideal, and you can see how the wrinkles so a bit more a result.

Bizarrely, I can’t think of a single sewing pattern that matches this style! There are coat patterns and sweater patterns, but nothing in between – can you suggest something in the comments?

4 Cardigan Hacks from 1 T-Shirt Pattern!

4 Cardigan Hacks from 1 T-Shirt Pattern!

Of course, all of those hacks can also be adapted, and there are endless ways to make a cardigan! Above are a few more examples: the short grey cardigan is finished without bands; the red coatigan is made in double knit with a collar and cross-over at the front neckline; the turquoise waterfall cardigan is shorter; and as mentioned above, the striped cropped cardi is lined for a clean finish!

If you are new to hacking, I highly recommend starting by imitating a ready-to-wear sweater that you like. That was you can investigate which order they’ve sewn the seams, and use it to get a length and proportions that you like. I always suggest cheap fabric for the first version, so that you can enjoy the giddy fun of slicing and dicing your pattern without worry!

As you read this, I’m back at work for the first school day of the year. Wish me luck! Will I remember to bring a lunch? Will I leave the house on time? Will it be utterly exhausting? Only one of those is certain!

16 thoughts on “Four Cardigan Hacks

  1. Awesome post! I am a big fan of cardigan season (no surprises there!) I think the Parika Patterns Opal would make a great coatigan of that style or the Schnittchen Silvia Coatigan. I am also reminded of the Laurelhurst cardigan for a great waterfall option!


    1. I’ve been meaning to make an Opal for years, and somehow haven’t! I do have another Blackwood coming to the blog this month though! 😉


  2. Thank you for reposting this. Too much good information gets buried and then out of my mind. The coatigan is similar to a style from the Lotta Jansdotter book, the Pilvi. : )


  3. Cool post! I guess my hack is the long cardigan made shorter, but with a full-length band and 3/4 sleeves. I love it…thanks! xxx


    1. I’d written this post just before you sewed your cardigan… and I considered asking if I could add your picture in! I got lazy though and didn’t want to remake the collages! 😛 I love your cardigan. Have you worn it yet?


  4. Great inspiration and ideas! It’s really hot here, but I know it’s time to think about fall sewing. The cold snap will come all to soon, and you’ve given me lots to think about!


    1. I’m pretty envious right now! I am hdiing in the bedroom because the living room is too cold, even under two blankets. I am in bed under the following: feather duvet, quilt, and an electric blanket. IT”S ONLY SEPTEMER! Heaven help me in winter!


  5. Hope that school went well for both of you today. Also, my faves above are the waterfall and the cropped. Cropped is not generally my thing. Perhaps my style is evolving.


      1. I’ve just made the pattern I mentioned – it’s a little too long for my taste, but I didn’t realise till after I’d finished the back vent, and the inseam side pockets seem silly to me when you have pocket flaps to place on the front. Also, the various facings flap around if you just attach them to seam allowances as per the instructions – so I cheated and placed some double-sided hemming tape in judicious places to stick them down! However I like the overall effect and am planning another – shorter – version without back vent or inseam pockets


  6. I definitely want to make a waterfall cardigan in the next couple of weeks, but I’m dithering about the lack of pockets. Would patch pockets on the sides be best? Or somehow work a pocket into the neck band part?


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