How to design a flat knitted cardigan

My orange jacket is nearly done, and I should feel satisfied and proud, but dear needleworkers, with me there is always a “but”. More to this in a minute.

What I did with the orange cardigan

This orange cardigan is made after a pattern from a Danish book by Birgitta Forslund which has a lot of lovely cardigan pattern inside, some knitted some crocheted (read more about the book in my previous post about this cardigan). To date I made two patterns from this book and both had errors in the explanation.

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The orange jacket I am showing you here has fronts which are wider than the back and as this jacket is knitted flat and in pieces, it would have been lovely if the back pieces fitted to the front pieces. But no, the shoulder line of the fronts had each 6 stitches more than the backside (the buttonband not counting). As I worked with a very loose tension this did not matter in the end, as the fabric is very stretchy, and the cardigan moulds itself into the right form and length. Also, the original pattern has short sleeves, which looks amazing on the model, but is something I never wear. My cardigans must have long sleeves: Not bracelet length, not elbow length, no they must be looooong, at a minimum my wrists must be covered. You see, the pattern from this Danish book has a lot of tiny problems.
But (this is the big “but” I mentioned in the beginning paragraph) I so lust after a good cardigan pattern which is fault proof, fits me and could be reworked easily with different yarns or stitch pattern.

And – sigh – this danish pattern it is not the perfect one.

So, I must kick start my brain, correct all mistakes, and write my own perfect pattern for a simple flat worked cardigan with bell sleeves. I will use the pattern of the orange cardigan as a starting point but have to change a lot of details. Let’s start with the back and fronts and shoulder width. I find the backside has the optimal width, the neckline is too narrow, the shoulder seems are to wide and the fronts too small.

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Back and fronts

My idea is to insert four stitches into the backside which will give a wider neckline. I will also increase the row count for the armhole for a wider sleeve (8 more rows). I am unsure if I should also change the shoulder seem in any way… I will think about this – if you have any ideas, please share.


For the fronts I will reduce the stitch count, so that they do not overlap any longer and start with 45 stitches. Rest will be the same as for the backside only the neckline is different. Here I will use the same decreases as on the orange cardigan.


(During the writing I simultaneously draw the sketches and I made so many mistakes on these simple calculations, that I think I should take a break and use the time to drug me with an huge amount of coffee before I tackle the sleeves)


The original pattern of this cardigan has very short sleeves, so I already improvised on my orange thingy. I am fairly ok with how these sleeves turned out, but you know, there is always room for improvement :-DDD

As I love the current trend of exaggerated sleeves, I will write a pattern for bell sleeves which taper down to a normal size roughly at the elbow. I start with a small cuff with 36 stitches over 9 rows. But then the drama happens: In row 10 I increase 34 stitches and row 11 follows another increase of 10 stitches. For my orange cardigan I knitted straight to row 29 and then started to decrease. For my new pattern I will keep this row count but want to change the distribution of the decreases: instead of decreasing every other row at the beginning and the end, I want to decrease more stitches at once. Decreasing conventionally only at the beginning and the end of the sleeve rows leads to a slightly warped bell shape as you can see on my orange cardigan :-DDD


Buttonband and neckline

For my orange cardigan I knitted the buttonband with a k1 p1 rib and I picked up 75 stitches. I made 6 buttonholes with simple yarn-overs. I guess I plan something similar for the “perfect” cardigan as I am ok how the buttonband on the orange cardigan turned out. Sadly, I forgot to write down the stitch count for the neckline.
By the way, you remember perhaps that I run out of orange yarn: my solution was to use thin threads of red and yellow yarn together to get a comparable orange hue. In a good light you can see its actually a lot darker, but in my view it looks as if I planned this color change :-DDD

Although I just drank a lot coffee, I needed so much time to wrap my head around this row and stitch counts. I am no longer sure I really need this flat knitted cardigan… Perhaps a raglan one would also fit the bill, or should I try a new crochet pattern (my needlework friend Lisa Pinenotes found a lovely free pattern for a crochet cardigan made of hexagons, this looks very tempting).

Dear knitters, what do you say? Should I try to knit my made-up pattern? Or do you have a go to cardigan pattern I should use instead of my probably faulty calculations? Or should I go with the crochet hexagon pattern?

Thank you @crosheille for iniciating and @muscara and @marblely for hosting the #needleworkmonday. If you want to see more beautiful projects with yarn, fabric and most of all needles, follow @needleworkmonday on hive blog. Or even better grab your needles and keyboard and join the #needleworkmonday community. You can read more comments on this post on my hive blog

Read more about my art und upcoming exhibitions on neumannsalva.

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