I wear cardigans.
Or “cardis” as we say in Lancashire. In fact the cardi is essentially a bit of a sad item. Workwear of black trousers, a teal T shirt and a black cardi with plastic gold buttons. A white cardi for your holidays “in case it gets a bit chilly” (it always does in Blackpool or Abersoch). A school cardi in maroon acrylic, worn with a polyester pleated skirt – if the static doesn’t get you, you may go up in flames. A man in a cardi – often with a pipe. Something bedraggled and misshaped in a drawer or damp on a camping trip. For me these associations are drab, dreary, baggy and unstylish.
Apparently the cardigan is ripe for a comeback!
Historically the cardigan was a military garment, knitted up to keep the army warm. It was said to have been invented by James Thomas Brudenell, the seventh Earl of Cardigan, although the idea of a jersey with an opening with buttons down the front is probably older. The Earl wore a sleeveless cardigan and made them available for his men. They became fashionable and associated with the man who led the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. (I will have to do a post on balaclavas one day!)
Then of course, the cardigan was popularised by Chanel who made it into a fashion item rather than a practical extra layer.
And then there is the handknitted cardi. If you look at Ravelry there are a quite few examples of lumpy, bumpy and grotty. Below are Zimmermann specials – nicely knitted I give you – but which leave a little to be desired on the style stakes.
A cardigan is actually a great alternative to a jacket in that it covers (to keep us warm) but also reveals (the blouse or top underneath).
So we need a stylish cardi. A colourful, snappy, shapely cardi. In my wardrobe I have a few nice, cashmere cardis that work well for me – turquoise, yellow, pink. If I wear something plain like a navy dress I find a colourful cardigan can be a nice contrast. These Boden cardigans are the sort of look I prefer.
I am going to make one. So far I have made the Purl Alpaca jacket which isn’t a true cardigan, but does have two buttons. I want something like this, but I don’t want to use a pattern. Elizabeth Zimmerman has proved to me that I find a pattern that tells me exactly what to do, stitch by stitch, is not for me. And although it sounds arrogant I know I don’t need one. I can make it up as I go along and even if it goes wrong with knitting you can unravel and reincarnate it!
My idea is to knit a seamless sweater – basically from my Zimmermann book – then slice it up the front and knit on a button band and stand. Would this work? Has anyone tried it? This feels pretty scary, not least the idea of cutting into knitting. But I suppose the great advantage is that it allows me to continue developing my circular knitting skills and I know I have a shape and style I like.
I am feeling anxious about the cutting, known as steeking. I shouldn’t be, but of course this renders any unravelling impossible. It is an irreversible mistake if I get it wrong. I also think the button bands on hand knits can look a bit terrible and I don’t know the best way. I will need to research it. Although ribbing is a great finish to provide solidity I like the look of moss stitch (like deliberately uneven ribbing if you don’t know much about knitting). So lots for me think about, and maybe you will be generous with your advice.
I bought some yarn in the Colourmart sale. I love this violet colour. It is merino with 30% cashmere. It is not as soft as the pure Merino, nor as expensive as the pure cashmere at about $13, around £10 for 150 grms, or less than £20 for the cardigan. I think I was inspired by that violet evening coat! I have tried some co-ordinating shades next to it, but I think this time I may try what Sue Stoney and Aida have done and put some patterned stitches into the yoke rather than using colour. Plenty of cogitating time!
And in other news (you may have seen it on Instagram) my dear daughter in law Melanie gave birth to a little boy last week. He’s called William Dexter and he is adorable. So much so that he got 389 likes on Instagram! More than I have ever had, even for the swankiest outfit. So welcome little boy! We are delighted to have a fourth grandchild and very much look forward to meeting up IRL, as they say.