A Color Blocked Driftless Cardigan

Sewing clothes, as fun as it is, is always at least a little bit of a gamble. Even if it’s something you’ve sewn before, you might get different results if you’re using a different fabric or different technique or even if your body has changed a bit. Typically, at this point in my sewing game, my makes turn out well enough that I can usually wear it even if it’s not a total success, but this works out best if I choose to employ my brain during the making process. Apparently my brain was elsewhere while I made this color blocked Driftless cardigan because I seemed intent on making every mistake perceivable, sometimes twice!

And I’m not exaggerating! It was a great reminder that I still have much to learn in the world of textiles and sewing!

Here’s the whole stinking saga:

Nature Appreciation Moment!: Wildflowers in almost the same color combo I’ve been dreaming of!

Probably close to two years ago, I saw a color blocked sherpa pullover in the best color combination. The colors were bright red-orange and grape purple. It was a match made in heaven and although I didn’t buy the pullover, I couldn’t get the color combo out of my head. In fact, I started seeing it all over on our walks. I knew I wanted to make something using the same colors and a Driftless cardigan came to mind because the pattern is-not technically but-basically drafted for color blocking. It would be super easy if only I could find the right colors.

But finding the right colors proved to be a huge problem. I wanted fleece backed sweater knit for the project and I quickly found, as I scoured all the sites, that the colors I was after aren’t readily available. I finally decided to just dye my own.

See? This process has been loooong. This picture was, like, way pre-pregnancy. For the record, I tried dyeing like this but then moved to the tub method which was much better for my yards of bulky fabric

I got through dyeing the fabric, cutting it out and at least half way through sewing the cardigan when I finally paused before adding the cuffs and collar to try it on. That’s when I realized I’d bought a fleece backed sweater knit that had absolutely no stretch. That wouldn’t be a problem for some patterns, but for the Driftless, with its fitted arms, it is definitely a problem. You have to have some stretch! So I had to scrap that and go back to square one.

This time I found some fleece backed sweater knit with stretch at Girl Charlee. Thankfully it was pretty cheap. Then I did more dying. And I wasn’t getting the colors I wanted. The first (failed) round of dying didn’t give me the exact colors I wanted but it got close enough that I just kind of threw up my hands and gave in. But this round of dying seemed to be much worse. The colors seemed washed out and faded. It wasn’t at all what I had in mind. After some time to ruminate (because sometimes you just need to set things on the back burner for a bit), it hit me that I was using the wrong dye. I had been doing dye baths with Procion dye from Dharma Trading which is a totally awesome dye if you’re using the right material, namely natural fabric. BUT my sweater knit had spandex in it, which I think is why the dye wasn’t adhering to the fabric as well as it had for my first batch.


Realizing this was a big old slap to the forehead and a wonder why this hadn’t occurred to me sooner! I can’t claim to be adept in the world of dyeing because I’m not, but I do know enough to know that you need natural fabrics for dyes to be successful.

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

I didn’t take a picture of the fabric I was dying, but did take a picture of the shirt I ended up tie-dying because it had gotten splashed in the dye process. Turned out really cute, too!

So. The fabric was still usable. It had been dyed but I figured if I got the right dye, I could over-dye it. This time I did a bit more research and ended up getting Rit DyeMore for Synthetics which, like it says, is for dying fabric made of synthetic material. I borrowed a giant pot from my neighbor and got to dyeing, which as a totally different process than the Procion dye bath, namely that you have to boil water and stir and stir and stir over this big pot of dye and make sure your fabric is fluid and moving and not just dying one part of your fabric. It is not hard but it is a bit hot and a bit tiring. I was worried about making things too dark so I pulled the fabric after 30 minutes I believe. The fabric was darker than it had been with the Procion dye but I wish I’d left it in longer so that I could’ve gotten some deeper colors.

As the fabric turned out, I’d say it’s not really even close to the colors I had in mind. The red is too pink and the purple isn’t deep enough. I’m going to have to figure out a different project and a different way to achieve that color combination I was trying for, because I still think it’s awesome. But for this project, that aspect was a total fail, although I do like the colors I ended up with.

I wish I could say the color fail was the only issue with this make, but alas, there’s more!

I won’t even beat around the bush with it because it’s so blatantly obvious that some of you may have seen it and high tailed it out of here dismissing me as a total fraud to have made such a grievous sewing error. My collar is seriously off grain! Either that or things got really out of whack by me hand sewing the collar in place on the back side. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s from both those things but either way it’s quite an eye sore! I’m sure I’ve pressed it a lot but I may need to throw in the wet towel…literally. Pressing it with a straight-up, wet dishcloth has been a good way to iron tricky-to-press material and the collar may look a bit better if I go that route. I’ll give it a try!

Aside from the poorly executed collar, the rest of the sewing went just fine, thank you very much. I’ve gotta steal some respect back when I’ve got the chance! Having made the pattern before, there wasn’t anything that was new for me and if there had been, I probably wouldn’t have handled it what with all my other issues. Much of this cardigan was finagled into existence during my pregnancy or early postpartum (it’s been finished for some months) so maybe the lesson learned is don’t sew and be pregnant…or something like that. I’m joking, of course! Although something does happen to my brain toward the end of the pregnancy and then once again when I’m not sleeping through the night. But enough on that.

Here are the insides! I’ve been trying to show more of the insides of the garments I make, simply because I like seeing the wrong side of other people’s makes.

I tried to keep an open mind when it came to the buttons and I ended up going with these reddish pink ones I had in my stash. They were the right size and matched the red/pink fabric I ended up with. I guess that’s one part of this cardigan I really do like!

In the end, I’m not quite sure whether to pass this cardigan or to fail it. It’s not my most precise make, but I have worn it a fair few times despite its flaws. It is warm and cozy-the fleece-backed knit makes sure of that-and it fits around me and son when I’m baby carrying, which is extremely convenient (I’ll have to get a photo of this sometime). The colors aren’t right, but I do like them and think they’re fun. But the problem with the collar is bad enough that anyone taking a second look might notice. Ah, well, warmer weather is fast approaching so I’ll soon send this to the back of the closet where it can sit and either I’ll miss it and be happy to see it come fall or I won’t.

In other news, I gave in to itching my eyes in the midst of my seasonal allergies and I may or may not have given myself an eye infection. So it’s all glasses all the time over here and I’m growing more unenthusiastic about this development by the day. Hopefully the contacts feel comfortable soon!

Pattern: Driftless Cardigan from Grainline Studios
Size: 8 (I just wanted to note that I sized down. This was in the works pre-pregnancy so I was going of those measurements. When I came back around to making, I kept the pattern pieces I’d already traced instead of sizing up).
Alterations: I widened the neck band just by a quarter inch on each side mostly for aesthetics, though I wouldn’t be afraid to go up another quarter inch
Fabric: Fleece backed sweater knit from Girl Charlee
Cost: I messed up so many times and had to start over that I lost track of total expenditures. For this particular iteration, I (probably) spent about $15 on Rit Synthetic Dye and ColorStay Dye Fixative and $15 on two yards of fabric. Everything else from stash
Would I make this again?: The pattern is awesome and I stand by it. The problems with my cardigan were user (me!) error, not that of the pattern makers. I will definitely make more Driftless Cardigans although I won’t retry this version unless I find fabric in the exact colors I’m wanting

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