Happy Easter and welcome to a review of my first test! I was really excited to try testing a garment and had been looking around for a cardigan pattern for some time. Since then, a bunch of cardigan patterns have all appeared from nowhere, but at the time it seemed like providence when Jennifer Lauren put out a call for testing the Juniper cardigan. I leapt at the chance and was luckily accepted! For Easter we visited the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival here in Washington state and since Jennifer appears to use floral names a lot for patterns, it seemed an appropriate backdrop for this blog post.
Let me cut to the chase by saying that I made both versions of the cardigan: View 1, the cropped version as part of the test procedure and View 2, the longline version after the revisions were made. I had a few sizing issues with the cropped cardigan and that was for two big reasons: 1) I sized down as I’ve become accustomed to doing with knits and I shouldn’t have. In my experience of this pattern, the sizing is accurate, so no need to adjust. 2) I used fabric with wayyyy too little stretch. More on that later, but on the second attempt, the fit was a million times better.
First, a little about the cardigan. As I mentioned, there are two main versions: cropped and longline, and there are also two different sleeve lengths to accompany them: full and 3/4 length sleeves. The immediate stand-out feature about these cardigans is the saddle shoulder, which is an unusual detail which lends itself to interesting possibilities with colour-blocking and pattern-play. The cardigan is based on Jennifer’s successful Auden cardigan for me, which is one of my favourite menswear patterns. The Juniper is also fairly form fitting, which also differentiates it from many patterns I’ve seen, which tend to be looser and more flowing, even (horror) the waterfall style. (Sorry, I have an allergy to wavy hi-low styles).
The pattern is rated as an intermediate pattern, but there’s no reason why an adventurous beginner (i.e. me) or somebody who has made a couple of knit garments before couldn’t have a go. I found the instructions to be extremely comprehensive and the pattern to fit together exactly as described (not always the case!) and, therefore, it shouldn’t pose too many problems. The main “tricky” part is easing the pieces together at the shoulders, and that just takes a little practice, but I thought it was actually quite straightforward if you follow the instructions. Furthermore, based on the testers’ feedback, Jennifer is doing a full sewalong, which should completely ease any worries you may (or may not) have.Back to the make(s). So, I know Jennifer has now added a specification that the stretch should be 40% or more and, indeed, I believe she is discussing the fit and fabric in detail on her blog, but I really wasn’t sure what was the best fabric to use. I knew I needed a “stable knit” and also that a cotton-lycra/spandex mix would work. What I really wanted was merino wool, but that appears to be next to impossible to find here, at least in Seattle and not for a gazillion dollars. I found one online store in LA, but then it turned out you could only order online from New Zealand (!?). I went into all my local stores here and I even went round the entire annual Sew Expo exhibition at Puyallup… – but no dice.So I ended up buying a black cotton-lycra mix fabric from an online store called Eagle Fabrics, which was described as ideal for cardigans. I’m sure it might be for some cardigans, but not this particular style as it turned out. I guess the fabric has a maybe 10-15% stretch and after I had put most of the size 16 cropped cardigan together, it was clear that this was not going to fit me very well. I then came across this black and white zig-zagged ponte knit at the aforementioned Puyallup show and decided to try the longer version in a size 18. This worked much better and the stretch/fabric guide Jennifer has added to the final pattern is great for beginners to get a feel for a good fabric.
My only slight disappointment with the fabric is that I thought the saddle shoulder contrast would be more pronounced because of the strong print, but I think the fact it’s a more complex zigzag pattern hides the contrast a little. It’s a small quibble though, because apart from that I love the cardigan. The ponte is thick, but soft, and I used the original black fabric for the contrast neckband, cuffs and waistband, where the lack of stretch actually works really well. I didn’t even use the recommended interfacing in the end for the neckband as it’s sufficiently supportive on its own.
This is a fairly form-fitting cardigan and the size 18 gives me a little wiggle space that I like. I am still a slightly undecided on the button placement. Jennifer makes a suggestion, but leaves it up to the maker in the end and I went for five lower buttons on this version. However, with the shaping of the cardigan I may go back and add a couple more, up to the natural “V” of the neckline (rather like the pattern picture of the cropped version). I get a few little draglines with it only buttoned up two-thirds of the way and it appears that adding a couple more buttons will reduce that. I also really like wearing it open though and that may end up being my principal choice when donning this particular garment.
Overall I have to say that I like this cardigan a lot, and one of the reasons is that it’s different from most of the others I’ve seen around the blogosphere. I definitely do have space in my wardrobe for an Oslo/Blackwood/Driftless cardigan (and I plan to tackle one of these soon), but it’s harder to find a shaped cardi like this one. The cropped version is actually the one that attracted me in the first place, so I will definitely be going back to that now that I understand the fabric/sizing requirements better. And if I ever manage to find any damned merino! Any ideas from fellow US dwellers? Bye for now and hope you ate alllll the eggs…