March is cardigan month at Sew My Style headquarters and I thought I’d give both the patterns a shot. I certainly won’t be doing that every month, but cardigans are usually a pretty quick sew and I liked the look of both these longline cardigans. They’re quite similar in many ways, so I reckoned a bit of contrast and comparison might be fun.
Helen’s Closet Blackwood cardigan
Honestly, I’m surprised there are so many people who haven’t made this cardigan from Helen – I think it was her first BIG pattern (although I could be wrong) and it has certainly been roundly lauded in the sewing community. It was time to find out why!
There are two lengths of the Blackwood and I decided to go for the longer version, as I have a few shorter cardigans I wear pretty constantly already, plus I really wanted something that would cover my arse, to put not too fine a point on it. This is actually one of the reasons I thought it might be fun to make both designs: they seem pretty similar longline garments at first glance – but are they really? Only time would tell!
There are so many reviews of this pattern out there, that I’m not going to go into much detail on construction and so on. It reminded me very much indeed of the Seamwork Oslo cardigan, both in shape and construction, so if you love the Blackwood but would like a little more central coverage (the Blackwood is designed to be worn open), the Oslo might be worth a look for you. Helen’s instructions are of the extremely thorough type you would expect from her and she covers all aspects of cardigan-making with flair.
She clearly spends a great deal of time thinking through how people interact with her patterns and I appreciate that a lot. The Blackwood has just been released in extended sizing and now includes a B and a D cup. I basically fell into the C cup category size-wise and right in the middle of the 16 and 18, so took Helen’s advice to go down rather than up and made the 16B. Did I make the right decision?
Hard to say, and even more so because I did a crappy cutting job for this pattern and ended up having to make do with half the width of the neckband, which makes boob coverage hard to judge. Doh. The fabric requirements are very exacting (I needed 2 yards, I had 2 yards, although my fabric was slightly narrower than required). I applaud Helen for this, as so many patterns tell you that you need 3.5 yards and then I easily cut the pattern in 2.5, which is rather a waste. However, make sure you really do have the recommendation for the Blackwood as it’s a squeeze.
Fabric-wise I used this rather weighty 100% organic cable sweater knit by Albstoffe. It’s of incredible quality and I thought the slightly more structured Blackwood could take it. I love the resultant creaminess and think it will go well with so many things. It would look cute styled with a thin leather belt too I reckon. It was a little bulky to sew with at times and, in retrospect, I probably should have used something thinner for the pockets and bands, but I just about made it.
Overall, this is a solid cardigan pattern that would suit just about anyone, and I can see why it’s been so popular. I think I slightly prefer the fit of the Oslo on me, but I’d probably have to make another Blackwood in a thinner fabric for a fair comparison.
Style Arc Como Cardigan
Now to the Style Arc Como. This is also a longline cardigan, but has a rather different structure and construction method than I’ve used before. The main difference is that it has dropped shoulders and so the main body piece has all of the front, but also some of the back body, to which you attach the dropped sleeves. It’s quite a fun method… once you get your head round it.
Where Helen’s instructions couldn’t be any more in depth, Style Arc goes for the succinct approach, definitely assuming a certain amount of sewing knowledge. I will certainly recommend that you take a look at Paulette from Petite Font’s very helpful photoguide, which she put together for Sew My Style this month, and which adds some very useful pictorial info to the brief instructions.
My top tip would be: 1) You must must must mark the notches and other pattern details for this one as seams don’t line up nicely at obvious spots, given the unusual design. I made the 16 and I would say that this is an oversized cardigan. I used this very drapey sweater knit because of the dropped shoulder and I think it works for the drafting. I got it from Vogue Fabrics a couple of years ago and couldn’t tell you what the content is, but I suspect it’s not entirely natural. Makes a great drapey cardigan though! I’m not sure how the cardigan would look in a thicker fabric. It might be a bit bulky, so perhaps consider sizing down if you plan on using something with more body.
I thought I would have a bit of a nightmare handling it, but the serger actually coped with it well. I wouldn’t have said my seams were the most exact I’ve ever sewn, but the loose weave means it doesn’t matter too much as you can’t really tell. I like the way you can get a nice contrast effect with the back yoke and wish I’d placed that piece slightly more carefully, but there we are. I do prefer the pocket formation method with the Como, which is quite a standard one, but I think it’s easier to handle than the Blackwood pockets.
Overall, these are both quick sews with a serger and different enough that I enjoyed making both of them. I didn’t realise how much I was missing a long cardigan, but I’ve already worn it with several items that I felt just a touch uncomfortable with by themselves (but hadn’t really realised) and love the way it looks. So there you go – more discoveries on the wardrobe journey!