Handknitted Lillian Cardigan

Happy New Year, first of all. I hope 2021 brings you more joy, less stress, and more time to make than 2020.

I’m starting the year as I mean to go on, by posting more of my finished garments, – and boy, has this one been a long time coming! I began this project way back in autumn 2017, and I’ve set it aside multiple times, but I finally finished the last stitch and gave it a final block over Christmas.

The pattern

This is the Lillian cardigan by Carrie Bostick Hoge which I fell in love with years ago after seeing a version online that of course I can’t now find. Oh well. It’s a relaxed fit cardigan that’s knitted top-down. The body is in stockinette, and it has wide ribbed cuffs and neckband, plus a garter stitch hemband.

I chose the pattern because it looked achievable for a relative beginner, and it was, more or less. The long tail cast-on took me several goes, and I had to rip out quite a bit along the way because I made careless mistakes knitting in front of the TV. But in general, I’d say that if you’ve made a couple of hats then you can knit this cardigan.

The yarn

I find lots of wool yarns quite itchy, but I’m loathe to use anything that isn’t wool for most of my knitting – for me, wool is the whole point. I’ve made lots of things in merino yarn, so I decided to try Blue-faced Leicester, as I’d heard it was the next softest type of wool to wear. I picked this BFL aran from West Yorkshire Spinners in the aubergine colourway, which is lovely damson-y purple that should work with all the blue in my wardrobe.

It’s lovely to knit with, and I can report it is pretty soft against the skin especially after blocking, although not quite as soft as merino. I bought one more ball than the pattern needed in my size, and I have just over one ball left.

It does pill quite a bit where the arms rub against the body of the garment, so I’ll have to see how it stands up to a garment shaver shortly.

Spot the row just below waist level where I had to rip back and then accidentally put most of the stitches back on the needle the wrong way round. I’m calling it a design feature.

Process and fit

I chose the fourth size, with a finished bust measurement of 43″, the smallest size that would give me positive ease at that point. Having worn is for a few days and found that I sometimes need to pull it back onto my shoulders I’m thinking that going down one size might have been better, which shouldn’t surprise me given that I almost always make a full bust adjustment in dressmaking. It flares out a little towards the hips, so pear-shaped types like me can simply choose the best fit for their bust and shoulders.

My lengthwise gauge always seems much bigger than patterns expect, so I didn’t count the rows in the body sections or arms, and just knitted on until it seemed the right length on me. (Benefits of top-down knitting – you can try it on as you go.) I did also knit the pockets, but opted to leave them off as I thought I’d only stick my phone in one of them and that its weight would spoil the symmetry of the design.

The neckband was probably the trickiest part of the pattern. I never find pick up and knit that easy to do, and I ended up with well over 100 stitches on the needles, which meant finding time to complete a whole rib row in one go was tricky in our busy household. The pattern recommends picking up two stitches for every three along the front edges, but I found this made the band very tight compared to the body section where it meets the hem band, so I’d recommend you pick up 1-1 at that point (making sure you end up with a multiple of four overall). I had to block it quite aggressively to get it to level off here, and I think you can see a hint of the same issue in the pattern images.

Would I make it again?

I’d definitely consider it. I’m loving the cosy factor, and the strong jewel colour adds a lovely pop of colour to drab days. This winter has been all about sewing jumpers and cardigans for me so far, so I’m not sure I need another one… but it would good to put what I’ve learnt into practice and perhaps to try a different yarn. But realistically I’m probably going to move onto the next thing – in fact, I’ve got a much quicker knitting project almost ready to cast off already.

Do you knit slowly or quickly? And do you have any tips for speeding up?

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