Knit the Perfect Plus-Sized Cardi Vest

Years ago, as a young editor at Interweave, I worked in the shadow of Ann Budd, and her book The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns left quite an impression on me. I’ve always been a bigger girl, and I had learned to knit sweaters for myself through trial and error; but Ann’s book made me realize something that I’d been missing in my plus-sized knitting adventures—the construction of a sweater makes all the difference in how you customize the fit.

So when my time came to write a book, I wrote a book about knitting for plus sizes, and the thesis of my book was this: there are 5 basic sweater construction styles, and each can be modified for bigger bodies, but each has its own rules for such modifications. If you learn the styles and how to modify them, as a plus-sized knitter, you will be free to make any garment you want for yourself. That book was Knitting Plus: Mastering Plus-Size Style.

5 Basic Sweater Types

The following types of sweaters are covered in my book:

1. The Drop Shoulder
2. The Set-in
3. The Raglan
4. The Seamless Yoke
5. The Dolman

For each chapter, I included sweater patterns in the style that are designed and sized specifically for plus-sized women. As publishing goes, when it came to time to lay out the pages of the book, we couldn’t fit all the content we had planned for it. So a couple patterns did not make it into the final book. One of those patterns was my Dartford Cardigan Vest, which is a great wardrobe piece that I wear frequently to this day.

plus-sized cardi

Lisa in her Dartford Cardigan Vest; she wears the vest with 4” of positive ease; she is 5’6” tall

I never published the vest pattern and years went by. I wore the vest around around town; I wore it when I spoke to the HUGE Madison Knitter’s Guild in Wisconsin; I wore it around the office, and people always complimented it. This vest is easy to style; throw it over a dress and leggings with some boots, over a flannel and jeans, it’s the essential wooly layer that wears like a roomy cardigan. But thanks to its ample length, waist and hip shaping, and tailored armholes and crossback, it also fits and flatters larger women, especially pear-shaped women. And worked in an Aran-weight yarn, the fabric could add bulk but it really doesn’t. But! That big gauge plus an affordable yarn with great yardage makes for a quick and affordable knit for any size. This really is a great project for curvy women—quick knitting, a fun pattern to follow, the yarn won’t break the bank, and the finished object is wearable everyday.

So I asked Lori, who tech edited my book years ago, if she still had the pattern, and she did! We are thrilled to now offer the Dartford Cardigan Vest as a digital pattern. This vest is offered in 5 sizes as follows:

42.75 (48.75, 54.75, 60.75, 66.75)” bust circumference and 49 (55, 61, 67, 73)” hip circumference

Jenn in vest: Jenn wears the vest with 3.75” of positive ease; she is 5’7” tall

Jenn wears the vest with 3.75” of positive ease; she is 5’7” tall

Laura in Vest: Laura wears the vest with 2.25” of positive ease; she is 5’7” tall

Laura wears the vest with 2.25” of positive ease; she is 5’7” tall

Lisa wears the vest with 3.75” of positive ease; she is 5’1” tall

Lisa wears the vest with 3.75” of positive ease; she is 5’1” tall

Meghan wears the vest with 8” negative ease; she is 5’8” tall

Meghan wears the vest with 8” negative ease; she is 5’8” tall

The vest shown here is the smallest size; I am modeling it with about 4” of positive ease. The other women modeling it, kind ladies from the Interweave office, are wearing it with varying amounts of ease and their heights range from 5’1” to 5’8”. Meghan was our tallest model and she has the widest crossback, so I would suggest a larger size from the pattern for her, or modifications to the cross-back width.

What’s a crossback? Well, that’s the measurement of the upper back from shoulder to shoulder. Set-in sweaters allow for tailored and customized crossbacks, which make them ideal for plus-sized women. You may only think of sleeves when you hear set-in, but the tailored armhole and crossback are also essential elements of a set-in sweater, and the Dartford Cardigan Vest demonstrates this beautifully—this garment doesn’t even have sleeves, but it’s still a set-in! From the set-in chapter in my book: “By decreasing stitches along the armholes of the yoke, the upper body gradually tapers from the wide bust to the narrower shoulder. This is extremely useful for plus-size knitters, whose lower bodies need great expanse but whose cross-back widths don’t increase in proportion.”

Download the pattern for the Dartford Cardigan Vest today and find your perfect fit. And if you want to learn more about knitting for plus sizes and the 5 sweater types, download the digital version of my book, Knitting Plus.

Knit curvy, ladies.
—Lisa


Get it and make it!