Sweater Workshop: The Dahlia Cardigan

The Dahlia Cardigan by Heather Zoppetti, from the Fall 2011 issue of Interweave Knits

A note from Kathleen: The Dahlia Cardigan by Heather Zoppetti, from the Fall 2011 issue of Interweave Knits is one of the most beautiful knitted sweaters I've ever seen. I know lots of you will want to knit it, so I've invited Knits editor Eunny Jang here today to go in-depth about the Dahlia Cardigan. Here she is!

The Dahlia Cardigan


figure a

figure b

I love sweaters that do something unexpected, and Heather Zoppetti's Dahlia Cardigan, from the Fall 2011 issue of Interweave Knits, is one of the best examples I've seen in a long time. Let's take a look at what makes it so unique!

1) Construction
This sweater begins in the middle—the knitted lace panel that makes the back view so surprising is knitted in the round from the center out. Stitches are bound off along the upper and lower edges of the panel, leaving live stitches on the two sides (figure a).

The rest of the back fabric is worked in two four sections that start in the middle and work out, incorporating the live lace panel stitches. A section of stitches on either side worked with waste yarn mark the position of the armholes (figure b).

The fronts are simple continuations of the back stitches, still worked from side to side (figure c).

figure c figure d

Finally, the waste yarn marking the afterthought sleeve openings are snipped, stitches are picked up on either side, and the sleeves are worked in the round from the top down (figure d).

The only seaming this sweater needs in the end is to sew the bound-off top and bottom edges of the lace panel into the back fabric. Very clever!

Dahlia Cardigan, afterthought sleeve detail

figure e  

2) "Afterthought" sleeves
In a sweater with an unusual construction, planning armhole openings can be a challenge-it's tough to fit and finish a gap in a sweater that grows in an unexpected way. At the same time, this sweater wouldn't benefit from a sleeve that needs to be seamed in—the smooth, flowing drape this sweater needs would be ruined by a stiff seam.

Heather hit upon an unusual solution borrowed from sock knitting: Why not simply work a section of stitches in waste yarn that can then be removed to leave a slit edged by live loops (figure e)? You can continue work all the rest of the fabric flat, without interruptions or complex shaping. When you're ready to work the sleeves, all you need to do is remove the waste yarn, pick the live loops up, and knit away.

3) Gauge
The Dahlia Cardigan works a fingering-weight yarn at a relaxed, open gauge for a fabric that flows and drapes even in the solid stockinette portions. While this kind of construction would not work in a stiffer, bulkier fabric, this cardigan's drapiness helps finesse the fit and forgive the lack of shaping at the armholes without limiting the body's movement.

Fit it!
The Dahlia Cardigan is a piece that looks fantastic on all kinds of body types. It's easy, too, to make adjustments to truly flatter your own shape.

Critical measurements (figure f):
— this knitted cardigan is meant to be worn with the fronts overlapped, which can make choosing a size difficult. Consider choosing a size by taking a look at the cross back measurements, choosing the measurement that covers you comfortably from shoulder point to shoulder point.

— check the armhole depth for your size, and make sure that it's a comfortable length for your particular arm (measure your arm circumference at the fullest point and divide by two).

— check the length from the underarm to the hem. We like this cardigan cropped and boxy in the back, but it would be equally lovely quite a lot longer, depending on if you want it to fall to your hip or cover your derriere.

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figure f
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— if you want to shape this cardigan, consider working some short rows at each side to make the fabric longer toward the bust and hip, and narrower at the waist.

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Dahlia Cardigan, front view

Customize it!

Try working the front halves of this cardigan in different lengths—the pattern calls for two equal fronts that are just long enough to drape and flutter, but you could make one side much longer than the other to act as a wrap, make them both short and add a closure for a more traditional cardigan shape, or even taper both and make them long enough to wrap around like a ballet top.


At Interweave Knits, we love sweaters that make you look at knitting in a new way. Subscribe now and make sure you don't miss a single one!

Happy knitting,

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