Slightly adrift on the Driftless Cardigan

Despite my longtime obsession with indie pattern designers, this Driftless Cardigan is my first make from Grainline studio.

Grainline Studio Driftless Cardigan in merino jersey from The Fabric Store

It’s made in this wonderful merino jersey from The Fabric Store. I purchased this fabric together with the merino jersey I used for my black and white colour-blocked juniper cardigan. When it arrived, the jersey, described as “grey marle”, had a slightly more violet undertone than I expected. But it is lovely nonetheless.

I was inspired to make this Driftless Cardigan as part of the  wonderful Instagram #cosycardichallenge hosted by Amanda of I sew a lot, and Rachel and Nikki, the Stitch Sisters. As we head into autumn and winter in the Northern hemisphere, cardigans are essential. Prior to the #cosycardichallenge, I’d never really thought about sewing them, so thank-you lovely ladies for broadening my sewing horizons.

I ran out of time to actually blog and photograph this Driftless Cardigan in time for the challenge. But here it is now. Better late than never!

Cut, cut, cut

When I first saw how many pattern pieces the Driftless Cardigan has, I was a little intimidated by my choice of stripes. The back and fronts of the cardigan are two pieces each, then there are cuffs, a hem band and a neck band.

It took me forever to try to cut it out as carefully as possible. I cut each piece individually, on a single layer of fabric. I paid attention to where in the striped pattern each piece ended. Then I tried to line up the attaching piece accordingly, taking the seam allowance into account. But, in the end, true stripe matching alluded me. Stripes are straight. Certain pattern pieces are curved. That makes for a difficult stripe-matching equation! So my eventual aim became for my stripes not to be too visually jarring at any given point.

Grainline Studio Driftless Cardigan in merino jersey from The Fabric Store


That last sentence is pretty much me in a nutshell. Starting out with grand ambitions. Ending up settling for something a little more modest…

Oh, one quick cutting related tip. This pattern has a seam allowance of only 1/4 inch. This is much smaller than I usually work with. So be very careful if you mark your notches with snips. It is easy to snip longer than your seam allowance.

Ask me how I know.

4, 6, 8, 10, 12

I keep finding patterns these days where my body measurements seem to span 4-5 different sizes. This is always one of the big moments of suspense when I sew for the first time with a new designer. Will be this be one of those designers which just kind of works for me? Or will a bit more work be required?

For my body, personally,  Closet Case Patterns, remains the only designer where I tend to fall squarely within one size.

My body measurements went from a 4 at the hips to a 12 at the waist. In the end, I decided to sew my Driftless Cardigan in an 8. This corresponded with my bust measurement and fell squarely in the middle.

Usually I would grade between the waist and hip, but I was a bit reticent to do so here. For a simple garment, the Driftless Cardigan has lots of pieces. Or at least that’s what it felt like at the outset. I was worried that with so many little pieces I would forget to grade somewhere and mess it all up. In the end, it wouldn’t have been too hard to do, but it is often only in retrospect that I can appreciate that even a pattern with lots of little pieces can still be pretty simple!

Ultimately, once it was sewn up, I took about an inch out of the side seam at the hip, because it was just too boxy for me.

Minor mods to my Driftless Cardigan

Speaking of which, am I the only one who is reluctant to tweak a pattern too much the first time I sew it?

I’m happy to do a few basics – grading between sizes, lengthening etc. Beyond that, I worry that if I mess with the pattern too much the first time and there are problems, how will I know what went wrong. Is it the pattern or the way I messed with it?

This is especially the case when it’s my first time sewing a pattern by a given designer.

The only modification that I did make was to lengthen the sleeves. Online, I had seen that quite a few sewists had done this. When I checked the finished sleeve measurements, the sleeve seemed ridiculously short, so I lengthened by 3 inches. I was initially glad to have done so because, even lengthened, the sleeve piece looked teeny tiny. I had failed to take into account, however, that the Driftless cardigan has a significant drop shoulder. So, in fact, the original sleeve piece, un-lengthened, would have been just fine for me. I don’t dislike my super-long arms, they just weren’t really necessary. Still, no harm in extra long spider-like arms for some wrapping-around-my-finger-tips cosiness.

Grainline Studio Driftless Cardigan in merino jersey from The Fabric Store

The only technique-based modification I made was to machine sew my neck band seam allowance down to stop it from flipping out. The instructions call for hand-sewing. But I’m just not willing to devote time to hand-sewing for a casual knit garment.

Sorry. Lazy sewist here. And I don’t dislike the way it looks machine-sewn.


There are definitely a few things that I really like about the Driftless cardigan. I love the look of the dropped shoulder. This feature is also sooo comfy to wear. Dropped shoulders in striped fabrics is pretty much one of my all-time favourite combinations.

I also love how neat the Driftless cardigan is, due to the use of cuffs and bands everywhere. As a firm believer that every sleeve in a knit fabric should be finished with a cuff, it’s lovely when a pattern agrees with me!

I have also discovered, more generally, that cardigans are quite a fun and easy garment to sew due to neckbands! In a top, the neckband can be tricky. There can be fiddly easing and the need to get into hard-to reach areas. In contrast, a cardigan neck band is a piece of cake!


However, there are a few things about the Driftless cardigan which weren’t my favourite.

First, I  didn’t notice until after I’d already overlocked that there is no stabilisation of the shoulder seam included in the pattern instructions. I should have added this. Especially when I’m working with a lovely fabric, I want to do everything I can to ensure it lasts. An extra minute or two placing some clear elastic into the shoulder seam would have been well worth it.

Similarly, I didn’t notice until the end that the pattern does not call for  interfacing the lower neck band. The part where the buttons and button holes will be placed. Again, I didn’t pay much attention to this because I wasn’t planning on including buttons. But, once it was all finished, I decided I wanted buttons after all.

It was only at this point that I noticed the absence of interfacing. This is a major contrast to the instructions of the juniper cardigan I recently made, which called for interfacing and also included optional instructions for inserting a cross-grain ribbon for extra stabilisation.

In the end, I was too scared to damage the fabric of my Driftless Cardigan by inserting buttons and button holes in an area without interfacing so I didn’t do it. But, unless I missed it somewhere in the instructions, I think that it is an oversight to not stabilise the area where buttons will be placed, even in a casual garment.

So I have learned that for Grainline studio patterns, I can’t necessarily sew on “automatic pilot”. Instead, I’ll need to think a bit about the instructions and whether I wish to supplement them.

Also, while very practical, the pockets create a bit of an unflattering “baggy” look, even once secured. Maybe it’s just my fabric, but the wool jersey of the pocket bag pulls against the cardigan front. Unless my hands are actually in my pockets, I could be having a weird saggy, baggy elephant moment at any given time.

Me-made casuals

Overall, I am happy with this cardigan. But it did come out a bit more casual looking than I had in mind. Still, I will definitely get plenty of cosy Sunday afternoon wear out of it.

Grainline Studio Driftless Cardigan in merino jersey from The Fabric Store

Actually, this cardigan reflects something of the broader wardrobe dilemma I currently face. For a long time, I found that I would wear almost totally me-mades to work all week. Come the weekend, when I finally had the chance to be truly myself, I was reaching for RTW because I didn’t have enough casual me-made garments. So I am definitely trying to fill a weekend casual wardrobe gap (and my new ginger jeans are going a long way to this end!).

With more casual garments like this Driftless Cardigan, however, I sometimes worry that I am not getting enough “value-added” to justify the time and expense of me-made. This Driftless Cardigan, for example, being loose-fitting and casual, doesn’t really fit or look any better than a RTW equivalent. In addition, it’s not the kind of garment which is difficult to find RTW.

So it made me stop and wonder, was it really worth it?

Yes, but only…

In the end, my answer is “Yes” but for one simple reason.

This merino jersey from The Fabric Store is simply divine. I would never find something of such quality in a simple, casual RTW. For me, the lesson here is that, for casual items, the value-added of going me-made is being able to incorporate luxurious high quality fabrics into every-day wear.

As if I needed more incentive to give in to my penchant for expensive fabrics…

What do you guys think? Do you have a “type” of garment that makes you wonder whether it is really worth going me-made, rather than RTW?

9 thoughts on “Slightly adrift on the Driftless Cardigan

    1. Thanks for the idea. That makes sense with how crossgrain ribbon was used in the juniper cardigan. Just not sure I’m up for hand sewing on such a casual garment. Usually when I decide to live with an imperfection, I get to lazy to go back and fix it, even when faced with a super useful idea like yours!

  1. I think sewing most things with a truly luxurious fabric, like a beautiful merino jersey, silk maxi dress or lovely high quality linen is going to be more economical and more satisfying than buying RTW! I’ve made the Driftless, and have worn it incessantly throughout my pregnancy, but my preference for it looking a little more polished was to make it in quite a stable knit, as I agree, those saggy pockets can detract a little. I think you’ll find you’ll reach for this more and more and grow to wonder how you did without it!

    1. I hope so! I must confess it’s already becoming the thing I reach for most for around the house since merino jersey wrapped around me is just perfection!

  2. I definitely am the same – my weekday/work wardrobe is about 95% handmade but my weekend wardrobe is 95% RTW! I have started to make some tshirts because they do fit better and more comfortably because I have a big bust and comparatively small shoulders so RTW tshirts are either too tight or too baggy on my upper torso. But I mostly wear leggings and yoga pants and honestly, it’s hard here to find good knit fabric and when you do it’s expensive, so it’s not at all cost effective to make them when I can buy them for less than the fabric costs. Maybe one day – but I’m not willing to put the work in to find a good pattern that fits better than RTW when I still need work clothes.

    Your cardigan looks lovely though! I agree re: grosgrain ribbon and buttons. If you wanted to do it on just the side you sew the buttons onto you could machine stitch it on and you wouldn’t see it when it’s buttoned up. Tbh if it were me I’d probably machine stitch it anyway because I don’t think I’d notice it very much, it would just look like topstitching. You could stitch just the vertical and leave the top and bottom free, and remember that it will be tacked down too by the buttons and buttonholes.

    1. Glad I’m not the only one with a lack of weekend me-mades. I hadn’t thought about the fact that I could machine stitch only the vertical part of the ribbon and it wouldn’t be that obvious. Good point. In my mind I’d been imagining having to stitch down a whole rectangle but of course that’s not really necessary. And on this stripe, it wouldn’t even be very obvious

  3. Really interesting post Beck. I like this look on you, and I think taking in the seam allowances at the hip was a good choice. The merino jersey is divine and it looks sooooo comfy! I agree with you about not tweaking a pattern too much on the first try, and wonder what you’ll do to this pattern if you decide to make it again? Like you, I struggle with boxy styles. I love the look of them, but find they do nothing for me. I do love wardrobe basics though, so have more weekend wear staples and could talk about them forever if ever you should want some recommendations 😉

    1. Thanks Helen – I have already been quite inspired by your Apollon sweater post today! Like you describe in your post, I also find it hard to find a balance between comfy loose but not totally shapeless! I think if I were to sew this again I would just stick with my bust size for the whole thing or, at minimum, properly grade down a couple of sizes at the hip instead of having to take off at the side seam post facto. I would also maybe try to cut out the pocket piece in two different fabrics so that the pocket itself is in a lining type fabric which won’t be unsightly against the main fabric. I would love to play with colour blocking too, using a darker shade of the same colour for the lower pieces. I feel like that kind of colour detail could also distract from the “I’m wearing a box” paranoia I can sometimes have!

      1. That’s really interesting about basing it on your bust size, and the thoughts about the pocket lining/ colour blocking. I know what you mean about not wanting to “wear a box”!

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