Hello, my name is Erin, and I’m addicted to cardigans. It’s been less than a week since my last cardigan, and I never plan to stop.
This time, I took a break from the Seamwork Olso cardigan (of which I have three), and I opted for the sewist-favorite Blackwood from Helen’s Closet. And I now appreciate the glory that is the Blackwood cardigan.
The neat finishes and excellent instructions for the Blackwood make it a joy to sew. I suspect this is my first of many Blackwoods!
Why I Sewed the Blackwood Cardigan
I’ve liked the Blackwood cardigan since it came out in 2017, and when it went on sale this year, I snatched up. In case you didn’t know, Helen Wilkinson (of Helen’s Closet, natch), expanded the Blackwood’s size range, and the sale celebrated the expansion.
Which leads me to the other reason I bought the Blackwood: I wanted to study Helen’s new-and-improved size range. This purchase was straight-up reconnaissance for a burgeoning pattern designer, because size inclusivity is important to me.
Throwing it waaaay back to when I did Wardrobe Architect, the Blackwood cardigan appealed to me because it slots nicely into my key style words:
A long cardigan + skinny jeans + T-shirt is probably my ideal outfit, when I feel most comfortable and most myself. And if I were more of a office-work-type gal, I would swap the skinny jeans and T for skinny trousers and a fun blouse (respectively). I also think this long cardigan would look cute with a short skirt, kinda like how Cake favors girls in short skirts and long jackets. 😘🎂
Blackwood Cardigan Fabric
I stitched this cardigan in 195 gsm Merino wool from The Fabric Store. (I bought it when I bought the marsala Merino wool for my Simplicity 8738 sweater, because if you’re shipping fabric from the other side of the planet, why not make it worth your while, right?)
The color here is bottle green. I love this rich hue, but I’m always wary of wearing green; it tends to make me look ill. This leans more blue than yellow, so I took a chance on bottle green, and I think it worked out!
BTW, my husband referred to this color as “’90s minivan green,” which gave me a good laugh, because it’s true. Did your mom drive a minivan this color?
Modifications for My Blackwood
I sewed an 8, grading to 10 at the hips. This is tall drink of cardigan is one of two views for the Blackwood. The other view hits at the hip and omits the pockets. I love a cardi that covers my bum, so I had to opt for the long guy. Plus, pockets!
The biggest mod to this Blackwood is that I made the bottom band two (horizontal) pieces instead of one. I wanted to conserve this expensive fabric, and cutting two pieces helped make that happen. I don’t think it takes away from the design. (Seriously, when you look at the back view photo, you can’t see the two pieces.)
Tips for Sewing the Blackwood Cardigan
Here’s what I made notes on as I stitched this cardi; please put them to use should you join me in Blackwood-wearing-dom:
Draw lines to guide folding.
To get sharp, straight edges, the pockets call for careful folding. (The seam allowance for the pattern is 3/8 inch, so there’s not a lot to work with.)
Using chalk or another fabric-marking tool, draw a line to which to fold the raw edge of the pocket. Guides make you like sewing so much better, sewing friends!
Control rolling edges.
The hardest part of sewing this cardigan was how the edges rolled to the right side. It made identifying and aligning pattern pieces tricky.
I tamed the rolling edges with gently placed pattern weights, taking care not to stretch the wool. The weights were like extra fingers.
Feed shoulder stabilizer ahead of the edge to be sewn.
To stabilize the shoulder seam, I used 1/4-inch pre-shrunk cotton twill tape. (You’ve got lots of options for stabilizing seams; I like twill tape because it’s soft.)
Whichever stabilizing notion you choose, don’t bother aligning the top of the stabilizer with the top of the seam. Your line of stitching likely will not start out great; I cannot tell you all the times I’ve had twill tape and fabric jammed into the needle plate because I was OBSESSED with having all layers aligned at the beginning of the seam.
Instead, scoot a length of twill tape (or whatevs) under and BEHIND the presser foot — about two inches past the back of the foot. Then place your layers of fabric under the presser foot and start stitching. Once you finish the line of stitching, trim the excess twill tape.
I promise you’ll get better results with less frustration by being generous with your stabilizing material.
Baste the front band to cardigan before sewing or serging.
The front band is looooong, especially if you stitch the tunic-length version of this cardi. You’ll have better control of that long line of stitching if you baste first, and you won’t have pins to pull out when you do the final sewing.
Don’t skip topstitching front band.
The instructions call for topstitching the front band seam allowance to the fronts of the cardigan. When I read through the instructions before getting underway, I was 99 percent sure I was going to skip this step. In my head, because I was going to serge this cardigan, topstitching seemed unnecessary. (Does anyone else feel that way about serging AND topstitching?)
So, after I serged on front band and tried on my Blackwood, I could see that topstitching WAS a great idea. It holds down the seam allowances and discourages the band from flipping out. I didn’t think it would make a difference, but it really did!
Have fun with fabric.
Holy wah, there are TONS of fun fabrics you could use to sew a Blackwood, from a slinky silk jersey to a beefy sweater knit. It’s a miracle pattern that way. I highly suggest checking the #blackwoodcardigan tag on Instagram for major inspiration. Personally, I’d like Blackwoods in French terry and a quilted knit. How about you?
Over to you, my sewing doves: Do you, too, have a growing cardigan collection? What’s your favorite cardi pattern? What cool Blackwood hacks have you seen? Please share you knowledge in comments!
P.S. If you’re a cardigan fan, check out this beaut (still a huge favorite): Seamwork Olso review: At ease in a classic cardigan. And there’s this post, too: Named Saunio Cardigan: Harder than it looks.
P.P.S. My “Maker” T-shirt is from Megan Nielsen!
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