This week’s blog is a bit different to previous weeks; I’m taking a detour from the beginner’s blog as I’ve amazingly been given the opportunity to do a pattern review of Athina Kakou’s Nikki Cardigan. I’m really excited to have been given the chance to do this and I absolutely love the finished garment.
Who’s pattern am I reviewing?
I’ve been following Athina Kakou for a little while after discovering her whilst listening to an episode of the Stitchers Brew podcast. (If you haven’t checked that out, you must). Athina’s content is so thorough, she puts loads out there, and for free, and she is so personable. She is such an inspiration to me and that’s what makes this pattern review even more special, as this is what gave me the final kick to just start the blog.
A couple of months ago, Athina put out a call for pattern testers and I applied, I didn’t hear anything and figured I hadn’t been chosen, but then on the 31st October I received an email for pattern reviewing and if I’d like to apply. All I had to do was reply and I’d find out if I was in the following day. I replied straight away and was lucky enough to be chosen to review. Thank you Athina!!!
What am I reviewing?
The Nikki Cardigan designed by Athina is inspired by Nikki of the amazing sewing duo, The Stitch Sisters. Nikki runs a sewing school with her sew sister Rachel, who is a crafter and a whizz at quilting, amongst many other things. They have a blog, a vlog and you can follow them both on instagram.
Athina describes her Nikki cardigan as being for the Adventurous Beginner. It doesn’t have any difficult techniques or fastenings and because it isn’t a fitted garment, you don’t have to worry about the fitting too much either.
The Nikki cardigan is a wrap style cardigan that has 2 different lengths to choose from. Version 1 is the shorter option that finishes below the waist at about hip height. Version 2 is the longer option that finishes at the thigh, between the knee and hip. Both versions are fitted at the shoulder and you have the option to add a tie belt and belt-loops to the sides. The cardigan is designed to be worn open or closed depending on the look you’re going for. Athina very wonderfully caters for everyone with her patterns, ranging in sizes from 4 to 28!
The fabric that the pattern suggests to use varies from light to medium weight knit fabrics with a 4 way stretch.
This is my first ever time using a knit fabric and I had no idea what to expect. I spent a whole evening going through different websites and looking at different fabrics and then whittling down my favourites.
I’m making this in November so it’s fairly chilly and I really wanted something that would keep me warm and cosy and that wouldn’t be too challenging to handle with it being my first knit project. I also knew that I didn’t want anything too “out-there” for my first attempt because I didn’t want to have to worry about pattern matching and I wanted it to be a cardigan I would get lots and lots of wear out of. For this reason, I knew I didn’t want any kind of patterned fabric, and nothing too bright in colour – I have lots of ideas for my next one so watch this space!
I whittled my choices down to 3 Ponte di Roma Heavy Jersey’s and 2 Organic cotton spandex jerseys to sample from 1st for Fabrics LTD
I’ve been waiting for an excuse to buy from 1st for Fabrics for a little while as I’ve been admiring them from afar and so pleased I did.
The samples were really easy to order – I sent a list by email of the samples I wanted and the team got back to me the next morning with a paypal invoice. The samples arrived shortly after and are of a really decent size to help give you a good idea of what the material is like. I knew pretty much immediately the one I wanted to go for. (Well I wanted to make one in each colour, but that just isn’t realistic).
I chose the Ponte di Roma Heavy Jersey in “Cadburys” Purple. The reasons for this was because the raw edges didn’t roll, I really loved the weight of it and it feels lovely too. I really like the organic cotton spandex as well but it rolls quite a bit and I didn’t think it was the right weight for what I wanted-I’m definitely keeping it in mind for a pair of leggings I want to make though.
I was a little anxious because the Ponte di Roma is a heavy weight jersey and the pattern doesn’t call for that. I decided to go with my gut and just roll with it though: I really love the fabric! I ordered my fabric within about 10 minutes of the samples arriving and in a couple of days the fabric arrived beautifully wrapped in a pattern piece, the 1st for fabrics ribbon and a free Gutermann thread to match my fabric, taking out all the worries of finding the right thread. 1st for fabrics send out a free matching thread with every fabric order; which is just awesome!
Putting it all together
Whilst I was waiting for the fabric to arrive, I printed out the PDF pattern which was 60 pages. I had decided from my measurements, and that I definitely didn’t want anything tight fitting, to go with the size 20. There’s the option to just print off your size but I decided to print sizes 18-28 all in one so that I could trace the size I needed. Being someone that fluctuates in weight, this will mean I won’t have to reprint to use another size at a later date. I’ll just trace the size I want when I want it. I also find tracing easier for making any adjustments, but I had decided I was going to make the pattern exactly as is for the size that I chose.
When the fabric arrived I decided not to pre-wash. I would normally always pre-wash my fabric but I was feeling very intimidated by this gorgeous stretch fabric that I was terrified that if I washed it and hung it to dry, it would stretch really badly. I just don’t have the space here to be able to dry 3 metres of fabric flat, so I went ahead and cut all the pattern pieces out.
I like to lay out my pattern pieces saving as much fabric as possible, so I laid them out slightly differently to how the pattern suggested. This mainly meant that the hem band, neck band and belt were more or less next to each other. The only thing I noticed is that the letters on the actual pattern pieces aren’t on the layout diagram. This isn’t so much of a problem when initially laying out, but if you want to refer back later on, say if you’ve not worked on the pattern for a few days and go back to it to check which piece is which, and if you changed the layout slightly like I did, it can be a little confusing.
Once I’d cut all the pattern pieces out I decided to have a proper read of the instructions and also check out the video that goes with the pattern. Athina, very generously, provides a free YouTube video with all her patterns so you can follow along with that if you wish. The video is very clear and precise. The only thing I would say is that if you’re super new to knits (like me) and not entirely sure how you would use your sewing machine to sew the correct seam allowances/raw edges, don’t be put off that Athina uses a Serger/overlocker. Athina does provide a blog post that explains how to sew knits with a sewing machine and has great content, but I found that with my limited machine capabilities, the information there didn’t fulfil all my needs; mainly on the what stitch to use front than anything else. This is most probably because I am a bit of a crazy perfectionist and want to get everything right.
My machine only has a choice of 3 stitch widths. The largest zigzag stitch width is 5mm. My machine does however, have a stretch overlock stitch and a straight stretch stitch (gosh try saying that 3x fast). The problem here though is that the overlock stitch does not reach the seam allowance of 1cm and if I just use the stretch stitch at 1cm my seams will be unfinished. I decided to use both. I actually really like the finish and it made stitching a lot easier as the raw edges pretty much “basted” together for sewing at the seam allowance. This way probably isn’t for everyone and using the zig-zag could be a lot simpler and obviously less time consuming, but this is me and I love how neat the finish is.
Everything cut and ready to be sewn plus knowing what to expect thanks to the video, I began. I didn’t follow the video for making the cardigan, but followed the instructions which are very well written, with very good diagrams to follow.
Stabilising the shoulders is the first step and I actually used the 1st for Fabrics ribbon that came with my fabric as my stabilising ribbon – I did it for a bit of fun and kind of like that the place I got the fabric from is now forever immortalised in the garment I made with it.
I was pretty intimidated by attaching the sleeves. I’ve only ever attached sleeves once before, and it was using a woven fabric, however one of the great things is that the pattern pieces have lots of notches. I found this incredibly helpful because it meant that I could keep myself on track without stretching the fabric, something I was very conscious of doing and then ta-da sleeves!!! The cardigan takes shape really quickly and before you know it you have a cardigan you can try on.
Another awesome thing is that there is absolutely no hemming with this garment. It takes a little bit of time to get the bands sorted but it is sooo worth it. The hem band went on beautifully but I did struggle a weeny bit with the neck band. I think my main cardigan had stretched out a little bit as it was a few days between finishing the main cardi and moving on to do the bands and I stupidly left it hanging on the back of my sewing chair – total rookie mistake! This meant that the band didn’t match properly at the hem. Totally my fault and something I won’t be repeating. I also found that because it had stretched a little – I think from trying it on too – that the neck band and main cardi weren’t lining up properly at the shoulders and neck which made it really difficult to sew. I really took my time and got there in the end though. The neck band piece is also thinner than the cuffs and the hem band, but I think I would prefer the neck band to be slightly thicker in width. It’s certainly a personal preference, but I think a slightly thicker neck band would’ve made it a little easier to sew as it would be more forgiving if you make a mistake, plus I like it a little chunkier.
The cuffs went on like a dream and the belt was super easy to sew too. I decided that I wasn’t going to add the belt loops to the main cardi though. I know that I will probably wear it open 95% of the time but I do like the option of the belt for every now and then and that means the loops just weren’t necessary for me. For this reason, I decided to use a contrasting thread to topstitch the belt so I could glam it up a little. I used a rayon metallic-y thread and think it’s lush. I also decided to do the zigzag as a topstitch on the belt to marry with the zigzag topstitch on the cardigan, although this time I didn’t contrast the thread there. I think when I make another, which I certainly will, I’ll do a contrasting top stitch, which is something I love to do.
Trying on the finished garment for the first time I was super excited. The feel when the cardigan goes on is just gorgeous. The fabric is so smooth and the weight of it feels like a big hug. I ran through the house to the full length mirror and did the little twirl we all do when trying something on for the first time. I really love the way the cardigan drapes; it hides all my lumps and bumps, something I’m incredibly self conscious of – I don’t care quite so much since becoming a Mum, but I like things that don’t cling and I was concerned that using a jersey would mean instant cling. I’m over the moon that it doesn’t. It really does feel like putting on a bit of luxury but with all the feels of it being comfortable and totally me. I also love the colour! I’ve wanted something purple to wear for a while and so glad that this is it.
I couldn’t be happier that this was my first knit make, or how it turned out. When I started this project, I instantly knew what I wanted. Athina’s burgundy version was something I kind of aspired to but I knew how to make it mine. I did a sketch using my croquis from my body model app which has been one of my greatest finds since starting to make clothes for myself. (This is only the 3rd garment I made for myself). It has truly helped me see my body in a different way, I finally understand what body positivity truly means and that I really can wear the things that I want to. They might not be out there for me ready to wear, but I can most certainly make them. It will take time, but I will do it.
I have some awesome ideas for future Nikki Cardigan’s and I would love to make one with some front pockets. I think I’d like to try the shorter version too but the longer one feels more me at the moment.
I will continue to admire and aspire to everything that Athina does and creates and I can not wait to make more of her patterns.
- Needle: I used an Organ Ball-point/stretch needle size 90/14
- Sewing Machine: Mechanical Toyota Decomaster
- Thread: Gutermann Polyester thread col. 575 ( I needed 2 spools)
- Ironing board & Iron
- 3m Ponte di Roma Heavy Jersey “Cadbury’s” purple
- Walking foot
- Overcast foot (I used this for my zigzag topstitch-it has a guide which meant I could place that between the 2 pieces to be topstitched, making it really neat. I think turned out beautifully)
Difficulty = Experienced beginner – whilst there aren’t any majorly difficult techniques, there are definitely some learning curves to take in when sewing with knit for the first time and having a bit of knowledge behind you before tackling this is definitely helpful; for instance if I was a picking this up for my first make as a beginner, I wouldn’t have known that using an overcasting foot would help with the topstitch or that a walking foot would keep my fabrics going through the machine at the same time and not stretch one more than the other.
Time = I didn’t set a timer or keep an eye on the clock, and with this being my first knit, I most definitely took my time and it probably took me around 8-10 hours from start to finish (putting the pdf together to finished garment); will probably be less next time; 4 – 6.
Fit = As described; loose fitting. Belting will bring it in at the waist for more shape and a different silhouette.
Alterations = None. I made exactly as is and love the fit.
Fitting = On the money with this one. Athina’s finished size chart is really accurate.
Hardest part = Fitting the neck band. Getting round those curves at the shoulders is tricky; take your time.
If you liked this pattern review, please give me a like and a share to let others out there know about Athina’s work.
You can find Athina on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and over on her website where she has an extensive blog and her online shop too.
She not only does patterns but has an amazing sewing planner (that is totally on my wishlist), an e-book on sewing your perfect wardrobe and printable artwork.
Disclaimer: Whilst I was given the Nikki Cardigan pattern by Athina Kakou for the purpose of this review, all thoughts and feelings are completely my own. Neither am I affiliated with 1st for Fabrics LTD; the choice to choose my fabric from them was completely my own.
Also DON’T FORGET!!! The giveaway I’m doing is still live so you still have time to enter. Winner will be announced in my blog post next Wednesday. If you want to know how to win check out my previous blog post or head over to my Facebook page or Instagram for other opportunities to enter. Good luck and Happy Sewing Beautiful people.