tragic brown cardigan refashioned into something wearable

My new year’s resolution is to finally have the wardrobe of my dreams in 2012. I don’t plan on doing much shopping though…I’m going to refashion what I’ve got into fabulousness, and sew the rest from scratch!

tragic brown cardigan: before

This chocolate brown cardigan is a perfect candidate. How unspeakably dull is this thing? Why would I want to dress like Mr. Rogers (who is definitely a role model in a non-fashion way, though)? What could I have been thinking when I bought something so plain and verging on ugly?

I’ll tell you what I was thinking: I need something versatile. I say it all the time now, and I’m going to keep saying it: basic does not have to be boring.

Obviously, there was a time I did not know this. I mistakenly equated versatile with plain. It was during these dark times that I purchased this tragic and dull cardigan sweater.

Good thing I’ve seen the light, and now I can fix it!

tragic brown cardigan: hideous original buttons

Seriously, what is with these buttons? Not only are they absurdly large, they are a foul mud color! Not even the same chocolately brown as the sweater! Not nice.

Obviously the first step in this refashion is to ditch the fug buttons. I found these pretty golden ones at my local fabric store, and thought they would do nicely:

pretty gold buttons

After cutting off the old buttons, I noticed that their extreme size had stretched out the button holes on the sweater. I didn’t want them to gape open over my new (smaller) buttons, so I knew my next step was to doctor the button holes.

I simply put a few stitches in the top of each button hole from the back side, using matching thread, to make each one about 1/4″ smaller.

cardigan button holes, before and after surgery

Just changing out the buttons made such a big difference; I could have stopped there. But the cardigan still felt unfinished to me. It was still too dull to be something I would want to wear on purpose.

So I asked myself: what would “versatile” really look like? Not in the abstract, but in terms of what I actually wear or what I want to wear?

Well, it turns out I wear an awful lot of purple, red, and bright apple green. Those are the color shirts I’m most likely to be wearing under this cardigan, so why not add those colors to the cardigan itself?

hand spun yarn

I found this pretty hand spun yarn in my stash, which I believe I purchased from some local knitter at Crafty Bastards two years ago.

I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I bought it, but that’s almost always how it is with me. I decided to sew it onto the button placket and neckline of my cardigan in two long lines.

I used a very long and very narrow zig zag stitch to sew the yarn in place. I also put a new, blunt-nosed needle (especially for knits) in my machine. Sharper needles meant for woven fabrics can snag your knit fabrics; it’s especially important to avoid that when you’re topstitching on knits, like I did here.

cardigan with new yarn accents

Tragedy averted! My finished cardigan is interesting, colorful, versatile, and most importantly, something I actually want to wear, rather than something I just throw on because I don’t have anything else.

Shouldn’t every item in your wardrobe be like that?

brown cardigan: tragedy averted!

I wore this sweater yesterday with a purple shirt underneath it, and got lots of compliments! More importantly, I felt really great in it…like myself. Before, it felt purely utilitarian – just another layer to put on because it was a bit cold outside. Now it’s something I want to wear, and feel good wearing.

That feeling is the difference between just wearing clothes, having a style all your own.

The whole process took me about an hour. What do you have in your closet that only needs a bit of attention to turn into something you love?


7 thoughts on “tragic brown cardigan refashioned into something wearable

  1. U R a genius! I would never have conjured up such a simple but effective change to something that looked like it had a date with the local thrift shop. Keep on teaching. I love it!

  2. Thanks, Erika! How SAD was this cardi before? I can’t even believe I wore it at all. Adding color makes such a huge difference!

  3. Geraldine – thank you!

    Judy – I wish I got it in green! I bet yours doesn’t need as much doctoring. 🙂

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