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Romantic Cardigan Tutorial and Pattern for Girls

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(Looking for more free patterns? Be sure to check out my free patterns and tutorials page here.)

I’ve had the idea for this little girls cardigan tutorial on my “to make” list for a while.  It’s perfect for the cool mornings/warm afternoons we have this time of year. I made the cardigan using my free peasant dress pattern. The cardigan came together very easily, just like the peasant dress does.  (I have also provided a free pattern.)

After out first fitting, I decided to go back and take out just a little bit of the fabric in the back.  I used a very heavy interlock knit and didn’t care for how thick the gathering was.  I made the changes on the pattern and will have uploaded the new pattern Google docs.  The links to the new pattern are in the materials list below.
The style and fit of a peasant dress is meant to be full and gathered so it can grow with your little one.  I really think this pattern will fit up to a size 10, but since I don’t have a size 10 girl to try it on, I can’t make any promises…
Cardigan Tutorial and free pattern
The cardigan was originally intended to have 3/4 length sleeves.  I liked how it looked before hemming, so I left the sleeve edges raw.  I hemmed all the other edges.
The cardigan can be made with woven/quilting cotton or knits – whatever you prefer working with or wearing.  (I personally prefer knits.)  I actually used both.  (The tie is regular quilting cotton.)
My poor missy yawned throughout this entire photo shoot, I am lucky I got any smiles at all…
Are you ready to make a cardigan for your little one?  Here are the instructions:

Materials needed:
**update, if you downloaded the pattern before march 5th, please re-download it.**

  • Pattern Pieces (find them here)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 yards of pre-washed fabric (The amount you need will depend on the size you are making and the width of the fabric and sleeve length. I used 1 1/4 yard of 60 inch wide fabric.  Interlock fabric shrinks a lot, so keep that in mind.) My fabric.
  • 8 inches of contrasting fabric
  • cardigan pattern pieces (print here)
  • iron, scissors, fabric marker, measuring tape, ruler, pins – standard sewing supplies
Step one:  Cutting the pattern pieces.
Print and cut out pattern. There are two pieces, the bodice front/back and sleeve.

Measure your child from collar bone to the length you want the cardigan to be, add 1/2 inch to this number for the bottom hem.  If you don’t have a child handy to measure, you can use these generic measurements based on the length I made.  (Which is more tunic length.)

12 to 18 months: 14.5 to 15.5 inches
2t/3t: 16.5 to 17.5 inches
4/6: 18.5 to 19.5
7: 20.5
8: 21.5

Fold your fabric selvage to selvage and line up the bodice pattern piece on the fold of the fabric.
Measure from the top of the pattern down to your length measurement and mark the spot.  Then, to get the fullness needed for your size, use a ruler and make a straight line down from the edge of the armhole (as shown) to your measured length and over 3 inches.  Make another mark at this spot, then use your ruler to draw a straight line from the bottom of the arm hole to the new mark at the bottom of the pattern piece  where you  the  and cut out the back piece.

Clear as mud?  You can refer back to the original peasant dress tutorial for more pictures.  (The measurements are slightly different since I tweaked the pattern.)

Follow the same procedure for the front pieces.  The only difference is you will not be cutting them on the fold, so you will have two front pieces.

For the sleeve measurement, measure from the top of the shoulder/collar bone to the length you want the sleeve to be, add 1/2 inch for seam allowance.  If you don’t have a child to measure, use these generic measurements for a 3/4 sleeve length:

12 to 18 months: 14 to 14.5 inches
2t/3t: 15 to 16 inches
4/6: 16.5 to 17.5
7: 18 to 18.5 inches
8: 18.5 to 19 inches

To cut out the sleeve, follow the same procedure as above, but measure over 5.5 inches for the width of the sleeve.
For the contrasting tie, cut two strips of fabric, 4 inches by the the width of the fabric. (about 40 inches)
Step 2:  Assembling the Cardigan.
Line up the sleeve edges with the armholes on the back piece, right sides together.  Sew along the edge,using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  If you are sewing with quilting cotton you will need to finish this seam with pinking shears, zig zag on your sewing machine or with a serger.  If you are using knits, there is no need to finish the seam.

Next, line up the sleeve edges with the armholes on the front pieces  right sides together.  Sew along the edge,using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  If you are sewing with quilting cotton you will need to finish this seam with pinking shears, zig zag on your sewing machine or with a serger.  If you are using knits, there is no need to finish the seam.


Right sides together, line up the side seams and sew along the arms and sides, finish these seams if you are sewing with quilting cotton.
Fold the front center edges toward the inside 1/2 inch and sew along the edge.  If you are using quilting cotton, fold over 1/4 inch, press with your iron, fold over another 1/4 inch pres again and sew along the edge.  (Ignore the fact I have already gathered the neckline in the photo below, I gathered out of order and had to re-do it after I took the photos.)
Follow the same procedure to finish the hem for the bottom of the cardigan.  (If you are using knot, you do have the option to leave the edges raw.  (The knit I used was very thick and strong and does not fray at all)
Step 3.  Gathering the neckline.
To gather the neckline, switch your machine to the longest stitch length and sew a basting stitch along the top edge of the cardigan.  Sew a second line of basting stitches right along the 1st, 1/8 inch away.  (Normally when I gather, I only use one line of basting stitches  but while making my split neck peasant top, I found it was hard to keep the fabric from sliding around during fittings.  The second line of basting stitches makes it much easier to work with.)  Don’t forget to switch the setting back to normal…

To gather, hold the bobbin thread steady and slide the fabric down the thread.  Be sure to try the cardigan on at this point and adjust your gathers to the desired fit.

An estimate for how much to gather the neck line would be:

12 to 18 months: 14.5 to 15.5 inches
2t/3t: 16.5 to 17.5 inches
4/6: 18.5 to 19.5
7: 20.5 to 21.5 inches
8: 21.5 to 23 inches

Step 3:  Assembling and attaching the tie.

Line up the sort ends of the two strips and stitch them together.

Fold the top and bottom edges over 1/4 inch and press.

Then fold the tie in half and press again.

Line up the middle of the tie with the middle of the back piece of the cardigan.  “Sandwich” about 1/2 inch of the gathered edge in between the edges of the fabric tie.  Pin securely in place.

Start sewing the fabric tie on to the cardigan at the egde of the cardigan.  Sew all the way down the fabric tie almost to the end of the tie.

When you get a few inches from the edge, fold the raw edge of the tie in as shown and pin.  Finish sewing to the end of the tie, raise the presser foot, turn the fabric and sew along the newly folded edge.

Return to the edge of the cardigan where you began sewing and finish sewing the other side of the tie using the same procedure.
That’s it!  You’re done with the cardigan!  If you sew one, I would love to see how it turns out!  Pleas come back and share on my facebook page or flickr group!


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  1. Hi Jamie!

    I could not make the sleeve match the back and front of the cardigan, the sleeve came out smaller, do you have any tips for that?

    1. hmm, I don’t know what’s going on with that pattern. I must have a wrong pattern piece uploaded. I’ll take a look at it and get it digitized properly this weekend. In the meantime, just line the sleeve and the bodice patterns up together and extend the top lines til they match.