My uniform of late has consisted primarily of over-sized sweaters, fleece leggings, and boots (and typically my faux shearling vest too). I'm all about comfy-cozy as it gets chillier. I found this stripey sweater in the men's section of the thrift shop a few months back and have been eagerly awaiting sweater weather to show it off in its new form.
I picked this particular sweater from the many on the racks for a few reasons. Firstly, I liked the colors and have been told recently that I don't have enough red in my wardrobe. Second, the stripes would lend themselves nicely to the asymmetric design I had in mind. And lastly, its construction was ideal for deconstructing. Commercially manufactured sweaters are made in one of two ways: either (A) the individual pieces are knitted in the appropriate size and shape, just as a hand-knitter would do, and then the pieces are seamed up, usually with a simple chain stitch, or (B) the pieces are cut from a large rectangular piece of knitted fabric, as a seamstress would do, and then the edges are serged together to prevent fraying. If you flip a sweater inside-out and see cleanly knitted edges rather than serged seams, then that sweater should be relatively easy to disassemble.
If you check out both sides of the seam, one should look like regular stitching - up, down, up, down - while the other side will look more like a chain of loops. It's difficult to tell with this black thread, but the thicker looking side is the chain side.
If you carefully snip a bit of one of those loops, you should be able to pull the thread like a rip cord and unravel a good bit of your seam in one fell swoop. Be warned though that a chain stitch seam will only unravel in one direction, so if you're having trouble getting it started, try the other side of the seam instead. The chain stitch is often used in the assembly of jeans, so this method of deconstruction can be very useful if you refashioning denim too.
Once I had my sides and sleeves opened up, I detached the sleeves from the body in the same manner. This left the top edge of each sleeve with live stitches though, so I to be very careful moving the pieces around so they didn't start to unravel. The collar was attached with the same chain stitching, so it came off too, but again I had to be gentle with its live stitches. I just set it aside until I would need it again.
Unfortunately, the shoulder seams were serged, so I decided to leave those alone. I also carefully picked off the brand lapel from the left breast of the front panel.
Now that I had my pieces separated, it was time to devise a pattern.
I used a well-fitting raglan sweater and some paper grocery bags to trace out my pattern pieces.
Then I started playing with how to arrange them on the striped material. As I said earlier, I wanted to angle the stripes for an asymmetric look, so I pinned out the silhouette of my body pattern without cutting yet.
I folded the excess under to give the right shape, and then I starting experimenting with sleeves. Given the angled stripes, I knew I wouldn't be able to match them at both raglan seams - one, sure, but not both. So I pulled out a dark grey sweatshirt from the refash stash, thinking I might do one or both sleeves with it instead. But in the end, I decided I liked the mismatched stripes better than the baseball-tee vibe I was getting with the grey sleeves.
Once I had a plan, I finally cut into the fabric, along the pinned pattern lines. And I trimmed the front panel a little shorter than the back at the neck edge.
Then I cut the sleeves as well, being careful to line up the raglan edges just right so the sleeve stripes would match the body stripes at the left shoulder.
I pinned the left sleeve to the front and back panels, lining up the stripes, and then serged them together. I attached the right sleeve in the same way but without the bother of lining up stripes.
Next, the side and inner sleeve seams were serged up as well, being careful to match the stripes again. I left the side seam open at the bottom of the longer side, just below the red stripe, for a little slit of sorts.
Finally, I reattached the collar with a narrow zig-zag stitch, just wide enough to capture all the live stitches to prevent fraying and also to allow a little stretch to get my giant head through. And of course, I stuck the laundering tag in there as I was stitching.
My new sweater is just the right length to wear over leggings.
Cutting raglan sleeves out of the original set-in sleeves shortened them a touch, making for a nice bracelet length.
Oh yeah, and I cut my hair. I was starting to get headaches every time I'd wash it, so it was time for a chop. No, seriously. Crazy-thick hair is bad enough, but when it's wet? It weighs a ton! I miss the length, but not the headaches.