Can I make this sweater at home, and if so how?
February 1, 2010 6:06 PM   Subscribe

How can I knock off this super cute cardigan by hand? Is it worth trying?

I love the sweater from Anthropologie pictured here, but the price tag is too steep. I'd like to reproduce something similar myself by embroidering a plain store bought cardigan.

I've done some handicrafts before (mostly crochet), but never embroidery. What materials will I need? Is a project like this good for a beginner, or am I over reaching? Are there any canonical books or websites about getting started? One of my friends owns the sweater so I will have access to it for copying the pattern -- will it be sufficient to trace the design and figure out the "stitches" (is that the right terminology?) by eye?
posted by telegraph to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Embroidery is like drawing with needle and thread... but much more time-consuming. You will need practice. I think the trickiest part will be getting the tension right so that the stretchy fabric lies flat. Get a hoop, needle, thimble, floss, a how-to-book or website and a thrift-store sweater for practice.
posted by debbie_ann at 6:16 PM on February 1, 2010

You could search for some embroidered appliques and sew them on.
posted by Fairchild at 6:22 PM on February 1, 2010

Those motifs are pretty big to hand-embroider -- appliques may be the best way to replicate the design.

That being said, if you decide to go the embroidery route, Sublime Stitching has great books, kits, and supplies. You can find basic embroidery floss/thread at any basic craft store, like JoAnn's or Michael's or even Super Walmart if that's near you.

If you do decide to go the embroidery route -- and it's definitely do-able, though it would take a while! -- then get a basic start-up kit from Sublime Stitching or assemble your own with floss, hoop, good needle, and some plain cloth to practice on. Then you can sketch and approximate the stitching patterns from the cardigan.

Feel free to MeFi mail me with questions -- I'm always happy to chat about embroidery!
posted by fantine at 6:48 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far! I know I don't want to do to appliques. I have some experience with them from decorating my overalls when I was in elementary school so... not interested.
posted by telegraph at 6:52 PM on February 1, 2010

In that case, go ahead and give embroidery a trial-run with some basic supplies. Floss is inexpensive and so are those cheap wooden hoops (the plastic ones are a little more expensive, but nice to use). Just practice on some old clothes and see how you like it, and whether you'd like to commit to a project of that scale. The Craftster forums are also great for advice.
posted by fantine at 7:00 PM on February 1, 2010

The leaves appear to be done in stem stitch, and the flowers are buillon knots. This site is an excellent embroidery resource.

Debbie_ann is right in that embroidering on knits will drive you bonkers. It might be best to start with something woven, in cotton or linen, if only to get a feel for the stitches at first.
posted by Lycaste at 7:02 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't think those designs are embroidered using embroidery floss. It looks like they are worked in a thick yarn. It reminds me a little of crewel work, but with much thicker yarn. I don't see how an applique would work to replicate this sweater, even if you could find an applique resembling the design--there is so much open space between the yellow yarns of the blossoms. (But I have very limited experience with any kind of embroidery, and I don't have a very high-res monitor, so the other answerers may be seeing details that aren't apparent to me.)

The leaves and stems (white yarn) look like satin stitch to me. I'm not sure how the blossoms (yellow yarn) were stitched to allow the yarn to be hanging a little slack away from the sweater like that. You'll want to look for embroidery instructions that are specific to working on knit sweaters; knitting websites, shops, and books might be better resources than those focused on traditional embroidery.

I think this will not be a project that you can just buy the materials for and complete in a weekend afternoon (not that you were suggesting that). If you look at it as a chance to learn a new craft, and practice on some other knits before starting your sweater, then you might as an additional benefit get the embroidered sweater you want out of it. Personally, I'd just hope for the Anthropologie sweater to go on sale or turn up on eBay.
posted by Orinda at 7:31 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've done quite a bit of embroidery on sweaters and I recommend a stabilizing paper or fabric to help you avoid stretching the knit and distorting the work. It comes in tearaway, washaway, and cutaway forms and can be found at any old Joann or such.

I should note that I was pretty experienced at embroidery in the first place before I ever tried doing it on knits, but the learning curve wasn't that bad, especially once I discovered the stabilizers.
posted by padraigin at 7:47 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Great advice. I also think it is a combo of satin stitch and bullion knots done in thick wool crewel floss. Go get some of that with some stabilizer and try out a simple design on a Salvation Army sweater. Hunt down a copy of Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches. You can find both stitches you need in there and a whole bunch more that may inspire you.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:05 PM on February 1, 2010

Slightly related, but this gal does a TON of knock offs Anthro, J Crew, etc designs, and she posts a lot of her tutorials. Most of them involve sewing, but I find myself pretty inspired when I see what she can do. Maybe you could sew ribbon on the front of the cardigan, in sort of an abstract flower design?
posted by elisebeth at 7:39 AM on February 2, 2010

the hard part about it seems to be the material being stretchy. if you find you're able to handle that, the embroidery isn't too challenging, at least as embroidery goes. the yarn used is thick, which means lesser stitches, lesser work, lesser time. it probably looks like more work than it really is.
posted by niyati182 at 9:39 AM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: Seconding stabilizers. Is there any way you can examine one of these sweaters in person? If so, look inside and see what kind of stabilizer they used. I guarantee they used something, even if it's been removed - look for little wisps poking out, or peer between the stitches. That will give you some idea what to use: only wisps remaining means they used a tear-away, which tend to be light-weight, and a solid sheet is a cut-away, which are firm and heavy. I'd start with a lightweight tear-away stabilizer, and see how that works.

In any case, you need to figure out how to attach the stabilizer to the knit fabric. Iron-ons are convenient and easy to remove, but if you can't find one in the right weight, you can spray adhesive (available at fabric stores) on the stabilizer and stick it to the fabric. Do this before you put the sweater in the embroidery hoop - the stabilizer will prevent the knit from getting stretched to death when you pull it taut in the hoop.

Definitely practice on some cheapie sweaters first - knits (and unstable fabrics in general) are a real challenge to embroider on. If you're really committed to this idea, first perfect your embroidery stitches on plain woven fabric, then practice them on knits, then embark on your magnum opus. (Looks like satin stitch and bullion knots to me, too on this sweater.)

Finally, I'll just toss out the observation that high-quality embroidered sweaters from the 1950s were usually loosely lined with light-as-air silk, so the messy back side of the embroidery didn't show (or irritate the skin). I doubt that the sweater you linked is lined, but if you really go whole-hog on this project think about a lining, especially if you don't plan to wear a blouse underneath. Good luck and let us know how it turns out!
posted by Quietgal at 9:48 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

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