Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Miss Georgina Changes Direction: Style Arc Nina Cardigan

Idle Fancy - Style Arc Nina Cardigan-1486

Happy New Year, kittens! Admittedly, I am twelve days late on that score. There are any number of legitimate reasons for my brief blogging absence, but honestly, it comes down to one fact: I loathe January. Of all the months, this is the one I would gladly Rip Van Winkle through. It's bitterly cold, the holiday merriment is packed up in boxes, and every commercial snidely suggests that I join a gym or buy a juicer. 

With all that in mind, it should come as no surprise that my first garment of 2016 is a waterfall cardigan, the sartorial embodiment of a sign that says, "Leave me alone. I've just gotten cozy." Now, that's a New Year's ad campaign I could get behind. Waterfall cardigans: for those days when you wish it were socially appropriate to wear a blanket. 

There are heaps of draped cardigan patterns out there, both in the Big 4 and among Indies, but there's only one which tempted me. My wearable blanket of choice is the Nina Cardigan from Style Arc, which I've previously reviewed for the Curvy Sewing Collective. Unlike other similar patterns, the Nina pairs that luxurious fall of fabric with actual garment shaping. There is a defined waist seam, natural flair toward the hips, and a princess seam effect to the front drape. This cardigan doesn't hide a woman's body, but works with her curves. It's not simply a Snuggie worn in reverse. (Which I approve of wholeheartedly, but wasn't my intent with this project.)

The Nina also provided a chance to finally try out Style Arc patterns. For years, I admired their fashion-forward designs, but couldn't rationalize the high price point and shipping to the United States. When they opened their Etsy Shop, last year, I did a happy dance.* Finally, print-at-home Style Arc patterns! Such increased availability sealed the deal and I bought three designs, the Nina cardigan, the Mavis tunic, and the Misty jeans. The Nina was the quickest project of the three, so it served as a good crash course in Style Arc drafting and sizing. 

*Note: Style Arc printed patterns are now available through Amazon Prime, as well. Unlike other Style Arc offerings, they come nested in sizes 4-16 and 18-30. Unfortunately for me, I straddle the middle sizes there, so will probably continue buying PDFs, instead. 

Idle Fancy - Style Arc Nina Cardigan-1501

Style Arc is infamous for their single-sized approach to patterns. When you order a print version, three sizes come printed on three separate pattern sheets–the size you requested, then one size up and one size down. The PDF versions work much the same way. They’re grouped by size trios, starting with 4/6/8, then going upwards from there. While it’s nice to have a back-up from your original size, this individual sizing method prevents easy grading between sizes. Worse, if you’re not the middle size of the PDF trios, you don’t actually get that advantage in the first place. I ended up not fitting perfectly into any one size, as you’d expect, so I chose based on the best size for my shoulders, waist, and hips, figuring that the bust is rather loose fitting in this design anyway. My 46-36-47 frame ended up aligning best with the Australian size 18, according to Style Arc’s sizing chart. 

My first Nina was a straight 18, without alterations, which turned out pretty well. I was left wanting two things, however: more stretch in the fabric and much, much narrower shoulders. I took in the pattern's shoulders by almost two inches and decided on a 50% stretch sweater knit for my second version. 

This navy-and-white striped fabric came from a now (sadly) defunct store in Austin, bought during a meet-up in 2014. Originally, I thought it was a cotton blend knit, but a burn test proved otherwise. My best guess is a rayon blend Hacci knit. Who knows! It is, however, perfect for the Nina. I played with stripe directionality, cutting everything but the front drape on the horizontal. As the back hip band curves into the drape, the stripes meet up for a semi-chevron effect, before straightening out together. I'm utterly smitten! 

Idle Fancy - Style Arc Nina Cardigan-1518
Is that a phone in your back pocket or are you just edgy, Mary?

Other than the taxing process of cutting out striped fabric, this was an easy project. Style Arc's directions are sparse, but who really needs more? If you've sewn up any knit garment, you can confidently sew up this cardigan. I went my own way anyhow, as per usual. 

The shoulders are stabilized with clear elastic and most seams were sewn on my sewing machine, then finished with a serger. Y'all, the simple thought of sewing striped fabric on a serger gives me hives. It's hard enough to match everything correctly with tons of pins and variable speed. Sending it straight through an overlocker is for braver souls than I. To finish the drape and bottom hem, I stabilized the hemlines with fusible webbing first. This kept the fabric from rolling, as I sewed, and prevented the stitching from getting wavy. 

Honestly, the shoulders are still a touch wide. Despite trying it on, before adding the sleeves, the fabric's heavy stretch causes them to slip down a little. I didn't want to mess up the stripe intersections any more, so I'm going with it. It's a drapey cardigan, after all, things are going to drape a little. 

Idle Fancy - Style Arc Nina Cardigan-1613

There you have it, my very first project of 2016! I really love how this sweater turned out, especially in comparison to my first Nina. It's both cozy and a wee bit dramatic, which is what I require from my wardrobe nowadays. Please don't tell me these cardigans are going out of style, though. I shall cling to my wearable blankets, like my favorite diner waitress clings to her six-inch tall 80's bangs. Ardently

Now, I'm going to go bake a lemon tart. Maybe I can force January to hurry on with doggedly cheerful pastries? Here, have some sunny citrus. Turn into March already, please. 

Reading: Act Like It by Lucy Parker
Listening: GTO by Puss N Boots

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