Sweater Workshop: The Dahlia Cardigan

The Dahlia Cardigan by Heather Zoppetti, from the Fall 2011 issue of Interweave Knits

A note from Kathleen: The Dahlia Cardigan by Heather Zoppetti, from the Fall 2011 issue of Interweave Knits is one of the most beautiful knitted sweaters I've ever seen. I know lots of you will want to knit it, so I've invited Knits editor Eunny Jang here today to go in-depth about the Dahlia Cardigan. Here she is!

The Dahlia Cardigan


figure a

figure b

I love sweaters that do something unexpected, and Heather Zoppetti's Dahlia Cardigan, from the Fall 2011 issue of Interweave Knits, is one of the best examples I've seen in a long time. Let's take a look at what makes it so unique!

1) Construction
This sweater begins in the middle—the knitted lace panel that makes the back view so surprising is knitted in the round from the center out. Stitches are bound off along the upper and lower edges of the panel, leaving live stitches on the two sides (figure a).

The rest of the back fabric is worked in two four sections that start in the middle and work out, incorporating the live lace panel stitches. A section of stitches on either side worked with waste yarn mark the position of the armholes (figure b).

The fronts are simple continuations of the back stitches, still worked from side to side (figure c).

figure c figure d

Finally, the waste yarn marking the afterthought sleeve openings are snipped, stitches are picked up on either side, and the sleeves are worked in the round from the top down (figure d).

The only seaming this sweater needs in the end is to sew the bound-off top and bottom edges of the lace panel into the back fabric. Very clever!

Dahlia Cardigan, afterthought sleeve detail

figure e  

2) "Afterthought" sleeves
In a sweater with an unusual construction, planning armhole openings can be a challenge-it's tough to fit and finish a gap in a sweater that grows in an unexpected way. At the same time, this sweater wouldn't benefit from a sleeve that needs to be seamed in—the smooth, flowing drape this sweater needs would be ruined by a stiff seam.

Heather hit upon an unusual solution borrowed from sock knitting: Why not simply work a section of stitches in waste yarn that can then be removed to leave a slit edged by live loops (figure e)? You can continue work all the rest of the fabric flat, without interruptions or complex shaping. When you're ready to work the sleeves, all you need to do is remove the waste yarn, pick the live loops up, and knit away.

3) Gauge
The Dahlia Cardigan works a fingering-weight yarn at a relaxed, open gauge for a fabric that flows and drapes even in the solid stockinette portions. While this kind of construction would not work in a stiffer, bulkier fabric, this cardigan's drapiness helps finesse the fit and forgive the lack of shaping at the armholes without limiting the body's movement.

Fit it!
The Dahlia Cardigan is a piece that looks fantastic on all kinds of body types. It's easy, too, to make adjustments to truly flatter your own shape.

Critical measurements (figure f):
— this knitted cardigan is meant to be worn with the fronts overlapped, which can make choosing a size difficult. Consider choosing a size by taking a look at the cross back measurements, choosing the measurement that covers you comfortably from shoulder point to shoulder point.

— check the armhole depth for your size, and make sure that it's a comfortable length for your particular arm (measure your arm circumference at the fullest point and divide by two).

— check the length from the underarm to the hem. We like this cardigan cropped and boxy in the back, but it would be equally lovely quite a lot longer, depending on if you want it to fall to your hip or cover your derriere.

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figure f
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— if you want to shape this cardigan, consider working some short rows at each side to make the fabric longer toward the bust and hip, and narrower at the waist.

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Dahlia Cardigan, front view

Customize it!

Try working the front halves of this cardigan in different lengths—the pattern calls for two equal fronts that are just long enough to drape and flutter, but you could make one side much longer than the other to act as a wrap, make them both short and add a closure for a more traditional cardigan shape, or even taper both and make them long enough to wrap around like a ballet top.


At Interweave Knits, we love sweaters that make you look at knitting in a new way. Subscribe now and make sure you don't miss a single one!

Happy knitting,

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Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

8 thoughts on “Sweater Workshop: The Dahlia Cardigan

  1. Thank you Euny for further explaination of this beautiful knit! I am knitting this for an upcoming gallery and am intrigued with the construction I read the pattern but decided to put faith into the designer and just knit the sections as directed. So far I am loving the design element of the lace, gorgeous!

  2. have just read the newsletter on the Dahlia cardigan. I would like to knit this cardigan , and considering the construction and detailing, was wondering if it might be thought of as a knit along?

  3. These are great tips if I ever decide to do this sweater. I need to be tipsy to make the decision, sober to do the knitting. Anyhow, it would be cool if this could be done, say in white and then the lace part somehow dyed maybe fuschia or baby blue maybe putting some of the color on the sleeves. But I’d do this all on a swatch before trying this out on the actual cardigan.

  4. MB@yarnuiphoneapp your post just cracked me up! You made me smile on a bad morning. I think I may have number of decisions on projects tipsy because when I actually went back to look at the project again, I realized I would never be able to do the knitting…LOL!

  5. Hi! In effect this is a beautiful sweater…
    i guess the model and the yarn color is for something in this Ahhhhh factor!
    I was wondering. could the upper and lower part of the lace panel left live and incorporated along the knitting of the back?
    the seam seems a little bulky comparted to the rest of the cardigan

  6. I am about to start this pattern and I need some clarification on the lace center – the begining states to use the crochet provisional method – and the instructions for that state you use ‘waste’ yarn which is removed when starting the other direction of a piece – but in this case the lace center is worked in the round so I don’t see why the waste yarn should be used?

    Am I missiing something?


  7. About to cast on my sample to test my gauge… So exciting! A bit nervous about the pannel… @rosemary.kane, did you get any feedback about your question, or have you started and figured it out? I’m curious about that part too!