The lightweight Firefly Cardigan features Lion Brand Yarn’s Jeans Yarn in Top Stitch, wide swaths of ribbing, a shorter length that pairs well with both pants and dresses, and a slightly fitted but still casual look. It’s such an easy addition to any outfit!
As I’ve learned how to design and knit garments, I’ve always strived to make something that I’d like to have in my closet. And no wonder. With 2 kids, going out shopping for new clothes can be an ordeal, especially when I know I can make what I want, even if it’ll take a month or more to get it done. The Firefly Cardigan is just such a labor though – it’s me trying to fill a hole in my closet, taking the time to really figure out what I want, enjoying the journey of making it, and loving the results.
You can find this knitting pattern on my Ravelry page or my Etsy shop. The PDF includes instructions for 7 sizes, from XS to 3XL, and a schematic for different body measurements. There’s also a complete list of abbreviations, stitch definitions, and pattern notes with additional instructions and resources. Click on the links below to purchase the pattern or add it to your Ravelry queue for later!
Let’s dig a little deeper into the design.
First, the sample that I made uses Lion Brand Jeans Yarn. I’ve used Jeans Yarn before, but sort of overlooked this Top Stitch color. I used to think it was too orange, but as I revel in the golden colors of fall this year, I think the Top Stitch colorway reflects the season perfectly. Jeans Yarn is a beautifully soft acrylic that has my coveted cool-touch feel. It doesn’t snag on dry skin, or does it feel too woolly or itchy. The yarn sets off a simple stockinette stitch wonderfully, and makes the wide rib cuffs and collars look even better. It’s just such a classic yarn, found in some of my favorite hand-knit designs, and I hope to use much more of it in the future!
Along with the Jeans yarn, you’ll need 4.5mm knitting needles. I like using interchangeable circular needles, even though the whole sweater is worked in rows. Use a shorter length needle for the back panel to keep things compact, and then switch to longer wires when the front and back panels get joined. I have two sets of interchangeable circular needles, the Addi Click Lace Short Tip Interchangeables and the Jimmy Beans Wool SmartStix Interchangeables. I love them both, and appreciate having 2 sets to alternate between my many works in progress!
The Addi needles are slick and lightweight, helping you knit with speed. The Jimmy Beans Wool SmartStix are sharper and heavier, and color-coded so you always know what size you’re using. They are also color-coded in 1″ stripes, so you can measure your gauge as you work – how amazing is that? The wires themselves have 1″ markers on them as well. Each has their own uses, and both feel wonderful in the hand.
When I first started making garments, everything was in squares and rectangles. The drape of the yarn forgives a lot in terms of shaping, and I still love using rectangles and basic shapes for my designs. However, I wanted to push myself with this design, just a little bit. I had already played with curved armholes in my Caracol and Solstice tank tops, but I’ve never made inset sleeves to match those curves. But we all grow and learn, don’t we? I had SO much fun learning and understanding how to build this type of sweater. There’s such a joy in working through a new challenge, and figure out all the different pieces of the puzzle. The feeling of satisfaction as it all comes together feels pretty good too!
The Firefly Cardigan is a top-down garment, starting at the back of neck. You use short rows to shape the shoulders and use increases to shape the armholes. If you’re unfamiliar with short rows, Purl Soho has a great tutorial to help explain how to work with short rows.
Once you get to the armholes on the back panel, you’ll put that piece on scrap yarn, and pick up stitches in the front to work the 2 front panels. Work the front panels separately, or together, similar to how people work 2 sleeves at the same time on the same needles. Work the front panels similarly to the back, down to the armholes, and then join the front and back panels together.
I chose to design the body with an extra built-in faux seam stitch on either side of the body. This stitch is worked opposite to the rest of the row, like a reverse stockinette. When the body is done, you can work a mattress stitch up this extra stitch to create the faux seam. I find this helps hold the shape of the sweater better. Likewise, the sleeves are worked in rows so that you have to seam the sleeves together. These seams, fake or real, help give the entire sweater some structure, especially after washing.
The Firefly cardigan is slightly on the short side. Don’t get me wrong, I love a long, cozy cardigan. But what was missing in my closet was a shorter cardigan that didn’t make me look sloppy, wasn’t super thin and didn’t have 3/4 sleeves. I wanted to retain the coziness of long, roomy sleeves and wide ribbed cuffs. Once the body is complete, you can choose to get right to the sleeves, or add the wide ribbed collar to the front of the cardigan. They’re completely separate pieces, so you can do them in any order you’d like. I’d been looking forward to those ribs for a while, and it was fun to see the collar take shape.
The sleeves are roomy, as I mentioned before. There’s a slight shaping from armhole to wrist, but not a whole lot. Another “feature” I wanted to make sure I had in this sweater was the ability to wear long-sleeve shirts inside it. How many times have you been stuck with long sleeves, or even short sleeves, being bunched up at your upper arm, or feeling too constricted in the lower arm? The Firefly Cardigan is meant to be a layering piece, so it has to have enough room to fit a layer underneath! The sleeves end with more 2×2 ribbing, extending just beyond the wrists for an extra cozy feel.
How to Wear the Firefly Cardigan
When I first completed the Firefly Cardigan, I wasn’t sure if it was exactly what I had envisioned. I wasn’t sure how to style it “correctly”, or even just how to wear it with the pieces I had in my closet. It took a bit of time, but now I know I can pair it with almost anything! For warm days, I throw it over a graphic t-shirt and jeans. For cooler days, I layer it over a long-sleeve flannel shirt. And then there are those days when I need to be just a bit more dressed up. Then, this color goes especially well with a pair of golden brown boots!