Sewing: Cosby Sweater


I found this insane sweater knit near the Riley Blake knits at JoAnn fabric. It’s sort of hideous, but really cool. I was a bit bummed at the price tag of $20 a yard (you know how I am), but after doing some precise mathematical equations in my head I figured I would really only need 1/2 a yard to make a sweater for Penelope. $10 was somehow easier for me to digest, so I bought it.

And precise I was! I had about 10 square inches of leftover fabric after making Penelope’s sweater. That made me feel pretty awesome about my math skills.

And Penelope loves this sweater (despite her expression here). I have no idea what this facial expression is about. Maybe she’s channeling a tortured artist vibe.

The sweater itself was really easy to make, I used mostly straight lines, see the illustration and instructions below for details on how you can make your own. I bet you could do something similar with a thrifted or hand-me-down sweater.

You’ll want to make your pattern first. Draw up your pattern on butcher paper, cardboard, newsprint, whatever. I typically have my model and a well-fitting shirt on hand to get a good fit. Measure your model’s chest, divide by two and add 1 inch (based on a 1/2 inch seam allowance). Draw the line out on your paper. Measure down to the waist. Do the same thing for the waist measurement. Measure the length of your sweater and use a shirt as your guide for the neckline. Instead of doing inset sleeves, I just draw straight lines from shoulder to pit. This will make it so easy to sew. Since you’ll be sewing with a stretchy material, the fit doesn’t have to be super perfect.

Measure your arm width at pit and wrist and draw up your simple pattern using straight lines. You can refer back to your shirt as a reference, if needed.

Cut on grain, and match up your grain! Now sew!

  1. Pin front and back right sides together. Sew shoulder seams and press open.
  2. Pin body and sleeve right sides together. Sew pit seams and press open.
  3. pin sides (and sleeve) right sides together. Sew side seams and press open.
  4. Hem sleeves by folding under 1/2 inch and sewing or attach ribbing.
  5. Hem sweater bottom by folding under 1/2 inch and sewing or attach ribbing.
  6. Cut ribbing 3 inches wide and as long as your opening (I cut it really long). Pin right sides together along neckline, stretching ribbing as you pin. Sew and press open, with the seam allowance facing down.
When sewing with sweater knits, you’ll want to use one or more of the following:
  • straight stitch with a short stitch length (I used 2.5)
  • straight stitch with a double needle and wooly nylon in your bobbin
  • a walking foot to keep both layers feeding uniformly
  • sew all your seams with a serger

Let me know if you make something similar. I would love to see how it turns out!

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    1. Jen says:

      Cute! I love the funky pattern, so fun!

    2. Kristie says:

      Wow. This is awesome. Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to try this pattern making idea. Yeah!

    3. Kristie says:

      This is so cool. I have been wanting to try to make my own patterns for my kids, but I worry about the curves at the waist and in the sleeves/arms.
      Thank you for sharing!

    4. katie says:

      I carried this fabric around JoAnn for probably 20 minutes. I wanted it SO BAD. And not necessarily for me or my kids (I only have boys), I just wanted to use it for SOMETHING! Baby hats! Cute little sweater pants! I could sell them! But the thing that helped talk me out of it was seeing that it was dry clean only. Wop wop. But her sweater is adorable. I love the pattern you came up with.

    5. Elizabeth says:

      Thank you for sharing this pattern and your adorable shirt! I fell in love with this fabric at JoAnn’s too and made it into a coat for my little girl. She loves it and gets tons of compliments. Such fun fabric!

    6. Jen says:

      So so cute!! I feel like I actually saw a similar crazy sweater at Madewell recently, she is one stylish little lady. Also I would like to give a WHOO HOOO on the precise math, I know how good that feels!

    7. Kristin H says:

      Ooo, I know what I am making today! Miss E is in need of more sweaters and that is seriously one cute sweater.

    8. marissa says:

      this is so amazingly adorable and it looks like something i would have to pay a boatload of dollars for. :)

    9. mandie says:

      It’s so fun! And again, I need her hair color! It’s just perfect.

    10. Leanne says:

      I love how clean and concise your tutorial is. Tuts can be a beast to write, but this gives great direction without being too wordy and overwhelming (like all of mine are). Darling sweater!

    11. Jacinta says:

      Love it. Must try .. even though it is heading into summer here… that’s no big deal right. :D

    12. Lindsay says:

      That sweater is adorable. And Penelope is so cute!

    13. Klutzy says:

      I especially want to thank you for the pattern because it looks like I can use it to make myself a T-shirt. I have been struggling to make commercial patterns fit. This is a great sweater, and yes so reminiscent of Dr. H’s!

    14. Klutzy says:

      For Katie: Most Dry clean only fabric can be washed in cold water on gentle cycle, or by hand. With wool, soak awhile and use as little agitation as possible.

    15. Cindy says:

      For a woman, would you add more room to the front piece? Also, sweater side seams are typically a little to the back, right, so you don’t see them as much from the front, have messed around with that? I have sewn sweaters with crispina ffrench’s chop shop method. I would like to try to create a pattern that fits me, then use the sweaters as fabric rather than the chop shop way.

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