Cardigan Comparison: Traditional Straight Cardigans

After publishing my friend Katie's cocoon style cardigan comparison on the blog a few weeks ago, I realized I love comparisons. I love analyzing and comparing, in addition to sewing of course. So I'm back with another comparison, all about traditional straight cardigans! 

The patterns that I'm comparing are:

I'm a cardigan wearer so my closet is full of many of these patterns already. I'll show you what I like or dislike about each pattern and how they differ. The opinions I provide here are solely my own. You may have a differing opinion and that's okay! Each person has a preference on fit, construction and options. 

Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan
Made for Mermaids Mama Darcey
Annelaine Coffee & Tea
Sinclair Patterns Harper Cardigan
Patterns for Pirates Grandpa Cardigan
Cost$14$9$12$0 through 12/31/2019 then $8.99$9
(XXS-Plus XXL)
0-40WXS-XXLXXS-Plus 3x
LengthsHip or mid-thighTunic, Duster or hi-lowClassic or dusterCropped, classic, mid-thigh or dusterShirt/Hip or Tunic
Sleeve lengthsLong SleeveShort, 3/4 or Long sleeveShort or long sleeveShort, 3/4 or long sleevesShort, 3/4 or long sleeves
PocketsView A onlyYesYesPatch pocketPatch pocket
Available in A0YesYesYesYesYes
ExtrasCup sizing fit Sleeveless option, Elbow patches, split hem for duster or tunicSlim or wide bandsPetite, Regular and Tall pattern pieces, Split hem for dusterTraditional or shawl collar, elbow patches, hemmed or banded bottom, button guide
Available for kidsNoYesYesNoYes 


First let's talk about what these patterns all have in common. 

A0: They are all available for A0 printing. A benefit to this style of printing is that you can print multiple sizes and have them on hand without needing to keep reprinting. I find A0 to be most helpful if you sew for others or kids. With kids, they keep growing so seem to always need a new size. I use Swedish tracing paper to trace the size that I need, label it and store them all together in an envelope. 

Mid-thigh length option: Another similarity is they are all offered in a mid-thigh length. I'd consider this my favorite length for a cardigan + leggings combination. 

Long Sleeve Length: All of these patterns also feature a long sleeve length. This seems necessary since these are cardigans. 

Pockets: All the patterns have optional pocket pieces. Keep in mind though that the pockets may not fit on certain bodice lengths. The styles of pockets differ also. 

Let's get into all the details now on each pattern. Some of these patterns I've sewn over and over, others I've hacked. I picked these patterns based on their popularity in sewing groups, my love of the patterns and their styles. 

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

Do you listen to the Love to Sew Podcast like I do? I love listening to Helen and Caroline chatting about sewing that I want to sew all of Helen's patterns. The Blackwood was my first Helen's Closet pattern and definitely didn't disappoint. What I love about the Blackwood and all of Helen's patterns is her comprehensive sewing booklet. Her directions are extremely detailed with tons of tips and tricks for sewing a beautiful garment. 

The Blackwood Cardigan comes in 2 length options. View A is a mid-thigh length with patch pockets. View B is hip length. If you aren't including the pockets, this cardigan can be made exclusively with a serger. The bottom and front band finishes make a clean look and are the perfect width. 

View A in Boho sweater knit from Mily Mae Fabrics 
View B in Cheetah ribbed knit from Mily Mae Fabrics

I measured between a 10 and 12 in sizing for the Blackwood. I chose to go with the size 12 but take a bit larger seam allowance. Fabric choice can make a difference on fit also. I like a bit slinkier of fabrics for this pattern like the Lush Mustard Ribbed Knit I used below from Mily Mae Fabrics. Do you see a trend? I buy a lot fabric from Mily Mae Fabrics

My modifications for the Blackwood is that the sleeves are way too long for me. I take off a minimum of 2" depending on my desired look. I also find the sleeves a bit wider than my preference and slimed those a bit on the cheetah and mustard versions. I usually wear tanks under my cardigans and think I heard Helen say she made the sleeves wider to account for wearing a shirt under it.  I wished that the Blackwood had an in-between length so I've done that myself with extending view A by 3". (If you decide to do that, make sure you extend your front band pieces the same amount you've extended your front and back bodice pieces.)

PROS: Detailed directions, true fit, easy to follow construction, can be constructed entirely with a serger

CONS: Limited length options, extra long sleeve length (could be a pro for others), only one sleeve length

Made for Mermaids Mama Darcey

This has been my go-to cardigan pattern in the past. I even used it to make a teacher gift last year. This one is made in brushed French Terry stripes from Mily Mae Fabrics. 

Tunic length, long sleeves with hacked cuffs
I really love the duster and hi-low length options but find I make the tunic length often too. My preferred fabric for the Darcey is waffle knit. This blush pink striped one is from Mily Mae Fabrics also. 

A benefit to the Mama Darcey is the sleeveless cut line. This is the only cardigan I'm comparing that has that option to make a vest. This cardigan also sets itself apart with the duster and high-low options. The duster length has optional side slits for finishing too. Below is the high-low length, sleeveless. I used a light semi-sheer sweater knit from Walmart for this one as a tester and just love it. 
Sleeveless high-low in light sweater knit
Mama Darcey includes a hood option also. I've added it to a couple of my makes which is quick and easy to do. There is a longer front band piece so the hood is finished with the same band. The band on the Mama Darcey is a thin band which saves on fabric and makes the fit slimmer. All of the Mama Darcey versions are finished with a hem on the bottom and hemmed sleeves. Mama Darcey has optional elbow patches too. The one below is made from burgundy brushed waffle knit from Mily Mae Fabrics. I wanted a bit shorter duster so I cut it 9" longer than the tunic length which lands it just about at my knee. Basically my cut was between the tunic and duster lengths. 

Tunic Length with hood in waffle knit

I measure a size Blue bust with Indigo waist in all Made for Mermaids patterns. For the Darcey, to keep the straight line of it, I make a straight Blue. Some people have said the sleeves are too slim but I actually prefer that fit. Below is my all time favorite Darcey which is in duster length made from a mid-weight sweater knit from Sincerely Rylee Fabrics. The angle of the photo makes it look knee length but it's a bit longer than that. Coral is a neutral for me so it matches just about everything in my closet. I hacked cuffs onto this one. 

PROS: Unique cutlines including high-low and duster, only vest/sleeveless option, optional hood, pockets fit on all lengths, girls and women's sizing

CONS: no cuffs

Annelaine Coffee & Tea

I'll be honest, this is my first time making the Coffee & Tea. When I posted Katie's cocoon style comparison I was surprised by how many people requested this pattern be included in the comparison. I'd seen it, heard about it but hadn't tried it. I thought I'd go ahead and compare it with the Coffee version here. I do have plans to add the Tea version to my other comparison soon. 

The biggest benefit to this pattern is the fact that this pattern contains both a straight (Coffee) and cocoon style (Tea) cardigan all-in-one. Basically you get both styles for the cost of one pattern. In addition to that, the size range is vast. It was recently expanded up to size 40. 

I found that the cutting of this pattern was confusing. Rather than a cut chart, the bands required being cut on a double fold but there were no directions for that. I had to search the Annelaine facebook group to find a video on this. It took me quite a while to find the cut chart for the cuffs also (which I didn't end up using). The tutorial was for both the Coffee and Tea together which I had a challenge following along. Fortunately I'm well versed in sewing cardigans and figured it out. 

Both the Coffee & Tea, like the Mama Darcey, has a hood option too. It can be made in two lengths; classic or duster. This is the short Coffee which is considered the classic length hitting just past my butt. It includes a pattern piece for pockets to fit any of its options which end up huge. I actually found these pockets too large as my items fell to the bottom of them but they are great for keeping hands warm. The bottom of the Coffee version is finished with a hem. It made me realize I prefer a bottom band finishing. Who would have guessed!

My biggest struggle with the Coffee is the sizing. According to the size chart I measured a size 6 upper bust, 10 full bust and waist and 8 hips. I was recommended to do a FBA. I've never heard of needing an FBA for a cardigan. I ended up cutting a size 6 bust and graded to an 8 waist and hips. There was plenty of ease for this to work and still keep the relaxed fit of the pattern. 

What I really liked about this pattern is how the front band wraps around the back neck. It can be flipped down like a shawl collar or kept flat for a wider look. 

PROS: two styles of patterns in one, large pockets, size range including girls

CONS: Neckband and pattern cutting was confusing, sizing

Sinclair Patterns Harper

The Harper is the newest pattern to release in this comparison. It is the only pattern that is free, now through 12/31/2019. Let me reiterate, it is FREE through the end of 2019. I was able to test this pattern prior to it's release so have tried several versions. I find the Harper to be relaxed through the body and the sleeves, similar to the Coffee. 

If you haven't tried Sinclair Patterns, you are missing out on their main advantage. All Sinclair Patterns are drafted to petite, regular and tall heights with separate pattern files for each. This allows for the majority of people to not need to grade for height. I am 5'5" tall and use the regular height pattern files. For this pattern, since it is a relaxed fit, I didn't grade out for my waist like I normally do. I would normally sew a size 6 bust, 8 waist and 6 hip in Sinclair Patterns. For the Harper, I made a straight size 6 regular height. 

Cropped Length in French Terry main with distressed bands from Mily Mae Fabrics

The Harper and Blackwood are basically exactly the same on their construction with cuffs and bands. The Harper differs though as it's a bit more relaxed in fit. I also found I slimmed in the sleeves (based on my preference). The sleeves were drafted to fit a shirt under them.

This version is the classic length with 3/4 length sleeves in waffle knit from Mily Mae Fabrics. 

Harper has the most sleeve and length options of all the patterns compared. There are short, 3/4 or long sleeves as well as cropped, classic, mid-thigh or duster bodice lengths. I have a post here on when the Harper was released with my original makes. Since then, I've made a lighter version for my Vegas vacation which was perfect for the airplane. I was able to get this cropped length out of 1 yard of light French Terry fabric for the main and used a coordinating sweater knit for the bands. 

PROS: Price, Four lengths, 3 sleeve lengths, can be made completely on a serger

CONS: Relaxed fit (for me), sleeve width (my preference) 

Patterns for Pirates Grandpa Cardigan

The Grandpa Cardi is the first cardigan pattern that I ever purchased. I've made several in my attempts to perfect my desired fit. The best thing about the Grandpa Cardi is that the Patterns for Pirates Facebook group is so helpful. There are over 100,000 people in this group providing fit feedback and suggestions. This alone is a huge asset to a new seamstress or one that just has fit questions. 

The Grandpa Cardi can be finished with a bottom band (like the Harper and Blackwood) or hemmed (like the Coffee and Darcey). It's the only pattern that offers both a straight and shawl collar for extra versatility. It also includes optional elbow patches and is the only pattern that has directions on adding front buttons. 

I love the tunic length that this pattern offers. I'm not sure I've made anything other than the tunic length like below. 

Tunic Length hemmed in light French Terry 
My most recent Grandpa I used a hacci and modified the pockets. I decided to make the pockets the full width of the front pieces. 

I even tried the Grandpa in fleece. I didn't size up, but should have especially in the arms. Since fleece has limited stretch, it makes a more fitted sweater. 

I measure a medium bust and hip but large waist in this pattern. I don't grade out for my waist. I think if I was to add buttons, I would grade out for my waist to ensure it can button without pulling. I also find this sleeves are large on this pattern all the way through. I size down the sleeves. I do love that there is a unisex children's pattern that coordinates with this too, the Cpt Macks Cardigan

PROS: versatility of options, shawl or traditional collar, hem or band bottom finish, elbow patches, button instructions, facebook group support 

CONS: Large fit through the arms


Want the most detailed directions? The Blackwood Cardigan is for you!
Want a shawl collar or versatile hem/band finishings? The Grandpa Cardigan is for you!
Want a combo pattern with traditional straight and cocoon options? The Coffee & Tea is for you!
Want a high-low length or sleeveless cutline? The Mama Darcey is for you!
Want it for free or the most sleeve and pattern lengths? The Harper is for you!

My posts may feature affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase from these links, I receive a small percentage in compensation at no cost to you. I may have received patterns or products to test or review but the opinions I voice are my own. 


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