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Design Focus – Duchess Cardigan

Have you ever looked for that perfect cardigan that you can just put on over anything? Look no further. The Duchess Cardigan provides amazing versatility and ease of wear whilst still looking really stylish. This week we will be looking in closer detail at how it is constructed, the stitches involved in knitting it and the most common modification.

duchess cardigan by Purl Alpaca Designs

The construction of Duchess is slightly different to your standard cardigan. The draped front pieces have a rectangular shape creating the waterfall effect and are knitted sideways. The back is knitted in the more normal bottom up way. This means that when doing the side seams you will have to join stitches from the front to rows from the back.

The front pieces have a section of basket weave along the lower edge. Basket weave is created using a mixture of knit and purl stitches in small squares. When the knit and purl squares are alternated on top of each other a woven effect appears. It’s a very decorative stitch pattern and fairly easy to get the hang of!

Duchess cardigan flat lay - designed by Kari-Helene Rane for Purl Alpaca Designs

The collar is knitted at the same time as working the fronts and is an extension of the garter stitch edge around the basket weave. By doing the increases not at the very edge of the knitting, but at the inside of the border, a smoother edge is achieved.

The back of this garment is knitted from the bottom up. The pleated effect is created by quickly decreasing stitches in small areas as well as creating a natural cinched effect from the cables. The most common alteration on this design is making the back longer. Because of the way the garment is constructed, this is slightly challenging. By adding rows to the back of the garment you need to add stitches to the front. The ratio is approximately 6 rows to 5 sts. I would recommend adding 5 sts (about 1 inch) at the time to keep the basket weave pattern intact. Here is a link to one of the projects on Ravelry that has very successfully used this method. Check out all Ravelry projects here.

Cabling is a technique that for many can seem a mystery. Cabling is really only a small number of stitches swapping places. When creating a 3/3 CF cable, f.ex, you start by moving 3 sts onto a cable needle, holding the to the front (CF=cable front) of your work, knitting the next 3 sts, and then working the 3 stitches from the cable needle. All you have really done is knitting the latter 3 before you knit the first! Cabling demystified.

duchess cardigan cable detail - design by Purl Alpaca Designs

The Duchess Cardigan was part of our Seashore Collection and photographed at the beach near Southend-on-sea. It was photographed on a very windy day which made the drape of the front of the cardigan behave beautifully in the pictures. We photographed a few pieces of menswear on the same day and even did some “couple” photos!

duchess cardigan by Purl Alpaca Designs with Geronimo Jumper also by Purl Alpaca Designs

Duchess is knitted in our Alpaca Fine yarn and the original garment was made from the colour Alpaca Light. We love the idea of wearing this cardigan over a wedding dress not only in ivory but also in the colour Alpaca Mist like Irene did on her big day! You can see more photos of Irene wearing Duchess on her wedding day here.

I&J (26 of 29)

The picture of Irene and Jakob is ©Wegar Berg Gundersen

Have you knitted the Duchess Cardigan? We would love to hear from you. Send us some photos of you wearing the cardigan and you are in with a chance of winning next months customer gallery price. Last month Jeanne won with her pictures of the Allegro Shawl. The winner of this months competition will win two tickets to the Knitting and Stitching Show as well as a free pdf pattern of choice! Ready, steady, go! Email us your photo before the end of September 4th to be in with a chance of winning!

Do you feel inspired to knit your own? Here is a link to where you can buy the knitting kit in the colour of your choice. I look forward to hearing from you! Happy knitting!

Kari-Helene xxx



Leave a comment


  1. Guðrún Halldórsdóttir: August 25, 2016 12:21 pm

    Yes, I have made The Duchess Cardigan. Fell in love with it at Alexandra Palace last year. It´s just lovely.

  2. kari.helene: August 25, 2016 1:19 pm

    That’s great! Will you be entering the competition?

  3. Helena: August 31, 2016 8:28 am

    Hi! I just have one question, are the sleeves sewn in? I want to knit this but I dont like sewing:)

  4. kari.helene: August 31, 2016 11:21 am

    Hello! Yes, the sleeves are sewn in on this design, so unfortunately there are a few seams on this design. Maybe you could find someone who likes sewing up to do it for you?

  5. Aimee: August 31, 2016 11:31 am

    My favourite cardigan! I love wearing my duchess as it goes so well with so many things, I must find a decent photograph of me in it to enter the competition 🙂

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