Charter Schooled: A Cardigan DIY from Mandi of Making Nice In The Midwest!

What better time of year to get crafty than around the holidays? This week, we’re welcoming four of our favorite fashion bloggers to Story by ModCloth to reimagine a classic ModCloth item: the Charter School Cardigan. Today, Mandi of Making Nice in the Midwest presents a vintage-inspired, ruffle-collared cardi that’s sure to set you apart at your next holiday get-together:

Hey there! This is Mandi, from Making Nice in the Midwest. I just can’t get enough of the sweet feminine styles of the 1960s. To me, French New Wave films feature the most inspiring fashionable females of the decade, particularly Godard films like A Woman is a Woman, and candy colored musicals like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. I wanted to take the simple and versatile Charter School Cardigan in Red and add some of that same ’60s sugary sweetness, perfect for holiday parties and any New Wave wannabe, like me! So I grabbed some sheer polka dotted fabric and worked a little magic with a needle and thread to turn the Charter School Cardigan in Red into a vintage dream.


Mandi’s Charter School Cardigan DIY

3/4 yard of sheer white polka dotted washable fabric (I found mine at a chain fabric store)
About 2 1/2 yards of 1/2″ wide white bias tape or 1″ wide ribbon
White and red thread
Straight pins
Sharp scissors
Sewing machine (Optional, but helpful)

Step One:

step one
Starting at the top button of the sweater, run your ribbon or bias tape along the edge of the sweater’s neckline, all the way to the first button hole and cut the ribbon to this length. You may want to add 1″ for measuring error. Do the same thing to the wrist of the sweater, adding 1″ to overlap when closing the hem. Make sure you cut the cuffs large enough to fit your hands and forearm through.

Step Two:

step 2
Cut out two 10″ wide pieces of fabric, going the entire width of the 44″ piece of fabric. Then iron them in half carefully. Because the fabric is synthetic, be sure to set your iron on a low setting. It’s helpful to lay a press cloth over the fabric to keep the iron steam from melting the synthetic fabric.

Step Three:

step 3
Cut one of your lengths of fabric in half, but leave the other one in its entire length. Loosely stitch together the cut edges of each of the 3 pieces of ironed fabric. They should be about 5″ in width. You can do this on the sewing machine, but be careful to use wide stitches. I left a half inch raw edge when stitching together my fabric, because the edges weren’t evenly cut. And then after stitching, I neatly trimmed the edges to be 1/4″ from the stitch.

After you’ve stitched them closed, pull one of the threads on the end and begin to bunch of the seam to make a ruffle. This might take some time on the longer piece of fabric, but just keep working the fabric, pulling the bunches into the middle from either end. Don’t pull too aggressively or the thread will break and you’ll need to re-do the loose stitches again. Your ruffles are complete when they are evenly bunched and match the length of the ribbons you cut in step one.

Step Four:

step 4
If you are using ribbon instead of bias tape, you’ll need to fold the ribbon in half and iron it to give it a crease. Then fold the ribbon or bias tape over the raw edge of the ruffle and pin into place. Run a stitch over the edge of the ribbon to create a nice finished edge to the ruffle, but leave 1″ on the beginning and end of the ribbon so you can finish it nicely.

For the cuffs, I tucked the sheer fabric inside and ran a stitch along the edge to close off either end. Then I put one end of the cuff on top of the other end and ran another stitch to close off the cuff. At the ribbon edge, I tucked one ribbon edge into the other and stitched along the edge of the length of the ribbon to close it off.

For the collar, I simply tucked the sheer portion of the fabric into itself and stitched along the edge to close it off. I did the same thing to the ribbon on the collar.

Step Five:

step 5
Use straight pins to connect the collar and cuffs to the inside edge of the sweater, ending at the top button and buttonhole. Be careful to not stretch the sweater as you’re sewing, or you won’t have enough ruffle to go around! You can hand stitch a slip-stitch for this, but if you use red thread on the cuffs and white for the collar, even a sewing machine stitch won’t be visible.


This project took a bit of time, but I think the end result was worth it! If you enjoy sewing, or wanted to try something a bit more complicated than pillow making, but not as complex as sewing a whole dress from scratch- this is a great project for you!


Thanks for having me, ModCloth! — By Mandi, Making Nice in the Midwest

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  1. Mae East 12/11/2013 at 9:47 am #

    THAT is adorable! I may practise on a thrift store find, first, before tackling the real thing 🙂 I love these DIY fashion tutorials, thanks!

  2. Marian 12/11/2013 at 2:55 pm #

    Beautiful job! Such a chic idea and executed flawlessly 🙂

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