Calling It Done: Big Flower Cardigan

By Kay Gardiner
November 19, 2020

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  • WOW, what a gorgeous project!

    • I have had a picture of this sweater from a magazine for all of these years. I never will knit it, but I will always love it. Thanks to Clara for gifting it to you
      Happy Turkey Day
      Kate Manning

      • I’ve been following your progress on this mammoth knit, feel quite emotional at its finish! Well done, and what great words from the man himself x

  • This ranks up there with the story you told of his not weaving in ends. (I hope I’m not misremembering.)
    It’s the kind of philosophy that frees us to be, not just better knitters, but also kinder people.
    What a beautiful sweater!

  • Your sweater is glorious! But do you even want a button band? How about a facing or a zipper? Just a thought.

    • Agree! I revisited Glorious Knits to see the photographs of the original. The 1980’s button band design might look very heavy on the swingy version you created. And it potentially disrupts the spectacular flower motif. A modest edging just for finish–or the zipper, or facing approach, might be all you need. You could use an interesting ribbon for the facing and there would be a little design surprise inside. Just brainstorming….

    • Totally agree with not doing a button band. It looks fabulous!! If you want a closure, maybe some type of frog at the neckline and the middle of the flower but I would just wear it open. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

      • Absolutely! I agree with you on every point!

    • How about an I cord edge. You know you love I cord.

    • I’m sure I’m not the only one who has, in the back of my mind, wondered from time to time about this project of yours. No pressure – ha – just wanting to see the end product! I’m so happy for you that you persevered – that is a gorgeous sweater! My thought was that maybe an i-cord edging would be pretty and easier than a button band.

    • Icord edging with button loops ftw!

  • Yowsers! I raise my needles in salute!

    • I, too, have a Kaffe kit that I bought 40 or so years ago, but in my case, I never even started it! It’s the Kilim design, and a jacket style cardigan, I believe. You’re an inspiration for me to cast on in 2021! I have had to accept that I’m a fickle knitter, falling for every new design and yarn I see. But your sweater is beautiful, love how you changed it up to suit you, and I feel better to know I’m not alone…

      • Loved seeing this jacket again! All those years ago I had a friend who enthusiastically went at it and looked spectacular wearing it. It was my first ‘brush with Kaffe’ who I have followed with admiration ever since!

      • If you ever want to sell that kit, please let me know! I have been wanting it forever, but I was too poor to buy it when it came out

        • Somebody make Kilim jacket! Must see this happen!

        • You don’t actually have to have a kit. I made a kilim jacket decades ago from several shopping bags full of (uncut) needlepoint yarn purchased at a yarn sale for, if I remember correctly, $6.00. I don’t think the making of it took all that long—it’s not nearly as complicated as the flower sweater. Unfortunately, it was HUGE, and I am seriously short. I looked like a rug-clad turtle and ended up selling it on eBay. It was fun to make though. I loved the multicolored ribbing of the button bands, but for Kay’s gorgeous sweater (I’ve been waiting a long time for this. Mazeltov!) i-cord might be best. Hoping to see this in 2021 at Rhinebeck.

  • I am so proud of you❤️

  • My goodness! What an accomplishment! It’s beautiful and I too think the elimination of the bottom band was an excellent idea. Congrats!

  • Epic!! I’ve been following MDK for years and wondered if you’d ever finish Big Flower. And you did! Congratulations. Well done. Love to see you in it.

  • Oh Kay!!! It is a beautiful sweater!!! Congratulations!

  • So very, very lovely.

  • How gorgeous! And kudos to you for REMARKSBLE! I have to ask — what is the yarn?

  • You did it!! What a beautiful accomplishment. It turned out great and your modifications fit right in. It’s been fun following Big Flower’s journey. Enjoy wearing your amazing sweater.

  • Accomplishment of a life time, I should think. What a feeling of exhilaration!

  • Wow! Congrats! So when do we get to see you wearing it, with or without the button band?

  • well done! I’m trying to find my errant copy of Glorious Knitting as I think a winter project might be tackling some of the patterns

  • Please forgive my earlier question about yarn. I’ve now read your first detailed post. AND I also gave a copy of Glorious Knitting. You are brave! And kudos to Clara for gifting Big Flower on to just the right person

  • Oh, marvellous! A brilliant design well executed. I love the millions of colours making up the background. That is the real genius of Kaffe, isn’t it?

  • *between friends said Kaffe Fassett*. I think you buried the lede !

  • I have this kit which I started back in the 80’s. I pulled it out earlier this year with the goal of eventually finishing it. I met Kaffe many years ago when he taught a class in Maryland and he was charming. I’ve knitted several of his designs and done some of his wonderful needlepoint also. He is a tremendously talented man. I like your sweater without the bottom band.

  • I’m on team “no button band”. Maybe some inner toggles to keep the front flower whole when you want to close it b

  • This is a masterpiece!!! Oh wow. I’m in love. Worth all the effort, the years in progress, the weaving in of ends. What a treasure.

  • I’m getting sweaty fingers just looking at that cardigan. It’s beautiful!

  • Woohoo! I like the bottom edge you did much better than the ribbed edge – it pulls in even on the model. A beautiful sweater. Looks cozy!

  • It is an accomplishment, finished or not. You *should* wear it from time to time before the final feat, as part of the process.

  • I am on team zipper (or you can just wear it exactly like it is and call it done – no one will know). A zipper would be less disruptive to the gorgeous flow of the design than a button band would be. Of course, I just took a zipper class at VKL and am all about zippers at the moment…

  • It is a collaborative work of art! I love it for so many reasons – inspired!

  • You will have people following you in the street when you wear this masterpiece! Didn’t you tell a story once of following a woman who admitted to buying one of his gorgeous creations in a second hand shop? May your sweater last for generations to come and invite many admiring street followers. Including me if I’m lucky to spot you.

  • Freakin Fabulous but what about showing us the “private side”? That’s always a work of art too!

  • great job!! I saw it on the virtual talk. I wanted to see it again, so thanks for the post. I think it’s too heavy for Dallas weather, but congratulations.

  • Indeed. That’s so marvelous, Kay!! Congratulations!!

  • Amazing! I admire your perseverance and love the hem, rather than ribbing. Also, I agree with others who suggest avoiding the button band for something more discrete. The only time I bought a KF kit, back in the early 90s, the colours were so beautiful that I arranged the balls of yarn in a basket. It made a gorgeous decorative piece in the living room but the moths liked it too. Out it went, and for years now I have just read his books and drooled. The little houses are beckoning……

  • I wondered about that sweater!
    Did you finish it?
    Change ,modernize it?
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Omg Kay. It’s gorgeous. Stunning. All of the adjectives.

  • Beautiful!! Congratulations!

  • Kay, this is gorgeous and a monument to Nebraska doggedness. A button band assumes buttons, and that interferes with the line of the flower. How about our old friend i-cord?

  • Good job! You hung in there and created a masterpiece! I hope I get to see it sometime – I love the colors.

  • Kaffe’s Backdrop, Ann’s Blanket/shawl, and Kay’s Big Flower were the trifecta of cozy on Sunday! I was virtually high-fiving you on Big Flower, having read its previous cameo appearance. Those Triplets are the knitting version of a big hug as well as demonstration of why we knit on!

  • Just WOW! I remember those amazing intricate intarsia sweaters of that era. It’s gorgeous and I am very impressed.

  • It’s the end of an era! Perhaps in the future we’ll use a dating system based on this momentous occasion, Before Big Flower Cardigan (BBFC) and After Big Flower Cardigan (ABFC)

  • WoW! I had forgotten it was in chenille! That is such an evil yarn, and still you made it , and it’s truly beautiful! What an amazing feat Kay! Brava!

  • Wonderful story. I think the elimination of the bottom ribbing was a major improvement. I was in college at the time this design was new (dating myself or what?) and a classmate’s mother had knit this sweater, or another Kaffe Fasset with a flower design, and mailed it to her. The design was amazing and we all oohed and ahhed. The fit was kind of odd around the arms, but this is not an everyday wear anyway. I wonder what has happened to Caroline? Anyway, you knit a beautiful sweater, and what an accomplishment! A bucket list knit.

  • I have been off social media for a while due to a move, the loss of my cell phone (ugh!), and to illness from an arthritic flare up. Today I am very happy to see the completion of your beautiful Big Flower Sweater! I greatly admire your courage in making modifications a la Elizabeth Zimmerman, who encouraged knitters not to be blind followers. How you were ever able to fit this complicated and challenging knit into your busy knitting schedule I will never know, but that is the miracle of knitters and knitting. The strange thing is that a short while back, this sweater came to my mind. I like to think now that you must have been working on it then and that I have a sort of knitter’s telepathic connection with you guys because of my long association with following MDK…

    So Kay, thank you for sharing this wonderful accomplishment with all of us. It is such a bright spot in what has been a very challenging time in our collective lives and in my personal life, as well.


  • To my eye, hemming the bottom and skipping the button band have moved it out of the ‘80s. It looks great! Well done, Kay.

  • You are amazing! What fortitude and persistence you have!

  • You could insert a zipper instead of button bands.

  • OMG! The Big Floral Damask Thing got loose! Where is Molly Ringwald when we need her?

  • This is just beautiful. You are my stick-to-itivness idol. What a remarkable accomplishment.
    By the way, the photo of In-carsia made me laugh out loud. Thank you for a joyous moment; I needed it too!

  • Your elimination of the ribbing at the bottom made this 80’s pattern current!(And don’t tell me the 80’s shoulder pads, etc. are coming back. I’ve not recovered from the last go round.) I love it and admire your tenacity.

  • Wow. This is the knitting equivalent of doing an ultra-marathon (not that I would know ).

    Seriously, what a feat, and what an FO!

  • It’s pretty fabulous. Loved seeing you in this on Sunday!

  • All I heard was, “40 years in the making and suddenly all my WIPs got a bit younger. Thank you Kay, for making me feel better and more encouraged about my stash and projects.

    • ditto

  • Your project is truly a work of art and labor of love.
    You should be so proud to wear it and look forward to many compliments!

  • Brava!

  • Regiggering??????????? Perfect word for this cardigan. Your sweater is absolutely stunning and you are one brave woman to have tackled it. I’m glad you didn’t do the ribbing. I think it would be a distraction. This might be one of those garments that you should wear inside out. People need to see the intricasies of the sweater you created. Good job–no great job! I probably should say something about fortitude, stamina, commitment, etc., etc., etc. But another time.

  • Such a lovely tribute to both Clara and Kaffe. And an absolutely fantastic garment.

    • Just fabulous! Remember seeing that sweater in the first book and thinking I would love to make that wear that.
      You did a knit a beautiful piece of work. Like it better with no ribbing, no button bands.
      Just wear it and enjoy it.
      Have fun.

    • This was the perfect thing for me to read this morning. “Inspirational” is the word that best describes it. The finished sweater is beautiful but the story of the making over time —and the making it your own— is what transforms it into more than a story of knitting a sweater. Thank you for this.

  • Fabulous! I’m inspired! Maybe 2021 will be the year I start Foolish Virgins! (Yes, the kit has been in stash for too many years for me to calculate.) If I finish it, will I get to meet Kaffe as well?

    • I have Foolish Virgins also, sitting in a drawer. Any takers?

  • How about an edging band sewn inside with Kaffe Fassett fabric to stabilize the edge?

    I remember being astonished by Kaffe’s kits in the gift shop at Nepenthe in the 1980s. They seemed too extravagant for both my budget and knitting skills at the time, but left a deep impression on me. I’ve loved his work ever since. I finally knit a Kaffe pattern with the Vibrant Stripes shawl, and now I’m awaiting the delivery of my Field Guide 16 and Cityscape kit. Who knows- maybe 2021 will be my year to finally take on one of his big patterns?

    Thanks for a wonderful program on Sunday morning. What a treat!

    • Kaffe Fassett makes ribbons. As an alternative to a fabric band.

  • This is a true accomplishment, button band or no!

  • Wow! It is epic and magnificent! Bravo to you!

  • I love it and have been wondering how it was fairing! I love the bottom edge. I bet sewn on pockets on the front would work if you feel the need for a place to stash a tissue at all times. I love it without the button band and know whatever final touches you do will be perfect!

  • Stunning! That’s not just a jacket – it’s a piece of art. I agree with the other comments about omitting the button band for a simpler edging. I’d love to see it with an i-cord edging or zipper.

  • I totally didn’t notice that the button band was missing!

  • Awesome job Kay. It’s beautiful!!

  • I just love this story. What’s a button band between friends? Thank you!

  • So beautiful!!

  • I’ve thought about your Big Flower sweater more often than you might think (it’s very inspiring) but I didn’t know the beginning of the story. What a lovely story it is!

  • It certainly does say ’80s pretty emphatically!

  • Wait, didn’t you invent cro-Kay? That would be perfect. And I’m on team zipper. It’s beautiful!

  • You did it! I’ve been thinking of this project on and off since you began the journey! Good on ‘ya! (what does it mean that I think of OTHER people’s UFO’s in addition to my own…) Congratulations!!

  • Somehow missed this. What a great story. I hope you have many occasions to wear it, Kay…like Rhinebeck, maybe, next year. And my crazy mind imagining you and Kaffe co-hosting one of those major English gardening shows with your coat as their pamphlet logo. All that work needs to be put to good use!

  • Sorry, Cardigan. It has the aura of a coat to me,

  • This is just spectacular! I love the hem at the bottom. How did you do this part? Was it added after?

  • Wow, it’s so beautiful! What a lot of work. Knitting something like this is a major accomplishment. How awesome are you to have stuck with it and completed it. You deserve to be proud!!!

  • So I’m all, “damn, well, couldn’t see the chat because I was running a virtual meeting on Sunday, and oh man, it will just make me all wanting of the new things, and I have so many things to knit that I do REALLY want and I guess I’ll just let it go”

    But now I’m like “holy ****, how can I retroactively get access to this because I NEED TO SEE THIS SWEATER”

    I mean, I totally understand you maybe didn’t want to jinx or overpromise beforehand, but if I had known that this sweater would be there, on you, well. VKL website, here I come.

  • It is stunning as is! I have to join Wendy in raising my needles in salute. This is the true meaning of “Trooping the Colour.” (Horses not required.)

    • Kay! It’s utterly fabulous, just as it is! You’ve proved that time (as in length of time to finish) is truly just a concept. I was so happy to see this FO, congrats!!!

  • It’s BEAUTIFUL!!! and it looked marvelous on you on Sunday!!

  • Dear Kay, I met Kaffe in Boston in the 1970’s at a trunk show for his sweater/coats. So this brings back many fine memories of struggling with intarsia. You have done a tremendous job. I am flabbergasted.
    There must be rewards in heaven to look forward to for having done this.

  • KUDOS! I paid a fortune for a copy of that book recently because I LOVE this sweater so much. Very happy for you.

  • phenomenal! so beautiful!

  • Late to the party but no less enthusiastic. WOWWWWW!!! Letting the A-line live, sans pockets, is genius. As for a button band/edging, I am firmly on team i-cord. That’s all the edging a splendor like this requires.

  • You have made my day! My mother had this amazing garment knitted for her in the 80s. I still wear it every week, as does my daughter when she has the chance. It is in need of a repair or two, but I hope it gives you at least 40 years of pleasure. Sarah

  • Bravo for you for even taking this on! It’s beautiful and your writing is hysterical. I heart you!

  • Bravo!! I have been wondering if you would finish this, it is a tough project. You did a great job with the chenille flower, it looks great.

  • Dear Kay Gardiner, Oh the yarn from the Big Flower kit!!!! First let me say that I am overwhelmed by your kindness. This is exactly what I need to embark on my journey with the Big Flower cardigan. Are you sure you don’t want those original directions, such a keepsake?? I am truly honored to be in possession of these yarns and the key and directions. I am going to mail a check to cover your postage to the return address and pray you don’t think me a stalker. You have made my winter. Big hug and love, Renee