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We were thrilled last week,  when Kate Davies heeded the pleas of cardigan-loving knitters and released a pattern for the Carbeth Cardigan. On the last official day of our Bang Out a Carbeth knitalong, Kate is back to tell the dramatic behind-the-skeins story of the gorgeous yellow sample she made. 

February is ending, but a good knitalong is eternal. We hope everyone will continue knitting Carbeths–pullover and cardigan versions–and posting their glorious FO pictures over on Instagram at #bangoutaCarbeth.  We’ll be watching.

–Ann and Kay



It was all going so well. I’d whipped up four samples, and created a pattern, for a pullover I really liked.

But wouldn’t a cardigan work just as well? A cardigan of similar cropped style and interesting yoke shaping? I thought it might. I began to knit one up.

There was more thinking in the cardigan: how to jiggle the order of button bands and neck; which stitches to place on hold, and when; a nifty seamless trick to turn the neck rib to a stable, sturdy collar; the 2-stitch i-cord that lent a slick finish to the front edges.

When I finished the cardigan–my Carbeth number 5–I loved it just as much as I did its four pullover cousins. I wrote the pattern and fired it over to my tech editor.

Now all that was needed was a good block and dry and it would be ready to wear. Perhaps my local swans would oblige once more for photography.

I’d already decided it was a great idea to attach the buttons prior to blocking. That way I could button up the cardigan, ensuring that the front edges could be blocked super-neatly to sit exactly as I’d like them to when worn.

I have a large button stash, which supplied me with several options. After mulling over my choices I settled on a lovely vintage set of 6, composed of an old fashioned bakelite-like material, in a rich, deep indigo hue. Beautiful vintage buttons! Blue and yellow! A winning combination!

Why didn’t I choose the two-tone square buttons? Why not those simple, elegant wooden discs? Why oh why did I select the vintage blue set? I asked myself these questions many times after discovering, upon removing the cardigan from its 20 minute cool-water soak, that the vintage buttons had somehow . . . bled onto the cardigan. Bleeding buttons!

I repeated such questions again, as I endeavoured, heart in mouth, expletives upon tongue, to remove the dark blue dye from the yellow cardigan. I removed the offending buttons. I soaked the cardigan in stain remover and cold water. I poured on warmer water. I poured on boiling water. I attempted to work the dye out. I worked so hard that the bands began to felt. A few hours later, I gave up. I had to face the music. There would be no swan dance today. And none tomorrow either. Carbeth number 5 was ruined and I had to start again.

So it is that the cardigan I am wearing in these pictures is Carbeth number 6. I love this one too, but I don’t know quite what I should do with Carbeth’s offending fifth incarnation, which sits calling to me sadly from the corner of my knitting room. As yet, I’ve found myself unable to discard it.

But believe me, I’ve thrown away those bleeding buttons.

About The Author

In 2010, Kate Davies left an academic career and began Kate Davies Designs (KDD), creating digital patterns for hand knitters. The business combined Kate’s skills in research, writing and design, and quickly became a small publishing company through which she produces her own books, bringing together her passions for historical research, textile design, and practical creativity.

Kate’s forthcoming memoir, Handywoman (Spring 2018), explores her experiences of brain injury, creativity, and practices of making. Look for it this spring!


  • could you dye the cardigan?

    • I was thinking the same thing…don’t give up on that sweater.

    • My thought as well.

      • Me too

  • A heartbreaking tale of agony and woe! I vote for felting the whole damn thing and turning it into a bag; or cut it up into potholders if you’re really angry.

  • No wonder you are moving determinedly forward in the picture! What a bummer, to put it mildly.

    Think of all the clothes those buttons ruined for people over the years.

    I’m realizing I may need a full skirt. They all seem to have left my closet.

  • I’m with June … overdye it. With new buttonbands if the felting is that far gone.

  • I think dying it is a good idea too and if that turns out terribly then felt it it and use it for projects/scraps. This is MDK, there is always an indigo vat waiting somewhere.

  • Could the dye stains be incorporated into a design element,by either painting more dye onto the sweater or by embroidering yarn over them? Have you seen Wooly Tattoos by Dottie Angel aka Tif Fussell of Tolt Yarn and Wool? They are dreamy and exquisite and quite vintage in appearance,like antique crewelwork tapestries. I think they would mesh quite well with your vintage styling.A whole completed cardigan seems a great thing to waste to me,and deserves a valiant rescue effort indeed…

  • I’m in the dye it crowd, with felt it as a back up. One of my favorite knitting bags is an old, thrifted, felted, cardigan, which I then sewed shut on the front and bottom, and cut off the arms to turn the shoulders into handles. Felted wool is fun, and I bet your yarn would be gorgeous felted,

  • How upsetting! I think I would use the sweater for gardening and odd jobs where I need warmth but don’t want to worry about damaging my sweater. Somehow those clothes often get the most use.

  • I would just make it my house cardigan. I always have something in my wardrobe that is only meant to be worn in the house (although occasionally, I’ve been known to risk running into someone and wearing them on a quick jaunt to the market). It’s usually something soft and cozy for those times when I don’t want to risk ruining something “good”.

  • Try dyeing, black, if it comes to that.

  • Would the button bands be really hideous if they were deliberately felted? And the whole lot dyed? Bottons be darned, they aren’t worth throwing in the towel over just yet. I wonder how many dresses they’ve ruined during their time on Earth.

  • Can you frog the button bands and reknit them? If not, overdyeing seems the best option, with felting it into a knitting bag as a backup. (Yours really is a tragic tale, but there may be a slight tinge of schadenfreude among the readers. “See? Terrible things happen even to the best of knitters.”)

  • Oh so sad !

  • I love the cardigan incarnation, and the no-dye-involved wooden(?) buttons look great on it! Also, I’m so sorry to hear about your tale of button woe. Is it wrong of me to say that it is somehow comforting to remember that even the professionals have bad knitting days?

  • So so sorry about the offending buttons!! I had a similar problem with thread one time. Working on a sweater for my grandchild even. Argh!! I was able to remove it with Retayne thankfully. But I agree with rest – dye the sweater so the button offel can’t be seen. One never thinks of buttons bleeding, huh???

  • Sounds like your “Bakelite like” buttons were actually celluloid.

  • I vote to dye it.

  • I’m so sorry. Note to self: Check vintage and handmade buttons for colorfastness. And to be safe, add a Color Catcher sheet to the bath. If it’s just the button bands, could they be replaced?

  • Dye it! Black gors with everything.

  • It is, like it’s sister pullover, a gorgeous sweater! Thank you for both patterns.

    So sorry about #5 and the disappointing vintage buttons. A cautionary tale for the rest of us…test such buttons or other adornments first (and I would not have thought of that).

  • I have a laptop sleeve made out of a similar disaster. I also meant to use the rest of the sweater for coasters, (mug mats) but never have. Love this cardigan – I’ll see how Carbeth #1 looks first though!

  • If overdyeing it doesn’t work, I like the felting idea. Turn it into something else.

  • frog it and then over-dye the yarn. wasting good yarn is not an option.

  • wide ribbon button bands sewn over the splotches? (e.g. norwegian sweater placket tapes, or fancy german grosgrain?)

  • I would like to see a picture of what those buttons did. Dying would work, but maybe a little addition of embellishments would work too.

  • I would definitely over dye the cardigan. You could send to an indie Dyer you trust & ask them to do so . Thank you for the cardi version !!

  • Over dye it! You can’t ruin it.

  • The cardigan is beautiful, I just love the button band.

  • This happened to a friend of mine who had happily stitched brightly coloured buttos all over a fine pink cardigan…..when washed the buttons ran all over it, such woe:-(

  • Thank you very much Kate, your knitting is beautiful and it made me want to knit again. I liked the history of the cardigan.
    greetings from Buenos Aires,

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