Skip to Content

What Kinds of Materials are Cardigans Made with?

Knitting while wearing a cardigan

You probably don’t even know how many times you’ve worn a cardigan. You may not even know how many cardigans are in your closet right now. Cardigans are one of those fashion staples that everyone has worn at least once, most people have bought at some point, and everyone can recognize immediately.

All the hottest celebs have worn them for the last 70 years, and they’ve been a part of the high-end fashion scene for about a century. Cardigans are a truly amazing fashion item, and yet, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about them. What kinds of materials are cardigans made with?

When you know how to answer this, you’ll know how to shop much smarter for all your cardigans.

What is a Cardigan?

By definition, a cardigan is a type of knit garment worn on the upper body that has an open design. Sometimes, it has a front closure, and sometimes it doesn’t. Cardigans have a V neckline, and they are usually long-sleeved. However, cardigans have been made in a lot of different designs and styles over the years.

There are many different types of cardigans and lots of ways to wear cardigans. They may have buttons or zippers or neither. They can be floor-length or short and cropped. They might be baggy or fitted. There are so many different styles and variations, you can wear a different cardigan every day for a week and never copy the exact same style twice.

The very first cardigan ever worn was worn into battle. This first cardigan design didn’t have any sleeves. It was a knitted item that was embellished and made to be eye-catching, in keeping with the popular styles of the day. The day was 1854, to be precise.

Wearing a cardigan in front of a mirror

The cardigan that inspired all the others is worn as a waistcoat, which means it was a vest. And it was worn by Thomas Brudenell, the seventh Earl of Cardigan. Brudenell became famous for being a disaster.

He was a leader of armed forces during the Crimean War and quite infamously charged a group of Russian soldiers who very neatly repelled his men’s attack, resulting in heavy casualties for Brudenell and his British soldiers.

But his vest…now, this wasn’t a bad decision at all. Brudenell’s knit waistcoat caught eyes even as his reputation for being a disaster grew all over Europe. Soon, others adopted his style. By the mid-1860s, sleeves had been added to the knit vest, and the cardigan as we know it was born. It became popular quickly and caught on all over Europe before it spread all the way into U.S. fashion, too.

Since then, the cardigan has been a solid part of the style scene and a frequent guest star in the wardrobe of various celebrities through the years. If you’re going to do some cardigan shopping of your own, get to know the important stuff that affects the feel and quality of those clothing and the way it feels when you wear it.

What kinds of materials are cardigans made with, and why does it matter? Once you know, you’ll know how to get a quality cardigan everywhere you shop.

Different Types of Knits

What is knitting, anyway? This is a process by which two pieces of yarn are woven together. The different patterns used to knit the yarn together and the number of threads of yarn used are what create different types of knit patterns. Yarn can be made from any material to create garments with lots of different weights and textures.

However, the type of knitting also has a big impact on how the final garment looks and feels.


MEROKEETY Women's Long Sleeve Cable Knit Sweater Open Front Cardigan Button Loose Outerwear Beige

Cable knit is a very thick type of knitting that results in a soft, thick sweater. The “cables” refer to the distinctive weaving pattern that results in a series of raised ridges across the entire knitted item. This pattern makes cable knit highly recognizable, and if you saw it, you could probably identify it as cable knit, or you’d recognize it as a popular sweater knit.

Cable knit cardigans are very warm and soft due to the thick, heavy knitted construction. This knitting technique makes for great heavy sweaters that are insulating in cold weather. Cable knit is popular on ski slopes and cold areas of the world.

Fair Isle

PJ PAUL JONES Men's Printed Sweater Button Shawl Collar Knitted Cardigan Sweaters Black 2XL

Fair Isle is a historic knitted technique that dates to the Shetland Islands in Europe. Through this method, five colors are used and knit in rows to create colorful designs. Fair Isle sweaters and cardigans are recognizable for the pretty prints and patterns that decorate them. These are great preppy style sweaters, and they’re popular with the royal family. So if you’re a style watcher, you’ve probably seen Fair Isle cardigans.

This is a difficult technique to learn, so many people buy Fair Isle cardigans rather than DIY them. But if you’re confident in your skills, you might want to take this on as a project.


VLOJELRY Women's Flower Long Sleeve Open Front Short Cardigan Casual Loose V Neck Button Down Knit Cropped Cardigan Sweaters Coat Green

The jacquard knit has a distinct look because this is a knit designed for making patterns. Circular knitting techniques are used to create this distinct look. Different colors of yarns are used to create jacquard patterns, which are usually made in contrasting looks with darker and lighter yarns. The end result is very intricate patterns that catch the eye.


Zeagoo Women's Long Sleeve Jersey Cardigan Drape Open Front Boyfriend Sweater

Jersey knit, also known as flat knit, is a lightweight knit made with horizontal ribs and vertical ribs. It’s a very simple knit, and it’s one that’s used often in making cardigans and other sweaters. Jersey knit is not made to stretch.

It’s known as a single knit design because it’s not made with a lot of different yarns. It’s just a simple weave, but it creates a nice, lightweight finished item. Jersey knit cardigans are nice because they’re lightweight, so you can wear them in all seasons.


Newchoice Women's Casual Lightweight Cardigans Long Sleeve Soft Drape Open Front Black Dusters (Black, XL)

Purl knit cardigans have a two-way stretch design. Purl is a very common knit you’ll often find in cardigans because it’s a simple and easy knit to create but also strong and comfortable to wear. Purl is one of the more popular knits that people create at home.

If you’re feeling creative, you can always attempt to knit your own cardigan! With time and practice, this is a skill that can be learned. However, you can also learn how to make good shopping decisions when you’re purchasing cardigans while you’re learning to become a master knitter!


Fashion Cardigans for Women Long Sleeve Soft Loose Knit Sweater Coat Fall Winter Outwear(M,Rib-Navy)

Rib-knit may be the most common knit used to create cardigans. Through this knitting process, the finished garment has a row of columns and valleys along the front and back of the fabric. This creates the “ribbing” effect that makes this design stand out.

This is a soft type of knit that is comfortable to wear. It isn’t too heavy, but it’s not very lightweight, either. Rib-knit cardigans can be worn in chilly or mild weather, which makes them a great in-between item for fall and spring weather. This is a good all-around knit that’s not too complicated and, therefore, more expensive.

Other Types of Knit

There are many, many different ways to weave fabric together to create a knit design. You can find many different types of knits, but the ones listed are the most common you’ll find in cardigans. Other types of knit designs you might see include raschel, a pattern with a raised design, and tricot, which is a knit that uses both natural and synthetic materials.

Milanese knit is made in a diagonal pattern that creates a run-resistant knit, a nice feature in any clothing item.

What Kinds of Materials Are Cardigans Made With?

Many different types of materials are used to make cardigans because just about any material can be woven to create a knit design. You can even make a cardigan out of plastic if you want. However, most people prefer materials that are softer and more comfortable to wear. Cardigans are more commonly made with some materials than others. Get to know these materials and get to know what you can expect out of sweaters made from these different options.

The material your cardigan is made from makes all the difference in how it feels on your body, how it hangs on your body and even when you wear it.


State Cashmere Mid-Length Open Cardigan - Long Sleeve Sweater for Women Made with 100% Pure Cashmere Sourced from Inner Mongolia Goats - Soft, Lightweight & Versatile - (Black, Small)

Cashmere is a well-known material that’s famous for being luxurious. Cashmere is a type of natural wool that is harvested from a specific type of goat that is found in central Asia. The goats live naturally in the Himalayan mountains, which is why their hairs are so insulating. Cashmere is warm even in lighter-weight knits, so it doesn’t have to be heavy to protect you from the cold.

Always check the label when you’re buying anything marked as cashmere. It is incredibly common to find cashmere blends that are only partially cashmere. Other materials, such as silk or polyester, are added to make the sweater less expensive. Make sure you’re not paying the full cashmere price on a cardigan that isn’t full cashmere.

Cashmere has a very soft feel, and it is a durable material, so sweaters made from it are well-crafted and long-wearing. This is a very high-end material. A cardigan made of cashmere should last you for a long time.


Naggoo Womens Solid Button Down Long Cardigan Cotton Knee Length Long Lightweight Cardigans Khaki,XL

Cotton isn’t used as often as wool to make cardigans and other knitted clothing, but cotton can be woven into a cardigan, too. Cotton cardigans are lightweight and easy to machine wash and dry. They are breathable, too, which makes them better for warmer weather than heavier wools.

Coton is a natural fiber that is non-itchy and non-irritating on the skin. It’s also highly affordable, so you can have lots of pretty cardigans made out of cotton. This material can be dyed to match any color or pattern.

The versatility of cotton makes it a popular clothing choice for literally every single type of clothing, including cardigans. Cotton fibers are not as warm and insulating as wool, but this means cardigans made from them are ideal for warmer weather conditions. The breathability of cotton helps prevent sweat, which is never a bad thing.

However, this means you will want extra layers if you’re wearing a cotton cardigan in colder weather.


Amazon Brand - MERAKI Women's Fine Merino Wool V-Neck Cardigan, Grey (Light Grey Marl), 10, Label:S

Merino wool is made from the fleece of the Merino sheep, which is a specific breed that grows fleece with distinct characteristics. This wool is prized for its moisture-absorbing qualities, which helps you stay dry when the weather is damp or rainy. Merino absorbs a lot of moisture, in fact, which makes this wool ideal for damp weather. Merino is a great go-to wool for the fall and spring for this very reason.


Mud Pie Women's Nylah Striped Cardigan, Blush, One Size

Any synthetic material can be made into a knitted item. Polyester, acrylic, and rayon are all examples of synthetic materials you might find when you’re shopping for cardigans. Compared to natural materials like cotton, synthetic fabric isn’t as breathable.

However, synthetic fabrics are highly affordable, and they can be made to feel like many other high-end materials. Polyester and acrylic can both be made to have a silk-like feel and texture. Synthetic fabrics can also be dyed in any color or pattern.

Synthetic materials are strong and they are machine washable. They retain color well also. In other words, they’re highly durable. These fabrics are also more wrinkle-resistant than natural materials. The drawback is that they aren’t as soft and comfortable as natural materials. They also don’t have the same insulating qualities as wool.


Pendleton Men's Shetland Cardigan Sweater, Atlantic Green, LG

Some types of wool are well-known in their own rights, such as cashmere and Merino. But there are many types of wool used in clothing, including various blends of domesticated sheep and other farm animals. Rabbit, alpaca, goats, and many other animals that have long hairs and animals that have fleece are used to create wool clothing.

Many of these wools and wool blends will simply be marketed as “wool.” These are all relatively inexpensive wools that will have all the best qualities of the material. This means they will be insulating and more moisture-wicking than cotton.


A lot goes into making cardigans. They’re not just available in a huge amount of different knits and materials, they’re made in all sorts of different styles, too. You can get cardigans in any length, in any sleeve length, in a huge variety of different looks and fits and designs.

If you still have questions about cardigans, it’s no wonder. We’ve put together the most frequently asked questions about cardigans, and we’ve found the answers so that you can become an expert at wearing cardigans. After all, a clothing item this versatile is definitely one you’re going to want to wear a lot.

Wearing a cardigan in a window seat

Can cardigans be altered?

Because cardigans are knitted items, it isn’t easy to alter them to get a better fit. In some cases, hems and sleeves can be shortened, but they can almost never be made longer. Some other small changes can be made sometimes to adjust the fit around the waist or the arms, but major changes are not possible.

If you have a cardigan that fits badly, get rid of it and get one that fits you well.

Clothing that fits will flatter your natural shape, and it will feel good, too. This will give you more confidence, and that will actually make you more attractive. It will make you more appealing to people in general. Wearing ill-fitting clothing has the opposite effect. It makes you feel less confident, even insecure or anxious.

Your shape, no matter what shape you have, is always going to look best in clothing that fits you properly.

How should cardigans fit?

Because cardigans are available in such a wide variety of styles, knits, and materials, it’s not always easy to know if your cardigan is fitting you the right way. Some cardigans are designed to be baggy, while others are made in a more fitted silhouette. So how do you know if your cardigan fits?

There are certain things to look for when you’re trying on cardigans. Once you know how to recognize them, you can get a perfect fit every time. You can also rely on your own measurements and size charts to ensure that you get a perfect fit every time you buy a new cardigan.

What should you wear under a cardigan?

Cardigans are knitted, and even when they’re made out of fine materials, they may not always be super comfortable on the skin. Knitted items can sometimes feel itchy or otherwise irritating. You might also want to protect your cardigan from sweat, perfume, and the oils on your body, stuff that can force you to wash your sweater more often than you want to.

While cardigans can be washed and dried safely in most cases, you don’t need to wash them every time you wear them as long as you’re wearing something under the cardigan.

Your options for what to wear under a cardigan are practically limitless. There are many different looks you can create with a cardigan, so you can experiment with all sorts of different items and options for creating your style. From shirts designed to be shown off to under clothing items you don’t want others to see at all, you can wear practically anything under your cardigan.

There are many different styles you can create by experimenting with your options.

When are cardigans in style?

Are cardigans even in style? You don’t want to walk around looking outdated, after all. The good thing about cardigans is that they’re never really out of style. They’re vintage or classic or retro or traditional but never out of style. Cardigans have reached iconic fashion status so you really can’t go wrong with wearing one.

But if you want to see the latest and hottest cardigan looks, go on social media. Celebrities and style icons will post images of themselves wearing all the hottest and latest looks. This will give you a good idea of what cardigan styles people are wearing and how they’re using them to build great outfits.

You’ll never run out of ideas by checking out celebrity accounts. If you’re a little bit creative and look for good bargains, you can re-create their designer looks without paying that designer price.


Creative Curator – Different Types Of Sweaters Explained

Land’s End – A Guide to Sweater Materials: Which are the Best?

MasterClass – 16 Types of Sweaters to Keep You Warm

Nature’s Fabrics – Different types of knit fabrics

Textile School – Knitted fabrics and types – list of knitted fabrics

Tissura – Knit Fabric – Characteristics and Designs