Ponchos are a classic trend that pops back up on a very regular basis. And why not? They allow you to go outside wrapped in a soft, cozy blanket and no one thinks you’re crazy… in fact, they compliment you on your chic fashion sense. We’re down with that! Give our Bound Sweater Knit Poncho a try. It’s easy, cozy, and fun.
The key to a good poncho is the drape. Sweater knits resemble hand knit fabrics used to make sweaters; they have texture and softness. These knit patterns tend to be more open, with thicker yarns than what you find in a jersey or t-shirt knit. In general, steer away from woven fabrics — they tend not to drape well unless cut on the bias. Also, avoid thin knits, like those jersey or t-shirt knits.
We used and recommend a lofty sweater knit to get the look of our sample. You could consider lightweight, bias-cut wool or a double-sided luxury fleece. You also need a fabric that looks nice from both sides. The poncho swirls open and closed, so you want to be sure that any glimpse of the inside is a good one.
The construction steps for our poncho are quite simple, especially because we provide a free downloadable pattern that allows you to create the perfect keyhole opening. The neckline will lay smoothly around your shoulders.
We start with a 60″ x 60″ square. This takes advantage of the fact that most of the fabrics mentioned above come in nice, wide widths. This sizing is based on an average adult female about 5′ 3″ to 5′ 9″. Our model is on the shorter end of that scale.
To measure the person who will be wearing the poncho, start with her arms hanging down. Run a tape measure from one wrist, up and over her shoulders, then down to the opposite wrist. This will give you the width. Of course, you can opt to have the width (the “sleeve” so to speak) stop at a ¾-length point on the arm. If you like this look, it also allows you to work with a narrower-width fabric. The length is designed to hang from about mid-thigh to mid-calf at the front (30″). Measure from the shoulder down to determine what is a good length for your poncho gal. Go shorter or longer if you wish. Double this measurement for the total length. This all means your starting cut does not have to be a square.
Our downloadable pattern will work should you go larger or smaller because there are printed cross hairs to align with the center lines of your fabric. If substantially smaller, you can simply fold up the bottom of the pattern to fit. If larger, you would need to extend the pattern. To do this, cut a piece of paper the same width as the bottom of the existing pattern and as long as needed to fit your fabric.
We used a Dritz leather toggle for our center closure. There are many other two-part closure options from which to choose. You get to pick your favorite! You can even omit the closure entirely and opt to simply wrap the poncho.
The perimeter of the poncho and the keyhole opening are bound. We used a purchased bias binding in a knit. This made the job quick and easy. However, you could certainly make your own bias binding from the fabric of your choice. We have a good step-by-step tutorial on Figuring Yardage, Cutting, Making and Attaching as well as A Complete Step-by-Step for Binding Quilts and Throws.
Because we used a knit binding, we were able to achieve a very smooth wrap all around. However, we still recommend a traditional quilt binding method: machine stitching to the front, then hand stitching at the back to finish. A bit more time-consuming, but a more beautiful finish all around.
The final touch on our poncho design are the long yarn tassels at each corner. We love the boho feel. Steps to insert them correctly into the bound edge are shown below along with a link to our tassel-making tutorial.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional but helpful for attaching the binding; you can also opt to engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the AcuFeed™ Flex system we use on many of our Janome studio models
- Ball point needle; optional, but best for working with the knit binding
- Leather needle; optional, but best for stitching the toggle in place
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 2 yards of 60″+ wide, thick and nicely draping fabric for the body of the poncho: we originally used an Italian boiled wool
NOTE: We used the full width of our fabric; 60″ was the most common width we found for store-bought ponchos, allowing for a wrist-to-wrist measurement of 60″ (additional measurement notes are given above in the introduction). If you are okay with a slightly shorter “sleeve,” you can get away with a narrower width (perhaps 54-58″). You could also get by with 1⅔ yards (exactly 60″), but that would leave no room to “square up” your fabric and/or for fussy cutting. We do recommend starting with two full yards.
- 10 yards of ½” pre-folded bias binding in a coordinating accent color; we used a knit binding in black, which we purchased locally
NOTE: You could use a standard cotton binding and/or make your own binding from your choice of fabrics. If you are new to measuring for and/or making and/or attaching bias binding, take a look at our full step-by-step tutorials linked above and below. The binding should finish at ½”.
- ONE large leather toggle or similar; we originally used a Dritz leather toggle
- All purpose thread to match binding
- Heavy thread to stitch toggle in place
- See-through ruler
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Measuring tape
- Iron and ironing board
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- Download and print out our FOUR pattern pieces, which have been bundled into one PDF to make the download easier.
IMPORTANT: Each pattern piece is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF files at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page so you can confirm each final printout is to scale.
- Cut out each pattern piece along the solid line.
- Following the arrows printed on the patterns, butt together (do not overlap) the four pieces to create the complete pattern. Tape together.
- From the main fabric, cut a 60″ x 60″ square.
NOTE: As described above, your starting square might be smaller or larger or even a rectangle.
- If your fabric has a visible design motif as ours did, center the cut so you have a nice looking balance from side to side and top to bottom. And, make sure all four sides are straight and true so the binding will wrap smoothly.
- Some of the fashion wools can be rather expensive per yard, so this is one project where you want to measure once, twice, three, and four times before you cut.
- Lay the main fabric right side up on your work surface. Measure to find the exact center line both vertically and horizontally. You could also fold the fabric in half in both directions to find the centers.
- Mark with pins at the cut edges and at several points along each center line.
- Fold the assembled pattern in half vertically. There are vertical (center line) and horizontal (shoulder line) guides printed on the pattern. Align the folded center line of the pattern with the measured vertical center line of the fabric. Align the marked shoulder line of the pattern with the measured horizontal center line of the fabric. For our 60″ x 60″ square, the shoulder line fell at 30″.
- With the pattern folded, pin one half of the pattern in place.
- Make sure the pattern has not shifted from the crosshairs. Then, unfold the pattern flat and pin the opposite side in place.
- Carefully cut out the keyhole opening (it might make a cute little neck wrap).
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Make the tassels
- We added a boho yarn tassel to each corner. Our tassels are 8″, and with the thick yarn we chose, we wrapped just 25 times to get a good look. If you have not made your own tassels before, we have a full tassel tutorial.
- Place a tassel as each corner. The tassel’s hanger/cord should extend approximately 1½” from the lower cut edge of the fabric…
- … and 1″ in from the side cut edge of the fabric.
- Machine baste the hanger in place.
- The tassels should hang straight down not out at a diagonal from the corner.
Attach the binding
- The binding is attached as you would attach traditional quilt binding. If you are new to this technique, check out our full binding tutorial.
- Starting along one side (make sure you don’t start along the keyhole opening; you want this opening to be smooth and free of any seams), unfold the binding and place it, right sides together, along the perimeter of the poncho. The edge of the binding should be flush with the edge of the fabric. Leave approximately 2″ free at the head of the binding. Pin or clip in place.
- Attach a Walking or Even Feed foot if possible or engage your machine’s built-in feeding system, such as the Janome AcuFeed™ Flex fabric feeding system. Since we were using a knit binding, we switched to an 80/12 Ballpoint needle and increased our stitch length to 3.00.
- Stitch the binding in place, following along in the first fold of the binding.
- As you approach each corner, stop ¼” from the edge. Back tack.
- Remove the poncho from under the presser foot and fold the binding at a 90˚ angle.
- Pin to secure. Place the poncho back under the presser foot and drop your needle in at the exact corner point where it was removed (¼” from the corner). Continue stitching to the next corner. Repeat this fold at each corner.
- If you are adding tassels, each corner fold will go over the tassel’s hanger tails, which is correct. Simply trim away any excess when done so the yarn is flush with the fabric.
NOTE: The tassels can be rather heavy and you are working with a lot of fabric. Make sure you have enough flat surface behind your sewing machine so the fabric doesn’t fall behind while you sew. The force of gravity can cause the fabric to feed badly. As you move around each corner, simply hold the tassel out of the way as you turn.
- When you have stitched all around the perimeter and the keyhole opening, and have returned to your starting point, finish the ends of your binding with your favorite method. We overlapped to seam our ends together.
- We then trimmed away the excess seam allowance so the binding lay perfectly flat against the poncho, and finished stitching the gap between our original starting and ending points.
NOTE: For additional detail and other finishing options, remember those full binding tutorials: Figuring Yardage, Cutting, Making and Attaching as well as A Complete Step-by-Step for Binding Quilts and Throws.
- Bring the binding around to the back and hand stitch in place.
NOTE: You could certainly try a machine stitch-in-the-ditch to finish, however, if you are working with trickier fabrics (such as our combination of wool and knit), a hand-stitched finish is more forgiving and more likely to create a smooth wrap from all sides.
- We also hand-stitched each tassel in place against the binding to insure it stayed in position but could still swing freely.
Attach the closure
- The best way to determine the placement for the closure is to try the poncho on its intended wearer. It should hit along the top of the bust. On our sample, we measured 21″ up from the bottom inside corner along both sides of the keyhole opening.
- The exact distance from the binding will be determined by your particular closure. For our toggle, we positioned the inner edge of each tab 1″ from the outer edge of the binding.
- You can pin the closure parts in place or, if too thick, try taping them in place with standard cellophane tape. You can simply tear away the tape from the stitching when done.
- If using a leather toggle as we did, switch to a leather needle. Re-attach the standard presser foot or use a clear Satin Stitch foot as we did. Re-thread the machine with heavy thread to match the leather in the top and bobbin.
- Edgestitch each toggle tab in place.
NOTE: Thanks to the power and precision of our Janome machine, we had no trouble at all stitching through the leather and wool. If your machine struggles with heavier layers, you may want to test just a few stitches by hand cranking the needle in and out. If it struggles at all, consider hand-stitching the closure in place with a tapestry needle.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild