Show Notes · Stuff You Should Know

Episode 11: Your Perfect Sweater

Don’t be afraid of making sweaters! Sarah and I are here to get you squared away to make your perfect sweater, that fits you well and will last a long time. If you can read a pattern, you should try a sweater!

By the way, we try to use craft-inclusive language, but know that we default to knitting a lot. If you have suggestions for how we can better include crochet or other crafts, please let us know!

Step 1: Pick your pattern!

  • Do you want a cardigan or a pullover? Would you like to work from the top down, or from the bottom up? Do you want seams for structure, or would you prefer a seamless sweater?
  • In general, lots of tailoring and structure will be very flattering on a lot of people. Look at what you like in your wardrobe, and use that as a jumping off point to make your sweater.
  • If you already have the yarn that you’d like to use, you can use the Ravelry search to narrow down your choices! You can filter by weight, yardage, gauge, and even look for pattern ideas made with the yarn that you have.
  • If there’s a designer that you really like, try looking through their patterns specifically for ideas. You can also do an advanced search within a designer’s patterns.
  • If you’re going to be combining patterns, try to make sure that they at least all use the same weight yarn, or work to the same gauge. Don’t be afraid of taking a little of this and a little of that.

Step 2: Swatch and pick your size

  • Gauge is especially important for a sweater, since you want it to fit, of course! Be sure to take note of all of the gauges listed in the pattern, since there’s often more than one.
  • Be sure to swatch in the stitch specified in the pattern. If no pattern is specified, swatch in stockinette. Be sure to swatch in the round if the sweater is going to be worked in the round!
  • Ease is the measurement of the garment compared to the measurement of your body. A garment that has to stretch slightly to fit your body has negative ease. A garment that is loosely fitting has positive ease. In the best case scenario, a pattern will indicate how much ease the sweater has on the model, or will include a pattern schematic.
  • Ideally, you should have a friend help you measure yourself, or you can measure a sweater that you already have and like the fit of.
  • Amy Herzog has amazing sweater fitting instructions. Her books are You Can Knit That, Knit Wear Love, and Knit to Flatter. She also has several Craftsy classes available! CustomFit is another Amy Herzog system.

Step 3: Read the pattern

  • No, really, read the pattern.
  • Take note of any times that you’ll be working increases or decreases, and any needle changes. Sarah finds it helpful to highlight her pattern, and I always go through and make notes of my size numbers, and where I’m going to be making any modifications.
  • Sarah mentioned Sirka – a row counter that lets you keep track of up to three different counts.
  • Make sure that you have all of the notions that you might need for the pattern, especially if you’re going to be traveling with it. Nothing sucks more than being in a hotel room without a darning needle, or without a smaller needle, when all you want to do is finish!

Step 4: Cast on!

  • Make sure that you use the right needles for your gauge, at the right time.
  • If you’re using hand-dyed or kettle dyed yarns, it’s usually a good idea to alternate skeins so that color variations aren’t as stark, and pooling isn’t as much of an issue.
  • It’s a good idea to keep a bag of notions such as tape measure, darning needles, stitch markers, etc. handy so that you’ll have everything that you need.

Step 5: Finishing

  • If your sweater was made in pieces, it’s usually a good idea to block the pieces before seaming. It makes the edges neater, and it’s usually easier to get everything to line up properly.
  • Keep in mind that you can use a different, sturdier yarn for seaming than you did for the knitting. For example, if you’re using a singles yarn, you might want to seam with something less delicate. A good, plied, fingering weight sock yarn in a similar color usually works well for seaming. For very fine gauge items, embroidery floss can work well for seaming.
  • Take your time adding in the finishing touches. Buttons, zippers, and neatly sewn seams can be really eye catching and make your work look professional.

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