While I absolutely love knitting socks and shawls, I really enjoy knitting garments. Somehow (similar to socks), lots of people have reservations about knitting sweaters, cardigans etc. even though the only thing you need to knit a sweater is patience.
So, I thought I’d give you a little insight into how I started knitting sweaters and cardigans and what I can recommend.
My first garments…
My first ever sweater was started with the help of my lovely grandma. Essentially, we picked a commercial sweater that fit me well and took the measurements of that sweater. Then you simply need to swatch with your desired yarn and needles and do a tiny bit of math to find out how many stitches need to be cast on. It’s all rather simple!
Because that’s the way I learned, my first 5 or maybe 10 garments that I knit were constructed in that way. I’d search through Drops patterns (link) but never actually used the patterns. Instead I just looked at the measurements and figured out what I’d like.
If you know how many stitches to cast on, essentially you can knit your garment either in the round (which I prefer) or flat. Depending on your skill level and preferences, you can either just knit straight (essentially creating a tube) or throw in some waist shaping etc. until you get to the point where you want the sleeves to start. Obviously, if you’re knitting in the round, at this point you do need to seperate for the front and back piece. Knit your desired length and add a neckline of your choice.
To start with, I always just did a crew-neck just because it is very simple.
The sleeves I constructed the same as the rest of my garment. Measure the size of your already knitted armhole, use your gauge swatch and math to figure out how many stitches you need to cast on for the shoulder and then just decrease.
This may sound a little confusing at first but it is the way I learnt how to knit garments and I feel like it has taught me very much. Much more than if I had used patterns. Over time, I figured out how to knit a v-neck, how to make set-in sleeves, include lace patterns, etc…
some of my very first (and far from perfect) garments:
A whole different approach which seems to be the standard approach in the days of Ravelry is using patterns. And by pattern I don’t mean the ones that give you rough outlines but ones that tell you exactly what to do with which yarn for which size and so on and so forth.
The benefit of patterns
The reason why I essentially designed all my sweaters myself rather than using ravelry patterns is fairly simple – I didn’t know what was out there.
Lots of people do, though, so many people knit their first sweaters using patterns. While losing the element of figuring out sizing, fit, customizing things etc., patterns have a lot of benefits, especially for garments.
Essentially: if you know your body size and measurements and choose the yarn that your pattern requires, nothing can go wrong. Well…almost nothing. When using patterns, gauge swatching is key!!! Like most people, swatching is not something that brings me great joy. BUT: every person knits differently and just because a pattern gives you a needle size and yarn weight doesn’t mean that that will give everyone the same result.
If you have gauge swatched and made sure that you got gauge (which can easily be adjusted by going up or down a needle size), you need to trust the pattern. I myself am very bad at trusting patterns, likely because I am used to constructing my own garments. If you’re unsure, it is always a good idea to check the ravelry project pages for „helpful projects“. These are projects that have notes attached which have helped other people. Many times, with patterns that have been knit thousands of times, knitters have come up with solutions for common problems.Of course, following a pattern means that you have someone who has written the pattern. Therefore if you have problems, you could always ask the designer which is a very clear benefit.
Also, using different patterns gives you a chance to try different techniques and learn a lot of new skills. The sheer amount of knitting patterns on ravelry is astounding.
My first two patterned garments I knit: the Twilight Sweater and the Relax Cardigan
If you are ready to start your very first garments, there are a few things you should think about.
- chosing your yarn: remember, thick yarn will knit up faster but also create a much warmer fabric. Anything from fingering to bulky weight (depending on your patience and preference) will work. Think about what yarn will wear well. Likely, you won’t wear a sweater out of acrylic yarn. At the same time, using your most precious cashmere yarn might not be a good idea for your first ever sweater. Cotton can be quite hard on your hands, so you might want to consider that…
If you decide to use a pattern, make sure you’re using a suitable yarn. On ravelry „yarn ideas“ will show you the yarns that other people used for this patterns, so that is always worth checking.
- chosing your pattern: first of all: knit a pattern which suits your skill level! A lot of patterns will tell you what kind of stitches are used which can be very helpful. The simpler the construction of your garment, the more you can focus on your stitches. At the same time, if you’re knitting a stockinette or garter stitch sweater, it will be easier to keep track of your constructions. Most of all I would say: choose a pattern which you really like!!! If you love the finished object, knitting will bring you joy and you will have enough motivation to just power through! Again, check other people’s project pages to get an idea of how the garment looks finished on different people, different body shapes, etc.
- Know your body size: the best pattern will fail you if you end up knitting the wrong size. Take your measurements and think about what kind of fit you usually like. Maybe you’ll want to knit a size larger for some positive ease? Really think about what will suit you.
- Knit a swatch!
- take precautions: if you’re not 100% sure of what you’re doing, use every tool that makes your life a little easier! Put in life-lines so if you make a mistake, you won’t have to rip out the entire thing. Use stitch markers, as many as you like, to mark pattern repeats, increases, decreases etc.! Also read the pattern before you start. Yes, the whole thing.
- ENJOY! Honestly, if you know how to knit and purl, everything else can be learned on the way! Take it one stitch at a time and look things up when you’re unsure. The internet is a wonderful resource and will give you information on practically everything!
What I am trying to say is: there is absolutely nothing to be scared of, knitting garments is not something you can’t do if you haven’t knit for 10 years…just jump in and enjoy!