Making Sweaters

I’m no expert, since I’ve only finished one sweater. Have you noticed that I seem to be prefacing all my blog posts lately with “Don’t listen to me . . I don’t know what I’m talking about.”  🙂

Several have commented that they were apprehensive about starting a sweater for the first time.  I know the feeling!  I was too.  The fit and the cost of that much yarn are what kept me from trying it.

As far as the fit, if you look at most of the sweater patterns, they aren’t just S, M, L, XL, but there are 7 or 8 sizes on most of the patterns. You measure your bust and choose your fit. I’ve found the three that I’m working on to be pretty much spot on with sizing. Also, Amy Herzog has a Custom Fit concept and I’ve heard wonderful things about the fit you get when using one of these patterns. You can read more about Custom Fit here.

If you’re in that “I’m too scared to make a sweater but I know how to knit” boat, here are some suggestions for you:

  • Choose a pattern that you would enjoy wearing. I don’t like sweaters that are cut too low (unless I’m wearing something under them) and I don’t like really snug fitting garments. I also don’t like a lot of “frill”.  Choose a pattern that you can see yourself loving to wear and reaching for each time you need a sweater. There are so many patterns on Ravelry that with just a little effort, you can find something perfect for you.
  • Go to the “projects” section of that pattern.  (a) Look at what others are saying about it. If they’re saying it isn’t for a first time sweater maker, or they’re saying it isn’t well written or left room for a lot of guesswork, avoid that pattern. (b) Look for folks with a similar shape as yours who are wearing it. I look for short, round, gray haired grannies who have made the sweater and are modeling it. EVERYTHING looks good on a 90 pound 21 year old! Not everything looks good on a round, gray haired granny!
  • Choose a sweater pattern that doesn’t look too difficult. What’s the hardest part of knitting for you? For me, it’s paying attention to what I’m doing. Anything that requires a whole lot of counting and undivided attention . . I know I’m going to screw up right off the bat. Find a pattern that fits the things you feel comfortable doing.  For instance, I made the Rhinecliff sweater. There was very little counting. After the knitting/purling pattern was established, I didn’t even have to count! I love cables so this was a fun project for me. La Vie Douce has just a little bit of lacework and then a lot of plain knitting and it’s a style I love so it was a good fit for me. I’ll add some more links below to sweater patterns I have in my library that I think might be good for a first sweater project.
  • If the cost of the “better” yarns is a problem, don’t hesitate to order from KnitPicks or Webs, both of which often have good sales.  You can read the ratings on any yarns on Ravelry. I wouldn’t order a yarn that has horrible ratings but I do read all the ratings and make up my own mind. I recently had a really nice, well rated yarn pill like crazy. I would have been a whole lot happier if I had paid $50 for that yarn instead of $150.
  • Whatever yarn you get, make sure to check the washing instructions. I don’t have a problem hand washing my sweaters but I don’t want to send anything to Nicole for Addie that has to be hand washed.

Please remember .. this is yarn! If you don’t like something you make, you can rip it out and start over . . no harm done.  You’ll never know what you could be making if you don’t try it.

Some sweaters I would recommend (but I haven’t made any of these . . I’m judging by looks).

  • Children’s Celtic Braid Top Down – I like this because it doesn’t take a lot of yarn, it’s a child’s sweater but it’s the same concept as making an adult sweater. There’s a braid down the front so it gives you a little experience with something besides plain jane. It can be made with Cascade 220 Superwash .. which is machine washable and it’s pretty inexpensive.  If you don’t have a child in your life, this one is inexpensive enough that it could be made and donated or . . I can send you Addie’s address!  🙂
  • Current – It is made from the top down, made as one piece (no seams) and using fingering weight yarn.
  • Grey Goose Cardi – This looks easy and isn’t real fitted so perfection in fitting shouldn’t be required. There are no buttons or button bands.

You can make a sweater! If I can do it, I know you can do it!


  1. 1

    Donna Williams says

    You made me smile (again). I, too, fit into the category of short, round, gray haired grannies. I have been looking at sweater patterns and it is not that I am afraid, exactly, it is more like where can I start and finish successfully. So thanks for the recommendations for children’s patterns, that is where I had decided to start. Also, I think I will start with one for the 6 month old. Start small, finish big! BTW, still working successfully on the Dreambird, have decided this is a long term project for me, so am just enjoying working it when I am in the humor. It is really going to be pretty, I think, and am pleased with the fact that once again I did NOT give up!

  2. 2

    Sherrill says

    I don’t knit but I would never crochet a sweater for the same reason I don’t make my own clothes. NEVER fails when I would make something that once I was finished, it didn’t fit or looked absolutely horrific on me. Just so much easier to go to the store, try something on and, if I don’t like it, don’t buy it!! LOL

    • 2.1


      I see your point but that same analogy could be used with cooking . . what I make at home never tastes as good or gardening . . my stuff never grows so I don’t plant it. My motto is . . figure out how to get it right and do it.

      I love homemade anything so I’ll rip out a sweater and start again if necessary to get it right and have something I made instead of something I bought.

  3. 3


    Uh uh. I knitted sweater after sweater when my boys were little, I’m done with that! Although every now and again the urge hits… and then sanity prevails :).

    I love the sweater you just finished. And I love to knit. But only scarves and afghans anymore. My mind wanders waaaaaayyy to easily these days!

  4. 5

    Pat (EagleKnits) says

    Great post, Judy! I’ve knitted sweaters for years, and that is exactly the advice I would give to a beginning sweater knitter, especially the part about looking on Ravelry. Since I now choose only patterns that look good on short, round, gray-haired grannies (that describes me to a T!), I’ve been much happier with the results of my work. Another thing that Ravelry allows you to do is easily find patterns from a designer that you like. Many of the designers have discussion boards in the Forums, and will gladly answer questions you have about their patterns.

  5. 6

    Pauline Fisher says

    All good advice you gave! I wore myself out giving hand-knit sweaters for Christmas gifts in the early years of my marriage. Now for others I do mittens, hats, and scarves. Less stressful. Love your self-description! I am a tall, round, gray-haired granny and one of the reasons I love to knit sweaters for myself is that I can easily achieve the extra length I need. I so enjoy reading daily about your _ life! (Could have added so many adjectives there! All positive! ) Thanks for the blog!

  6. 8


    Sweaters were something I always knitted.
    It was socks that had me scared!
    I love the socks I’ve finally been brave enough to knit, even though I average 1 pair in about 4-6 months. I do think I feel a few sweaters coming up…I’ve picked yarn from my collection and have the patterns for two and the third will be my own design.

  7. 9

    Barb Colvin says

    I’m with Kay! Socks are scary, but oh so pretty 🙂 One of these days I’ll give those skinny dp’s a try. Right now I’m making a worsted wt lace pattern shawl. First time using a charted pattern, too. So far I like what I see.

  8. 10


    Thank you for this post, Judy. I do have a sweater pattern I have wanted to knit and just may order the yarn and start on it soon. As the saying goes… The Journey starts with the first step… or in this case.. the first stitch!

  9. 11

    Viki Kirby says

    I knitted my first sweater, actually my first anything since a teen, in November and then another in December. I think you just have to want to do it. I took a class and though the teacher was terrible (no instruction, just there if you had a question and then I had to interrupt her knitting to get help), I did learn a couple of good tips. Also I found youtube invaluable when stuck on a stitch description. After the Rain is a wonderful beginner sweater and I found some great ways to change it from other patterns, like putting a pattern on the sleeve or making a picot edge at the sleeves and bottom, both which is easily done by a brand new knitter.