How to Knit a Sweater

Knitting a Sweater Can Be Fun and Creative!

This sweater was made all in one piece to the arms, resulting in four elongated sections which were later joined to make shoulder seams.  The sleeves were set in later.  The stitch used here is stockinette, straight knitting all the way through!
This sweater was made all in one piece to the arms, resulting in four elongated sections which were later joined to make shoulder seams. The sleeves were set in later. The stitch used here is stockinette, straight knitting all the way through! | Source

How to Make A Sweater? Is it difficult?

With a little practice and some quality 50% or more wool based yarn, you can make amazing, one of a kind clothing.
With a little practice and some quality 50% or more wool based yarn, you can make amazing, one of a kind clothing. | Source

When I started knitting sweaters, I got this timeless bit of advice:

"More important is a tape measure than a pattern!"

So continuing with my tape measure, I determined the back of the neck to desired length measurement, around the body measurement, folded arm length for long sleeves, around the neck measurement and wrote them all down on paper. That was step one.

Basic Pattern

This drop shoulder, long sleeved crew neck sweater is made in four rectangles, and in the following order -

Back - from bump on your back collar to the lower back, ideally to the tailbone. Covering the lower back is recommended in protecting the lower back muscles and disks from exposure to the cold.

Front - an identical, rectangular piece

Two sleeves in a tapering trapezoid. The top of the arm will be wider than the wrist section. When measuring yarn needs, I use the widest section at the shoulder and the length to allow for other needs - joining, collar, and so on. Kind of like a safety net dimension.

Write down - nape to lower back. Shoulder to wrist (bent). Bust, waist and hips. Around the upper arm. Around the neck. Around the wrist. Now let's make a Swatch.

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Getting Started: Make A Swatch :)

The step before Step one is to knit a swatch. Although this step seems a little bit tiresome, it's really a lifesaver. The swatch will show you your result in a micro format.

Cast on 10 or more stitches and knit about two centimeters high. You will be able to determine how many centimeters of yarn you use to create a square centimeter of sweater material.

The swatches are great for testing if a color runs, how well it washes, etc., without risking ruin of your beautiful, home made work of art that you invested hours of TLC into. Need I say more...

Calculating How Much Yarn You'll Need

How to calculate? First step is to look at the swatch and make calculations. Actually I make two swatches. One that I rip out and measure (see the table below with footer explanation) and another to keep as a sample for washing.

I just too my own measurements to give an example:

  • Around the body - 106 cm (this will be divided for front and back)
  • Length from neck to tailbone - 70 cm
  • Sleeve length - bent - 63 cm
  • Across the top of the sleeve at shoulder - 36 cm

As you can see, once I had the amount of yarn needed to create a square centimeter, all I had to do was plug in 12.14 cm into my sweater dimensions. As I said before, I didn't take an average of the sleeve width - better to estimate more than less.

When you go shopping for yarn you know that you need 1450-1451 meters of yarn to make a long sleeved, crew neck sweater!

How Much Yarn?

Section
Dimensions
Yarn required
Back
106W / 2 x 70L = 3710 cm2
3710 cm2 * 12,14 cm yarn = 450m
Front
106W / 2 x 70L = 3710 cm2
3710 cm2 * 12,14 cm yarn = 450m
Sleeve 1
36 x 63 cm = 2268 cm2
2268 cm2 * 12,14 cm yarn = 275m
Sleeve 2
36 x 63 cm = 2268 cm2
2268 cm2 * 12,14 cm yarn = 275m
 
11956 cm2 * 1451 meters
Total Meters Needed = 1450
Based on a 2 cm x 7 cm swatch, or 14 square cm. Total length was 170 cm. 170 cm / 14 square cm = 12,14 cm per square centimeter

Functional, Traditional, Popular Knitted Items

Not just women - men knit, as does this native of Taquile wearing a hand made knitted cap.  Russell Crowe, actor, is also known to enjoy knitting.
Not just women - men knit, as does this native of Taquile wearing a hand made knitted cap. Russell Crowe, actor, is also known to enjoy knitting. | Source

Which Stitch is Best?

Classic Knitting

Try these:

  • garter stitch (one row knit, one row purl, giving a nice smooth surface)
  • stockinette stitch (knit from beginning to end, giving a slightly ribbed on the horizantal look).

Both of these are easy to follow and allow you to relax while you knit, keeping an eye on your paper pattern to make sure that you are following the guidelines you have set for yourself.

Start at the Back

And now, for a little Ribbing

The first two inches should be ribbed to hold onto your body better. An open lower edge lets body heat out and a ribbed lower edge looks finishes and attractive.

A rib can be every other stitch knit purl, but for adult or big boy swatches I prefer two on two, knit 2 + purl 2. This means you want an even number of stitches.

This is what I do - 1 knit, 2 purl, 2 knit, 2 purl.... to infinity. The last stitch will be the 1 knit. The "odd man" at the beginning and end of the sections are good "ears" for stitching up a side seam. Two inches of ribbing is enough, then plunge into the body of your sweater.

the Top of the Back

Straignt up is fine to the back neck measurement. We said 70 cm right? At this point we will taper in the shoulders, counting off the stitches along the top back into thirds.

Shoulders

The center third is dedicated to the neck. The left and right sections are the shoulders. The two outside sections will also be divided up in thirds. Basically, to form the shoulders, they go uphill towards the neck. I would cast off 1/3 of the neck stitches from outside to inside, knit a row or so, then 1/3 more, and finally, the inner most third. It sounds choppy but the end result is a nice point, which is further refined in the blocking process.

Back Neckline

The center of the back will be cast off and finished nicely - about five stitches is enough in the dead center of the back. Keep knitting up the back. When you get to the center, knit two stitches together to give a gentle curve to the neck opening. Continue knitting until the shoulder is finished. The end result should be a shoulder plus half of a neckline. Now continue knitting on the opposite shoulder / neckline half.

The Front

The front will be made exactly like the back. There are variations to be sure, but this is a basic sweater pattern with a crew neck collar. Follow directions for the back including the shoulders and neck. Now we will move on to the sleeves.

One thing to mention. If you wanted to be creative, like knit a wide stripe of contrasting color (or colors) into the front section in the chest area, this would be a good place to do so, positioned between the underarm and the ribcage.

Creativity as a Stress Reliever

Knitting can be fun!  It relaxes you and lets your mind relax, like aromatherapy.  Best of all, if you measure properly you will have a wonderful unique garment to wear or give as a gift.
Knitting can be fun! It relaxes you and lets your mind relax, like aromatherapy. Best of all, if you measure properly you will have a wonderful unique garment to wear or give as a gift. | Source

The Sleeves

Start at the bottom, which is your wrist measurement in a 2 inch Rib. Same story as before - K1, P2, K2, P2, K2 until the last stitch which will be K1 (using an even number of stitches).

if I have long enough knitting needles, I like to do both sleeves at the same time using two balls of yarn, one for each sleeve. This ensures that both sleeves have the same dimensions. How to do this? It's easy:

When I increase a stitch on one, I add a stitch on the other. It is a good way to go. Every six or so rows I add another stitch or two. Your goal is to get to the upper shoulder measurement in a nice gradual progression. The paper pattern helps here, too so you can see if you are on track.

If you want to insert another color for trim, feel free, especially at the forearm or bicep level. Creating a sweater for me has always had an element of surprise in it. I go in with a pretty good idea of what I want to do, but somewhere along the line, it changes! One can't help but think that the sweater is in fact calling the shots!

The end product should look like a normal sleeve but with a flat top. A ribbed bottom, upside down volcano with a flat wide top, which will be your dropped shoulder seam.

Stitching the Sections of Your Newly Knitted Sweater

Turtleneck Tales

If you want to make a turtleneck, use the ribbed edge in smaller needles. Just keep going the distance aroudn until you reach the desired 7 or 8 inch length. Use smaller needles for the first 3-4 inches, then switch to the next larger size so that the turtleneck lies nicely on its foundation, bottom ribbed section.

Joining the Pieces Together

Use a flat surface, like the kitchen table, and a darning needle or a crochet hook. Some purists frown on the crochet hook. With right sides together, I sew up the seams like this:

Shoulder seams together (right side to right side).

The sleeves are then attached at the shoulder seam to the unfinished body of the sweater.

Now, from the lower edge of the body, stich up the side of the sweater from bottom to top! Continue onward, closing the sleeves. Your sweater is almost ready to wear......

The Neck

Until both Back and Front are completed, and the shoulder seams joined, the neck can't be made.

Finishing the Neck

Using the knitting needle, pick up stitches around the neckline by poking the needle in at aroudn 1/4" to 3/8" inches deep into the sweater's upper edge, threading the yarn and pulling it up and out and get a row of stitches on your needle. This will be your crew neck ribbing - or if you want, a turtleneck. The stitches should not be too closely spaced together nor too far (missing teeth!). Create about 1-1/2" edging for a crew neck finish or 7-8" long for a turtleneck.

Now the loose ends of yarn need to be worked into the body of the sweater using a crochet hook. Finish it off nicely. You will need to block your sweater before wearing it - it's the final, finishing touch, designed to give your sweater a fresh pressed look.

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Comments 5 comments

PWalker281 4 years ago

I enjoyed reading your knit sweater "recipe." Still not sure I understand how to calculate yarn amounts or how to taper the sleeves (i.e., how often to decrease as I knit from shoulder to wrist, or do you increase from wrist to shoulder?), but if the front and back are simply two squares, sounds like something I could probably do.

I mostly crochet now, but I learned to knit first and still do from time to time, but have only worked from patterns.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


EuroCafeAuLait profile image

EuroCafeAuLait 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe Author

Hi Patrice, Thanks for stopping by.

The sleeves begin at the ribbing and you work your way up, adding a stitch or two (both sleeves on the same long needle) with two balls of yarn. It's not hard, add one on each and continue.

To determine the yarn amount, knit a swatch and get an "average". Once you have this average you can plug it in to the total square centimeters that you need for your sweater. I will go back and see if it can be explained better but that really is the Recipe, as you so nicely put it! :) I also crochet but personally think that knitting looks better, and you also use more yarn - a little goes much farther. Best to you, Anastasia


DukeofPurl 3 years ago

Great Job!! The article revved me up to get the guts to try knitting a sweater. :D


EuroCafeAuLait profile image

EuroCafeAuLait 3 years ago from Croatia, Europe Author

Well, there's no reason why not to, and sex is definitely no barrier. It is great for the nerves, keeps the hands out of the refrigerator, and at the end, you have something to show for your efforts. Your name Purl made me think you have knitted (and purled) in the past. Thanks for your comment, and hope you try your hand at it!


DukeofPurl 3 years ago

I usually hang out here:

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/DukeofPurl

I've been at it for a couple of years now. I'm still in the learning mode, so when I find an interesting site sharing "informed" opinions - Well!!! One simply can't let that slide by - isn't that not so? :D

Plus - for some reason, I've been enamored by all-things-Croatian since I can't remember when. I'm slowly building this site:

http://knitwisdom.blogspot.ca/

which will include Croatia I'm sure - if I can come up with some relevant information.

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