5 Beginner Mistakes I Made Knitting Sweaters and How to Overcome Them
Being a Knitter Ain't Easy
Many people take up knitting to relax, and get in touch with their "zen". Let me tell you right now that if you ever want to knit a sweater, "zen" knitting is not for you. If you knit a sweater while in that happy place, the end product may be sized for an elephant, or have a neck opening more suited to a giraffe. For those of you who may be knitting a sweater for the first time, or even for you fence-sitters out there who are terrified to move past a scarf, here are five things I wish I had known before I knit my very first sweater.
1. Fun Fur Really Isn't Fun
Fun fur is kinda like that friend you have who can be sparkly and a blast, until she has too many Jello shots and throws up all over the place. Good idea in very small quantities, a mess in larger doses.Plus, if you make a sweater out of it you may be arrested for Muppet murder, because you will look like you skinned Animal for his fur. Fun fur, in my humble opinion, has NO place on adult clothing. Like the stuff and need your fix? (It's ok we all have embarrassing addictions). Try putting on a felted bag or on baby clothes. Babies can wear anything, or nothing, and still look cute.
2. Bulky Yarn is for Skinny Chicks
I'll be straight up with you here, as a size 12 woman with a 42 inch bust I'm not huge, but certainly far beyond the bounds of petite. Also, I don't like looking like a barrel. Thus, I tend to avoid bulky yarns in sweaters. Yes, I know they knit up quickly and are a great boost to your knitting ego...but bulky yarn adds bulk! (Shocker). Depending on the yarn a bulky knit can add almost 1/4 to 1/2 an inch to your girth. I really don't need that. But my size 2 sister, she can handle it. For us curvy gals a nice fingering or dk weight sweater looks gorgeous! However... If you can manage to make a bulky sweater that doesn't hit any problem areas it can be a success. There really is an exception to every rule.
3. Know Your Body Shape and Annihilate Illusions
All of us gals are a little delusionalwhen it comes to our figures. We think some parts are bigger than they actually are, and kid ourselves that some parts are smaller than they really are. When the button comes popping off (err, personal experience) those size 10 jeans don't fit anymore girlfriend! That's ok, just learn to accept your body for what it is and you will have a much easier time picking out sweater patterns that are flattering for YOU. I tend to find that curvy gals like myself look great in cardigans that button high up at the collarbone, or below the bust (a universal "skinny" spot). I have had a hard time getting pullover sweaters to fit well. Plus, cardigans are really versatile for layering.
Animal- a Tragic Tale of Fun Fur OD
A very in-depth discussion of knitting gauge and its impact.
4. Know What Gauge Is
Gauge is a term for how many stitches are contained in one inch of knit fabric. Usually a knitter makes a swatch (little knitted square) before starting a sweater to see if her gauge matches the designers. Why is this important? Because if you have more stiches per inch your sweater is going to fit your skinnier sister, and if it has less stitches per inch it may come out a fitting tribute to Andre the Giant. Yes, it's a pain in the rump to knit a gauge swatch. I hate it. Know what I hate more? Ripping a sweater that doesn't fit me and tossing hours and days of work to the wind.
5. Cuddle Animals in the Winter, Hug Trees in the Summer
A good sweater knitter needs to know her fibers, otherwise she may end up melting like the Wicked Witch in her cute, but stifling, alpaca shrug on a mild July night. Each fiber, wool, cashmere, bamboo, cotton, mohair and so on has distinct properties and distinct uses. As a general rule of thumb animal fibers (sheep wool, alpaca, cashmere, etc.) tends to be fall and winter yarn, while plant fibers (cotton, bamboo, rayon, etc.) tend to be spring and summer fibers. The book to the right is an excellent reference and has some very pretty patterns as well.
Like anything else, sweater knitting requires time and patience and has a learning curve. This is my third year knitting and only now am I really starting to produce sweaters that I feel proud and comfortable wearing in public. Hopefully, my mistakes will help you on the road to sweater success much more quickly!