One of my favorite things to do when I teach knitting is to save my students from a lot of the grief I went through when I learned certain techniques for the first time.
Since at this point in your knitting journey you might be contemplating knitting your first sweater or “real” garment, here’s a little miniseries on the lessons I learned when knitting my first sweater, and tips on how to make your experience much smoother.
Oh, and I’ll show you a photo of my first sweater at the end of the series. Prepare yourself.
Tips for Knitting Your First Sweater
Your first sweater is an exciting milestone in your knitting journey. It signifies that you are ready to take on new challenges, and you will certainly learn a lot, especially if you have an open mind and decide to learn from all of your mistakes, which I hope you make many of.
The first thing to keep in mind is: know that your first sweater might not be very good.
I suggest that you do not knit your very first sweater for your spouse or for a gift that has a deadline, like a graduation, because you’ll need to take all the time you need in order to mess up, try again and really learn as you go.
My first sweater was absolutely terrible and that hasn’t stopped me. I learned a lot but I certainly don’t wear it.
Choosing the Pattern
When I chose my first sweater pattern, I fell in love with the picture on the pattern booklet: a stick-thin waif, hands dangling over her head, posed in a huge, baggy, cream-colored sweater, amidst a flock of sheep. “That’s what I want!” I said, and promptly bought 10 balls of Brown Sheep Bulky Superwash in a sort of oatmeal color.
Unfortunately for my sweater experience, I am neither a stick-thin waif, nor does oatmeal color look good on me. A recipe for disappointment, for sure.
To help you understand what shape of sweater to make, take a look at the kinds of sweaters that you already own and that you like, especially noticing the neckline and general fit.
Neckline: Are your favorite sweaters V-necks? Turtlenecks? Scoop necks?
Fit: Are your favorite sweaters tight and fitted or are they loose and comfortable?
These attributes will give you a clue as to what kind of first sweater you should knit for yourself.
Up next: choosing the right sweater size and the right color of yarn.
8 thoughts on “Tips for Knitting Your First Sweater – Lessons Learned from a Sweater Horror Story”
Knitting my first sweater was a lot of fun but I didn’t know how to determine the correct size. After I finished my beautiful soft green sweater, I was so excited to try it on, but alas, it was too big. It just hung shapeless, ugh. Now what do I do, tear it out and start all over or give it away?! Thank you for all your tips.
Oh no!! How disappointing! But please don’t despair. You don’t have to start over or give it away. Use your sewing machine to take it in or go to an alterations shop (check at your dry cleaners) and have them take it in. It will fit you perfectly :)
Ignorance is bliss. Having never knit a stitch I happily went to my local yarn store (a place I’d never known existed), with my copy of Woman’s Day in hand, and purchased all i would need for this gorgeous ski sweater-stranded work no less. Research guided me in casting on double strands, and there i was knitting. I finished the front and back, and half of the first sleeve, then life interrupted. 40 years later i found it and made a purse/bag out of it. I was no longer the slim young thing, but i couldn’t finish it or tink it, so made something useful instead. Examining it now with my experienced eyes, it was quite well done, just by following the directions and not knowing any better.
Having to sew the seams. I just don’t know if it will look nice and flow together. Hope you have some suggestions for me,
Great to meet you Virginia! Sewn seams in sweaters are really a good thing, since they add strength and structure right where you need it. And even if it doesn’t come out perfect, this is a skill you master over time, not the first time. But you have to try it in order to start improving! Seaming is actually a bit magical. Don’t avoid it!
To practice, here’s a felted project I highly recommend. You can seam along with me! https://www.knitfreedom.com/shop/felted-slippers/ Use code VIP to get 25% off.
Liat- First of all, congratulations on the safe arrival of your new son! Next, I loved your MAL class for toe up socks. I have taken a class at my LYS for a first cardigan and it didn’t go well at all. Too fast and no way to rewatch the class. I really liked your teaching style and would sign up in a second if you did a class on sweaters!
I’m going to be passing your comment along to Liat, but I want to let you know that she is currently on maternity leave (she is expecting her baby very soon) and will be taking up to 1-2 weeks to answer.
Thanks so much for your patience and understanding!
Thank you so much for your comment! I would love to do a class on sweaters… I haven’t quite figured out what my angle would be. I guess just basic beginner sweater would be a good start!
Keep me posted about your knitting progress and please do send me all your sweater questions. It will help motivate me to do a class!