Just Cast On: Making Your First Sweater

It breaks my heart to hear new knitters say that they’re “not good enough” to make a sweater. I’m never sure what they need to feel “good enough” to make a sweater. Is it a certain number of projects? You must make three scarves before you can knit your first sweater? There isn’t actually a magical levelling-up where you suddenly gain the Sweater Knitter skillset. All you need is a good pattern and a can-do attitude.

Our newest digital collection, Wool Studio 101, was created to inspire knitters to give sweaters a try. It’s entirely comprised of classic sweaters from our pattern archive, so these are tried-and-true patterns. We chose these sweaters to be suitable for any knitter, from a beginner who’s just finished a practice swatch to an advanced knitter who’s looking for an easy, stress-free project. With simple, clean lines, it’s a great collection whether you’re knitting your first sweater or your 31st.

Here are a few of the obstacles you may run into before knitting your first sweater.

I Don’t Know What Size to Make

This can be a huge obstacle for many knitters—what size do you make? And how do you know if it’s going to fit? If you’re uncertain about getting the correct size, try a style with more forgiving fit. The Fibonacci Rings pullover has a slouchy, generous fit that’s easy to wear. If you prefer a slimmer silhouette like Papeline Pullover, measure a sweater that fits you well and compare those measurements to the schematic.

The Fibonacci Rings pullover has an easy-going style with flexible sizing.

The Fibonacci Rings pullover has an easy-going style with flexible sizing.

It Won’t Fit

Swatch. Choosing a size is irrelevant if your gauge is different from the gauge specified in the pattern. Swatch often and swatch generously; don’t make a piddly 2” swatch and expect it to accurately relate to a 42” sweater. Swatch in pattern; your stockinette stitch gauge isn’t helpful if the sweater is knit in a lace pattern. Block your swatch. Check your gauge before and after blocking. Measure your gauge over at least 4”; measuring over 1” leaves a lot of room for error. Check your project gauge as you knit and make sure you’re getting the correct gauge there as well. It may seem a little anal-retentive, but gauge is the difference between a sweater that fits you and a sweater that fits a kindergartner.

For fitted sweaters like the Papeline Pullover, gauge is especially important.

For fitted sweaters like the Papeline Pullover, gauge is especially important.

It’s Too Expensive

Yes, a sweater-quantity of yarn is more expensive than a single skein of yarn for a hat; there’s no getting around that. However, there are a few ways to make sweaters on the cheap. First, look for inexpensive workhorse yarns; while I would love a hand-dyed cashmere sweater, I would have to sell at least one kidney to buy the yarn for it. Fortunately, there are yarns at more reasonable price points. Second, part of a knitting group? Have a yarn swap; sometimes people have a leftover skein or two from their own sweaters. (If you’re really lucky, someone may be doing a massive stash cleanout and getting rid of many skeins of the same yarn.) Third, try unravelling thrift store sweaters. By definition, a sweater contains a sweater-quantity of yarn, and second hand stores are usually pretty cheap.

A recovering stash addict can be a knitter’s best friend.

A recovering stash addict can be a knitter’s best friend.

I’ll Ruin My Yarn

First, if you’ve chosen a good size, and your gauge is on point, you’ll end up with a wearable sweater. That’s a win! Second, if something goes haywire and your sweater doesn’t fit, your yarn isn’t ruined. It’s actually pretty hard to destroy yarn; unless you cut it into pieces too small to knit, yarn is completely reusable. As long as you haven’t attacked your sweater with scissors in a fit of rage, you can rip it out and try again.

I’m Afraid

I think this is the biggest reason people don’t knit sweaters: they’re scared. There is no reason to be afraid of sweaters. If you can knit and purl, you can make a sweater. Heck, you don’t even know how to purl; you can make a sweater in just garter stitch! You have nothing to lose by just casting on and jumping in.

Now you have no excuses not to get started on your first sweater. So just do it already! Go cast on!

Knit your first sweater!