6 Secrets to Knitting Sweaters You’ll Love

Posted by on Feb 25, 2014 in Knitting | Comments


I’m a sweater knitter, and I absolutely adore knitting a sweater that I’ll wear forever. I love planning the yarn and style and what I’ll wear with it when I’m done. In the last four years I’ve knit 30 adult garments. But life for a sweater knitter isn’t always glamorous. There was my husband’s sweater that he couldn’t fit his head through, the unflattering brown sweater (who chose that color?), and the gorgeous sweater that I never wear because it doesn’t fit quite right.

Just as knitting is an art you develop over time, so is choosing the right size to knit.

Knit Mariposa Sweater - Pattern on Craftsy.com

Mariposa short-sleeved sweater, pattern by andrea_knits

Here are tips to keep in mind when choosing what sweater size to knit because the more you know, the more you can knit!

1. Choose the style

After knitting 30 adult sweaters in the last four years, I’ve learned what styles fit me well, and which do not. It’s easy to be wooed by the gorgeous pattern photography, but in order to end up with a piece you love, you need to have a cold hard look at whether or not the garment will be flattering.

For example, I’m short and have just a very slight waist. I’ve come to find that I prefer sweaters that will visually lengthen my torso and either don’t have dramatic waist shaping, or have waist shaping I can easily modify. I’ve also found I prefer a sweater that I can either button up, or wear open. I don’t like buttons on the bust only. I just feel like that style doesn’t suit me. So why waste time knitting something I won’t like in the end?

2. Yarn substitution

If you plan on using a different yarn than called for in the pattern, make sure to take a careful look at the yarn the designer used. What weight, fiber content, and other attributes does it have? You will want to find a substitution yarn that has similar attributes as the yarn called for in order to successfully make the switch.

See also our post on how to substitute yarn. You also might find our metric conversion chart for knitting and crochet helpful when determining a substitution.

3. Swatch

Just do it. Don’t skip this step unless you want a sweater that doesn’t meet the schematic measurements and doesn’t fit correctly. Swatch big (at least 4” by 4”) and in the stitch pattern.

4. Measure

Knowing your own measurements is a crucial part of choosing the correct size to make. Have someone help you with this task and write it down so you can keep it for future reference.

You’ll want measurements like full bust circumference, high bust circumference, length from underarm to waist, shoulder width, upper arm width, and more.

I would also suggest measuring certain aspects of your favorite sweater to get those numbers as well. If you like the depth of a collar, body or sleeve length on a certain garment, measure that.

See also our article on taking body measurements for knitting.

Sashiko Button-Up Cardigan

Shashiko cardigan, pattern via Craftsy member Melonby

5. Ease

Designers create sweaters to be worn with a certain amount of ease. This can be negative ease or positive ease. That means, how loose or how tight the sweater should fit.

Read over your pattern to find out what the ease is on the model, and what the intended ease is. Also, keep in mind your personal preferences with how tight or loose you like your clothing.

6. Study the schematic

Once you know what the ease is on the garment, you can study the pattern schematic to find which size will suit you the best. Have your measurements handy to refer to. Again, look not only at the bust size, but keep track of areas you’ll need to make modifications (most likely in sleeve or body length).

Knitting an adult sweater can take a lot of time, money and effort, and you really do want to end up with something you’re proud to wear in public. My most annoying sweater disaster was the time I knit the size that was 4” smaller than my full bust size. I had finished the entire body, blocked and measured, and suddenly realized I had spent a month knitting the wrong size. It still haunts me.

It’s never been more fun to knit a sweater customized with the design details you want and the look you love with the Craftsy class Choose Your Own Sweater Adventure. Instructor Eunny Jang has worked out all the math, so simply plug in the look you want, and start knitting!

Knitting for wee ones? Come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow for a look at knitting pattern sizes for children.

Have you ever had a sweater knitting disaster?