Sweater Blues

Hi everyone! I think it's honestly been about a year or so since I posted here, but I've been slowly making my way back into the knitting world since I graduated college and have been pursuing a lot of different jobs and ventures.

The big question I have is this- I have done so much hat work, scarf work, gloves and mittens, and I am currently working on my first blanket (Ravelry's Cerys Baby Blanket by Leah J. Williams- I am expanding it to 6ft. x 6ft. to make an adult-sized throw... pictures to come). But the one thing I have just never had the courage to finish was a sweater.

About 2 years ago I started the DROPS Pullover in Eskimo, and had finished both the front and back, and most of one sleeve. However I was about $70.00US in, and didn't have the time, energy, or money to finish... so now that I've been knitting for almost three years, I have just never gotten up my gumption to do a sweater.

I find, often, that some of the men's patterns are nice, but not something I would wear- more fun to knit than functional. I was wondering if anyone knew a good pattern to start with that would not break the bank and that would be nice sweater to wear for a twenty-something guy... and that wouldn't make me want to tear my hair out in its construction!

Any suggestions?

PS- It's good to be back =) Hope everyone's doing well!




bobinthebul's picture

Welcome back! I just did my first sweater. :) It was a bit of a fiasco actually (you can check out the thread on it a page or two back.) But that wasn't a particularly difficult one. Aside from not washing it in hot water (I must add in my defense that it *was* supposed to be machine-washable yarn!) I can think of a few things I'd do differently if I did it again. And I probably will, though not that particular pattern. If you know how to knit, purl, do decreases/increase, and wrap stitches, you can probably do a sweater.

1. I'd be pickier about gauge. My gauge was actually spot on horizontally (and I did swatch in the round) but it came out like a tent. So I'd thread it onto a really long circular needle and see how it was actually hanging on me. My vertical gauge was slightly over, and though I could eyeball the length, I didn't really know how a raglan went together. This meant that although the sleeves looked okay, they were actually longer than they needed to be and the yoke ended up adding a little too much extra length there as well.

2. Instead of just "taking the pattern's word for it," I'd actually measure myself and be willing to rip and start on a smaller size if it were looking more like a galabia than a sweater. :)

3. Look at it as a learning experience. After all, if it were all about having a sweater/sock/scarf, it would be lots easy to just go buy one. Yes it's an investment in both time and $$ but if it doesn't come out right, you'll understand the structure of the thing a lot better and if you really like the pattern otherwise, you can always rip back and do it again. The next time around won't be so bad. I recently got just past the heel of my first pair of heavily cabled socks (Brethren) and found there that it didn't fit over my foot. I was in a quandary, I could have given them to someone else but I loved the yarn and really wanted a pair of socks made from it. A friend said "Oh, just rip it and do it again." I hesitated, "b-b-but....all the work!" "It'll go faster the next time!" she said. I ripped, it did go a lot easier the next time.

I think back to when socks were scary, now I know what gauges/needles/yarns produce what results, and they're mostly second-nature. (Except the Skew Sock, that's just f***ing insanity.) ;)

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Note to self - Check out the "Skew Sock".

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Did so...IMHO it should be called the "Eeew Sock". Maybe as a personal challenge/ learning experience would I knit this. But probably not.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

ronhuber's picture

I would recommend measuring a favourite sweater before you start and not to be a slave to the pattern. Do a good size swatch to measure your gauge. If you are going to knit in the round, cast 90 stitches onto a circular needle and knit for four or five inches. Find a wool that is sturdy and not something soft and squishy. The sturdy wool softens after a bath and your sweater will keep its shape. I would recommend Briggs and Little Wool or Shetland wool because they are the ones I like to work with and I know how they react. Dont be afraid of fine wool- it is easier to knit with and faster to knit than thick wool and easier on the hands. Washable wool is not often washable and will stretch after wear. I have known alpaca sweaters to grow a foot or two. Google "top down raglan" and you will find a pattern that is easy to plan and knit and you make it to fit you. Don't be a fraid to take it off the needles and try it on. I use long lengths of cotton yarn to thread through the stitches. Incorporate texture and colourwork but be careful to swatch using the same techniques. Whatever you do, take the swatch and wash it exactly like you would wash your sweater. Measure it carefully!! It is often a good idea to buy only one skein of yarn to see if you like the results.
I really think that taking it off the needles is important. If knitting flat, take it off the needles after 3 or 4 inches and make sure it is the size it should be. If knitting in the round, do the same and try it on. Better to rip back at 3 inches than 23. Gauge is such a funny thing and after many years of knitting, I find it can depend on little things like your mood, how you hold your mouth, or what you ate for breakfast.
Sweaters like the one I recommended or those that Elizabeth Zimmermann has in her books teach you the basics of sweater construction and give you the freedom to be creative with the blank canvas.

kylewilliam's picture

One of my favorite (and easy!) patterns is #991 by Diane Soucy -

It was one of my first - a top down raglan that can be tried on as you knit...

here's a link to my first one on my Ravelry page:


and here's a link to the pattern on Ravelry:


All the suggestions Bob gave are good. One other hint I'd offer is to take a look at patterns on Ravelry. with regard to difficulty or errors, look at completed projects and see how well they turned out. Are people having problems with the pattern? Is the gauge wonky? What yarn is being used most often and works out well?

The good thing about the Diane Soucy pattern is that it uses worsted weight yarn and it's pretty easy to check out as you knit... it's not a form fitting sweater but it IS a nice one.

All that being said, lucky for us we can knit LOTS of sweaters... so if the first one isn't your dream sweater, maybe the second or third or 20th will be!

Welcome back!



Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Everyone is spot on with their suggestions. I usually recommend a top down raglan as the first sweater since they are pretty basic and easily decorated with simple texture and/or colorwork. Another resource is "Knitting from the Top Down" by Barbara Walker. Lots of great tips and advice on raglan shaping, etc. and talks about doing a cardigan or pullover version. Lots of luck.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

ronhuber's picture

A little note about gauge. I just did a swatch for a sweater and over about 6"x6" my gauge was 3.8 stitches to the inch. I just ripped out 3 inches because on the sweater I was getting 5 stitches to the inch. (garter stitch so it is back and forth) Now what is that all about??

rnaderjr's picture

I just finished a sweater for my brother called the Crossroads Pullover from Knit One Crochet Too. He was with me at Michaels one day and picked out the Lions Brand Fisherman's Wool and asked if I could make a sweater for him. I picked this pattern because it was knit from the left sleeve through the yoke and down the right sleeve. Then stitches are picked up and knitted down in the round. I've made several sweaters, both bottom up and top down, but not one that goes left to right. It's a simple pattern of either stockinette or garter stitch. Knits up pretty quickly too. Might be fun for you to knit if you like the look. Here's the link to the picture of the sweater from their website (haven't posted pics on Ravelry account yet for this one.) http://www.shopatron.com/products/productdetail/part_number=PAT1622/703.
Good luck.

PieintheSky88's picture

Thank you everyone for your suggestions! All such good ideas, I guess I'll just have to try all of them...

*All an actor has is their blind faith that they are who they say they are today in any scene.*
~Meryl Streep

superi's picture

I would suggest the Smokin' Jacket by Jared Flood (Brooklyntweed) in Debbie Stoller's book, Son of a Stitch N' Bitch. This was one of my first sweaters and it was very easy. I used Wool of the Andes by knitpicks in bulky and that worked really well. I think the patterns calls for Rowan Felted tweed, but I switched it because I know I could never afford that yarn. Using knitpicks I think all the yarn came to about 30-40 dollars. The sweater is knit all in the round except for the shawl collar and pockets which are sewn on after the fact.