The Next Era in My Knitting Evolution

When I first started knitting, the thought of making clothing I could actually wear, not just wrap around myself, seemed impossible.  I didn’t understand how in the world you could knit something 3-dimensional like a sleeve, or a sock, and I sure as hell didn’t see any reason to when I could just go out and buy a nice sweater.  I know we’ve all thought these things.  Then, somewhere along the line in the career of a knitter, things begin to change.  We begin to get attracted to new ideas and challenges.  We are intoxicated by the potential of yarn.

For me, it was socks.  I found myself at my local yarn shop one day, fondling the sock yarn and casually asking the shopkeeper “So, what size needles would you use to make this into a sock?”  The desire to learn about sock construction just sort of crept up on me, and after a little research I was set to begin.  I credit a large part of my beginner’s success/luck to the Sock 101 tutorial on Knitty, and to the Sensational Knitted Socks book by Charlene Schurch.  Both walk you through the anatomical parts of a sock, explaining the How and Why of its construction.  Once I could imagine it all coming together in my head, I put needles to wool and got knitting.

This was my very first sock, using the practice instructions from Knitty on worsted weight wool.  It takes no time at all to get acquainted with the sock parts, and before long I was ready to knit with the “real” sock yarn.  Of course, it was pink and purple and did all sorts of cool things on its own, which kept this beginner interested!

I immediately and desperately felt the effects of second sock syndrome, and it was 6 months before I cast on the second sock.  Once I did, it was finished before I knew it, and I have been knitting socks ever since.

While they may look alright, these socks are ill-fitting and filled with mistakes.  But I love them dearly, as they remind me of the joy of fearlessly tackling a new challenge with my knitting.

And so it will go with my first sweater, I suspect.  As the air gets chilly, and all those new knitting magazines begin to sink in, I find myself yearning, needing, to knit a sweater.  I have been looking at every pattern I can get my hands on, trying to set myself up for success.  There are several great tried and true patterns out there, as well as a plethora of new knits to choose from.  I’m thinking top down raglan construction, with no seaming, thank you very much.

And so, fellow knitters, a few questions:

What was your first sweater?  What do you wish you would have known before you started knitting it?  Can you share any great patterns that you think would be right for a sweater virgin?  Do I really have to do a gauge swatch?! Any other tips, suggestions, warnings, or insights?

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10 thoughts on “The Next Era in My Knitting Evolution

  1. My first sweater was made when I was a teenage goth in the eighties. It was a huge baggy black acrylic mohair thing and I loved it to bits! I can’t remember what I wish I knew then, but my biggest recent lesson has been to spend about three times as long as I think I need measuring myself in every way I can imagine, and making sure that the pattern will fit me. My only recommendation re pattern is not to choose one because it looks like it’s good for a beginner, but to choose one that you love and that inspires you. You’re not a beginner after all; a sweater is just much bigger than a sock, so getting bored or going off the design half way through would be a shame.

    Good luck! I look forward to seeing what you choose!

  2. My first sweater was the Simple Knitted Bodice from Stitch Diva. I love the pattern and plan to knit it again, but I wish I’d known to wash and block my swatch when checking my gauge, because that sweater grew and grew when I soaked and blocked it when it was done. It grew to 2 sizes too big. It was unwearable, and eventually I just frogged the whole thing.

    From that sweater, though, I learned that top-down raglans are a really great way to go, because you can put the whole thing on waste yarn and try it on as you go. That allows for a really custom fit.

    Right now, I’m knitting a February Lady Sweater and loving it. I just cast off the body and have one sleeve left to go. It’s a fast knit, which is great for me, since I tend to knit slowly and not monogamously. And since it’s a top-down raglan, I’ve been able to try it on as I knit, to customize the armscye, the sleeve length, and the body length. The lace pattern is easy to memorize and interesting to knit. I highly recommend it.

  3. With all the beautiful socks, hats, and scarves that you have made, I was surprised that you had not yet made a sweater. Go for it, as you already have the skills needed. I second Anna’s suggestion not to choose a “beginner” sweater. Choose one with some stitch interest to keep the boredom away. If you have access to a LYS with classes, sometimes the comraderie helps with the motivation and also will teach you some techniques that may not even be in the pattern alone. That is how I did my Nantucket Jacket and the Kauni Rainbow sweater and it made all the difference. Absolutely do a gauge swatch!

  4. My first sweater was a textured grey chunky thing…being a sewer I went with the pattern ‘to fit’ size closest to my actual bust…imagine my horror when I put that baby on for the first time…it had like a foot of possitive ease! It was terrible, about 5cm too short and when I had a 42″ bust and a body to match it really did not work in any way, needless to say that sweater only exists in my memory.
    So my advise? An oldy but a goody, measure a sweater you love the fit of and choose the closest ‘finished’ size to it. Because no-one needs a foot of positive ease in the bust!!!

  5. My first sweater was a simple one when I was 16, with two cables up the front. It turned out wider than I would have liked. I tried to shrink it, and it did shrink up. But not in. Poor thing. I’ve learned a lot since then!

    Yes, you must make a gauge swatch. And not a 4 inch one, either. Bigger! And after you start, keep checking, checking, checking. See my recent post, Knittylocks and the three starts, for a cautionary tale.

    I’m not gong to recommend the February Lady; she drove me nuts at the beginning, mostly due to sizing/shaping issues. I made lots of mods. No suggestions here, yet!

  6. First proper sweater was Central Park Hoodie. If you are into comfort and warmth then totally recommend. There is enough going on to keep you interested and you can make mods if you want. THere is also tons of help out there as it is so popular so it makes a great choice for No1 sweater. Recently done Wicked which is top down raglan and no seams (yay). Also not too difficult and the pattern was written very well I found.
    You absolutley do need to swatch. Normally I dont but i htink if you are going to go to all the effort of making something ‘big’ and not to mention the expense as well then it does pay to swatch!! Im about to embark on FLS but I think there are a few issues with that one so maybe not so good for first time. I’d pick something you think you would actually wear alot so that all the effort is worth it, kwim. And also dont go for plain st st , it will bore you to tears so pick something that has a little bit of interest to keep you motivated.
    Good Luck

    Oh and they take ages. I have some little things on the go at the same time so I still feel a sense of completion knocking of little FOs while the ‘big thing’ comes along a bit slower

    Look forward to seeing what you choose 😀

  7. The first sweater I ever made was for my nephew, Ryan. I found the pattern on the Lion Brand Homespun yarn that I was using. It was your basic front, back, two sleeve pattern. The one piece of advice I would give you if you ever do a sweater like this would be to do both sleeves at the same time. That way you make all your decreases at the same time and both sleeves match.

    As soon as I finish my Prayer Shawl obligation, I plan on starting my very first adult sweater for myself. I’m doing a top-down raglan type sweater too.

  8. My first sweater was the Simple Boatneck Sweater in “Baby Knits for Beginners” by Debbie Bliss. The front and back are two identical rectangles. I wish I’d know about picking up stitches around armholes and knitting the sleeves down (rather than knitting them flat and having to fuss with all sorts of seaming).

    Lately, I’ve been knitting the Wonderful Wallaby from Cottage Creations. It’s a top-up raglan with a kangaroo pouch and a hood. The pattern booklet covers sizes 2T to adult XXL. I’ve knit one for a friend’s baby and two for my three-year-old daughter, and am nearly finished with one for my 6’1″ husband. After that, I’ll start on one for myself!

    It’s a GREAT pattern. The sweater is knit in worsted, so it goes quickly. And it’s in the round, with the sleeves attached at the armholes (a la Elizabeth Zimmerman). When you’re done, the only seams you have to do are the armpits and the top of the hood. I highly recommend this one as a first sweater!

    Good luck!

  9. Giselle from Stitch Diva was my first sweater. Wish I would have known… geez. Well, I think it’s really just something you gradually learn as you knit more fitted garments.

    Let’s just say that it was ill-fitting, and a month ago I finally had the nerve to rip it out because even though it would be a good momento of my first sweater to keep it, I loved the yarn too much.

    You probably want to start with a top-down sweater with no seaming. It’ll give you a good idea of how the increases work into sleeves, etc. and also be more hassle-free than something with a lot of seaming.

    A gauge swatch… don’t tell, but I pretty much never swatch. Ever. Unless I’m using a drastically different yarn weight or needle size, I find it’s unnecessary.

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