Monday, October 15, 2012

Sweater Knitting 101

Since we are embarking on a Sweater Knit-a-long, I thought I would answer a few questions about getting started on a sweater.

How do you chose a pattern? If you are a beginner, obviously a basic pattern is a good choice. This doesn't mean you have to do plain or boring though!. There are plenty of patterns out there that have little design details that would be simple to knit and not be overwhelming. Look for a textured stitch around neckline, cuffs or hem. Small details that are sewn or knitted on after the sweater is finished and won't confuse the main construction, like bows or ties at the neckline or a picked up and knitted on ruffle. Another thing to look for is weight. For first sweaters, worsted or bulky weight sweaters will knit faster. Thus be finished faster and you will be less likely to get bored or bogged down.
How do you choose yarn? With so many many choices and variations this can be a hard one......or easy! Of course, if the sweater is for you, there will always be a yarn that will jump out at you! If you have already chosen a pattern read the yarn requirement and gauge. This will tell you how much yarn and the weight. Sometimes patterns don't clearly state what weight to use. If you check what gauge the pattern uses that helps narrow it down too. (If you are unsure what weight a certain gauge would indicate, here is a handy chart to help.)
There are a few other things to consider when choosing sweater yarn. If you are warm blooded a wool or alpaca blended with a synthetic like polyester or acrylic and cotton is a good choice. If you are going for warmth, all wool or alpaca is the best. Do you want to put your sweater in the wash or is hand washing fine? If the yarn is labeled as "super wash" it has been treated to not felt, this means it should not felt in the washer or dryer, but a gentle cycle is still recommended. Beware of fluffy or soft spun yarn, the fiber is more likely to felt and special handling is required.

What about knitting a swatch, measuring gauge? Gauge is very very important when knitting a sweater. By taking time to check, you make sure it will fit properly when finished. There are two methods. Knit a swatch, a small square about 25 stitches by 15 rows. Unless you will be knitting your sweater in the round, then you most probably need to swatch in the round. Gauge can be very different from knit-purl rows to knit-knit rounds. The other method is just to cast on and knit a few inches on your sweater and then check your gauge. This is for yarn that is crying out to be cast on with! Unfortunately, with this method if your gauge is wrong, you have to rip out. But I have found this method to give truer gauge.
How do you actually take gauge? It is really not as mysterious as it sounds. Gauge = stitches per inch. The best way is to measure over a four inch width and then divide by four. It is always a good idea to measure in a few different places, just to make sure you are getting it accurate. And always measure on a flat surface, not stretching your knitting. It doesn't sound like it would matter, but a half a stitch can throw things off. If you think about it, a half a stitch times one hundred fifty adds up to seventy-five stitches which could equal fifteen inches!! Very big differance.

Are you ready to knit a sweater now? Just remember, a sweater isn't nessasarily more complex. It is just a lot of plain knitting with a few increses and decreases thrown in!

1 comment:

  1. Good for you!! I've got to get busy on two sweaters I want to knit for our two oldest grandsons, for Christmas presents. I plan to use the 'Wonderful Wallaby' pattern, which I have yet to purchase. Good grief!