As the evenings lengthen and the rain blows against the windows, there is an unmistakable feeling of Winter in the air. It’s the perfect time for curling up with a big knitting project. With visions of cozy sweaters dancing in our heads, it’s a great time to get inspired by some thoughtful points from the wonderful people
You need not be working from a Customfit pattern for these tips to work! They’re great advice for setting out on any sweater pattern, or even designing your own.
First, we examine the importance of swatching “predictively”. This means fully engaging with our swatch, aiming for a level of control we know isn’t entirely possible with knitted fabric, but getting as much accurate information from our swatch as possible. How do we do this? Knit a great big swatch, larger than you’d like to, at least 6″x 6″. Knit several. Swatch in Stockinette, in garter, in ribbing, in any stitch pattern you may be using in the sweater. Always block your swatches, measuring both before and after blocking. You may wish to try hang blocking your main swatch, especially if you are using a fiber like alpaca, silk, cotton, superwash merino, or a blend, or are knitting at a loose gauge. These are amongst the factors which will allow gravity to change the structure of your sweater. Using binder clips, hang your dry swatch from a hanger, attaching more binder clips to the bottom edge to weight the swatch. Leave it for a few days, then check to see if the row and stitch gauges have been changed. This may seem like a lot of preparation, especially when your fingers are itching to cast on. However, this step really tells you wether the fiber and pattern combination you have picked are going to work, and if you will be satisfied with the result, in addition to giving you the foundation for the knitting to come.
Next, choosing the right size can really determine the wearability of a sweater. For the best possible fit, measure your upper torso, above the bust, as closely as possible. Better yet, find someone else to do it – taking this measurement accurately can be tricky. (Twisted offers full Customfit services – we’ll be happy to help you get those accurate measurements!) Chose a size with a “finished bust measurement” closest to your own upper chest measurement. The reason for this is that garments take their fit from the shoulder and arm seams – a sweater that is too loose here will be ill-fitting and too large elsewhere.
The third tip is an unexpected one – ask yourself, “would I buy this in a store?” I’m often attracted to a pattern because it looks like it would be fun to knit. It features unusual details, interesting stitches, or is imaginatively shaped. Other times, it’s the styling of the photos I’m attracted to. Ultimately though, if I’m going to devote hours attention, I do want a garment I will wear often, and for years to come. When browsing patterns for a new project, try to keep in mind your personal style, and when and how you hope to wear the sweater. Don’t be afraid to try new things, though! My favorite sweater project this year was “Francis”, an almost origami-like pullover that seemed like a real risk, but has become a go-to layering piece even as the weather has chilled. In fact, I can’t wait to make a luxurious, Wintery version.
On a related note, I’ve also started asking myself, “will I really work on this?” Over the years, I’ve noticed that while I love nothing more than an intricate stitch in fine wool, the sweaters I’ve finished and which have gone on to be wardrobe staples are simpler patterns in light to medium weight yarns. These are projects I can pick up or set down, ones that are still enjoyable at the end of a busy day when all I want is Netflix, a glass of wine, and that soothing rhythm of the needles.
Finally, seams are wonderful things! Seams give sweaters the support they need. While an oversized, raglan sleeve, slouchy cardigan is a wonderful thing, seams can make the difference between your favorite sweater and one that looks bedraggled and stretched out. Don’t shy away from pieced patterns, and consider adding false seams with a line of single crochet to seamless patterns. Have a sweater with a too-big neckline, droopy shoulders, or sleeves that won’t stop growing? An afterthought seam of crochet will add reinforcement. Finishing takes a little practice, but is easy once you know what to look for, and like swatching, is totally worth it. (Twisted also offers finishing services, so go ahead and make that sweater you’ve been working up the courage for – we’re here to help!)
Thanks to Amy, Jackie, & Lauren at Amy Herzog Designs for allowing me to share their thoughtful tips! To learn more about the wonderful Customfit program, and how it can lead to successful sweaters, visit customfit.makewearlove.com or drop into Twisted.
Do you have tips for sweater knitters? Share them with us in the comments, or on Facebook.