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by Sarah Stanfield October 03, 2020 5 min read

Are you thinking about knitting your first sweater? We want to help by suggesting good beginner sweater patterns, free tutorials to get you started and recommendations to help get that first hand knit sweater into your wardrobe.

Easy knit sweaters can be some of the most satisfying projects to make and wear. Knitting your first sweater can often feel like a daunting thought - will it fit me? will I ever finish it? - but with a good beginner sweater pattern and a few basic techniques you'll soon be wearing a handknit sweater that fits you perfectly, and that you love.

Skills to master before knitting your first sweater

Before starting your first sweater it's a good idea to be comfortable with a few basic skills first. You'll need to be able to cast on to get those first stitches on your needles, bind off and make the knit and purl stitch. It'll help if you are able to read a basic knitting pattern and know some knitting terminology, or be able to use the abbreviations list in the pattern for any terms you're not sure about. 

Sweater patterns almost always require stitches to shape your knitting to your body, usually increases and decreases. If you're new to these it would be a good idea to practice by casting on some stitches and trying out decreases like k2tog (a right leaning decrease) and ssk (a left leaning decrease) as well as increases like mL1 and m1R (make one left or right.) The abbreviations list in found in all our patterns describes how to perform these stitches as well as explaining the knitting terms used.

What to look for in a beginner sweater pattern

There are some great patterns for beginners - look for patterns worked in the round so finishing is minimal, with simple shaping, in stockinette or a simple stitch pattern.

Glenmore is one of our recent sweater designs that many people used to knit their first sweater. It's quick to knit in a chunky yarn and we have a full set of tutorials to help you at every step of the way. We also have kits available so you order all the yarn you need for your size and the pattern in one easy click.

a black woman stands indoors with a houseplant behind, wearing a gold textured sweater with hands in her pockets
a black woman wearing a cropped white sweater stands beside a houseplant, her hands are clasped together in front of her and she wears an orange necklace

Ysolda's Blank Canvas design is also a great option for first sweater projects. It has clear directions, is shaped with simple increases and decreases and you get a perfectly fitted sweater when you're done!

A white plus-size woman with dark hair and glasses wears a grey sweater, she is smiling and looking to the side with one hand resting on the top of a pocket
a close up of the lower side part of a grey sweater, with one arm hanging to the side with hand resting in the top of a jeans pocket. Hems of a white shirt show at the edges of the hem and cuff.

 

I saw this sweater IRL. It’s gorgeous and perfect for learning all the shaping tips Ysolda will teach you! Until 3 weeks ago, when I cast on my first of two Blank Canvases, I had made two sweaters in the almost 9 years I’ve been knitting and they were both horrible failures. I’ve now made two fabulous versions of this pattern (one strictly following directions, one with mods/extras) in three weeks and I’m forcing myself to do something else before I cast on another! Thankyouthankyouthankyou for this perfect pattern! Melodypants on Ravelry

If you're feeling adventurous and keen to try a little colourwork in your first sweater, our Bleideag design might be just what you're looking for. It has a simple construction and in a thicker yarn means it'll be keeping you cosy in no time. We also have a tutorial here on knitting Bleideag, which describes the construction in a little more detail and has helpful links for some of the techniques.

A white woman with curly hair wears a cosy black sweater with colourwork yoke in neutral colours, leaning against a wall
A close up of the shoulder of a white woman with curly hair wearing a dark sweater with colourwork yoke detail

Tips and Tutorials

Gauge

One of the most important things to get right when knitting a sweater is gauge, or the number of stitches and either rows or round that you create in a 10cm square of knitting, using your chosen yarn. Making sure that your gauge matches the gauge noted in the pattern is vital if you want your sweater to turn out the right size. Knitting a sweater that doesn't fit is no fun at all, right? You can read more about checking your gauge, also known as knitting a swatch in our tutorial here.

Many sweater patterns are knit in the round, meaning that you create the back and front at the same time by knitting a loop of fabric. Knitters often find that their gauge (or tension) can be different when knitting this way, rather than backwards and forwards along a row. If the sweater you've chosen to make is knit in the round it's important to knit your swatch in the same way, and you can find our tutorial on a quick way to do this here.

Sizing

All our patterns have clear diagrams, or schematics of the design with key measurements for all sizes. Having an accurate set of measurements of your own body is crucial to getting a sweater that fits in the way you want it to, and if you don't know these having someone who can help measure you accurately can be so useful. Read more about choosing a size to make in our tutorial here.

Are you lost in your knitting? Keeping track of where you are in the pattern can be tricky, especially if you're knitting up a body or sleeve and get a little distracted... Our tutorial on how to keep track of rows might be useful!

How do these pieces of knitting turn into a sweater? Both Blank Canvas and Ravelston are knitting from the bottom up, meaning that you create a loop of fabric for the body up to the armholes and two sleeves, and then join them together to knit the yoke. This can sound a little daunting if you've never tried it, but we promise is very straightforward when you have your knitting in front of you! We also have a tutorial on how to join the sleeves and body here which should help you visualise and work through this point.

Helpful reading

We have some wonderful books in the store if you'd like to read further on getting started with knitting.

Two books laying flat, slightly overlapping. One shows a pile of knitting and is called 'You Will Be Able To Knit By The End Of This Book' and the other shows a young black woman wearing a red cowl called 'Knit How.'

Knit How by our friends at Pom Pom is our go-to reference book for beginner knitters (and also makes a great gift if you're helping a friend get started.) It includes 50 illustrated tutorials and photographed techniques, and the instructions are arranged in a way that focuses on building your skills and at the same time, make things you'll actually want to wear. The book includes ten knitting patterns for accessories and garments, and is packed with essential tips for the beginner knitter.

You Be Able To Knit By The End Of This Book is the perfect how to knit book for beginners that does exactly what it promises to do – work your way through and you really will be able to knit by the end! It'll slowly build your confidence by focusing first on stitches and techniques, covering everything you need to know to knit your first projects successfully. The second part includes 15 easy projects to practice your skills on, from a simple headband to a stylish shawl.

Happy knitting!

If you're starting your first sweater project we'd love to know how you get on. Remember you can tag your projects with #Ysolda, #YsoldaTutorials and #YsoldaIsMyLYS so that we can all encourage you and admire!

Sarah Stanfield
Sarah Stanfield



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