Current Knitting and Thinking about Sweater Design

Rauin has not been completed. All that remains is finishing work: weaving in the ends, seaming the neck pieces together and then to the body. I usually do all of my finishing work at once without interruption, and haven’t found the chunk of time to do the job. Perhaps this weekend?

Instead, I started a new pullover with the CVM/Alpaca yarn from Marushka Farms based on this swatch.

photo of knitted swatch

This yarn was intended for a sweater but I hadn’t chosen a pattern and wanted to knit with the yarn, hence the swatch above. I liked the swatch so much I got out a “guidebook” and am knitting a sweater that way rather than from a pre-made pattern.

If you’ve got a stitch pattern that works for you, there are plenty of resources out there if you want to knit a sweater based on a swatch. Below is a brief overview of some of the resources I use or find interesting.


Screen Capture of CustomFit website

One of the newest resources is an online product, CustomFit. To use this resource, you first enter body measurements and swatch measurements (which are needed for any pattern). Then choose your customizations and a pattern is created according to your measurements. I haven’t tried it yet, but it is a really good idea. A sweater pattern that will create a perfect-fit sweater without having to do all the calculations.

Customizations include:

  • Body construction (pullover, cardigan, pullover-style vest, or cardigan-style vest)
  • Neckline (crew, vee, scoop, boat)
  • Sleeve length (short, elbow, 3/4, long)
  • Hem length (high-hip, mid-hip, low-hip, tunic)

As far as construction goes, the patterns appear to be back and forth knitting from the bottom-up with set-in sleeves. It does look like many of the patterns also include instructions for knitting in the round.

The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Budd and The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters by Ann Budd

picture of book picture of book

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and are willing to do a little math*, these are two great guidebooks that you can use to make a sweater from your swatch.

The Knitter’s Hand Book of Sweater Patterns has “formulas” for patterns knit in pieces from the bottom up, but with advice on how to knit the patterns in the round. You can knit a sweater from this book in each of the following styles: drop-shoulder, modified drop-shoulder, set-in sleeve, saddle shoulder, raglan, and seamless yoke. You can also choose options like pullover and cardigan, v-neck and crew neck, and combinations of these.

The patterns are presented in a tabular format. Choose your even-numbered chest circumference (26” – 34” for children; and 36”–54” for adults) and your gauge (3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 stitches per inch) and look up the correct row and column for each instruction.

picture of page of book

* If your stitch gauge isn’t a whole number or your chest circumference isn’t an even number, the book offers guidance on how to use the given instructions to get the sweater size you want. Yep, that’s where the light math comes in.

The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters is just like the previous book, but of course, the patterns are all knit from the top down. Sweater styles in this book are: seamless yoke, raglan, set-in sleeve, and saddle shoulder.

Both books also offer complete patterns for each of the different styles that have some nice features: interesting stitch patterns, colorwork, etc.

Knitting from the Top by Barbara Walker

If you really like knitting top-down and in the round, then this guidebook will be a valuable resource.

picture of book

Don’t let that dated cover fool you. This book is a timeless knitting treasure!

Barbara Walker takes you through the process of knitting your own sweater in a conversational way. You start with a few body measurements and the gauge of your swatch. While you are guided through the process, there are asides that discuss the design process more in depth (e.g. if you are using a stitch pattern other than stockinette, your rate of increase might have to alter depending on the row gauge):

picture of page of book

The book covers the raglan, set-in sleeve, saddle shoulder, drop shoulder, and sleeveless sweater styles. The instructions for the raglan include pullovers and cardigans with a variety of necklines. And there are instructions for different sleeve styles (kimono, batwing, and peasant sleeves). But perhaps my favorite section includes the instructions for how to knit a set-in sleeve simultaneously with the body (or knit the set-in sleeves by picking up stitches from the cap and working down from there).

Because the title is not Knitting Sweaters from the Top, there are also instructions on how to knit capes, skirts, pants (yes, pants), and hats.

Knitwear Design Workshop: A Comprehensive Guide to Handknits by Shirley Paden

Finally, if you want to really dig in and learn about sweater design, Shirley Paden has created a great resource.

picture of book

I’m currently using this book to knit a sweater from the swatch above. It is math-heavy, but the author provides a solid math review and guidance throughout. The book is laid out like a textbook, but a fun textbook! The instruction is algorithmic, very clear, and helps keep you organized. If you want to know explicitly the whys and hows about shoulder shaping, armhole shaping, etc., you’ll find the answers here.

The author covers a great deal in this book, including different silhouettes, armhole shapings, sleeves and cuffs, necklines, neckbands and collars, and more. There also a section with finishing techniques and some interesting projects at the end.

I’m sure there are plenty of other guidebooks and loads of articles on sweater design out there, but these are the ones I’ve found the most interesting and useful.

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