Knitting a sweater is one of the pinnacles of the hobby, and it's one that stops some new knitters in their tracks. A sweater seems like such a big project that will take a lot of time and skill, so often knitters are too intimidated to take on the challenge.
It certainly can be all those things, but there are sweater patterns out there that newer knitters can do and that don't include a huge time commitment. Here are the basic skills you need, some good patterns to try, and details to get you started.
Essential Skills for Knitting a Sweater
Before you knit a sweater, there are a few knitting skills you should have under your belt. You should be comfortable with casting on and binding off, as well as forming the knit stitch.
Purling comes in handy, too, if you're knitting your sweater flat or if it has ribbing or a textured stitch pattern. Depending on whether your sweater is knit top-down or bottom-up, you'll need to know the basics of increasing and decreasing.
You should be comfortable with reading a basic knitting pattern and deciphering knitting abbreviations. Though skill level is relative, understanding the skill level listed on a pattern can be helpful when choosing a first sweater pattern.
Easy Sweaters for Beginners
If you're a little nervous about knitting an adult-sized sweater, you can always start by knitting for a baby or child. Little sweaters contain all the same skills as bigger ones, but they'll finish faster, giving you more confidence in a shorter period of time.
This basic baby sweater, for example, is a great first sweater because it's all Garter Stitch and there's hardly any shaping at all. It'll knit up in no time, and if you don't know a baby, it's a great charity knitting project.
This child's cat sweater is super cute, too, and you don't have to put the cat on the front if you want a plain, straightforward knit to practice on.
If you're looking elsewhere for sweater knitting patterns, look for projects in garter stitch, Stockinette, or other easy stitch patterns. You can choose a circularly knit project if you're comfortable working in the round; then you won't have to worry about finishing. Heavier weight yarns make a project go faster and the stitches are easier to count and see, so they are a good choice for beginners.
Don't choose a project you don't like just because it's easy. You want to be able to wear and enjoy your first sweater!
There are many great books and courses to help people knit their first sweaters, such as "My First Cardigan Workbook," by Georgia Druen, and "The 30 Day Sweater Book," by Lacie Lynnae.
Be Honest About Gauge
When you knit your first sweater, it may be the first time you really have to take gauge seriously. When knitting pieces that are designed to fit a body, you need to get accurate gauge so they'll come out the size the designer intended.
Take the time to swatch, wash your swatch as you will wash your sweater, and measure your swatch honestly. Reknit on different needles if you need to. Even though you're excited to get started and these steps take extra time, making sure you have the correct gauge is worth it as you'll end up with a sweater that fits.
Once you've taken all the time needed to get gauge and knit all the pieces your sweater requires, take a little more time to sew your seams properly. Mattress stitch is essential for sewing side seams, while a horizontal seam works to join bound off stitches together, such as shoulder seams. The right finishing can make all the difference in having a sweater you're proud to wear versus one that lives in the back of the closet.