That post ended up being so much longer than I originally planned, but I really hope that anyone who wants to knit their first sweater will find it useful.
January 2021 works in progress
I’m still working away on my For Fox Sake. I knit the sleeves this month, sometimes I like to do my sleeves first! I’m so ready to take on the rest of the body. Mindless stockinette is my go-to for knitting while reading and I have been doing a lot of that lately!
I’ve also been making progress on this baby blanket, I was trying to work on it for 30 minutes a day this month. I’ve been slacking recently, but I just need to do two more pattern repeats.
In February I’m setting a goal to knit a row a day and hopefully I’ll be finished by the end of the month.
January Finished Objects
I was so close to not having any Fos this month, but I finished my vampire vibes socks on January 31! I started these on Halloween and this has been my other go-to project lately for knitting and reading.
There were new cast ons in January!
Unless you count….
New design sneak peek
I have been working on a colourwork hat design for the past couple months! This is the Brigand hat. It uses worsted weight yarn and has a cozy double brim.
There are instructions for three sizes baby/toddler, child, and adult. By the time this is posted hopefully this pattern will be in testing. Keep an eye out for this pattern release sometime in February!!
I did some shopping this month!!! I don’t want to go too wild with buying yarn this year, however, I want to buy more yarn this year, specifically buying form indie dyers and local yarn stores.
I picked up a skein of worsted and a sock set (showing significant restraint might I add because sooo many beautiful colours). As soon as I saw this yellow I knew I had to have it. It’s going to be a hat, I’m thinking something with cables.
This is Valeris and it’s one of the mystery colourways from January. As you can see it’s beautiful, I will definitely be ordering more yarn from Dragon Hoard Yarn in the future (like maybe I already have some in a cart lol).
Shirley Brian Yarns
When I saw this this adorable knitasaurus bag from Shirley Brian Yarns I could not resist! I love a good dinosaur pun and while I was there I had to buy some yarn. This is Aperol Spritz on the slub base. I have been planning a faded sweater using slub yarn and this just fit right into my colour scheme I had to have it.
Reads of Steele
I have been reading a ton lately. At the end of December I read the whole A Court of Thorns and Roses series and it really brought back my love of reading. Here are all the books I’ve read this month (cheating a bit to include some I read at the end of December).
A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, A Court of Wings and Ruing, A Court of Frost and Starlight. I’m just linking the first one and you can find the rest from there 🙂 (if you’re going to read these stay off the internet haha sooo many spoilers, but it was still good even with spoilers)
A couple issues of Buffy the Vampire Slayer the comic Season 8
This is more books than I’ve read in the last two years! I used to love reading as a kid I devoured books, but lately reading didn’t hold much interest for me, which made me sad. I’m so happy to have my love of books back!
What’s my secret to knitting and reading? Ebooks! I read ebooks on my tablet propped up on a stand so it’s hands free, I just need to lift a hand every now and then to flip the page.
I was getting so bored and running out of things to watch, but I’ve re-discovered an old favourite and started some new shows with Matt.
Gilmore Girls – I started a re-watch of the series and it’s so nice to remember how much I love it. The early seasons are so fun! I’m halfway through season 3 now.
My Hero Academia – Matt and I were in need of a new show so he put this on the other night, he’s seen it before, and I was surprised by how much I got into it.
Marvel movies – we’ve been watching a lot of Marvel and other superhero movies lately. It’s a phase!
Wandavision – and of course with all the Marvel we’ve been watching we had to start this new Disney+ original
Hello! It is the beginning of a new year and maybe you set some goals for the year ahead like knitting your first sweater! As much of the world is in a lockdown thanks to COVID-19 this is a perfect time to learn how to knit and knit your first sweater.
Knitting a sweater for the first time was my new year’s resolution for 2018. I had intended to knit Flax by TinCanKnits as my first sweater, in fact I even finished the body, but my gauge was way off (we’ll talk about how to avoid this later on) so it was way too big – I rippled it out and made the Harvest cardigan with the yarn instead, but that’s a story for another day…
My first complete sweater ended up being the Julia sweater which I got as a kit from Wool and the Gang. It’s made out of their Billie Jean yarn which is upcycled denim. I absolutely love this yarn…too bad I’m not the biggest fan of the sweater.
From my experience above you may think you’re also going to hate your first knit sweater. But that’s not true! And the tips for knitting your first sweater that I’m going to give you below will help you avoid my mistakes!
Choosing the right size for your first knit sweater
Most knitting patterns use bust size as the main measurement for determining which size you should make. Choose the size that matches, or is the closest, to the measurement of your full bust. The widest part of your chest.
What is positive or negative ease?
In many sweater knitting patterns you will see the terms positive or negative ease. Ease is the difference between your measurements and the final measurements of the garment. So this will make the garment looser or tighter fitting.
Positive ease refers to a garment that is looser fitting around your body and allows for movement. A good example of a sweater with positive ease is Andrea Mowry’s Weekender, which has 10” of positive ease.
Here’s a picture of me wearing the Weekender I knit for my mom. I have a 38” bust measurement and the finished measurement of this sweater is 48” giving me the full 10” of ease.
Negative ease is a garment that is tighter and will fit snuggly to your body as the measurement of the finished knit sweater is smaller than your actual measurements.
Here’s me in the My Little Secret Crop with a negative ease of 5”. As you can see it is tight fitting.
Most patterns will indicate if the knit sweater has positive or negative ease built into the final measurements, or if you should choose a size that is a certain number of inches smaller or larger than your bust measurement.
For example, wording similar to this means you do not need to choose a larger size to get the intended ease, the ease is written into the pattern already: This sweater is intended to be worn with 5 inches of positive ease, this is included in the design, please choose the size that correlates best to your bust size.
In this case, if you have a 42” bust you will knit the size that is closest to 42”.
While wording like this means you need to pick a size that will give you the intended ease: This sweater is intended to be worn with 5” of positive ease, to achieve the intended ease choose a size that is 5” larger than your actual bust size.
In this case, if you have a 42” bust you will knit the size that is closest to 42” plus the 5” of ease, so the size with a bust closest to 47”.
Gauge and swatching
Gauge is how many stitches and rows of knitting fit within certain measurements, usually measured over 4”. The pattern for your first knit sweater should include the gauge and the stitch pattern to measure your gauge in (if it doesn’t include this info do not knit this sweater, especially as your first knit sweater! This information is critical!)
Gauge can change depending on many factors, some yarn doesn’t puff up, or bloom, as much as others, certain fibers can knit up tighter or looser. And naturally knitters can have a tighter or a looser gauge as well.
How does gauge affect fit?
Gauge is incredibly important for sweater knitting because it’s how you ensure your finished garment will fit!
If your gauge is tighter than the designer’s gauge, that means that your stitches are smaller, so it takes you more stitches to knit 4”. If you try to knit the sweater at that gauge with the designers instructions, it will come out way too small!!
The opposite is true if your gauge is too big, your knit sweater will come out too big as well as it takes you less stitches than the designer to knit 4”. This is what happened to me when I knit my first Flax sweater that I had to rip out. My sweater came out several sizes too big because my gauge was off.
My gauge was only off by a couple stitches, but this shows just how important it is! Just a couple stitches off produced a garment that was a completely different size than intended, so you need to make sure you’re meeting the pattern’s gauge.
How to measure gauge
To measure your gauge you will need to knit a swatch using the yarn you are going to use to knit your sweater. Here’s a photo of a swatch I recently knit for a sweater, it has a purl line in the middle because I swatched with two different needle sizes so that border divides the different gauges.
A swatch is a square of fabric knit in the stitch you need to measure your gauge in, if you need to measure gauge for stockinette stitch then you will knit your swatch in stockinette. You should cast on more stitches than you need for 4” and knit more rows than needed so your square is larger than 4” by 4” as you’ll want to measure in the middle, not near the edges where your stitches can be tighter or looser.
You should knit your swatch in the method that you will knit your sweater. If your sweater is knit in the round you should knit your swatch in the round, if it’s knit flat you should knit your swatch flat.
Block your swatch
Blocking is when you wet your knitting and then lay it out flat to dry in the shape you want it to be in. Being wet, and then drying, can cause the yarn to stretch out more, so that’s why it’s important to block your swatch. Seeing as you’re going to wash your sweater at some point it’s going to get wet, and when it does that can change the size of the stitches.
So it’s important to know what your gauge is after your knitting has been blocked.
To block your swatch leave it soaking in warm water for about ten minutes, squeeze out as much water as you can (don’t wring) and lay it out flat, tug gently to shape it, but don’t pull too hard and stretch it out unnaturally.
Measure your gauge from the swatch
Once your swatch is blocked and dry it’s time to measure your gauge. I always start with rows personally!
Lay your measuring tape down at the top of a stitch and count the number of stitches that fit in 4”. That’s how many rows you knit to reach 4” in length.
Then lay your measure tape across your swatch starting from the left side of a stitch and count the number of stitches across to 4”. That’s how many stitches it takes to reach 4” across.
What if your gauge is wrong?
Firstly, if your gauge is wrong take a deep breath!! There is nothing wrong with you, or with the designer for that matter. Everyone knits differently and there are a handful of designers out there who knit tighter or looser than me, when I knit one of their patterns I just know that I won’t get gauge with the needles they recommend! And that’s OKAY.
What to do if your gauge is too small
If you are getting more stitches or rows in 4” than the pattern states than your stitches are tighter. To remedy this go up a needle size (or two if you’re really small) and swatch again to get looser, bigger stitches.
What to do if your gauge is too big
If you are getting less stitches or rows in 4” than the patterns states than your stitches are looser. To remedy this go down a needle size (or two if you’re really loose) and swatch again to get tighter, smaller stitches.
What to do when the stitch gauge matches, but the rows are off (or vice versa)
You may find that you are able to meet the stitch gauge but not the row gauge, and then when you swap needle sizes the row gauge matches, but now you’ve lost the stitch gauge. When this happens, prioritize meeting the stitch gauge.
As stitch gauge is what determines the width of the garment it is what’s most important for fit. The length can almost always be altered easily by knitting more or less rows and most patterns give the length directions in measurements rather than the number of rows. So it will say something like “knit until sweater body is 15” from the cast on edge” so you won’t even need to worry about knitting a set amount of rows.
All this swatching can be really annoying. I won’t lie to you it’s my least favourite part about sweater knitting, and every time I debate not swatching. But it is so so so important for knitting sweaters and other garments.
Top-down vs. Bottom-up
If you are knitting your first sweater with a design that is knit in the round then you will be either knitting from the top-down, meaning you start with the collar and work down to the bottom edge. Or the button-up meaning you start from the bottom edge and work your way up to the collar.
Flax by Tin Can Knits is knit from the top-down and is a raglan style sweater.
The weekender is knit from the bottom up with a drop shoulder for the sleeves.
Both a perfectly fine options for your first sweater, but many knitters prefer top-down for sweater knitting as you can try the sweater on as you go to test the fit and see the length.
Knit in the round vs. flat
You can knit a sweater in the round using circular needles, Flax is knit in the round so it has no seams along the sides; it’s all one piece.
Or you can knit a sweater flat in pieces and then seam the pieces together. The Julia sweater that I made is knit flat and seamed, as is this super bulky cozy sweater.
Skills to know
Basic stitches for knitting your first sweater
To knit your first sweater you’ll need to know how to knit and purl. These are the two foundational knit stitches needed for any project.
In addition to knitting and purling you may need to know techniques like cables and lace knitting depending on the sweater pattern you choose. The simplest stitch for your first sweater is going to be one that is knit primarily in stockinette stitch.
Increases/decreases for sweater knitting
If your sweater is knit in the round from the top down then you will need to increase to make the body wider from the neck out over the shoulders. If the sweater is knit in the round from the bottom up then you will need to decrease to shape the neckline.
And regardless if the sweater is top down or bottom up you will likely need to decrease as you knit the sleeves so that the sleeve tapers from your upper arm to your wrist to fit your arm correctly.
Common increases and decreases
There are a few common increase/decrease methods that are used in knit sweater patterns. Increases create new stitches to increase the overall stitch count, making the sweater wider. While decreases take stitches out to decrease the overall stitch count, making the sweater narrower.
When I was knitting my first sweater I found online tutorials really helpful so I have linked a few below!
Make 1 left/Make 1 right
This increase involves picking up the strand between two stitches and making a new stitch. There are two variations, one is left leaning and one is right leaning. This sounds complicated, especially if you’re a beginner knitting. But it is pretty straightforward!
The hardest part for me is remembering the steps for each one. Here is how I remember
Make 1 right: R for rear and for regular. Pick up from the rear (the back) and knit the stitch regular (through the front).
I don’t have a trick for make 1 left, just that it’s the opposite no r, so pick up from the front and knit through the back.
Knit front and back
This increase is essentially creating two stitches out of one! Once you knit a stitch as normal sticking your needle through the front, you’ll put your needle back into the same stitch, through the back loop and knit it again.
Just like the knit two together, slip-slip-knit makes one stitch from two. Instead of just knitting two stitches together though, you slip the next two stitches onto your right hand needle and then knitting them through the back loop.
The difference between the ssk and the k2tog is the way that the decreased stitch leans. A knit front and back leans right, while an ssk leans left. The way the decrease leans affects the shape of the garment so most knit sweater patterns will use both!
For example when decreasing on the sleeves you will knit front and back for your first decrease and slip-slip-knit for the second one. This causes the decreases to lean into each other giving the sleeve a nice shape.
In this photo the left leaning knit two together is boxed in red and the right leaning ssk is in yellow.
Seaming your first sweater
If you’re knitting a sweater flat in pieces you will need to seam all of those pieces together at the end to make a sweater. Most knitters prefer to knit in the round over seaming as seaming can be…well annoying and time consuming. I personally find it a little fiddly!
But there are advantages to seaming, it gives a knit sweater more structure than a sweater that is knit in the round with no seams.
When I knit my Julia sweater it was the first time I had seamed and it came out really wonky!
The mistake that I made was pulling too tight. When you are seaming make sure your seam isn’t too tight or too loose.
I cannot believe that November is over and it’s already time for another monthly round-up! The monthly round-up post is my opportunity to share with you what I’m knitting, my works in progress, my knit finished objects, knitting patterns I’m working on and MORE.
In this edition: my woeful neglected WIPs, a FREE hat pattern and my new crafting obsession…let’s dive in!
Current Knitting Projects
For Fox Sake Sweater
I wrote about this knit colourwork sweater in my October Round-up, and I had about 20 rows left in the yoke. Now I have maybe 5-7 rows left. I haven’t worked on it for the past few weeks, but I am done the foxes!
This is going to be my last sweater of 2020, if I finish it this year at all and it’s looking very possible that I won’t. But once I get through the yoke and the sleeve separation my pace should pick up quite a bit.
Vampire Vibes Socks
For a second I thought For Fox Sake was my only WIP, but I am also working on a pair of knit socks. These were my Halloween Cast-on if such a thing exists. I’m using KnitPicks Felici in the colour Vampire Vibes.
In my last post I wrote about my experience with my first afterthought heel and I’m going to do another afterthought heel on this pair.
I haven’t knit much on them, I’m mostly pulling out this project for knitting during movie night.
Coziest Memory Blanket
I mean…this a a forever WIP and I promise I won’t include it in every monthly round-up, but I do want to chat a bit about my scrappy mitered square blanket. I started this blanket in August of 2019 and in August of this year I realized that I was barely 10% through.
A few weeks back I set a goal of doing 2 at least squares every Sunday and I’ve been pretty good so far at keeping that up. If I manage to stick to this goal all the way through the end of December I’ll be 20% done when 2020 ends!
Finished Objects AKA Mini-FO Spotlight
Bear Lak Cowl
The honour of being the only Knits of Steele FO for November 2020 goes to the Bear Lake Cowl (Ravelry link) by Kacey Herlihy. This was a test knit, when I saw Kacey post the testing call I fell in love with this pretty cowl. And it came at the perfect time in my cowl/DK obession!
I used KnitPicks Capra for this project. It was my first time using this yarn and definitely not the last. It is so cozy and warm, the squish factor is unreal.
New (FREE) Knits of Steele Design
I released a new free knitting pattern a couple weeks ago! Hazelnut Latte is a simple knit hat is a perfect wardrobe staple for Fall or Winter. I wrote about it on the blog when it was released, you can check that out here.
And you can download your free copy of Hazelnut Latte from my Ravelry store!
Part of the reason that my WIPs have been so neglected in November is that I’ve been really enjoying some other hobbies outside of knitting this month.
I did A LOT of knitting in the first three quarters of 2020 and I’m not losing my mojo by any means, but I have taken some time to think about slowing down in the amount of projects I’m knitting. Running out of space in my closet…
Near the end of October I thought that I might enjoy Cross Stitch so I purchased some beginner friendly kits and my journey began. And I love it! Look out knitting…just kidding, knitting will always be my love/obsession but it’s nice to have some variation in crafts.
I haven’t posted much about my cross stitching other than an Instagram story here and there when I’m popping in to give updates. I don’t intend for this to become a cross stitch blog LOL. But I do think I will write a post in the near future about getting started with cross stitch, what my experience was like and some tips for beginners, from a beginner.
I’m approaching my cross stitch journey way differently than my journey with knitting and I don’t think cross stitch will ever reach the same level for me as knitting has what with this blog and my Instagram account.
And that’s exactly how I want it! Posting about my knitting hasn’t taken away my love for it, but it has made that love different and I view cross stitch as a bit of an escape from that.
Like many people I got really into Animal Crossing new Horizons during lockdown when it came out earlier this year. But over the past couple months my enthusiasm for the game was waning. And while I didn’t feel like I wanted to play, I was sad about that because it’s such a cute game and I was having a lot of fun.
In November I’m happy to say that my Animal Crossing motivation was back and I’ve had a lot of fun improving my island (hello five stars!) and making plans for cute little areas I want to create in the future.
If you’re not familiar with Pikman it involves cute little creatures called, well Pikman! I had one of these games for my Nintendo DS and Matt surprised me with the new one for the Switch.
I just started so I’m not very far along, but this game is also going to be keeping me entertained when I’m not knitting!
This game is the reason I have played on the new Playstation more than Matt has! It’s so cute.
One of the reasons I am loving this game is the world is so whimsical and cute it’s nice to escape reality for a bit. And it’s like Pokemon, but sometimes I find Pokemon overwhelming, in Bugsnax it seems really do-able to actually catch all the critters.
This blog is already loooong enough so I’m going to try and keep the knitflix section short! Here are the shows, movies, podcasts I’ve been enjoying while I work on my knitting projects.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
If you have been following me on Instagram than you know that Buffy is my favourite show. At the beginning of lockdown I started a re-watch and it has taken me until now to finish it.
This was my first time watching the series beginning to end since I first watched it back in 2015. When Buffy aired I was too young for it and although I caught some of the later episodes on cable when I was older I didn’t really follow the series.
Now that I’m finished the series I’m going on to read the comics which pick up where the show left off! And if I can get my hands on it, I’ll re-watch Angel which is a spinoff show.
Matt and I love adult animation and after watching Archer a dozen times and finishing Rick & Morty we needed something new. With the 4th season of Big Mouth coming this week we figured it was a great time to get into this show.
This show is SUUUUUPER for adults only – very R rated and if a lot of sexual content is going to make you uncomfy I would avoid it. That being said it is hilarious and has had us laughing out loud and cringing all at the same time.
Wine and Crime Podcast
I used to be really into the podcast Wine & Crime (this is another one with graphic content for adults only), but with so many podcasts to keep up with, and not having a commute in 2020 I’ve fallen behind on episodes. Near the end of November I started listening again and now I’m working towards getting all caught up.
I really love the format of this podcast compared to other true crime shows, it’s broken down into segments with each host tackling the background of their topic or a case. And they have a wine pairing for every show!
That’s a wrap on November 2020! I’m not sure how this post got so long when I feel like I’ve hardly done any knitting…I hope you enjoyed it. Please share with me in the comments what you’ve been up to this month.
What’s coming up in December….I mean who knows, but I think I can say that the December Round-up will include a few words about chunky knits, a new cross stitch project or two, some Christmas knitflixes and maybe even an FO!
OH and my Christmas Eve cast-on because I already have that planned! Maybe I’ll even share some of my favourite cookie recipes here on the blog.
Warning, please read: Some of the links in this post are to Ravelry. If you have experienced negative effects from their new webdesign or you are at risk of negative effects from the new webdesign, please exercise caution following these links.
I had this pattern in my queue for a long time when I saw that Purl Together was hosting a Campside Cardi Knit-a-long! I had some Cotlin DK from KnitPicks left in my stash from my Daybreak tee, but I was a bit short on yardage.
I decided that I would go ahead and make the Campside Cardi out of this yarn and figured I’d just do short sleeves. But as it turns out I didn’t have to because I managed a full length sleeve and I still have about 300 yds left.
I’m not sure how that magic happened, but I’m happy that I was able to complete the full cardigan. A short sleeve version would have been nice, but the long sleeves make this a great layering piece for chilly summer nights.
This pomegranate colour is a bit out of character for me, I don’t really gravitate towards red. I was gifted a sweater’s quantity of this yarn from a friend who was de-stashing. And I’ve managed to get two garments out of it!
I’m not sure what I’ll do with the remaining yardage, maybe it’s enough for a My Little Secret Crop (that would be my third one!).
The Campside Cardi is part of a whole pattern line by Alicia Plummer. Each of the patterns includes this stunning eyelet lace pattern.
Sometimes I struggle with lace, but I found this project was a joy to knit and I love how the different lace sections come together to form the finished piece.
I tried out a new bind off technique for this project. The pattern recommends using a stretchy bind off, I wanted to make sure my collar and bottom edge weren’t scrunching up so I looked up the instructions for a stretchy bind off.
I ended up following this tutorial from Very Pink. It was so simple and I’ll definitely use this technique again when I need a stretchy bind off, especially for 2×2 ribbing.
I even used this bind off on the sleeves, I would typically do a tubular bind off on my sleeves, but I didn’t feel like doing the set up for 2×2 ribbing. I do feel that on the sleeves it’s a bit too loose and they flare out a bit. If I were to make this again I would do a regular bind off on the sleeves.
The Campside Cardi is a raglan construction, and I think I’m beginning to learn that I don’t love a raglan construction for a cardigan…this is my second raglan cardigan, I knit Harvest by Tin Can Knits about a year ago. I always had issues with my Harvest slipping down off of my shoulders and I just figured it was because it was heavy cotton and also it’s a bit too big. But I’m finding the Campside Cardi does the same, especially if I wear a tank top underneath.
But at least the slipping is not so bad with a t-shirt because of the friction, it’s actually much much better with a t-shirt. It’s a bit of a shame because I like to layer with tank tops, but that’s okay. I still love this sweater.
Cardigans are one of my favourite wardrobe pieces, they’re so cost and versatile. And I’m definitely putting a cardigan with set-in sleeves on my queue! Any suggestions?