KNIT HACK Sweater Lab Prep



Sweater Lab TONIGHT

Our inaugural Sweater Lab ( in collaboration with Your Fiber Intake) starts TONIGHT! Since it’s a bit of an experiment for us, we don’t know what the result will be, but I think everyone will have fun, so it should be a success. For those of you who have already made a sweater, you don’t really need any prep, but for the uninitiated, I’d like to offer a bit of guidance. For more info on Sweater Lab, follow this MAGIC LINK (or click on the picture or any of the other links).

So You’ve Never Made a Sweater Before ….

DON’T PANIC … You don’t need to be afraid. It’s just a garment, and the pattern tells you how to do it, step by step. When you don’t know what a term or abbreviation means you can look it up on the internet. If you are old skool, you can look it up in a book, like The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt, The Knitter’s Companion by Vicky Square, or The Ultimate Knitting Book by Vogue Knitting.

Choose a Pattern

You need a pattern. I suggest going for something basic, something vetted, and something worked in the round.

BASIC … seems obvious, and yet many people make their lives difficult by taking on something more involved. Why do they do this, they get caught up in the *idea* of the finished product; they want it to be perfect and ideal for their taste. Let go of that, it’s your first sweater, not your last. It doesn’t need to be ideal, it just needs to be a sweater. Moreover, I have found that people are less likely to complete their projects when they contain a lot of barriers. Newbies with simpler projects tend to learn faster, have more success with their project and ENJOY THE PROCESS.

VETTED … this means a pattern that is written by a professional designer and has already been made by many people. For the following example, I’ll use FLAX by Tin Can Knits.  You can find the latter on Ravelry; go to a pattern, and click on the PROJECTS tab at the top of the page. It will show you all the projects people have made with the pattern. If you go to the drop-down menu that ways FILTER THESE PROJECTS you can refine your search to ALL HELPFUL PROJECTS. The little life preserver at the top right of each project indicates the number of people who found this project helpful. Presently, it is not possible to sort the projects by ‘Most Helpful’, so you have to troll through the projects to find one that is useful.

IN THE ROUND … I primarily prefer sweaters worked in the round (top-down) for newbies because they usually have minimal finishing, especially seaming. For newbies, seaming tends to be a barrier to actually finishing a project, and a bad seaming job decreases satisfaction with the project. Now, I’m not saying *never* make a seamed sweater, quite the opposite, there’s nothing sexier than old-fashioned set-in sleeves. You do not need to be afraid of or avoid seaming, but on your first sweater making a project in one piece tends to end with more Joy and less frustration. This goes back to our first principle, go for Basic andENJOY THE PROCESS.

TENSION … choose a pattern that is worked with a yarn that is a worsted to chunky weight (between 20 to 14 stitches over 4 inches/10cm). Going thinner or thicker seems to make life difficult, and decreases the success of the project.

Suggested Patterns

The following are all basic garments, are written by professionals, have clear instructions, and are worked in the round, from the top-down.


Choose a Yarn

A few considerations on choosing the yarn for your first sweater …

TENSION … make sure your yarn matches the stitch tension in your pattern or is close (within one stitch over 4″/10cm).

DURABILITY … you may be ripping back your work a few times, DO choose a yarn that has some durability and won’t get mucky with a lot of handling. Single ply yarns do not tend to wear well, no matter the price-point, they end up looking mungy very quickly. Multi-ply yarns tend to fare better. Super scratchy wool yarns tend to be very durable, super soft yarns tend to start pilling WHILE you are knitting. My best advice is to find something in-between. By the way, durability is also beneficial once you’re finished and will add to the longevity of the garment.

FIBRE …DO choose a fibre you enjoy, but DO NOT choose a fibre that is hard to work with. A 100% wool like Cascade 220 Superwash or Cascade Eco are ideal; they work up easily, wear well, and are cost effective. Wool blends are also suitable, like Berroco Vintage or Berroco Vintage Chunky; both knit well, wear well, and are machine washable, and people are rarely allergic to it. If you need a cooler yarn, try a cotton/synthetic blend like Cascade Avalon.  Fibres that are unpredictable or hard to work with include alpaca (and other camelids), linen, pure cotton, mohair, viscose (and other cellulose plant-based fibres like bamboo), and 100% synthetic yarns.

COLOUR … choose whatever colour makes you happy (solid, heathered, tweed, variegated, self-striping), but don’t choose something that is very dark. Dark colours will make it hard to see what you are doing, and this could prove to be a very bad thing on a project where you don’t really know what to expect.

PRICE … this is a touchy subject, especially since I’m the one selling the yarn and you are the one who has to actually shell out your hard earned cash. You don’t need to lay out a ton of money for a good yarn, but when it comes to cheap yarns, you get what you pay for. Actually, you often get less than what you paid for. The retail garment industry has decreased our awareness of (and exposure to) good textiles, and as a consequence, many people aren’t familiar with quality textiles or their market prices. Quality textiles are more expensive than you expect, you’re might experience a little bit of sticker shock. From my perspective, I’ve found that people who use a decent yarn enjoy their project more, it is more successful, they actually finish it, they like and use the finished product, and they enjoy the process.

Suggested Yarns


I think that’s about all I can handle writing (and you can read) right now, but I promise to follow this post up with a very exciting discussion on SWATCHING! (No, seriously, it’s REALLY important. You need to swatch, and you need to swatch properly).

One thought on “KNIT HACK Sweater Lab Prep

  1. Pingback: Knitting Lab Notes #1a: Yarn, Swatching, Pattern – Your fiber intake

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