A hand-knit sweater from mom or auntie is more than something to wear. It can become a keepsake all bundled up with memories of special times and places. I’d always known that, but hadn’t really considered it until my 21 year old daughter invited me to come see her new apartment a few weeks ago. Sitting there in the middle of her bed is her favorite teddy bear – wearing a sweater I knit for her nearly twenty years ago out of the tail ends of yarn left over from finished knitting projects. The reason she loves it so much? No one else in the world has one like it.
All you’ll need is:
2 3.5-4 oz skeins of worsted weight yarn
1 set size 8 circular knitting needles
A tape measure
A little girl
Step 1: Measurements & Gauge
When you’re knitting without a pattern, you’ll have to figure out how many stitches to work with on your own. To do that, you need to know two things: the measurements for the sweater, and the gauge of your knitting.
First: Calculate your knitting gauge.
The average gauge for worsted weight yarn on size 8 needles is around 3.5 stitches per inch, but it varies depending on the tension of your knitting. To be sure, calculate your gauge. Cast on 20 stitches. Knit four inches and bind off. Pin the swatch out square on a padded surface. Measure 2 inches in the center of the swatch and count the number of stitches across. Do the same lengthwise and count the number of rows. Make a note of the number of stitches and rows to the inch.
Use the chart below to record measurements as you take them.
Chest at underarm
Length from hip to underarm
Length from back of neck to hip
Length from underarm to wrist
Length from underarm to shoulder
Third: Get ready to knit.
You’ll be knitting the body of the sweater in one piece from waist to underarm. To calculate the number of stitches to cast on, add 2 inches to the chest measurement, and multiply by your stitches per inch. For example, if the chest measurement is 21 inches and your knitting gauge is 3.5 stitches per inch, you’ll need to cast on 81 ((21 + 2) x 3.5) stitches. Since you’ll be using a k2, p1 ribbing, adjust to make sure that the stitches are divisible by 3.
Fourth: Knit the body of your sweater.
Cast on the required number of stitches. Join, being careful not to twist stitches. Use a loop of yarn in a contrasting color to mark the start of each row so that you can keep count. Knit in knit 2, purl 1 ribbing for two inches.
Continue working even (no increases or decreases) in stockinette stitch until your tube is the length of your measurement from hip to underarm. Remember, since you’re knitting in the round, stockinette stitch is knit every row.
Fifth: Divide for front and back.
From here, you’ll be working on the front and back separately. Divide the number of total stitches in half and subtract 6 to determine the number of stitches in the front.
Sixth: Work the front of the sweater to collar.
Cast off three stitches at the beginning of the next row, then knit the front stitches. Leaving the rest of the stitches on the needle, turn and purl back to the beginning of row. Continue to work in stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row now, since you’re working back and forth).
Use the following method to decrease one stitch at each edge for every inch worked:
K2, slip one stitch, k1, pass slipped stitch over knit stitch. Knit to last 4 stitches. Slip second stitch on left-hand needle over first stitch, knit 3.
Continue in stockinette stitch, decreasing one stitch at each edge as established till length from division is the length of underarm to shoulder. Bind off remaining stitches for front.
Seventh: Work the back of the sweater.
The back of the sweater is worked the exact same way as the front. The body of the sweater is done.
Eighth: Knit the sleeves.
You’ll be working the sleeves in back and forth knitting, using the circular knitting needle because of their flexibility.
Turn the sweater inside out.
First row: Starting at the center of one underarm, pick up and knit one stitch at the edge of each row of the front until you reach the bound off stitches. Slip a marker onto the needle. Cast on 10 stitches, slip another marker onto the needle, then continue to pick up one stitch at the edge of each row of the front until you reach the center of the underarm.
Next row: Knit on established stitches.
Next row: Purl on established stitches.
Increase row: Knit to stitch before marker. Knit two stitches into next stitch. Knit to marker. Knit two stitches into next stitch. Knit to end.
Continue as established, increasing one stitch at each marker every fourth row till sleeve length from underarm is the same as the length of the front from underarm to the collar.
Decreasing the Sleeve: Continue in stockinette stitch, decreasing one stitch at each edge of the sleeve every fourth row using the following method:
Decrease row: Knit two. Slip the second stitch on left needle over first, knit the first stitch. Knit to four stitches from the edge. Slip the second stitch on the left needle over the first stitch. Knit to end.
When sleeve length reaches the ribbing on the sweater front, switch to knit 2, purl 1 ribbing for two inches. Bind off in ribbing.
Work the second sleeve the same way.
Ninth: Knit the collar.
Pick up and knit one stitch in each stitch around the collar. Work in rounds of knit 2 purl 1 ribbing for two inches. Bind off.
Tenth: Finishing touches.
Weave in all loose ends. Pin the sweater out on a padded surface and spray with water till damp. Allow to dry. This will block the sweater into the proper shape. That’s it! Slip the sweater onto your little girl and prepare for compliments.