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From Yarn to Sweater: Uncomplicating the Art of Knitting with an Easy Framework

The Slow Fashion, DIY, and Maker Movement of the past several years have reintroduced craft hobbies as stress relievers, sources of enjoyment, and personal expression. Knitting is one of the hobbies that has surged in the last few years.

Getting dressed is something almost all of us do every day. Knitting garments can benefit both the mind and the body.

A Revolution Can Start With A Stitch – A Knit Stitch

As discussed in the recent NY Times Opinion Essay, “Your Clothes Were Never Meant to Fit You,” by Writer and Textile Artist Elizabeth Endicott, as much as the fashion industry talks about “Body Positivity” and “Size Inclusivity,” the fashion industry still has limited size offerings.

But one doesn’t have to stand by and take it. As Elizabeth brings up, Why judge yourself and your body when you can buck the system and make it yourself?

I’m not saying it is the answer to all your clothing needs, but what a confidence builder to say, hey, I made this.

In the article, Elizabeth declares, ” A revolution can start with a stitch”….so my question is…. how about starting a revolution of one with some yarn and some knitting needles? 

Think of the confidence gained from knitting a sweater for yourself. What better way to build confidence than to learn to make something you can wear, look good, and feel great in?

I have been practicing knitting on & off for decades. If I had to start all over again as a beginner, who wanted to knit sweaters, this is the simple and deliberate framework I wish I had followed:

3 young women knitting together at a table

Step 1: Take an in-person or online knitting fundamentals class or Boot Camp that provides instructor feedback.

I am a self-taught knitter who learned to knit over twenty years ago. In the early months of the Global Pandemic, I took an online Knitting Boot Camp offered by TKGA Master Hand Knitter Susanne Bryann. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.

The Boot Camp students ranged from complete beginners to knitters with over 40 years of experience. Everyone came out of the Boot Camp a better knitter because of the fundamentals taught in the class, the instructor’s feedback, and the vital skill of reading your knitting. Reading your knitting is a critical skill helpful in all future projects so you can identify and then correct your mistakes.  

Suzanne’s Boot Camps (1-3) will take you from casting on to knitting a teddy bear cardigan. Get on her waiting list because her boot camps fill up quickly, and she only offers them a few times a year.

Step 2: Find your preferred learning format – Books, Videos, In-person classes, etc.

young woman streaming her knitting instruction

Everyone has a preferred way of learning. Some of us are visual; others are auditory or kinesthetic learners. Some of us know our style, and some need help discovering it.

Don’t waste time struggling to absorb new information and skills. If you need help discovering your style, One online assessment to help with this is the VARK Questionnaire.   

Once you know your learning style, here are some methods to experiment with:

Visual

  • Watch Videos – on YouTube, Online workshops, Social Media Reels, etc.
  • Find Books with lots of Charts, Diagrams, & Photos.
  • Visit your Local Yarn Shop and have someone there demonstrate the techniques you are learning.

Auditory

  • Read the directions aloud, discuss them with others, or record them to play back when needed.
  • Take a recorded live class with Q&A sessions so you can ask questions.

Kinesthetic

  • Take a project-based in-person class at your Local Yarn Shop.
  • Practice techniques and steps on yarn scraps before attempting them on the final garment.

As you can see, many options are available today; USE them,….but USE THE RIGHT ONES.

close up of hands knitting a sweater

Step 3: Pick a project you absolutely want to make, not necessarily one experts say is for beginners.

If you Google good starter projects for new knitters, you typically get a list of items and accessories like scarves, mittens, fingerless gloves, cowls, and dishcloths.

What if your reason for learning to knit is to knit garments like sweaters?

All knitted items are just a combination of knit and purl stitches. Yes, there are infinite combinations of these two stitches, but they all are based on two simple stitches, “knit stitches” and “purl stitches.” For your first project, accessories are an excellent starter project to practice knitting and purling and getting even tension in your fabric. BUT –  Who says you need to stop there? ….You don’t have to continue with accessories if your goal is knitting sweaters.

If knitting your perfect sweater is your goal, search for basic patterns on the popular knitting platform Ravelry. Knitting Magazines, Yarn Companies, and Craft Sites also have free and paid patterns.

Have fun searching for a basic style you like. You’re more likely to work through the challenging parts of a knitting pattern if it is something you genuinely want to wear.

Once you select a pattern Lean On the knitting community for HELP when you find a section of the pattern you need help with.

One sweater knitting resource I highly recommend is the book Cardigans for Every Body – Because Every Body Is Worthy by Designer, Tech Editor, Author, and Coach Tian Connaughton.

Tian’s book guides you through swatching, ease and fit, understanding schematics, and how to use math to make calculations to modify existing patterns. The book is geared toward beginner knitters. The book also provides a small selection of designs. Periodically she offers Master Classes to dive deep into concepts from the book.

photo of book cover Cardigans for Every Body

Small progressive steps and deliberate practice can make all the difference in learning to knit sweaters as a beginner knitter. Use the above framework to begin your sweater knitting journey. And yes, one day, when someone says…where did you get your sweater…you can say I Made It, and you can too!

Start Your Knitting Revolution – One Stitch At A Time

Aimee Hazuda is the Designer behind The Shapely Knitter. Her Motto is “Knit Your Way Around Those Curves.” She is on a mission to design sweaters and other garments for the Full-Busted Knitter.


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