If you’re ready to tackle your first sweater but feel a bit daunted by the prospect, then don’t worry – we’ve got some handy tips and advice to help you get started. 

First of all, if you’re feeling nervous about tackling a big adult sweater then make a child’s size first or a baby garment. Even if there isn’t a child in your life you can always give the finished item away to a charity. Working on a small scale means you get to grips quickly with garment construction.

When it comes to choosing a pattern for your first sweater, it’s a good idea to stick to something simple. But how can you tell if a pattern is simple? Well, you should look for something that uses basic or easy-to-master stitches. For example, garter stitch, stocking stitch, ribbing or moss stitch. It’s also a good idea to stick to a sweater made in either a single colour or one that uses a straightforward colour pattern, such as stripes or blocks of different colour. Wait until you’re a bit more experienced before you tackle Fair Isle or intarsia! Look for a pattern with a simple neckline – a crew or slit neck will be easier to tackle than a V-neck or collar – and one that doesn’t have any fastenings, such as buttons or zippers. Consider a sweater with short sleeves; there will be less shaping to do.

Once you’ve lined up a possible pattern, you should take some measurements. Look at the measurements included in the pattern (such as bust and sleeve length) and measure these on yourself – you might find it easier to do this if you have a friend’s help. Another thing you can do is to measure a favourite sweater, especially if you like the fit. Once you have your measurements you’ll know which size you are working with on the pattern and how much yarn you should buy.

If this is your first sweater, then it’s advisable to start by using the yarn that is recommended for your chosen pattern. If you use a different yarn then it makes things a bit more complicated. Why not consider using a kit – you’ll have all the yarn you need plus the pattern?

Before you begin to knit, the most important thing to do is to knit a tension square – see Knit & Stitch Creative Issue 1 for how to do this. If your tension doesn’t match the tension given in the pattern you should change your needle size and knit another square. Keep making tension squares until you get it right – if you don’t then chances are your sweater won’t fit as well as you want it to.

Read through the pattern before you get started. See if there are any skills required or stitches used that you are unfamiliar with and then research these. If you think they are too tricky for you at this stage, then try a different pattern. Chances are that you will need to shape some of the pieces of your sweater using increases and decreases, so make sure you understand the techniques used in your pattern – see Knit & Stitch Creative Issue 3. And make sure you understand the abbreviations used.

Once you get started, it’s important not to rush things. Concentrate on the pattern and use a row counter and stitch markers to help you keep a track of where you are. You can also use a pencil to tick off the rows in your pattern as you work through it. And don’t worry if you make a mistake – if you drop any stitches there are ways of picking them up (see Knit & Stitch Creative Issue 11) and you can sometimes unravel your knitting to fix things.

When you’ve successfully knitted all the parts of your sweater you don’t want to spoil things with a bad finish, so follow the instructions on how to make up the sweater. Don’t omit the blocking and sew up the seams neatly. If you’ve never sewn together pieces of knitting before then you might like to practise seaming techniques. Knit up some squares (preferably in the project yarn) and sew these together – go to Knit & Stitch Creative Issue 6 for a guide to basic seams.

And if you get stuck then why not ask a more experienced knitting friend to help out? If you don’t know any other knitters then why not join a knitting group? You’ll probably enjoy it and you’ll meet lots of likeminded people.