As someone who knits mostly garments, I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. I’m the sort of person that learns best from experience, and although it can be occasionally frustrating, I’ve picked up some valuable tips by making a few mistakes first. Learn from my disasters and avoid your own!
1. Always knit a swatch, block it, and check your tension. The first sweater I ever made was a small disaster. I had read about starting a sleeve instead of a swatch to check tension, so I went ahead knitted half of my sleeve instead of my swatch because I was anxious to get started. Since it was still on my needles, I didn’t wash and block my sleeve before I measured my tension, and I just tugged on it to get it to lay flat so I could measure. Big mistake! That wasn’t even close to an accurate way to check my tension, and my sweater ended up two sizes too small.
2. Always check the schematic measurements. When I knitted that first sweater I picked my size based on the size I would have bought in a store. At the time I usually bought larges at the stores I shopped at, so that’s the size I knitted. I didn’t check the actual measurements, and if I had, I would have discovered that I should have been knitting a size medium. If I had gotten the tension correct, my sweater still wouldn’t have fit. It would have been too big! Now I almost always ignore the sizes in the front of a pattern and flip to the schematic to see what the actual measurements of the sweater will be. It’s a much more reliable way to pick a size.
3. Pick the right yarn for the project. The first sweater I ever crocheted turned out much better, although it still wasn’t entirely wearable. By dumb luck, I happened to get the right tension and pick the right size. Where I failed was picking the right yarn! I was so focused on matching the weight of yarn, that I didn’t give any thought to the fibre content. I made myself a lacy, short sleeved cardigan using worsted weight wool instead of the cotton the pattern recommended. The sweater left my arms too cold on days that were cool enough for wool, and it was too hot for days that were warm enough for short sleeves. When I pick out yarn for a new project, I now think about when I’ll wear it and not just about if it will give me the right tension.
4. Pick the right project for your lifestyle. After those first two disasters, I thought I had this sweater making thing sorted out. For my next sweater project I made sure that I got the right tension, was knitting the right size, and was using a logical yarn. I made myself a heavy wool pullover, and although there was nothing technically wrong with it, it still wasn’t wearable. Why? Well, I lived in California at the time, and the sweater was too warm to ever wear! I was so focused on the knitting aspects of the project, that I never took the time to think about the fact that I had no need for a bulky wool sweater. Since then I’ve tried to pick out knitting projects that I can actually wear.
5. Knit something you’ll adore and buy the rest. Years after I knitted that bulky sweater, I found myself knitting a simple grey sweater that I would be able to wear all the time. It was a very practical project choice, but it was a miserable knit. It was boring and working on it felt like a chore. When it was done, I had a useful sweater, but it didn’t look like anything special, and I didn’t enjoy making it. I should have spared myself the drudgery, bought myself a grey sweater, and knitted something more exciting. Knitting takes too long to spend time on projects that aren’t both fun to make and fun to wear.
You can read more from Andi at untangling-knots.com, where she also sells the patterns for her sweater designs.