Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Be Your Own Fashion Designer

After I’d been knitting a while, I decided I wanted to create my own sweater designs. I was young and foolish. Well, maybe not foolish, but brave. I had seen several stitches I thought would look good together, so I bought the yarn—a fisherman’s wool. Not cheap. But I was full of youthful confidence.

First I decided on a style-I wanted cables and I'd seen a seed stitch I liked so I thought I'd add that in. And the garter stitch. I had already chosen my yarn. One thing I would suggest is that your yarn match the stitches you choose. You don't want to mix a fine yarn like mohair or cashmere with an Aran pattern of cables like you find in Irish sweaters. Fine yarns are meant to be knitted simply so their beauty will show. An Aran pattern needs a yarn that has enough body to hold its shape.

The next step requires a pencil, paper, tape measure, and another person to help you measure. Measure and record your bust, arm, hip, and wrist measurements. 
  • To measure your arm length, start at the top inside and measure to your wrist.
  • Armhole depth--measure from the top of your shoulder to the soft part of your underarm and add 1 1/2 " for ease.
  • Length--measure from under your arm to your waist and then from your waist to the desired length. Record both measurements so that if you want a shaped waist you will know where to begin shaping.
  • measure you bust and add at least 2" for ease. On a bulky sweater you can add as much as 4".
  • Don't fudge on any measurements, especially the hip.
Another way to get the correct measurements is to take a garment you like and measure it. To do this lay it on a piece of paper and carefully trace an outline of the garment.

Actual Knitting:
Start by knitting a 4" swatch of the pattern in the needle size you will be using. Use a stitch gauge or ruler to count the number of stitches in two inches. Half this will be your stitches per inch. Do this for the rows as well.

How many to cast on:
Most sweaters are worked from the bottom up. I use my bust measurement, including ease, and divide it half. This will be my front. Multiply this number by the stitches per inch you've already determined, then I always add 4 stitches for seams. This is how many stitches you will cast on.

Bust measurement: 38" + 2" for ease = 40"
Unless you are working in the round, divide this number in half for front and back = 20"
Let's say your stitch gauge is 5 stitches per inch.  20 X 5 = 100  + 4 = 104 stitches to cast on.

What if you choose a pattern like cables or diamonds?
That means you have to see if your stitch pattern will divide evenly into this number. Say your stitch pattern requires a multiple of 5 (5 stitches to complete the pattern). Five divides into 100 evenly with 4 left over for the seams.

After you reach the desired length, you are ready for the armholes. For Ragland sleeves, at each end every other row until one third of the stitches you started with remain. Continue in with these stitches until the desired armhole depth is reached. For Cap sleeves, decrease one stitch at each end of every row every other row 5 times. Continue to work the back in pattern until the desired shape is reached. Then bind off the neck edge or place the remaining stitches on a holder to finish later.

Here is one of the sweaters I designed.

This is enough to get you started on a vest. If anyone is interested in learning to be your own designer, leave a comment and next month, I will give directions on how to make sleeves.

 Patrica Bradley
Shadows of the Past


  1. Wow, Pat. The sweater you designed is beautiful! I don't knit because I never mastered how to handle the needles well, but I admire anyone who can complete a wonderful design like this. Nice work!

  2. Thank you. You can master the needles! But it takes practice, practice, practice. lol So glad you stopped by.

  3. Your sweater is lovely. I am a new knitter. I have only one stitch in my repertoire. It is taking me a while to feel comfortable with the needles. I am rather handicapped, as I am, my family keeps reminding me, backwards. (Lefty) I prefer to crochet, although I am also rather new at this skill. However, I love to quilt. It gives me the appearance of being artistic. I see quilts in tile floors and quilting patterns in many objects. I hope to be able to crochet and knit much more than one stitch with better agility and comfort. Some day.

  4. Once I could only knit one stitch, but as I tried new patterns I learned. Knitting is my favorite sewing activity. Thanks for stopping by Dora!

  5. Replies
    1. Oh, Heidi, that's sweet. I learned to knit when I was 17 and just kept at it. It also helped that I was too not-so-bright to be afraid to tackle a hard project. I think the key to following a pattern is taking each direction and doing what it says and not looking ahead to the next thing. :-)

  6. When I was pregnant w/ first child, I learned to knit by checking out a library book. I haven't done as much lately, but have made lots of hats, sweaters, socks, mitts. The size gauge can be pretty crucial though & I have messed up a few times, as well as having a few successes we still keep in the family. It would be fun to totally design my own, though.