I have never knitted a garment in my life. Well I made a few items for Esme, when she was a baby, using very simple patterns, the odd scarf and a granny squares blanket.
I know how to knit, but I don’t know how to shape fabric with yarn and knitting needles. And the thing is, cardigans and jumpers are a key part of my wardrobe. I love wearing something soft and snuggly, that keeps me warm. I love the texture of knitting, and I like the “home made”, vintage look often associated with it. I can remember wearing knitted items my mother made for me when I was young. When shopping in charity shops I still seek out handmade children’s jerseys, and Aran sweaters, partly from nostalgia, but also because I appreciate how much work has gone into a hand knitted top and feel sad to leave them in the shop.
As I begin to think about my casual wardrobe my mind has turned to knitting. I tried to knit a cardigan a couple of years ago, but got into a terrible mess. A French friend (French women, in general, appear to be competent knitters) told me I was mad to start with a cardigan. So this time I am planning to make a jumper.
It is knitted in the round and it is made from alpaca wool. I saw the jumper made up at an exhibition and it appealed to me as plain but with a little bit of detail. I also really liked the natural colours available. I shared the details with my ace-knitter friend Stephanie in Ottawa. I am going to quote her at length (but slightly edited) as she is an expert. Steph is generous with her time and help, and she understands some of the issues I might have.
It looks like a nice pattern that is doable for someone new to larger knitting projects. The most important thing is spending the time before you start to make sure that you can get the tension right so that you can expect a reliable measurement for the final fabric! When I knit I spend a lot of time measuring as I go as well, to make sure that everything will line up neatly. I generally find that my tension is looser in the round, so it’s important to check tension knitting in the method that you are going to be using. Making swatches is a pain but at least when you start knitting the garment you are confident that you are on the right track. The other thing is that unfortunately the needle recommended in the pattern is sometimes not the one that will suit your own personal knitting tension, so it’s helpful to have a couple of needle sizes around the needle size recommended for the pattern, in case you need to switch. That said, for something knitted at 5mm you might have a bit of leeway. It’s worth making a few swatches on a few different days, blocking them, and doing a good measure to get a sense of what your tension will likely be when you knit the garment, particularly as you don’t knit often. After I’ve made one swatch these days I have a good idea of what my tension will be as my tension is pretty even after all of these years.
I had, naively, assumed that if you buy the right size it will more or less fit. It is after all jersey. If it is a little large or small does it really matter? I was interested to read how precise Steph is with her tension squares and continual monitoring. I bought traditional 5mm needles and was going to practice my tension on them rather than go out and buy the sort of needles that work when knitting in the round. Will it be good enough? (Remember, unlike Stephanie I am no perfectionist).
Also look on Ravelry to see other versions of the pattern made up. People sometimes offer useful tips about narrowing the neckline, for example, or issues they found with the pattern, as in sewing. I have to admit that I usually use Ravelry to see how many “bad” versions there are made up, i.e. to imagine the worst-case scenario or imagine improvements I could make, or to spot something that seems great in the professional photo but that might look less nice in person. That sounds terrible, as I am no guru of a knitter, but often there will be one nice one and fifty fairly so-so or awkward ones knitted up, even though the initial pattern seems great. If there is a higher success rate with the pattern, e.g. 10% nice ones, I get a better impression of the likely end result. That said, as in sewing, having a successful garment in the end depends so much on the yarn that is chosen, the colour, and whether or not the person decides to check tension (or knows what size will suit them), which many knitters don’t bother to do. 🙂 I think we all start out as that knitter and seamstress, me as much as anyone, and then hopefully evolve. I just checked for your pattern and there is only one set of photos of one being made up, but the knitted fabric looks very nice.
I checked too and wasn’t overwhelmed. I just want to complete one garment I can wear.
Check in with a friend who is an accomplished knitter if you run into issues. Most knitting shops abound in people who know their stuff so even going into a knitting shop is an option. Some people like to join a knit-a-long group where women go to the shop and knit their individual projects at the same time. I have never done that and I doubt that you have the time, but I think it probably helps projects to move along given that there is a regular commitment to knitting the project and others can troubleshoot for you.
This is obviously very good advice. I have put out a call at work in the hope of finding someone who can help me in my lunch hour.
I will let you know how I get on.