Knitting a jumper – diary of a beginner

Purl Alpaca Lorelle
My pattern: Purl Alpaca Lorelle

Doing the knitting

I have finally started to make some progress with my jumper.  My first attempt at cable stitching left me somewhat bemused. Holding the stitch behind or in front, stitching the next stitch and then going back to it made me feel all fingers and thumbs. I fear I twisted some of the stitches, and the tension got lost. It does look a bit amateur. But that is what I am! While I think I got all the stitches in the right place, some are twice the size of the others.

It’s a funny process, knitting, isn’t it? Mainly it is just repetitive hand movements. With the occasional break to avidly study detailed instructions on how to stitch every stitch to create the pattern or shape. This is where counting comes in. I just mark a little stick on a post it note, and cross through the fifth ones, like I am a lifer in captivity. But no – knitting is nice!

But different from my dressmaking. I have to concentrate all the time when sewing, mainly because I have made my own patterns, and have no instructions, or because I am trying something new like boning or translucent fabrics. But with knitting, once you have established what you are doing, you can do it with your eyes shut! Literally. I have found it easy to knit and watch television at the same time. As we are watching Fargo, followed by Stranger Things, actually doing something other than being scared to death is a good thing. My husband doesn’t like the lights on (not spooky enough) but I have found I really can knit without looking.

Maths and measurements

When making the pattern in the jumper (chevrons, outlined with stitches) I really enjoyed the maths of it – how with twelve stitches 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 went into the shaping. It was a lovely palindromic and slightly magical process. It is remarkable how an increase every 8th row for six rounds can shape a sleeve. Knitters will surely know what I mean.

Stephanie had warned me that you need to measure all the time. I was confused by this as we seemed to be working in stitches, not centimetres. To create the body of the jumper I had to knit 74 rows. Of course, I had not read the instructions through from top to bottom, mainly as it appeared to be written in another language or code. If you don’t know what you are doing there seems little point in reading the instructions through. But of course I discovered, on p3 of the instructions, there was a diagram showing the dimensions of the jumper and I saw that the 74 rows, on top of the patterning and everything else (down to the ribbing area, that is not ribbing in this case), should measure 44.5cms – slightly shorter than the smaller version for some reason (not sure why – is it because the sleeves start lower in the progressively larger versions?). And, hey presto it did. Although I am not sure I am measuring it right. Will it be longer when it is lightly steamed at the end (sounds like a delicate vegetable or small portion of invalid-ready fish)?

Getting to the sleeves

I managed to knit up the torso section of the jumper, and decreased a few stitches for the underarm, which effectively divides the jumper into two. I then wondered how to proceed. How does one set aside and store knitting?

I used my traditional size 5mm needles to put the knitting to one side.

Then I had to start on the sleeves. How?? The sleeves are tubes too, but much narrower. I couldn’t see how I could use the big 80cm circular knitting needles to create a sleeve with a circumference of just 20cms. Clearly the sleeves wouldn’t fit on the big needles. I asked for advice from Stephanie and Natalie, and from Instagram friends.

Stephanie said “your pattern should have some instructions” (no) but said she would use four double-pointed needles, converting to small circular needles when the sleeve was big enough. She also warned me about ladders – “gaps where you move from one needle to the next”.

I was quite enjoying the circular needles so searched for ones with a smaller circumference (there are some with 30cms). Unfortunately the size I want (5mm) doesn’t seem to come with less than 80cms of cable between. On YouTube I discovered “Magic Loop” – always a sucker for anything magic (unicorns, for example) I gave it a try. My serious knitter friends Nat and Steph had never tried it, so I was full of trepidation, but it worked for me.

Magic Loop knitting
Doing the Magic Loop (in bed)

I was delighted as I had already spent enough on equipment that I may never use again, and I could avoid the ladder problem by dividing the knitting at different places so as not to stretch the stitches too much. I know I don’t have the most beautiful and consistent tension throughout but this is my learning jumper.

In other news

Nick makes sour dough bread, which we love. Here is a nice one that came out of the oven on Saturday. And then Esme came round with a bunch of sweet peas she had grown on her balcony. And some potatoes. Which were delicious.





22 Responses

  1. Stephanie

    Lovely! I’m glad it’s moving along so well. That said, I don’t think I meant that you *need* to measure all of the time. It’s just that I do as I go along. Looking forward to seeing the final product. Incidentally there are stitch holders that you can buy that look like giant safety pins (but that are more flexible).

  2. Linde

    Oh wow I am in awe of you and could you let me know when you are taking orders for fair isle jumpers and I will be first on the list (only joking). Seriously though it is not as easy as our parents generation made out and some of us (me) will never get the hang of it. Hats off to you!

  3. Kim Hood

    I find knitting very relaxing so it’s good to hear that you are learning to watch telly whilst knitting. It can become a bit meditative with the right pattern, and should things go wrong it is often easier to return perfect than with cloth. Enjoy your jumper.
    I make sour dough bread too – it’s great stuff, and Nicks loaf looks great. My go to cake recipe is made with starter as the base and is gorgeous (and I have never had a bad one) and freezes so we can ration it and not become huge!

  4. Verona Woodhouse

    Addi premium do 20cm long circular needles that are great for doing sleeves. It is a pain that they don’t do them in any size larger than 3.75mm. Kate Davies from Kate Davies Designs blog got me onto these Addi needles and I love them. For your next jumper, you could consider some Kate Davies patterns as they have great detail, interesting techniques and good fit – things that are important to you in sewing. Recently started dressmaking (I have been a knitter for decades) and found and really enjoy your blog.

    • fabrickated

      Thank you so much for your kind comments Verona, and your helpful suggestions. Kate Davies is my name sake and I found her when looking for myself (if you know what I mean)! I really like her designs but I am worried they may be too hard for me at the moment. I think my next project will be colourful (perhaps Fair isle), but I don’t like anything that is not really soft next to my skin. I really don’t know what yarns and patterns to choose, so I will ask for some help in due course.

  5. Mary Funt

    The nice thing about knitting is that you can take your knit project with you much easier than a sewing one. You are fortunate to have some tutors who can get you through some tricky points. I learned as a child and had a wonderfully talented aunt who guided me through the process.
    Nick’s bread looks like bakery shop quality and I’m sure tastes even better.

    • fabrickated

      Absolutely Mary – it’s portable. I have been sewing in the car but knitting in the car is much nicer and easier as you really don’t need to look at it all the time. And you don’t need much equipment apart from the knitting.

  6. Linde

    Kate did you know that the fair isle patterns are really stories that the fisherman’s wives used to knit while their husbands were out at sea. I thought you would like that.

    • fabrickated

      Just watched the last one, last night. I think Netflix really seems to produce excellent series. I believe they use big data to work out what we are watching and then commissions writers along similar lines.

  7. Sue

    As a lifelong knitter I am amazed at how much I take for granted. Your descriptions did amuse me, knitting probably is a strange business. Your jumper looks gorgeous, and I want one. Stick with it because it’s such a portable craft. I am currently learning to crochet and I think it’s similar in that all the abbreviations confuse and confound me and I have to constantly check I’m doing it properly.

  8. Joyce Latham

    Well you are doing something much differen then I!
    My sweater is simple….but just enough challenge to keep me going.
    I am not knitting in the round.
    There is really no pattern.
    I’m enjoying the journey…knit knit knit, and I find it a pleasure , for those ” waiting ” times.
    Not much counting for me either.
    Isn’t it fun , that it’s our first but ever so different.
    Hats …ha ha…off to you Kate for taking on such a challenging first timer!
    Till we chat again
    Joyce …ps…I have a back, a front , and a beginning of another front done….sleeves yet to go, and button holes down front…you will be finished before I no doubt, but when I catch up…we shall celebrate !

  9. Su

    Sleeves can be knit on two circulars – much nicer than dpns IMHO or magic loop- tried it once and hated it.
    Use the free needle of the circular needle that is holding the stitches you are knitting – when you get to the end of the stitches on that needle, turn your work 180 degrees and continue the same process on the second circular needle. You are still knitting in the round.
    Sounds like you have fallen for knitting. If you love geometry and the math of knitting get your hands on Sequence Knitting by Cecelia Campochiaro.

  10. Chris

    You’re taking a very thoughtful approach as always Kate, you’ll be a pro in no time. A gentle wash can often help stitches blend and even out a little. I’ve never had the sizing change too much after washing, but it depends on the yarn. You could wash your swatch and see how it behaves 🙂

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