All beginner knitters start with a scarf. It is the easiest thing to do: no increasing or decreasing, you just keep going for as long as you want the scarf to be. At some stage – and for me it was after knitting three scarves – this gets boring and you want a fresh challenge. For my first non-scarf garment, I decided to go head first into a jumper.
The wool I used is this beautifully soft Sirdar Snuggly Spots DK yarn in Strawberry Mousse. It is baby pink, with faint orange and blue spots and would make a lovely cot blanket. But because I know very few babies to knit for now, I thought I’d use the wool for a soft, warm jumper for my six-year-old daughter.
The pattern I used was from a book, Knitting for the Absolute Beginner by Alison Dupernex, published by Search Press. This is a great guide to get started, as it takes you through casting on and off, the basic knit and purl stitches, increasing and decreasing and picking up dropped stitches. It also teaches you about tension – working out how close together your stitches and rows are depending on your knitting style.
From my short experience of knitting, it is a good idea to practise following a pattern for a garment like this and comparing the finished item with how it is supposed to be. My first jumper was a good example of misjudging my own tension: I knitted what was supposed to be a jumper for a 7 to 8-year-old child, but it ended up being too large and in fact fits me.
I can’t reproduce the full pattern here for copyright reasons, but this jumper was knitted on 4mm (US size 6) needles, in stocking stitch, with what was supposed to be a 22 sts and 30 rows to 10cm tension. My own tension is no doubt looser than this, given the size it ended up. This project was also my first go at ribbing, at the bottom of the jumper which you can see in the picture above, the neckline and the cuffs, in slightly smaller 3.25mm (US 3) needles. You can see from my photo that my ribbing – a k2, p2 stitch – is a bit on the loose side, so next time I will use even smaller needles for the rib.
This was also my first attempt at decreasing (which, if you’re a beginner, is much more straightforward than increasing, as you can just knit two stitches together). I had to decrease gradually to shape the armholes and neckline, which was not a problem. But I also had to learn how to increase for the sleeves, and this was more of a challenge. I hindsight, I should have practised increasing on some squares before starting the jumper.
There are a few different ways to increase stitches, but from a beginner’s perspective I would recommend searching on YouTube for tutorials and finding one that’s straightforward for your own style. I found the “make one” (M1) method the easiest. There were some mistakes, with a few holes at the seams, but these have been dealt with by some judicious darning.
When I got to the neckline, I needed a stitch-holder to split off one side of the jumper from the other to make the shoulders. So here is a word about equipment. When I started knitting last September, I just had a ball of yarn and a pair of size 5 needles. I’ve now built up a cache of different sized needles and a hamper full of yarn, but a stitch-holder should be the second thing you buy after your first needles. As I was already halfway through my garment, my mother lent me one of her stitch-holders – not the first or last time she will come to my rescue with knitting, I don’t doubt!
Compared to the front and back of the jumper, the sleeves were easier. They were knitted flat, according to the pattern, with a seam to sew up – rather than in the round on circular needles. Since making this jumper I have discovered circular knitting needles and I love their simplicity and the professional look they create. I plan to knit all sleeves this way from now on.
Once the jumper was knitted, I sewed the parts together using the same wool and a thick darning needle. The loose ends you can see in the picture were invisibly sewn back into the stitching.
Despite my mistakes and tension issues, I found this jumper fairly straightforward. If I can knit a garment like this as my first non-scarf project, then anyone can.