Saturday, 20 May 2017

A beginner's guide to garment knitting

In the last of my accidental mini-series on hand-made garments, I thought I would share with you my current knitted garment journey. I have knitted a sleeveless tank-top before, but it was so easy that I really don't think it counts, so my current project is my first knitted garment!
I do like a challenge and this year my making goals include developing my knitting skills and creating beautiful, wearable pieces - in that spirit, I am making the Westbourne sweater by Isabell Kraemer.

Pattern choice

If you are a regular reader of my blog you might know that I like top-down garment construction and so in looking for patterns, I focused my search to garments knitted top-down. Whilst searching, Fay from the Crochet Circle podcast finished a really beautiful sweater designed by Isabell and she only had good things to say about the way that the pattern was written.  With this endorsement, I was delighted to discover a selection of designs by Isabell constructed from the top-down and after a little mulling over I went for the Westbourne - a lovely, 4ply slouchy-fit sweater.

The pattern is excellently written, with clear instructions and links to tutorials for tricky bits of the construction.

Yarn choice

To make life easy, I am using the yarn recommended in the pattern and unsurprisingly, I've chosen blue! I am using;
Cascade 220 Fingering (4ply) yarn in Sapphire (9332) and Grinseng (9593)

Three skeins of yarn

I haven't worked with Cascade 220 Fingering before and when it arrived I thought it felt quite rough and rustic. However, the swatch I made to test my gauge washed-up beautifully and the yarn really softened. Now I am working with it, I am finding the fabric it creates to be soft, with a good drape.


Knowing that I wanted to do more knitting this year, I bought myself a set of insert interchangeable needles - I think needles might deserve a whole post to their own some time - but I am really enjoying knitting with the wooden needles.

Interchangeable knitting needles

I find them comfortable in my hand, light and slippy enough for knitting to be pleasurable. The join between the needle and cable is really smooth and the cables, whilst not my favourite, are absolutely fine for this project.

Techniques and resources

This project is definitely the most challenging knitting project I've tackled. I can't divulge too much as it is a paid for pattern but it goes straight from casting on, to a large section of short rows. Short rows in crochet projects require concentration but are easy enough, short rows in knitting feel much more intimidating. I have to say that I felt overwhelmed but thanks to another fabulous tutorial from Tin Can Knits, I overcame them and I am just so delighted with how they look. I found getting the tension consistent ( and tight) is the key to success.

The sweater is created using (a lot of) raglan increases and once I've mastered short rows I thought the raglan increases would be a breeze but I have had a complete mental block with my increases leaning to the right and the left. My go-to visual guide has been this excellent blog post; Muddy Sheep - Make 1 left, right, knit-side, purl-side

I am not fabulous at doing this myself, but if you are thinking of embarking on a garment or a complex knitted project it is really worth considering putting in a lifeline at key points of your project. The Love Knitting blog has a helpful article showing how to do it, but in summary by inserting waste yarn through your stitches, you can rip back your work more easily if you make a mistake later on in the pattern. If you didn't put in a lifeline and end up making a mistake, one of my favourite resources is from  Vogue Knitting which provides a helpful guide to fixing common mistakes.

Weaving in ends is one of my least favourite aspects of knitting, or crochet for that matter, so I was interested to see Christine's (Winwick Mum) latest free tutorial this week sharing a technique for weaving in ends as you go. In case you've missed it, Christine shows the technique with contrast cuffs, heels and toes on a pair of socks but I think it would work well with other projects: 


I am almost at the end of the raglan increases and just about to transfer the sleeves to waste yarn and then, I can start the stripes on the body.

Close up view of raglan increases on knitted sweater

So far, this not proving to a photogenic project but I am loving it all the same. I'm pleased with my yarn choices and glad that I'll have no seaming up to do at the end. I will share this project here again as it develops.

Thanks so much for coming to visit my blog and sharing my making journey x


  1. Your sweater looks great Helen. I use a friend's technique for remembering increases - M1L simpLe M1R haRd - it sticks in my head then! Debbie xx

    1. I shall give that a try...thanks so much Debbie xx

  2. Your descriptions are so clever I can just imagine the rustic feel of the yarn. It looks an amazing project. Hope I get to see this in the flesh soon!! Thank you for your wonderful makes my weekend start so beautifully xx

    1. Thanks so much Kate! I hope I'll speed up and have it ready for Autumn - will make sure that I schedule coffee for the week after its finished so that you can have a viewing!! xx

  3. Your descriptions are so clever I can just imagine the rustic feel of the yarn. It looks an amazing project. Hope I get to see this in the flesh soon!! Thank you for your wonderful makes my weekend start so beautifully xx

  4. Another great post Helen. That was a wise move to use the recommended yarn. A garment is quite an undertaking so it cuts down risks! The links are extremely helpful too! I'm going to add them to Pinterest for my students. I look forward to seeing the finished garment.

    1. Thanks so much Tamara, adding to Pinterest is such a good idea. I can't wait to share the finished object....!xx

  5. Your jumper looks fab!
    One of the tips I was given was to use dental floss for the life line. It gives very little resistance and isn't plied, so if you do have to frog it us easier to get your needle into the stitches. X

    1. Great tip...thanks Fay! I'm hoping to get the jumper finished during the CrAL! xx