Make your own sweater pattern

For me, the greatest joy of knitting is to be able to make my own clothes – clothes that fit me perfectly. Being tall, I can make the sleeves and the body as long as I want. No need to keep pulling on too short sleeves all day long!

When clearing out my storage room, I found a kilo of lavender Baby Cotton, a thin merscerised cotton yarn that Dalegarn (Dale yarn) sold about 20 years ago. I decided to knit myself a v-neck lacework sweater, as this was currently on my wish list – and now I didn’t have to buy it!

I didn’t have any patterns that corresponded with how I wanted the sweater to look and fit, so I decided to make my own. This is how I did it: A quick guide to how you can make your own knitted sweater without having a knitting pattern at hand.

{1} Online research
First, I searched online for a pattern, thinking that this would be a good source for a free knitting pattern. While I didn’t find any sweater designs that I liked, I found a lacework pattern from Prima magazine that, with modifications, I could use on my sweater. Since my yarn is much thinner than the original pattern, I knew that the pattern would be smaller on my sweater, which I liked.

{2} Knit a sample of the pattern
In order to figure out what your knitting gauge is in the chosen pattern, you need to knit a small swatch using the correctly sized knitting needles for the yarn. Increase or decrease the size of your needles if you knit to tightly or too loosely for it to look nice.

Ideally, your swatch should be about 15 cm wide and 15 cm tall, in order to correctly measure your gauge. I was lazy and made the small swatch above, measured the gauge incorrectly and knitted about 15 cm of the body of the sweater (with 250 stitches!) before I realised the sweater would be way too big! So learn from my mistake, and knit a decently sized swatch so you can measure your gauge correctly.

{2} Find a sweater in your wardrobe that has the fit that you’d like

I used this Kenzo sweater as my template – with slightly longer sleeves and a v-neck, it would be my perfect fit. For the v-neck, I found a pattern in a knitting catalogue that told me when to start the v-neck and how often to decrease in order to get the correct shape (see below). Alternatively, you can find a v-neck in your wardrobe that you like, and use this as a neck template.

Write down the following measurements from your sweater:

Sleeve length measured under the sleeve – To achieve a nice fit, shape your sleeves at the top. Knit until this length before you start shaping the sleeve top. However, to make it easier for yourself, don’t shape the sleeves: Simply measure the sleeve length from the cuff to the shoulder and knit your sleeve this long before casting off. Your sweater gets the classic t-shape, which is traditionally how thicker sweaters are made (e.g. ski sweaters).

* Sleeve length from cuff to shoulder – this measurement minus the one above, tells you how many centimetres you’ll have to shape the sleeve top

Width of sleeves just above the cuff – how many stitches you’ll need to cast on for the cuff

Width of sleeves just below the arm holes – you need to increase until you reach this width

Length of cuff

Length of body from mid shoulder to rib – how long you want the sweater

Length of body from rib to under the sleeve – where you need to cast off for the sleeves

Length from mid shoulder to bottom of v-neck – to find out when to start your v-neck, take the full length of the body minus this measurement. Normally, the v-neck starts approx where you cast off for the arm hole

Width of body from outer shoulder to outer shoulder – How many stitches you need at the end

Width of body right under the sleeves – this measurement minus the one above tells you how many stitches you need to decrease to shape the arm hole on the body

Width of the v-neck (sans rib) at the top – how wide you want your v-neck to be

Length of rib in the v-neck

Length of rib on the body

{3} Get your calculator out
Based on your swatch, first find out how many stitches and rows you knit on 10 x 10 cm of the pattern. This is easy – you just lay a ruler on your swatch and count each stitch within 10 cm, then each row. Write down these magic numbers
The only time you need to use your gauge in the height, is when you calculate how many rows you need to shape the sleeve top, to decide how often and by how many stitches you need to decrease. This is indicated by the * in the list above. If you are inexperienced with knitting, I recommend that you omit the shaped sleeve top and simply knit your sleeves to full length.
The rest of the length measurements are used as is – how long in centimetres to knit the cuff, the body, the sleeves, etc.
Now starts the fun part: You need to calculate how many stitches you need for all of the above width measurements. This is easier that you think and just requires a bit of concentration. 
If your gauge is 28 sts on 10 cm, and you want your body to measure 100 cm in width, here is your calculation:
(28 sts x 100 cm)/10 cm = 280 stitches
When all the width calculations are complete, your basic knitting pattern is ready and you can cast on for the body! 
{4} A few recommendations
In Norway, we use circular knitting needles whenever we can. I know these are not that popular in the UK and US, but really, you save a lot of time by using them. You knit in the round on a large circular knitting needle on the body, and when you cast off for the arm holes, move the stitches you are not using over on a new circular needle, and continue knitting back and forth on the circular needle. For the sleeves, start off in the round on short double pointed needles, and move over to a small circular needle as soon as you have enough stitches.
Start with the body, as you’re keen to get started and won’t mind the 200+ stitches at the beginning of the project. The sleeves are really quick to knit and therefore more suitable when the project has lost some of its shine.
Since you’re starting with the body, calculate these measurements first, and do the sleeve calculations when you need a break in the knitting. Also, don’t be afraid to do a mistake and unravel a few centimetres. It’s better to unravel and start again in order to achieve a perfect result, than messing things up and never wanting to wear the sweater!
For a v-neck, you normally decrease one stitch at first to start the v. Then you continue to decrease one stitch on either side of the v (on every row you start on the v-side) until you have reached the desired width of the v-neck. Continue with the remaining stitches until you have reached the desired length of the body.
In tomorrow’s post you can see me wearing my new sweater!
Please feel free to ask me any questions about knitting and how to make your own patterns in the comments section below!
  • I love this sweater! You are a much more accomplished knitter than I am, I can barely follow a pattern let alone make my own! Now that I’ve seen this beauty I want one too! x Allison

    • Thanks, Allison! Practice makes perfect and I’ve been knitting since I was about six. Just keep knitting new things and trying new techniques, and you’ll advance in no time!

      I’ve “borrowed” a long vest from the shops that I’m currently busy copying. I started last night and ended up knitting swatches into the wee hours in order to get the correct gauge. So much fun! xoxo Anett

      • That’s a great idea! I can’t wait to see your finished product. x Allison