The success or failure of most things in life is usually directly proportional to the amount of preparation before you begin. This is also true in knitting and this week we started preparing the K1’s for the finish of their first sweater project. Now while the long term goal is to complete an adult sweater, in preparation, we are getting you to complete a baby sweater first. The concepts and techniques are the same for an adult sweater but the hours required are drastically reduced. The only skills and techniques you don’t currently possess are those required for the finishing, so we are starting at the beginning to get to the ending. Ironically, there are a few things that you can do at the beginning of a project to ensure that the finishing will go smoothly and/or seamlessly, so we took a look at those. Here is a brief review of what we learned today in preparing to finish our first sweater.
Pattern selection – All projects start with a pattern. It is up to you to choose a pattern that you are comfortable with and will want to finish. In doing this you must consider certain options such as level of difficulty, aesthetic appeal, practicality, materials needed, accessories, and time requirements.
- Since we are doing baby sweaters, and babies are ohhhh so c**e, the aesthetic appeal will probably not be a factor as most things baby are quite adorable.
- Be certain to select a pattern that is rated easy or low level intermediate as you don’t want your first sweater to end up in the UFO bin somewhere.
- Most baby sweaters use yarns that are easy care and are in the worsted or sport weight category in terms of thickness (this is 20 – 24 stitches over 4″ on 4.5 – 3.75 mm needles). This is not a steadfast rule but you should note that going outside of these parameters will give you either a bulkier sweater that requires a little more precision when finishing or a finer sweater that will take a little longer to finish.
- Accessories such as buttons should be chosen with care and sometimes are best picked out when you purchase the yarn to avoid disappointment later.
Get enough yarn – Once you’ve picked out the pattern, you have to decide on the yarn you’re going to use. If you’re using the yarn suggested then it is usually okay to get the amount suggested for the size you’re making. If you’re substituting a yarn, make sure that your calculations are correct (don’t go by weight, go by yardage!) and that you have the right amount. Be sure you have the same dye lot with all balls and, if your budget will allow it, it’s not a bad idea to get one extra ball just in case. If you don’t need it you can probably do a matching hat after!
Familiarize yourself with the pattern – Once you’ve chosen the pattern and picked up any buttons, zippers, or other accessories, read over the pattern a few times to ensure that you are familiar with it. It is a good idea to make a photo copy of the pattern and highlight the size you are making and the instructions that correspond to that size. This also makes it easier to read as most baby patterns come in at least 4 sizes (0-3mth, 6-12, 12-18, 18-24) if not more. You may also want to laminate the pattern (or the low tech way of taping it over completely with cellophane tape) to ensure it survives the little entanglements it encounters while you’re making the sweater.Does it have any special stitches such as a basket weave or cable? If it does, make sure you do a practice swatch of each of the special stitches so you are sure you can produce them in the sweater. There should be a glossary in the pattern describing any special stitches or textures and how to produce them.
Use a selvedge stitch! – We cannot stress this enough. Depending on the pattern, you may have a selvedge stitch written in already. If you don’t, you should add one. A selvedge stitch is an extra stitch on each end of the pattern that provides a consistent edge look. When making a scarf, it just provides a neat edge. When making a sweater, it provides a consistent and easily visible stitch that makes putting it together so much easier. We suggest that you do it in stocking stitch (knit on the right side and purl on the reverse) because it gives you the ability to make a virtually invisible seam later during the finishing.
Do a swatch! – We’re pretty sure we’ve covered this topic before, but just in case, one more time: You should have highlighted the section in the pattern where it tells you the gauge. The information you’re looking for is the size of needles used, the stitch pattern, and the number of stitches and rows used to get a 4×4″ square. You don’t have to worry if your row gauge is out, but make sure your stitch gauge is correct. Adjust your needle sizes as needed to get the right measurement. You can use you row gauge later to save you from measuring your work. Count your rows and divide by your gauge measurement and you’ll know how long your work is!
Be a blockhead – It is a good idea to block your swatch to make sure you won’t be surprised later on when you block your pieces for the garment. It will give you an idea of how the fiber will behave later and allow you to make and necessary adjustments.
So with all that in mind, you’re ready to embark on your first project. We’ll be here to help you along the way!
Yarn over and out.