My First Sweater

I’ve tried knitting all kinds of things – socks, cowls, hats. But up until now, I haven’t been able to master knitting a sweater yet! I bought lovely, lovely yarn and ended up knitting and ripping out the entire sweater twice already. I was determined to make it into a sweater (or else!)

Isn’t this the prettiest yarn? It’s my favourite colour. Which makes sense, if you’re going to spend months making something, pick a colour you love!

Why was I so determined to make one? The same reason I love to sew – I can’t afford to buy the quality of sweaters I want to own and wear. I own maybe two sweaters, total. I can’t justify spending $80 on an acrylic sweater that will pill! It’s not good value to me. I want to wear wool. I love natural fibres! And, I love colour. So often the sweaters in stores are black, gray, navy, and lighter gray. I want yellow and purple and turquoise!

And I did it! I knit a sweater.

Headless photos are all I’ve got – I’m squeezing around stacks of boxes in the office so it was hard to get my whole sweater into the photo and my face! For this post, the sweater’s more important.

Yes, it’s an easy pattern. Yes, it took me three tries and nearly three months to finish it. But I’m so happy that I made a sweater! Success!

The pattern is St. James, a free pattern on Ravelry. It’s seamless, so you start knitting in a circle around the neckline, and keep going all the way to the bottom of the top! (Things happen in between, but that’s the basic process..)

What I’ve learned about knitting sweaters? Even simple patterns still need to fit properly. Picking an easy pattern doesn’t guarantee the right fit. That applies to sewing, too – the simplest A-line skirt will look awesome when it fits you perfectly, but sloppy if it doesn’t fit your body. And that undoing and re-doing your knitting doesn’t mean you failed. That’s the good thing and the bad thing about knitting. While it’s not fun ripping out your work, it’s great that you can undo it and start again! Or remake the whole thing into hats and gloves, which I admit I was tempted to do.

Persistence pays off though – now I have a sweater!

Ravelry notes here – plus links to the pattern and yarn I used. I deleted most of the work-in progress photos from the first two attempts though. One of them was so tight and sausagey, I’d have to walk around with my stomach sucked in and never let out my breath. You could see ribs – not comfortable! We think about ease with sewing, the same theory on ease applies to knitting. Just because it stretches, doesn’t mean your sweater should be stretched to the limits. Live and learn!

I imagine this is what it feels like when you start to learn to sew. Once you realize you can make a skirt, you can make any skirt! I know that I can’t make any sweater just yet, some are going to be much harder than this one but I’m one step closer!

What’s interesting is that this time last year, I was wondering about learning to knit. And you guys encouraged to me to sign up for Ravelry, to give it a try, and told me I could do it! So thanks for the suggestions, tips on where to buy yarn, answering knitting questions over the last year, and most of all thanks for inspiring me to give it a try!

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71 Responses to My First Sweater

  1. Dora K. (@omg_dora) December 8, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    This gets five out of five kittens on the cute scale! You make me want to take up knitting too!

  2. HipDroppedStitches December 8, 2011 at 6:19 am #

    So beautiful!!! Nice work!!!

  3. Ashley0107 December 8, 2011 at 6:22 am #

    Yay, well done!! :) It’s gorgeous and I love the colour!
    Ashley x

  4. Samina December 8, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    Congrats on your first sweater! It looks great & I’m glad you hung in there. It’s a great sense of accomplishment, isn’t it? That yarn’s gorgeous, too. I’m using a similar color in Ellen’s Half Pint Silk/Merino for the Paton’s Must Have Cardi. I’m enjoying the knit largely for the color of the yarn; I think that colorway is that gorgeous!

  5. Kerry December 8, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    Well done on your sweater! It feels like a milestone to make such a significant garment doesn’t it?

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

      Yes! It totally does.

  6. Sassy T December 8, 2011 at 6:36 am #

    After I have a bit more sewing experience under my belt I would love to take up knitting. There are so many cute jumpers one can knit that can go with my growing wardrobe of skirts.

  7. Litchi December 8, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    Congrats! Your sweater is very cute! And well fitting.
    I just started knitting myself (and you’re one of the people who inspired me to try) so I completely understand why finishing your sweater made you so happy.

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 11:05 am #

      Oh yay! That’s awesome that you took up knitting recently. It’s so rewarding, in a completely different way from sewing!

  8. Rebecca December 8, 2011 at 6:47 am #

    Wow, that’s adorable and it looks great on you! Well done!

  9. Ginger December 8, 2011 at 7:01 am #

    Nice work! That’s a very sweet sweater! Congratulations! Top-down seamless knitting is totally addictive and rewarding! I love having warm, perfectly-fitting sweaters made from natural fibers in the color of my choice… it’s spoiled me so much that I will have a hard time buying a sweater ever again!

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 11:07 am #

      Oh, for sure. Even though I’m low on sweaters, I can’t imagine buying one now that I know I can make one with a little time and hard work!

  10. Lauren December 8, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    very pretty! i want to make a sweater, but i’m still working on my first scarf (and first knitting project that isn’t a swatch). baby steps!!

    now i demand to know what is going on with that pile of fur behind you in the second picture. ARE YOU MAKING A FUR COAT? ;)

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 11:09 am #

      Haha! So I have this pile of fabric that I keep moving around the office when I’m low on space. That’s maybe going to be a faux-fur collar for the Wrap Coat. If I ever get around to making it. It’s pretty cool isn’t it?
      Once I did make a faux-fur coat, full on fur. I wore it once maybe, it felt like a costume or a teddy bear. Faux-fur is better (and easier to wear) in smaller bits!

  11. Jaime December 8, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    so jealous – it’s beautiful!!! I am afraid to start with a “large” project for myself so I was thinking of knitting for my little girl. Problem is they grow exponentially the first few years and I’d have to know I could finish close to when I start so she could actually wear it! But bravo! It’s wonderful!

  12. Kimberly December 8, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    I love the sweater, especially the color. Good job!

  13. Corinne December 8, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    the first sweater I ever made was for my baby niece, in pink. a pull-over (what was I thinking, babies dislike that) with a little ruffle on the neck, cuff and sleeve. I had no pattern, only an idea and some basic measurements. I think my sister put it on her once, took the photo and that was it. I had so much fun watching it come together. Now, I am so fussy I would never consider such a project. Your sweater is lovely. I am so glad that you hung in there and restitched until it was sized correctly. Very nice color as well.

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

      Thank you! With the amount of work this took, I can’t imagine making a sweater for a baby, especially if they only wore it once! How nice of you to make one for your niece. It’s funny how the better we get at things, the less willing we are to do it for anyone else. Or maybe that’s just me. Three months to make a sweater means that hand-knit sweaters are only for me. (Mayyyybe Mr Sewaholic but even then, he’s bigger than me, that means it would take even longer!)
      I’m glad I got over my impatience and worked on this till I got it right, too!

  14. Sarah December 8, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    Absolutely stunning! I am waiting to have the pattern emailed to me (no luck, yet) and I cannot wait to start this. Amazing job, Tasia! Well done!

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 11:11 am #

      I saved mine as a PDF file – want me to send it to you? Then you can start!

      • Erin December 4, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

        Any chance you’ve still got the PDF for this pattern? I love your blog and this sweater post inspired me to take on the challenge of stepping up my knitting. I’ve emailed twice and commented on the blog about this pattern and still haven’t gotten it. I would love, love, love if you’d share your copy. I’ve been looking for alternatives but I keep coming back to this pattern. Thanks if you can help! PS- everything you make is amazing and totally inspirational!

      • Kathy Macek February 1, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

        Tasia if you still have the St James pattern I’ll send you a skein of Madtosh yarn for it. I’ve been searching and emailing and can’t find it. I have a lovely dark green Madtosh or if that doesn’t float your boat, I have a Malabrigo that’s a plum color. It’s a full skein, just been wound already.


        Kathy in Texas

  15. Ali December 8, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    I’m so impressed with your tenacity — and you got a sweater out of it. Totally gorgeous. :)

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 11:13 am #

      Tenacity is right – or just stubbornness! I’m glad I didn’t toss it, and kept trying until I figured it out, it did turn out quite nice!

  16. Clare December 8, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    Congratulations on your first sweater!! it’s beautiful, my word for that colour – sumptuous! I bet you’re glad you persisted, you can do anything now. I made a cardigan which I dismantled (sagging in the wrong places!) which is now being turned into a plain sweater. It’s slow-going but I’m ok with that. I’m also curious about the fur!

  17. Nethwen December 8, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    I love the color! And the way it forms a pattern. So beautiful!

    The sweater looks good on you. Congratulations on all your hard work turning out well.

  18. Kat December 8, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    Yey it’s gorgeous, what a perfect fit. I’ve always been scared of knitting anything bigger than a scarf or baby cardigans…but I love the idea of a seamless sweater. Did you use circular needles? I have recently discovered them and I think they are fantastic!

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 11:14 am #

      Yes! I did use circular needles. It make it super easy to do – knit around and around in circles forever, and just increase or decrease at the sides like the pattern says to. They are fantastic!

  19. Alessa December 8, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    Wow, congrats! That sweater looks very pretty and well-fitting! I love the wonderful blue color!

  20. Kristen December 8, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    AMAZING! you have really come so far in a year, congratulations! I find customising my projects to fit me much easier in knitting than in sewing. Especially with top-down and seamless projects! Looks like you picked a GREAT first sweater pattern.

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 11:16 am #

      Thank you! You’re one of the ones who inspired me to learn to knit. (Mostly because I was envious of all the cute things you could make. I wanted cute things too!) This is a great first sweater pattern. Easy, no pattern work, just getting it to fit was the only hard part!

  21. petitejosette December 8, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    this is a super cute sweater! Great Job!
    I started knitting just a couple months ago and this is very inspiring! I can’t wait to finish my shawl and move on to something like this !

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

      Awesome! That’s great that you’ve taken up knitting too. There are quite a few good yarn stores here in Vancouver! And see, I haven’t knit a shawl yet. (Working on one though!)

  22. Tina Boscha December 8, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    It’s lovely! That color is divine – I love the variegation. When I knit sweaters, I almost always knit them top-down because of the customization. Knitting is like sewing in this way, because once you understand fit, you can easily customize sweaters. Here’s a tip: try it on after you join the underarms and have knit an inch or so. (This post from my own knitting blog has a pic that shows you what I mean: Just put the stitches on a super long cable or on multiple circulars or even a long length of yarn. You can even “try it on” before you join the arms, by putting the live stitches on a length of yarn or a super long circular cable (like 47 or 60 inches) and pulling the “seams” together under your arms to see how far you have to go. Mr. Sewaholic can help here. This way, you can see if the shaping is too much or too little or if you only need a few more rounds before you join the underarms. I hope that makes sense. Really, you can try it on multiple times throughout knitting so you can adjust as you go. Saves times and frogging. Enjoy wearing your new sweater!

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 11:21 am #

      Thanks for the fitting tips! I tried trying it on, but I didn’t understand fit properly, I don’t think.. I was more like ‘hey, I can get it on, it must fit!’ and didn’t pay attention to how much it was stretched out… And also, wasn’t sure what to do to get it to fit – not decrease any more? increase? use bigger needles? I think I’ll have the skills to fit my next sweater better though!

  23. Tina Boscha December 8, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    PS That’s my OLD knitting blog, forgot to say that.

  24. Leah December 8, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    You totally inspired me to start knitting, and I took my first class two months ago. But i”m still on the cowls and scarves phase, soon to move to socks, and then, who knows? I hope I have your patience, I hate ripping out yarn! But this is stunning, and I want to make one as soon as I feel brave enough. It’s a perfect color for you!

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 11:02 am #

      I hated it too. Pulling the yarn and watching hours and hours of work disappear is the worst feeling!! But, better than tossing the whole thing away, right? On one hand it’s kind of satisfying to ball up a failed project, trash it, and never have to look at it again. But on the practical and cost savings side, it is nice to be able to keep on trying until we get it right.
      Although, I started this thing back in July. I recommend taking a break, if you do have to re-start something! I think I even started it back in June as a different sweater, didn’t like how it was looking, and switched to this pattern instead. It takes so much patience, for sure!

  25. Nona December 8, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    Gorgeous color and superb knitting… your stitches are so even!! Well done!!!

  26. Katie December 8, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    Very nice! I love the feel of TFA yarn too.

  27. Ella December 8, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    Beautiful sweater Tasia! I love the colours of the yarn, and it looks like it fits you just perfectly.

  28. Manda December 8, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    Wow looks amazing!

  29. Miss Crayola Creepy December 8, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    You did amazing!!!!!

  30. Theresa December 8, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    That looks really pretty on you, well done.

  31. LisaB December 8, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    Congrats! Your first sweater is beautiful. I love the yarn you chose.

    I got back into knitting a year or so ago and started with socks. Earlier this year I decided to try sweaters and am on my third one now. Recently, I stumbled upon Amy Herzog’s Fit to Flatter series (found here: I read through all the installments and found some really good advice for approaching sweaters. NAYY. I’m just happy to have found this and wanted to share!

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 11:22 am #

      Ooh, interesting! I’m going to have a read-through before my next sweater project. Thanks for the recommendation!

  32. Sue December 8, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    The sweater looks great, beautifully made, fits well and I love the colour! Just a question about natural fibres though. I remember natural wool as being itchy & scratchy on my skin! But that was a long time ago when my nan used to knit my sweaters! Has natural wool yarn been improved now, so that it is kinder to sensitive skin? Any thoughts, anyone?

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 10:59 am #

      This one is really soft on the skin. It’s superwash, and if you look at the first swatch photo it’s very shiny and springy. You’d never think it was wool if you didn’t see the tag! So it all depends on the type of wool, I bet. In the yarn store there were plenty that were fluffier, scratchier and more wooly-looking.
      I’m a relative newbie still but I’d totally recommend this yarn – it’s Tanis Fiber Arts, she’s a Canadian yarn artist (is that the right term?) and the colour choices are all so beautiful! Here’s the link:
      I used the Green Label (aran weight) for this sweater. It’s a bit heavy, but totally warm. Warm enough to not need sleeves!
      There’s still plenty of wool that feels like wool – scratchier and itchy to a lot of people. This one’s really nice if you prefer softer sweaters!
      Hope this helps!

      • Kat S December 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

        Thanks for naming the yarn! I’m a sucker for varigated turquoise myself …

        The fit looks great, by the way.

  33. Katy December 8, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    Wow this looks lovely. I’m so inspired to knit more. I was trying to find an easy pattern and I think this one looks ideal.

  34. Amanda S. December 8, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    What a pretty sweater! I’m glad you went for it. Knitting sweaters was my whole reason for learning to knit as well. Some have turned out great, some not so much. But if I don’t like it I wait for a year or two to forget how much time went into it, and then frog the whole thing. That’s exactly what I’m about to do with a fuchsia sweater that’s too big. Oh, and the color of this yarn is gorgeous!

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

      Thanks! Does anything bad happen to the yarn after it’s been a sweater for a year or two? (I picture it looking like instant noodles, all kinked and curly.) I’ve read of people knitting a sweater, wearing it once or twice, and then deciding to re-knit the entire thing into something different.
      (Imagine if we could do that with sewing? Wear it as a slim skirt for a month, then decide to un-sew it and re-sew it into a flared skirt. Though I guess it’s possible if you’re always making smaller items..)

  35. Lucy December 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    Looks great – persistence does pay off! I also really love the colour. I’ve been dipping my toe back into knitting, thanks to you (I blame you for introducing me to Ravelry). I learned when I was little and have since had unsuccessful forays back into it – but this is the best I’ve ever got. I made the Make Up Your Mind tank on Ravelry, and that was great, so great I volunteered to make my fiance’s sister one for Christmas ;-) It’s funny how the second time you make something it goes so much faster.

    Knitting’s great for sitting in front of the TV, I find I can’t really sew in the evenings or I can’t sleep, but knitting gives me something to do with my hands (that isn’t biting my nails) and it makes lazy time more productive.

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

      My thoughts exactly! I used to be a serious nail-biter too. I think there are a lot of creative people that have a hard time sitting still, so we end up nail-biting or fidgeting. Or we can channel that energy into something useful like knitting!
      I also have trouble sleeping sometimes – knitting is relaxing and calming and it’s easy to do while other people in the house are sleeping. Just a little clinking of needles, much better than running the sewing machine or trying to cut out quietly. :)
      I’m glad your adventures in knitting are going well!

  36. Emilie December 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    I’m so happy to read this. I have never knit a sweater before, although I have knit a bunch of other things! I would really like to try but am afraid I will get discouraged/bored before it’s done. I bought some lovely yarn the other day and I have a Jane Richmond pattern on my Christmas wishlist, so hopefully I will gather up the courage for it soon!
    Your sweater is stunning… such a beautiful color!

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

      Jane Richmond’s patterns are the best! I’ve made three or four of her hat patterns and they’re easy to follow. I want to try her Audrey cardigan but.. buttonholes, scary. And I even messaged Jane when I had a question and she totally replied and answered it. So you should be fine – unless you get bored. (In that case, put it away and come back to it.) If I can do it, you can do it I’m sure!

  37. Ryan December 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    I’m excited to try another top down t-shirt sweater pattern. I know that’s what I’d wear the most, but the ones I’ve made so far don’t get worn much because there wasn’t any shaping in the body. I’m sure I will also have to add a ton of rows to get the waist in the right spot.

    • Tasia December 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

      Ah yes! Well, that was actually where I went wrong. When I tried on the too-tight version, and decided the waist was too high, I knit a bunch of rows straight, like 20 or something, and it turned out really strangely shaped, too tight and very sausage-like. It turns out I had actually miscounted my rows and so it got too tapered, too quickly, which is why I thought the waist was too high! I forget exactly how I went wrong, but i counted the decrease row twice so instead of knit 4, decrease 1 row, I was knitting 3, and decreasing 1 row. or something like that!
      The shaping in this sweater pattern is great – you can see how hourglass shaped it is in other people’s photos where the sweater is laying down flat!

  38. Zilredloh December 8, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    It’s so pretty! I love the yarn you used, the color is amazing and it looks nice and squishy.

    Isn’t Ravelry amazing?! I love how nice everyone is on there. Crafters are awesome gals & gents.

    Congrats again on your first sweater. Looks like you’ve been knitting for years. :)

  39. Susan - Knitters Delight December 8, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    Congratulations. Very nice work! I love being able to knit in vibrant colors also.

  40. Carolyn December 8, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    It looks great! I just bought wool for my first sweater and have been searching for the perfect pattern! I found one I love in my library — but its for a 36 inch bust and I’m a 33…looks like I’ll be playing with fit too.

  41. Annie December 9, 2011 at 3:56 am #

    This is so lovely! You are amazing!

  42. Bella December 10, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Tasia! Thanks for posting this. I always think you do EVERYTHING perfectly…so it was nice to hear it took you three tries to get the sweater right! And it looks great; very cute & I love the way the yarn looks in that pattern. It fits so well.

    I am on what feels like the 500th version of trying to modify a vintage pattern I bought by accident (Simplicity 7051) into Simplicity 7501, which has. I was in full-on covet mode & bought it rather quickly. Anyway, I’m on the 4th muslin; here’s the latest post:

    I have learned that even if I have lots of do-overs, it’s worth it because I often think it won’t matter–but then it does & I end up never wearing the not-quite-perfect item.

    I also like your point that I make stuff (sweaters, dresses) because a) I can’t afford to buy the quality I want. But also want to add b) I can’t find dresses that I like that fit. I am not a sleeveless type of gal (the 40+ fairy took away all the tone in my upper arms and I get sunburned easily).

    Lovely sweater!

  43. Keren Duchan December 10, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

    What a gorgeous sweater! I love the fit and the raglan sleeves and the finish on the sleeve hem and neckline. My mom is a very talented knitter. She taught me several times over the years to knit and I gave up after so many fails… And took up sewing. I found it hard to keep a consistent tension to my knitting, and I would get atomically discouraged when I noticed an error and had to undo a lot of work. I also kept making mistakes when adding/subtracting width.

    You inspire me to get back and learn from Mom to make the gorgeous stuff she knows how to make. Keep up the good work!

  44. Amy December 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    I love it so much! Can you please email me the PDF? It’s not online anymore and I emailed her and didn’t get a reply. I’d love to try to make it.


  45. kristin December 13, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    i’m finally getting thru my google reader back log, so i’m late commenting….but i ADORE this sweater!!! it’s almost enough to make e want to learn to knit myself! the color is fantastic and the fit is amazing!! great job, i’d pay $80 for that!

  46. Ashlee December 13, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    Looks fabulous! Makes me want to dig into my sweater stash… ohhhh, if only it weren’t two weeks before Christmas!

  47. Suzie December 14, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    Wow, what a gorgeous sweater. I can’t believe that you only learnt to knit this time last year – that is seriously impressive. You are a very inspirational person – and so talented! Can’t wait to see what you make next!

  48. Amelia December 14, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    This is fabulous, looks like you bought it. Well done!

  49. Viviane Cichowski Rieger December 24, 2011 at 3:04 am #

    beautifull, i loved trico


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