How to Design a Sweater


A knitter is looking for the perfect sweater pattern. She sees the shape, the yarn and the color. She pictures herself wearing it. She conducts an unsuccessful search of magazines, books and online. This knitter is ready to design her first sweater.

Things You'll Need

  • Knitting graph paper
  • Tape measure
  • Yarn
  • Knitting needles

Design Choices

  • Choose a silhouette or general shape for your sweater. A close-fitting design has a different silhouette than a boxy shape and requires more fitting. Make a sketch of your idea, or start with an existing design that you want to adjust.

  • Pick either a cardigan or pullover sweater. Also choose sleeves or sleeveless. Another consideration is where you will wear the sweater. For example, an everyday sweater can be a simpler design than an evening sweater.

  • Choose a style of sweater and the stitch patterns. The silhouette you want will determine some of your options. For example, a cabled or Aran sweater has a boxy silhouette because it is difficult to incorporate shaping in these heavily patterned designs. If you want cables in a form-fitting silhouette, consider using them as accents.

  • Choose the type of yarn that best suits the type of sweater you want. For example, cotton yarn is great for a summer sweater but not a good choice for cables. The yarn weight is also a consideration. Finer yarns have better drape than heavier yarns and show intricate stitch patterns better.

Design Details

  • Decide on the sweater construction. Your silhouette and yarn choice are both factors in this decision. For example, cabled sweaters are traditionally knit in the round, from the bottom up. For a sweater with a lot of shaping, seams provide stability, so choose a sweater knit in pieces and sewed together. If you want a cardigan with an all-over stitch pattern, consider knitting it from side to side.

  • Add sleeves to the design. You have several options, including a drop shoulder, set-in sleeve and saddle shoulders. Consider how the sleeve will fit into the silhouette. For example, a set-in sleeve has a closer fit than a drop shoulder. Add the sleeve to the design sketch.

  • Hone in on the design details including the edgings, neckline and collar. Add these details to the sketch.

  • Take your measurements, including bust, hip and shoulder measurements. Also measure your arm length for sleeves.

Final Decisions

  • Chart the stitch patterns with knitting graph paper for designs with cables, color work or lace. This step allows you to see how the stitch patterns or colors fit together. For lace or cable designs, start the chart in the center and add patterns on both sides.

  • Knit a swatch with your chosen yarn and using the charted stitches. Cast on enough stitches to do at least three pattern repeats. For a cabled sweater make sure you include the center motif. Keep notes on how many stitches you cast on, as it may be hard to count the stitches after you're done.

  • Make any adjustments to the design based on the swatch. For example, you may find that the stitch patterns do not work well together, or that the fabric is too stiff. Or you may not like the yarn with the stitch pattern. This is the time to experiment with the design. Knit another swatch if necessary.

  • Use the final swatch to determine the stitch and row gauge. Use the gauge and your measurements to finalize the design.

  • Start knitting.

Tips & Warnings

  • Only purchase enough yarn to make a swatch as you may change your mind. Or check the yarn store's return policy.
  • For inspiration, peruse stitch dictionaries. If you don't have any, check your local library.

Related Searches


  • "Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book"; Editors of Vogue Knitting; 2002
  • "Knitting in the Old Way"; Priscilla Gibson-Roberts; 2004
  • Photo Credit knitting image by Inger Anne Hulbækdal from
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