Beginner's Knitting Patterns for Sweaters & Jackets

by Anita Holmes

Sweaters can be knit from two basic stitches: knit and purl.

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Knitting is a means of creating fabric from yarn through the use of two needles. Knitting began in the third century A.D. with socks. Eighteen centuries later, dedicated knitters still sport sock patterns in their arsenal of knitting accomplishments. Knitting can be as complex as working intricate lace designs, or as easy as creating a pot holder with a simple seed stitch. Beginning knitters can make sweaters and jackets. There are certain pattern and material characteristics to look for when tackling a sweater or jacket knitting project for the first time.

Basic Sweater/Jacket Parts

Sweaters and jackets come in myriad designs. They may sport cowl necklines, turtlenecks, classic button-down collars, buttons and buttonholes, gathered sleeves, ruffled cuffs, elaborate stitch designs in the body of the garment and multiple colors. When approaching a beginning knitting project, avoid these design embellishments. Look for a clothing design that only addresses the back piece, front (for a pullover sweater, or left and right fronts for a cardigan or jacket) and sleeve (knitted patterns generally provide identical directions for both the left and right arm).

Pattern Characteristics

Look for a beginner's knitting pattern with clear definitions of all knitting terms to be used in the pattern instructions. Instruction steps in larger-than-normal font, or bold type, with illustrations, facilitate the knitting process. Front and back images of the finished garment provide a visual target for comparing the knitted pieces with.

Yarns and Needles

Knitting yarns and needles come in a variety of sizes, from thread-like yarn and size 8/0 (0.5 mm) needles, to bulky yarn requiring size 18 (14 mm) or larger needles. When preparing to knit that first sweater or jacket, plan on tackling projects requiring at least worsted weight yarn or bulkier, and at least size 7 knitting needles. Some beginner patterns entail working with super-bulky yarn and size 20 or bigger needles, resulting in speedy knitting projects.

The Importance of Gauge

Few things are more discouraging than investing time and money into knitting a sweater or jacket, then discovering that it doesn't fit. Discerning gauge (stitches per inch) by creating a 4-inch-by-4-inch knitting sample using the yarn and needle size recommended in the pattern is a preventive measure. Every knitter applies different pressure to the yarn when knitting. Making the knitting sample provides an opportunity to detect any variance from the pattern-outlined stitches per inch. If the sample shows fewer stitches per inch than the pattern, use a size smaller needle for the clothing project. Likewise, if the sample shows more stitches per inch than the pattern, use a size larger needle. Through this means, regardless of your personal knitting tension, the garment will turn out the correct size.

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About the Author

A retired teacher, Anita Holmes is an experienced seamstress, wood worker and home decor specialist. She's designed and constructed new homes, gardens, remodeled multiple homes, built furniture, decks and cabinets and sewn everything from custom drapes to intricate quilts. Holmes holds a Master of Public Administration degree.