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Gramps Cardigan: Beginning a Knitting Project (2/6)

March 6, 2012


Knitting a garment requires a relatively large commitment of time, money and energy.  How do you begin?

This tutorial is part 2 of a 6-part tutorial covering sweater knitting techniques for the Gramps cardigan. To view the other parts of the tutorial click on the links below.


The first step in knitting a sweater is choosing a pattern you like! In this tutorial we’re using Gramps; a perfect sweater for your little and big alike.  You can shop for knitting patterns in person at your LYS (Local Yarn Store), or online.  There are many free and paid patterns available on, our favorite knitting community!


FIRST, if the pattern you have chosen includes a schematic diagram, take a look at it.  The schematic for Gramps looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.54.57 PM

The schematic gives you several pieces of information.  It shows the basic shape of the finished piece, and indicates the finished measurements for each of the sizes. The Gramps schematic indicates where to measure finished chest, arms, and sleeve measurements. It is best to choose the size you will knit based on these measurements, rather than paying too much attention to the age or size ranges given; as babies and grown ups come in all sizes! For a more in depth look at choosing sweater sizes check out our tutorial ‘Avoiding the Sweater Curse‘.

The Gramps pattern gives further information in table format:

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.56.12 PM

For this tutorial, I will be knitting the 1-2 year size (the second size in brackets); which will have a finished chest measurement of 23″, an upper arm of 8″, a sleeve length of 7″ and a hem to underarm length of 7″; ASSUMING I knit to the gauge specified in the pattern (more on gauge below)



Choosing yarn can be tricky for a newbie, where possible we recommend taking your pattern down to your LYS for a little help. When we worked at yarn shops most of our days were spent helping customers choose yarn, often looking for a suitable substitution for the yarn suggested in the pattern.

Once you have chosen the size you would like to knit, look at the yarn requirements section of the pattern:

Yarn: worsted weight yarn
Main Colour: 240 (260, 320, 420, 480, 560, 650, 650, 750, 850, 900, 1100, 1200, 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800) yards
Contrast Colour:   110 (140, 180, 200, 200, 220, 250, 300, 350, 375, 400, 425, 425, 450, 450, 475) yds
(for our pattern samples we used Madelinetosh Vintage in ‘twig’ and ‘grove’, ‘robin red breast’ and ‘whiskey barrel’, ‘well water’ and ‘whiskey barrel’ and ‘smoke’ and ‘charcoal’)

This tells us that we need to use a worsted weight yarn (more on what that is below), in 2 colours, and that for the size we have chosen we will require 320 yds of the main colour  (we are using ‘rainwater’), and 180 yards of the contrast colour (we are using ‘twig’).

It also makes a note that the sample project as photographed in the book was knit in a yarn called Madelinetosh Vintage and the names of the various colours the samples were knit in.  We can look up this yarn on ravelry, and learn some information about it:

Madelinetosh Vintage :

suggested gauge of 18.0 to 20.0 sts = 4 inches

suggested needle sizes US #6-7 (4.0-4.5mm), is 200 yards / 110 gram skein

100% machine washable merino wool, and is a plied yarn.

If we choose to substitute another yarn for the yarn used in the sample, we will always achieve a slightly different effect. Of course, many yarns are quite similar to one another. If you want to achieve a similar effect to the design with a different yarn, choose a yarn that:

  • is worsted weight that knits to the same gauge as the suggested yarn (18-20) Note: What is worsted weight yarn? Great question. Worsted weight is a yarn that knits to approximately 18-20 sts per 4 inches. 
  • has the same or similar fibre content as the suggested yarn (100% Superwash Merino)
  • has the same or similar yardage / weight as the suggested yarn (200 yards per 110 grams)
  • has a similar structure as the suggested yarn (ie. is it plied or single-ply)

You will refer to the ball band to of the yarn you are considering to determine all of this information. For more information on yarn and substitutions you can check out our yarn tutorial here.

Still not sure? Head down to your LYS, pattern in hand, and they will know just what to do!

For my sweater I will be using Madelinetosh Vintage in 'rainwater' and 'twig'

For my sweater I will be using Madelinetosh Vintage in ‘rainwater’ and ‘twig’. All of the pertinent information can be found on the ball band.

For this tutorial, I have chosen to use Madelinetosh Vintage in ‘rainwater’ and ‘twig’, the same yarn recommended in the pattern.

I have knit myself a little gauge swatch and attached a tag with the relevant information: which yarn, which needle size

I have knit myself a little gauge swatch and attached a tag with the relevant information I may want later: which yarn, which needle size, and which colour


To determine which needles you will need for the project, and test if the yarn you have chosen is suitable, it is necessary to knit a gauge swatch. When knitting garments, achieving the gauge specified in the pattern is CRUCIAL if you want to end up with a garment of the dimensions specified by the schematic and pattern notes.  You may spend weeks knitting the sweater; it is worthwhile to invest a few minutes knitting a swatch (or 3) to ensure that the finished product is the right size, and that you like the density & texture of the fabric.

Unless you know that you are a tight or loose knitter, begin by swatching with the suggested needle size. In the Gramps pattern, 4.5mm needles are suggested for the body of the cardigan; and these are the needles you will use to prepare your swatch.

Gauge:     20 sts / 4” in stockinette stitch (using larger needles)
Needles:   US #7 / 4.5mm and US #6 / 4.0 mm (or as required to meet gauge);

I like to knit my swatches as follows: Cast on at least as many stitches as called for in 4″ (in this case 20).  I cast on 24 for good measure.  Knit 6 or more rows to create a garter border.  Work for about 3 or 4 inches with a garter border of 2-4 sts on either edge (k on RS and WS), and stockinette stitch (k on RS, purl on WS) in the middle.  Then work a few more rows in garter stitch then bind off.  This creates a relatively flat little swatch that is big enough to measure.  It took me 25 minutes to knit.

It is important to always treat your swatch the same way you will be treating your garment. If you intend to block your sweater (and we REALLY recommend that you do) you should block your swatch (more information on gauge in knitting as well as how to block your swatch here).


I measure the gauge on my swatches using my ruler and needle gauger which is one of the best tools in my kit. You can also just use a ruler. In this case, there are 10 stitches in 2″, which works out to 20 sts / 4″ – exactly the gauge I was aiming for. If you achieve less stitches in 4″, (ie. 18), you need to make another swatch with a smaller needle.  If you achieve more stitches in 4″ (ie. 22), you need to make another swatch using larger needles.



So now you have your pattern, yarn, and needles and a little swatch to pin to your bulletin board, inspiring you to continue on with your sweater. It’s amazing how many details we covered, and all we knit was a swatch! In the blog posts to follow, I will take you through all of the steps required to knit the Gramps cardigan!

The next post will be:

Is there anything I covered that is unclear?  Did I miss any important points?  Please let me know what you think of these tutorials, and make suggestions for other tutorial topics by posting comments, or contact me directly.

For Knitting Instructors

This material is also intended to be useful to those who teach knitting. If you are a shop owner who runs knitting classes, and would like to use this tutorial for instruction, you are welcome to do so. Tin Can Knits wholesales books and single leaflet patterns to knitting shops in Canada, the USA and the UK, if you are interested in carrying our products, please contact us.

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2020 8:29 am

    Hi. I making this sweater right now and I was a little confused…. The inc at the beginning are all only on one side except for every 4th row when one stitch is added. I would’ve thought that the adds would be equal on both sides….. Also, is it supposed to take a radical 90 degree turn after doing 16 or so rows? I hope I am not screwing this one up because it looks so easy to do, but I always second guess myself at the beginning of a pattern…..

    • June 9, 2020 12:02 pm

      Hi – The increases will come on either side of the 4 raglan markers. You are going to knit to 1 stitch before the marker, then the instruction is m1, k2, m1. This looks like: m1, k1, slip marker, k1, m1

  2. Joyce Sehn permalink
    March 22, 2017 7:59 pm

    Could you confirm your yarn choice, please? I saw somewhere that you use Madelinetosh Vintage and it looks lovely. I just found a Canadian source for that specific yarn but it’s $32.00 a hank and you would need more than 3 hanks to make even a small child’s sweater. Unless I’m missing something, but close to $100 just for materials seems too much. Do people pay that much? Or could you suggest another alternative?

    • March 23, 2017 6:46 pm

      Hi Joyce – we did use Madelinetosh Vintage, which is a hand dyed yarn, which can be on the pricey side. There are, of course, many many other options, that’s the beauty of hand made! You are just looking for a Worsted weight yarn. We recommend a natural fiber, something that will block. Cascade 220 is a great option.

  3. mama to many permalink
    September 14, 2016 10:29 am

    Is there any reason why I couldn’t use a provisional cast on with the current version of the pattern?

    • September 14, 2016 4:57 pm

      Hi – you can use a provisional cast on, but I find for the larger child sizes and grown up sizes it needs the structure of a regular cast on and a pick up.

  4. mama to many permalink
    September 14, 2016 10:22 am

    Hi I think there may be a typo?

    “In this case, there are 10 stitches in the 2″ window, which works out to 20 sts / 4″ – exactly the gauge I was aiming for. If you achieve less stitches in 4″, (ie. 18), you need to make another swatch with a smaller needle. If you achieve more stitches in 2″ (ie.22), you need to make another swatch using larger needles.”

    Wouldn’t you need larger needles if you have too few stitches and smaller needles if you have too many? Or am I backwards?

  5. September 5, 2016 4:50 pm

    way can you tell has hau many stitches to make for every sizes instead if has to mesure it easy to tell has hau many stitcher to cast on thank you rita

    • September 6, 2016 12:02 pm

      Hi Rita – all of the cast on numbers and details are in the Gramps pattern, available for purchase here.

  6. sheila roberts permalink
    March 3, 2016 11:17 am

    When measuring the stitches to check the gauge, does the number of stitches automatically take care of the vertical measurement stitches as well?

    • March 4, 2016 10:51 am

      Not always, but in the Gramps sweater most of the measurements are ‘knit to’ lengths so it isn’t as critical as the stitch gauge

  7. Mrs.Ruby Daniel permalink
    February 8, 2016 10:29 pm


    Thank you for this wonderful tutorial.its really amazing…………………..
    i am beginner and ur tutorial helps me a lots its so clear and easy to follow………………

  8. Susan permalink
    November 4, 2015 6:17 pm

    Thank you for a great pattern and tutorial, they are so helpful for a relatively new knitter (like me)! I recently completed a Gramps for my son (size 2-4) and made a matching one for my hubby. Now my father in law has requested one – how can I refuse? I’m having trouble choosing a size for him however, since his chest measurement was 45″. It seems like the L would be too small, but the XL would be too big. Is it possible to adjust to get something in between?

    • November 5, 2015 9:32 am

      I would go with the smaller size and add an extra row or 2 of raglan increases. Each extra row adds 4 (or 6) sts to the body, giving you about an extra inch. You may want to only add them to the body, or, if you need a larger upper arm as well, you can add them to the arms too.

      • Susan permalink
        November 7, 2015 6:27 pm

        Thank you! That makes sense. I’ll have to think through the math and decide how much to add. Love your designs, especially the child to adult sizing!

  9. December 29, 2012 7:37 am

    This is a fabulous tutorial series! The only suggestion I can make to this post is to wash and block the swatch, because some yarn changes gauge and we don’t want there to be any surprises. :-) Can’t wait to read the next posts!

    • December 30, 2012 12:28 am

      An excellent point! Blocking makes everything better, even swatches! (and more accurate too)


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