Are you ready? It’s time to knit your very first sweater! While knitting your first garment can seem daunting, I promise it’s just one stitch at a time. This tutorial covers our free Flax pattern, download your copy of Flax here, or Flax Light here.
This tutorial includes excerpts from the Flax pattern, which is knit in a worsted weight. If you’re following the Flax Light pattern (knit in sock/fingering weight yarn) all the techniques described below will apply, but the numbers will be different.
Needles: For a top-down pullover you need multiple needles. This is because you are knitting in the round and your sweater changes diameter over the yoke, body, and sleeves. You will need smaller needles for the ribbing and larger needles for the rest, and you will need a few different lengths depending on which size you are knitting. For the sleeves you will need double pointed needles (DPNs) or you can use a long circular and the magic loop method.
The first step for your sweater is a gauge swatch. I know there will be some of you who skip this step, but don’t. A garment is a lot of work and it’s disappointing to find out you’ve put hours upon hours into a sweater…and it’s not the right size at all. Check out our tutorial on gauge and swatching here, and remember that Flax is knit in the round, so you will want a swatch in the round as well.
Once you’ve got your gauge sorted and you’ve chosen your size, it’s time to cast on!
The Flax sweater is knit from the top down. This means your sweater is knit in the following order:
Cast on at the collar, using either option 1 or option 2.
Raglan increases are worked through the yoke
Optional short rows are worked
The sweater is separated into body and sleeves
The body is worked in rounds to the hem
The sleeves are worked in the round to the cuffs.
If you have chosen collar option 2 for the collar you will work the collar ribbing last.
At the cast-on there are two options. Option 1 is the most straightforward, just cast on and work the ribbing. For Option 2 you will cast on and immediately start the yoke, coming back to pick up and work the ribbing at the end. This option is recommended for a little more structure at the neckline, especially useful in larger sizes.
The fist thing you need to decide for your sweater is which cast-on option you will use. The Flax sweater ‘hangs’ from that cast on point, so picking up and knitting the ribbing later adds a little structure, but it’s a little more straightforward to just cast on and start your sweater. Either way is just fine, but if you are knitting a larger size you may want to consider option 2 for a little extra structure at the neckline.
A tip for casting on: Remember that your sweater has to go over a head, so make sure your cast on is firm but not too tight to stretch over a noggin.
Option 1: Using smaller circular needles cast on 56 (62, 68, 74, 74, 76, 78, 86, 86, 86, 86, 90, 90, 90, 96, 96, 96, 96, 96) sts, place BOR marker and join for working in the round.
Establish 1×1 ribbing: (k1, p1) around
Work in ribbing as established (knit the knits and purl the purls) until piece measures 1 (1.5)” from cast-on for Child (Adult) sizes. Change to larger needles.
Option 2 (added structure): Using larger circular needles cast on 56 (62, 68, 74, 74, 76, 78, 86, 86, 86, 86, 90, 90, 90, 96, 96, 96, 96, 96) sts, place BOR marker and join for working in the round. Knit 1 round.
This may seem like a complicated instruction but follow along and we will do a little math. What this means is that you have 56 (62, 68, 74, 74, 76, 78,86, 86, 86, 86, 90, 90, 90, 96, 96, 96, 96, 96) sts and you need to increase 4 (4, 4, 4, 8, 18, 16, 12, 18, 22, 26, 24, 36, 46, 48, 54, 56, 72, 86) sts for a total of 60 (66, 72, 78, 82, 94, 94, 98, 104, 108, 112, 114, 126, 136, 144, 150, 152, 168, 182) sts. So how are we going to do this?
Take the number of stitches you have and divide them by the number of sts you need to increase:
Example: For the 0-6 mo size: you have 56 sts and you need to increase 4 sts, 56/4 = 14 So I will knit 14 sts, then make 1 stitch 4 times and I will have 60 sts.
It gets a little more complicated when the numbers don’t work so perfectly.
Example: For the size XS: you have 86 sts, and you need to increase 12 sts, 86/12 = 7.16. So I will knit 7 sts, then make 1, 12 times, then knit to the end.
Although this may seem unnecessarily complicated (why don’t we just do the math for you?!) it’s an instruction you will come across often in sweater patterns. If we wrote out each size every time we had to do an increase round like this our patterns would be 20 pages long!
(these raglan markers indicate the divisions between right sleeve, front, left sleeve, and back sections)
This establishes where the sleeves, front and back are. The sleeves are worked with a garter panel down the middle, while the front and back are worked in stockinette st. Learn more about basic stitch patterns here.
A note on how garter stitch works: When you are working back and forth, garter stitch is created by knitting every row, but in the round garter stitch is created by knitting on 1 round and purling on the next. Stockinette in the round is created by knitting every round. Since you never turn your work, the right side is always facing you, therefore the stitches are created differently.
Working in pattern: keeping the garter panel in tact
The sleeves have a garter panel on them that is maintained throughout the sweater. The garter panel will always be the central 10 (11, 12, 13, 13, 14, 14, 15, 15, 15, 15, 15, 16, 16, 17, 17, 17, 19, 21) sts, no matter what else is happening in the sweater.
Tip for maintaining the garter panel: If you are having trouble remembering where the garter panel goes (or you just want things to be a little more fool proof) you may want to place a marker on either side of the panel. Just remember not to work your raglan increases at these extra markers.
The yoke of the Flax sweater is created by increasing (using a ‘knit front and back’ increase, or a kfb) at 8 points on the sweater, 2 stitches increased on each sleeve and 2 stitches increased on the front and the back. You will be increasing on either side of the 4 raglan markers. One increase comes before the marker and one increase comes after.
Once you have completed the yoke increases it’s time to measure. You will be working rounds ‘even’ in order to achieve the desired yoke depth. What does ‘even’ mean? This means you will be working without increases, keeping the garter panel on the sleeves as set, and knitting all other stitches.
If your round gauge matches that stated in the pattern, you will need to work 2 (2, 4, 4, 6, 8, 4, 4, 4, 4, 6, 4, 6, 2, 0, 0, 2, 2, 2) rounds even. If your round gauge is slightly different you will work as many rounds as necessary for your yoke to measure:
For option 1: 4.5 (5, 5.5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 6.5, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10.5, 10.5, 11, 11.5, 12, 12, 12)” deep, measured from cast-on, ending with a round 2.
For option 2: 3.5 (4, 4.5, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 9, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 10.5, 10.5)” deep, measured from cast-on, ending with a round 2.
Short row shaping (optional)
If you are feeling adventurous you might want to add short row shaping to your sweater. This will raise the back neck of the sweater relative to the front. It is completely optional so if this is your very first sweater just keep going! Full short row instructions can be found here.
Separate the body and sleeves
Now for the fun part! Once you separate the body and sleeves it will start to look like an actual sweater! You will be placing your sleeve stitches on waste yarn, casting on stitches at the underarm, and joining the front and back into a single tube. Check out our tutorial on placing stitches on waste yarn here.
Next Round: [place 26 (29, 30, 31, 33, 34, 38, 43, 45, 47, 49, 53, 58, 62, 67, 71, 77, 79, 83) stitches on waste yarn (the stitches from BOR to first raglan marker), using backwards loop method cast on 4 (4, 4, 6, 6, 6, 6, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 10, 12, 12, 14, 16) sts, knit to marker] twice
Once you have completed this round the sleeve stitches are on hold and there are 80 (88, 92, 100, 108, 118, 126, 140, 150, 158, 166, 176, 194, 212, 230, 248, 262, 278, 296) body stitches on the needles.
Now you will have just the body stitches on your needles with 2 sleeves on waste yarn. Is it starting to look like a sweater yet?
Here comes the easy peasy miles of stockinette! Just knit knit knit until your piece is:
For regular length: 5 (5.5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 14, 13.5, 13.5, 14.5, 14.5, 15.5, 16.5, 17, 17.5, 18.5, 18.5, 18.5, 18.5)” from underarm (or 1 (1.5)” short of desired length for Child (Adult) sizes).
For cropped length: 3 (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8.5, 9.5, 9.5, 9.5, 10.5, 11.5, 11.5, 12.5, 12.5, 12.5, 12.5, 12.5)” from underarm (or 1 (1.5)” short of desired length for Child (Adult) sizes).
All options: Change to smaller needles and work in 1×1 ribbing for 1 (1.5)” for Child (Adult) sizes. Bind off all stitches loosely.
Binding off: You can choose either a regular bind off or a bind off in pattern. For a regular bind off you are working 2 knit stitches, passing the first over the second, knitting another stitch, passing the first over the second etc (bind off tutorial here).
Binding off in pattern is almost the same, but instead of knitting all of the stitches you will work them in pattern instead. For this sweater it would be: k1, p1, pass stitch over, k1, pass stitch over, p1, pass stitch over, etc.
You are now going to place the sleeve stitches back on the needles and pick up and knit stitches from the body of the sweater. You can work the sleeves using double pointed needles (DPNs) or a long circular and the magic loop technique. For larger sizes you can also work most of the sleeve on a 16″ circular needle.
Knit across these stitches then pick up and knit 2 (2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8) sts from body at underarm, PM to indicate BOR, pick up and knit 2 (2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8) more stitches from body at underarm, then join for working in the round.
A note on using double pointed needles (DPNs) for the sleeves: The easiest way to distribute your stitches is having the stitches from the BOR to the garter panel on the first needle, the garter panel on the second needle, and the rest of the stitches on the third needle. The beginning of your round is the first stitch on the first needle (the middle of the underarm).
Once you have picked up all of your stitches, you will join again for working in the round. You might have a small hole at the underarm, not to worry, we will stitch that up later.
Work 3 (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 8, 8, 8, 8, 7, 6, 6, 4, 5, 4, 5, 3)” even, maintaining garter panel and knitting all other stitches.
If you want to adjust the sleeve length, this is a good place to do it. If you want a longer or short sleeve, here is where you should add or subtract inches.
Now you are going to work even, without decreases, until the sleeve is the right length for you. Just like at the body you can
A tip for making 2 sleeves exactly the same: The important thing about knitting sleeves is making 2 the same (sounds obvious right?). So make sure to take notes on the number of rounds you work as you go.
how many rounds to the first decrease?
how many rounds after the last decrease but before the ribbing?
how many rounds in the ribbing?
Option 2 collar
If you worked option 2 at the cast-on work ribbing as follows:
With smaller needles and RS facing, pick up and knit 1 stitch in each cast-on stitch. [56 (62, 68, 74, 74, 76, 78, 86, 86, 86, 86, 90, 90, 90, 96, 96, 96, 96, 96) sts]. Work in 1×1 ribbing for 1 (1.5)” for Child (Adult) sizes. Bind off all sts loosely.
You have put a lot of work into your first sweater so don’t skip blocking, it’s an important step. Your yarn has been running through your fingers and probably needs a wash at minimum. Blocking will make your stitches even out and lie flat and generally ‘smooth out’ your work. It’s easy to block a sweater out of proportion if you aren’t careful. Make sure you have your measuring tape handy and that your chest measurements and length are as desired.