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How to Design Your Own Knit Sweater from a Picture

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How to Design Your Own Knit Sweater from a Picture

Often, I’ll page through magazines thinking, “I could knit that!” But it wasn’t until recently, when I was paging through a catalog of fall fashions, that I decided to say, “I will knit that!”

The sweater that caught my eye (click here to see it) is constructed in a way that I had never seen before. Rather than let myself be intimidated, though, I decided to use what I’ve learned from knitting sweaters in the past to figure out how this one was made.

My first step was to make a rough sketch of the sweater so that I could get a better idea of its design elements. I noted that the set-in sleeves continued past the armhole and met in the middle, making a saddle sleeve shape. Since the sleeves determine the measurements of the body, I decided to knit them first.

Now I needed to figure out what kind of yarn to use. In the catalog image, the stitches were easy to see, even from far away. This told me that I should use a straight, or smooth, yarn to give the stitches lots of definition. Because I didn’t want to wait until it gets cold out to wear my sweater, I decided to use Lion® Cotton.

Then I needed to figure out how much yarn to buy. Using the Pattern Finder® on, I found this Lion® Cotton sweater, which has a similar shape. Going by the measurements I would use for the Lion Brand pattern, I decided to buy 6 balls: 4 in my main color (Natural) and 2 in my stripe color (Poppy Red).

My next step was to figure out needle size. In the catalog picture, though the cuffs appeared to be tightly stitched, the fabric in the main body showed small holes among the stitches. This told me that my fabric there should be more open than usual, so I would need to use a larger-than-recommended needle. After making a few sample swatches, I chose size 10. (To make the tight-knit cuffs, I would use size 5. As an added bonus, changing the needle size midway gave me the bloused effect of the sleeves in the picture–no increasing needed!)

Finally, I needed to choose a stitch pattern. Where the fabric was stretched in the picture, I could see purls between the knits: K1, P1 rib it is! However, after knitting a few inches on size 10 needles in K1, P1 rib, I realized that the fabric was too open. I didn’t want to change the size of my needles, though, so I decided to change the stitch. I started using Mock Rib instead, and the results gave me just the right amount of sturdiness while maintaining the texture.

Next week, I’ll tell you how I constructed the sweater itself!

Have you ever designed or free-styled your own project? Tell us about it in the comments!

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  • This is really great!!! You won’t, by chance, be posting the pattern you develop will you?  I’m not so advanced to go by a picture quite yet but would totally love to make one of these!

    • Hi mk27,

      Thank you! Since this is a personal project, I’m not writing a pattern out–mostly, I’m just winging it. However, stay tuned for my blog post on the tools I used to figure out stitch numbers and measurements.

      Lion Brand does have some super cute sweater patterns that look similar to this one, though. If you’re looking for stripes, here are two of my favorites: & If you’re looking for a boatneck style, here’s a good one: Remember, you can always knit the same fabric in a stripe pattern or even just change the colors to make it your own.

  • This happens to me ALL THE TIME. I can’t look at a RTW sweater without dissecting it. If I want the sweater badly enough, I will obsess about it and write up a deconstruction design plan. It’s fun trying to find existing patterns and match up yarns and figure out unique construction methods. Good on you for figuring it out yourself!

  • Hi,
    I have alot of these tops that are so plain looking.  I can’t wait to try it. 

  • […] In last week’s post, I told you how I chose the yarn and stitch pattern to create my own sweater design based on a picture. (To see the picture, click here.) This week, I’ll tell you how I figured out the shaping and the number of stitches to use. […]

  • Check Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Book, Knitter’s Almanac page 129 “Hurry- Up Last Minute Sweater” it has this shaping in it. -SK

  • If you look at the sweater you can see that your sketch is too overworked.  The sweater is shaped by curving the body top (possibly with short rows).  The sleeves are knit straight and sewn onto the curved center front.  Basically the sleeves are a tube with a hole for the head sort of like a shrug.  Very fun idea.

  • My grandson wants a sweater knitted with dogs on it?  How would I find a pattern of a dog?

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