When I decided to make a sweater for my son, the first step was deciding on a pattern. I poked around a bit online. One of the things I noticed is that there are lots of patterns for kids up to age 6, and then not a lot until you reach adult sizes. Fortunately, my son has hit that age where he’s bordering between a youth extra-large and an adult small, so I looked at men’s sweater patterns. (Yes, it’s a bit of an emotional hit to realize I’m looking at adult sizes for my not-so-little boy who is growing up much too fast, but what can I do? He absolutely refuses to stop growing!)
There are a lot of sites to look for patterns. Many yarn manufacturers have patterns available. Ravelry has patterns both free and for a price. (I have a profile on Ravelry, if you want to add me as a friend there.) Knitty.com does regular issues online of free patterns, and Knitpicks has some free patterns available as well. Related to Knitty.com is Knittyspin, which showcases things to knit from yarn you spin yourself. I haven’t quite gotten to that stage yet (although my dad made a drop spindle for me years ago, and I really do need to learn to use it), but I figure I can always substitute commercial yarn in a pattern, right?
When I started working on the sweater, I thought the biggest challenges I was going to face were keeping the cables straight (the pattern includes left twist, right twist, right purl cross, left purl cross, right cross, and left cross) and adding the zipper at the end. In fact, those were fairly straightforward, although I occasionally realized I’d done a cross the wrong way and had to go back and correct it. My challenges turned out to be
- Using double-point needles to work on the sleeves. I’ve always done sleeves open, seaming them at the end — and working on both sleeves at the same time (a trick my mom taught me to be sure that the tension and hence the size of the sleeves was equal). These are knit in the round from the cuffs up, and my circular needles were too large to start the work on — I didn’t transfer to circular needles until I’d increased enough that I kept dropping stitches. Even then, I had to use the “magic loop” knitting technique, where most of the length of the needle isn’t used, but is held in a loop, with the stitches divided between the two ends. Using the double-point needles actually wasn’t that difficult, as long as I remembered to pay attention to where my rounds began and make my increases at the right point.
- The raglan decreases after joining the sleeves to the body. There was the minor problem I always have (reminding myself of the proper way to do an ssk decrease), but the real trick was continuing to work the cables in pattern and do the raglan decrease as it crossed the cables. I’m still not sure I did it as well as I could have.
- Related to the former point, the length of the sleeves. I’d made sure to get measurements of my kids in September or so, which meant I knew exactly how long my son’s arm was. That’s how long I made the sleeve. Unfortunately, the sleeve joins to the body just above the underarm, which means the sleeves are a few inches too long. Fortunately, because I hadn’t finished the sweater before Christmas after all, my son had weighed in on the length of the sweater and asked for it to be longer — so the sleeves aren’t actually disproportionate to the sweater. Just to him. (For now. In a few years, no doubt that will change.)
- The lower hem. I don’t think this is something that I did wrong, per se, but the wider stockinette areas in the front don’t draw in as much as the ribbing, which makes that portion of the hem dip a tiny amount.