To Design a Sweater

I just finished my very first sweater design. It’s not perfect, but it fits (more or less), and boy howdy, did I ever learn a lot in the process!


My primary thought, looking back on this process, is that all knitwear design boils down to basically three driving questions:

  1. What look are you going for?
  2. What body are you trying to fit?
  3. How big are your stitches?

Because I am the laziest person on God’s green earth, I am also the WORST person to take advice from on how to meticulously combine any of these. I do, however, have some thoughts that may be helpful if you’re thinking of designing a sweater yourself.

1. What look are you going for?

This was the toughest part of the design process for me. I spent hours combing through Ravelry and Patternfish looking for shapes and techniques I like. I only designed because nothing struck me as quite right, but I bookmarked many patterns that were either close or had features I liked in order to get the creative juices going. I then took to my sketchpad and started playing with lace charting.


Eternity Lace Version 1

The first lace chart didn’t work out well, and the shape of the sweater evolved somewhat, but my sketches gave me something to consider in light of point number 2.

What body are you trying to fit?

Maggie Righetti’s Sweater Design in Plain English is a great book for learning sweater designs. If I were to work my way through the sweaters, I’d probably be a stronger designer for it. I lack that kind of patience, so I primarily used the book for the excellent advice on what to measure and how.

How big are your stitches?

Gauge or tension, whatever you want to call it, you CANNOT design without knowing it. I did do a full 4″ gauge swatch because I was working with new yarn and new needles. I didn’t block it, but I should have. I sure as heck didn’t try to get overly precise with my math. That’s not how I roll. You might be able to tell from the end result. 🙂

More notes to come as I work up the pattern for you! Make sure you’re on my email newsletter list if you want a free copy.