How to Make Sweaters & Vests

By Contributing Writer

The ultimate project goal for many knitters is the sweater--a garment that is a testament to the abilities of the knitter. Vests are a good way to practice some sweater-making techniques, as well as creating a pleasing project for themselves or as a gift. Once vests have been mastered, making a sweater is much easier.

Making a vest

Take measurements using a tailor's measuring tape. Measure hips, waistline and bust line. Write these measurements down. Measure the distance from the nape of the neck to the hip line and write this measurement down. These measurements give you the basic configurations of your vest. Draw a sketch and label these measurements. Also measure and make labels on your sketch for the distance from the waist to the hip, and the distance from the waist to the shoulders.

Knit a swatch with your chosen yarn that measures at least four inches by four inches. Measure the swatch and count how many stitches are in four inches, then measure how many rows are in four inches. Divide each of these numbers by four and write down your result. This is your gauge, or number of stitches and rows your yarn takes to make up an inch when knitting on your chosen needles. Using your labeled sketch, calculate your number of stitches and rows you need to make up the measurements of your vest. Write the stitch or row count beside each of these measurements.

Decide the shape of your vest. For most women, vests require a slight amount of waist shaping. This means that your stitches will decrease at a consistent rate until you decrease from the number of required hip stitches to the number of required waist stitches, and then increasing your stitch count consistently until you get the required number of stitches to accommodate the shoulder. However, if you prefer a boxier fit, which is also more appropriate for a man's sweater, you won't need to do as much decreasing and increasing.

Decide on the hip band pattern of your vest. If you use ribbing, begin with a circular needle one size smaller than the needle you use for the sweater's body. When you're done with the hip band, begin knitting the body with the larger circular needle. Knit to the waistline, shaping as you go if necessary, then begin increases if necessary. Stop knitting when you reach the armpit level.

Transfer half of the stitches onto the smaller needle to hold. Begin knitting the back piece. This will usually be just a straight back-and-forth knitting, as the back usually gets more coverage. When you've reached your measurement on your sketch, stop. Transfer your stitches to stitch holders.

Pick up the stitches on the front of your vest and knit back and forth upwards until want to shape your neckline. If you want to create a V-neck, you can begin this shaping anywhere from the bust line to two to three inches above the bust. If you want to create a round or boat neck, knit until you are half an inch shorter than the back. Shape your neckline and bind it off. Join the top ends of the front and back of your vest, while binding off the stitches on the back of your neckline to finish it off. Complete armholes and neckline with ribbing if desired.

Making a sweater

Follow the directions for measurements in the vest directions above. In addition make measurements for the circumference of the wrist, the arm just below the shoulder, and the length of the arm from shoulder to wrist. These will determine the configurations of the sleeves.

Decide on your sleeve configurations. You can knit full sleeves, 3/4 sleeves, or short sleeves if you wish. Decide whether you want loose sleeves or form-fitting ones. Configure your sleeve measurements to conform with the style of sleeve you want.

Knit the body of your sweater to conform with the vest directions above. Stop at the bust if you are knitting in the round. If you knit pieces separately, knit a complete front and back piece.

Choose your method of sleeve construction. Your options are to knit them in the round, or in flat pieces that are then sewn together and sewn onto the sweater. If your sweater is knit in the round, knit your sleeves using the same technique. If the sweater front and back are knit separately with the intent to sew them together to complete sweater construction, do the same with your sleeves.

Decide how you want to join the sleeves to the sweater's body. If knit in the round, raglan or saddle shoulder sleeves, or a combination of the two, are easy ways to join the sleeves without the work of seaming them. If you knit the sweater in pieces, you can also construct them so that they can be seamed in raglan style. Alternatively, you can create a set-in sleeve. This means that the end of the sleeve will be curved so that

Use the same gauge instructions indicated in the vest directions above to determine your gauge for your sleeves. Choose your stitch style for the cuff, as well as its length, and begin knitting. If you are knitting in the round, use your set of double-pointed needles. If not, you can use your circular needle or a pair of straight needles the same size as those you're using to knit the sweater body.

Join your sleeves to the sweater body by either knitting them together with the body in the round, forming the yoke as you go, or sewing them on with the body in pieces. Hand-wash your sweater gently in a mild detergent in cool water. Rinse and squeeze out excess water. Block on a towel and dry.

Tip

For waist shaping, subtract your waist measurement from your hip measurement. This number is your total number of stitches you need to decrease. Each row you knit will decrease four stitches. Using the row count from your hip measurement to your waist measurement, calculate how many rows you will have to knit between each decrease row to consistently decrease your stitches and reach your waist measurement. You can begin the decrease at any point--the later you begin decreasing, the more pronounced your shaping will be.