Mini-Series: My first sweater pattern design, part 2

Mini-Series: My first sweater pattern design, part 2

Published by Michelle on 23rd Jan 2020

Welcome to post 2 in the ‘My first sweater pattern design’ mini series.  It’s been a week since I committed to getting to an initial design and all the details that go with it and I think I’ve done it.  It took approximately 10 hours of actual sitting and working to get to this point – sketching, swatching, blocking, maths etc - but with a lot of thinking and puzzling going on around it.

In this post I’ll share the following and how I got to each one:

  1. 1. Outline design
  2. 2. Initial measurements
  3. 3. Final yarn choice, gauge & needle decision
  4. 4. Row & Stitch calculations
  5. 5. Draft pattern

This is a long one but I wanted to share as much of my thinking & actions as I went from an idea to a draft pattern.

Outline design

I had printed out a Croquis at the end of the last post and it was this that I started with to do the final design.  I had never heard of a Croquis until I attended Joeli Kelly’s Designer class and they were a revelation.  They are used in the fashion industry as an initial sketch of a person and there are loads of templates online!  Great if, like me, you are not confident at sketching.

I traced the Croquis into my sketch book and from there I drew out the design that was in my head.

Initial Design

Look closely at the drawing above, you'll see plenty of rubbing out!

This was just based on what I thought I wanted as a sweater.  No size or other considerations except where I might want shaping and where I wanted it to sit.

While drawing this, I decided the following:

  • The type of edge I wanted on it and decided on quite a long rib, it just seemed to fit with what I wanted
  • Where to start the wing shaping as this was to be a batwing sweater.  I decided that because it’s going to have quite a bit of ease, I’d start the shaping later to avoid making it too sloppy at the waist.
  • The direction of knitting would be from the bottom up and the sweater would be knit as back and front.   I sometimes feel that when knit in the round, there is a feeling of ‘never ending’ and I think with a bat wing, the weight of the seams will add a bit of 'body' to the wings (is this even a thing!) and a defined break between back and front.

Initial measurements

Once I had a design, I thought about where I would want the different shapings to be on me and I measured the following:

  1. The start of where I wanted the sweater to sit to my waist
  2. My waist to the underboob (I think the proper term is underbust but underboob cracks me up)
  3. From the underboob to my bust
  4. From my bust to the underarm
  5. From my underarm to the top of my shoulder
  6. From my shoulder blade to my elbow 

I put these into a rough sketch, none of these were very precise but I figured I’ll see how close I am in the knitting and then adjust.

Initial Measurements unscaled

Don't look too closely! ; )

Once I had done that, I drew a more scaled version, marking in the distances and the possible rate of increases. 

I did all of these based on what I had done when I did the Christmas jumper.  I drew the 'to scale' versions in straight angles because while the body doesn’t have angles, knitting stitches and rows do.

Initial Measurements scaled

It's wierd looking at this again and 'seeing' my thoughts

I got a bit confused when I came to the sleeves.  I wanted ease in the body and ease in the sleeves but because I was going to be knitting the sleeve length as part of the increases to the body, my poor brain needed more time with the sleeve so I resketched it.  It took me quite a while to work out how I was going to decrease from the bust to the elbow.  I finally worked out that the depth of the sleeve at the elbow would be smaller than that of the armpit because the arm narrows (and I've only had my arms for 39 years) … Have a look at the diagram, hopefully you’ll see what I was thinking.

Upclose of sleeve

Depth, not length apparently!  Not sure how I'd do at spatial awareness tests

Once I had these intial measurements and rates of increase (all of which were what I thought and based on no scientific method, just experience of knitting and wearing clothes) I was able to draft a pattern based on these. 

Draft pattern

Exactly how much space will need to be left for a head, I just don't know!

I hadn’t thought about doing this until I got to it.  It was kind of an ‘aha’ moment for me, realising that you didn't need to have row and stitch counts to do a design, just some idea of measurements.  I had no idea if the proportions are right of course but it was a start.

I then redrew a scaled schematic, based on the inches etc.

I had a moment (an overnight really) of panic here when I realised there would be a huge amount of ease at the bust when I reminded myself that it was a bat wing sweater.

Final yarn choice, gauge & needle decision

As you’ll have seen in my previous post, I had grand plans for swatching but I only swatched one yarn, the Tibetan DK.  While swatching it I realised that it was going to have to be the yarn, it was just so glorious to knit with and the drape was just about what I wanted for the sweater.  I knit quite a big swatch – 7 inches by 6 inches.  I often skimp when wwatching for something I am knitting for myself but because the hope for this pattern is that it will be knit by others, I wanted it to be right.  I knit it on 4mm needles as they are the 'standard' for double knitting weight yarn.

Wet Swatch

Apologies for the light, this yarn is actually a gorgeous grey brown in person

I then pinned it out dry and measured it, soaked it for 20 minutes, pinned it out and measured it, pulled it around and then repined and measured it, let it lurk around on a heater drying and then pinned it and measured it again.  I wanted to see it in all the different states. 

I got the following measurements (all to 4 inches)

  • Dry (as knit): 22 stitches to 29 rows
  • Wet: 20 stitches to 28 rows
  • Pulled wet: 20 stitches to 27 rows
  • Dry (post blocking): 22 stitches to 28 rows 

I was pleased with how 'stable' the yarn was, it didn't change too much during blocking, even with a lot of pulling (which you should never do a sweater unless the pattern says 'Block aggressively, like you hate it').

For the pattern, I used the Dry (post blocking) size for the Row & stitch calculations and in the pattern I will include care details and a note about 'knitting' v. blocked tension.  The key for me is that if you are below guage, you can block but if you are above gauge, you'll be swamped! 

Jim helps with swatching

I can't be the only person getting feline aid for swatching

Row & Stitch Calculations

Once I had the swatch details, I then plugged the numbers into the draft pattern that I had in inches ( see the picture at the end of the 'Initial Measurements' section)! 

Skip straight to the Draft Pattern if you don’t want to see my ‘live calculations’ that I did when I was working this out, it's pretty dry.  

Section 1: Cast on & rib 

Based on 4 inches width = 22 stitches, 1 inch = 5.5 stitches, the instruction cast on 24 inches became 

Cast on 132 stitches

For the rib, to have negative ease, experience told me that a 3.25mm or 3.5mm needle would be necessary for the rib.  Once I changed to the 4mm needle at the stocking stitch, there would then be no ease against the point I wanted to measure from. 

Based on this, the pattern became:

In smaller needles, cast on 132 stitches.  Work 3 inches in 2*2 rib. (k2, p2 – rib type to be decided)

Change to larger needles and work 3 inches of stocking stitch (knit row, purl row)

Still to be decided:  In my own knitting, I always knit an edge stitch on each side so I can seam using mattress stitch.  I don’t know if I should include them in the stitch count at the cast on or not.  I have hunted around for an answer but will need to ask an expert!  I will also want the rib to be continuous, 2*2 around, so will need to make sure the number works with the back as well.

Section 2: Increasing from 24 inches to 26 inches in width over 7 inches of length

From the swatch: 4 inches = 28 rows, 1 inch = 7 rows

Based on 1 inch length being 7 rows & 1 inch width being 5.5 stitches I wanted to increase 10 stitches (rounded down) over 49 rows.  There would be an increase on each side, so 10 stitches equals 5 increases.

I rounded up the number of rows to 50 and divided by 5.  This was an increase every 10 rows which worked perfectly (at this point, I wondered at my luck on how tidy this was). 

Based on this, the pattern became:

K1, M1L (or M1R) knit to last stitch, M1Opposite, knit 1 stitch

Work: Increase row + 9 stocking stitch 5 times 

M1L & M1R will be tested in the knitting, I want them to lean outwards, so I think it will be M1R and then M1L but I always need to check.

Section 3: Increasing from 26 to 30 inches in width over 3.5 inches of length

Based on the swatch: 4 inches width = 22 stitches (11 sets of increases), 3.5 inches length = approx. 24 rows

This was not as neat as the previous section so I rounded down the number of rows to make it fit the number of increases.  I felt comfortable doing this as the body seemed quite long on the original diagram. 

Based on this, the pattern became:

Work the increase row (from previous section), work a purl row.  Repeat 10 times (11 repeats & 22 rows in total)

Section 4: Increasing from 30 inches to 40 inches width over 6.5 inches of length

10 inches width = 56 stitches (rounded up) (28 sets of increases)

6.5 inches length = 46 rows (rounded up)

46 / 27 would mean an increase every 1.7 rows which was not going to work.

Increasing every second row would result in an extra 10 rows being worked which would make the body too long.  I want to say there was a magical formula that I used to work out the following but I just worked it out by changing the number of rows and stitches until it ‘looked like it would work’, with slower increases at the start, moving to quicker increases at the end, which would fit with the design.

  • 16 sets of every second row: 32 stitches increased 32 rows
  • 12 sets of every row: 24 stitches increased in 12 rows
  • 56 stitches increased over 44 rows 

Based on this, the pattern became:

Work increase row, work purl row 16 times (32 rows in total)

Work increase row, work backside increase row 6 times (12 rows in total)

Section 5, Sleeve section:

Based on the sleeve size in the diagram, the pattern was simply:

Work straight in stocking stitch for 6 inches.  Leave all stitches live.

I was very surprised to arrive at this point and realise I had some kind of knittable pattern.

Draft Pattern

(For those who skipping straight here, welcome back!) 

Combined, the pattern elements became:


Section 1:

In smaller needle, cast on 132 stitches.  Work 3 inches in 2*2 rib. (k2, p2 – rib type to be decided)

Change to larger needles and work 3 inches of stocking stitch (knit row, purl row)

Section 2:

Increase row: K1, M1L (or M1R) knit to last stitch, M1Opposite, knit 1 stitch (tbd during knitting)

Work Increase row + 9 stocking stitch, 5 times (a total of 50 rows)

Section 3:

Work the increase row (from previous section), work a purl row.  Repeat 10 times (11 repeats & 22 rows in total)

Section 4:

Work increase row, work purl row 16 times (32 rows in total)

Backside increase row: K1, M1L (or M1R) knit to last stitch, M1Opposite, knit 1 stitch (tbd during knitting)

Work increase row, work backside increase row 6 times (12 rows in total)


Section 5:

Work straight in stocking stitch for 6 inches, slipping the stitch at the side of each row (purlwise? (tbd during knitting)).  Leave all stitches live. 

Make two.

Sewing up

Mattress stitches side seams

Three needle bind off shoulders, leave Xcm for the head (tbd during knitting)

Additional Sleeve length, optional

Pick up a stitch for each slipped sleeve stitch.  Work X cm in 2*2 rib.  Cast on loosely. (all tbd during knitting)

So that’s where I am.  A sweater pattern, in my size.  Nothing complicated due to the lack of fully fashioned sleeves and no real idea if it will fit, but it's a start!

The next post will detail the first side knit.  I am hoping to get most of the way through that for January 30th.

Wish me A LOT OF LUCK!


There are a few huge open questions at this point, the biggest being

  1. 1. How would I have worked out the size to start with if I wasn’t starting with myself?
  2. 2. How am I going to grade this for all the sizes this should be in? What if my proportions are completely not standard?
  3. 3. How will I calculate yarn requirements?

The truth is that right now, I have no idea so, as well as cover the changes I make during knitting, I’ll also include the research I do into these questions in next weeks post.  These will be key for post 4 (or 5?!) when I start turning this design into a saleable pattern.

Missed the first post? Find it here.

Fancy trying the yarn?  I am going to add the undyed Tibetan DK to the Banshee Yarns website before the close of Thursday January 23rd.  

Pin for later

Pin for later

What do you say?

Sign-up to our newsletter. No spam, we promise

No thanks