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12 Knit Sweaters Project wrap-up

When I decided to learn to knit by making a dozen self-designed sweaters, I didn’t really think I’d ever reach this point – surely I’d lose interest in knitting such time-consuming pieces before I’d completed 12 sweaters?

12 knit sweaters project

Apparently not! Shall we take a look at them all properly?

12 knit sweaters project: sweaters 1-3

12 knit sweaters project: sweaters 4-6

12 knit sweaters project: sweaters 7-9

12 knit sweaters project: sweaters 10-12

(Find details of each sweater project in its own post, here.)

Project Stats

I started my first sweater in June 2012, and knitted the final stitch on my 12th sweater in June 2017. So that’s 12 sweaters in 60 months, or an average completion time of 5 months per sweater.

I was very surprised to discover I’ve been working on this project for 5 whole years, but then, I’m busy with work a lot of the time, and summers in Africa aren’t very conducive to knitting sweaters, so maybe it’s not so surprising!

Techniques I’ve Learnt

This project has helped me learn a huge number of knitting techniques. And, while there’s still much, much more I can learn, I’m almost comfortable calling myself a knitter now without feeling like a fraud.

  • I’ve made sweaters from the top down and bottom up, seamed and seamless, flat and in the round, with raglan and set-in sleeves, and sleeveless.
  • I’ve made cardigans and pullovers and a vest.
  • I’ve tried lace and cabling, ribbing and all-over texture.
  • I’ve used provisional and cable cast-ons, directional increases and decreases, mattress stitch, kitchener stitch and 3-needle bind-offs.
  • I’ve used short rows and turned hems, attached i-cord and picked-up stitches.
  • I’ve made buttonholes and inserted a zip.
  • I’ve learnt how to reliably make a sweater that will fit me, in a range of yarn weights and fibres.

Final Thoughts

12 knit sweaters project

I feel quite proud, seeing the whole dozen together like this. Although they almost all have features I’d change, with hindsight, were I to knit them again, I enjoy wearing all of them. (And I have my notes, so I can always reknit them with a few tweaks once the originals wear out!)

All in all, I’d say I’ve met my original goal:

I’m teaching myself to knit by making myself a dozen self-designed sweaters, and learning new techniques with each one I make. I’m hoping that, by the end of this journey, I’ll be a real knitter and not have to survive on guesswork!

It’s time to own it: I am a real knitter.

What’s Next?

Now I’ve completed my mission, I don’t have any plans to stop knitting sweaters for myself – it’s become a long-term hobby, and I can’t imagine buying a sweater at this point! I’ve already bought the yarn to make another half dozen – I think we can safely say I’m addicted… 😉

(You might also be wondering if I’m considering selling patterns for my knitwear designs… and I’ll save that topic for another post!)

Comments (4)

knit camel vest

This is sweater #12 of my ‘learn to knit by making a dozen self-designed sweaters’ project. (Here are links to #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 #8, #9, #10, and #11, if you’d like to see my progress.)

What could I do for my 12th sweater project that I haven’t already done?! I started thinking this would have to be a spectacular finale to the project, and that put so much pressure on me, I couldn’t get started! So I decided to step back and just make something I wanted to make, as I did for all the others.

camel vest

Now, you could argue that a vest is not really a sweater, but all it’s missing is the sleeves (and I definitely know how to knit sleeves by now) so I don’t think this is cheating – I could have added sleeves if I had more yarn, and I had plenty to learn from designing and knitting this vest, which was really the point of my whole project.

I had about 500m of deliciously soft baby camel yarn left over from my amigurumi Camel (I’d bought 5 hanks to take advantage of a wholesale discount price – it was far too expensive to justify buying 100% baby camel yarn for a toy at retail price). I’d hoped to think of some way to use this extremely warm yarn to make something useful, but the low yardage was going to be a challenge, so I decided it’d have to be a fairly close-fitting vest, and I’d do some calculations on the fly to make sure I could use as much of the yarn as possible without running out.

To keep it interesting and build my skills, I chose an all-over textured stitch pattern instead of plain stockinette.

camel vest

Instead of joining a new ball of yarn at the end of a row, I used the Russian join to minimise wasted yarn (and had to consult my own book for the instructions – it’s been a long time since I’ve used this join and I couldn’t quite remember how to do it!)

And my plan worked, eventually! It took some re-knitting: I started my textured stitch pattern in a way that caused the whole bottom border to flip up (a fact that didn’t reveal itself in my swatch or until I was way past the point of wanting to unravel it all and restart). I kept going and then unravelled from the bottom cast-on edge up until the point where I could fix the problem (and also to recover some yarn to use for a more substantial neckband than I’d budgeted for – I didn’t like the look of the narrow one I tried first), then I reknitted the bottom border and added the neckband.

camel vest

I added a new tool to my knitting toolkit: an interchangeable crochet hook (size E/3.5mm) for picking up stitches. Being a left-hander, but a right-handed knitter, I’ve found that picking up stitches along an edge (as a way to start e.g. a button band or armhole edging) with a needle is too challenging for me. Until now, I’d been picking up a few stitches at a time with a normal crochet hook, then dropping them off the hook and picking them up on the needle, but this was slow and fiddly.

Now, I can just unscrew the needle tip from the cable, screw on the hook, pick up all the stitches with ease and slide them onto the cable as I go, and then switch back to the needle tip to begin knitting! The interchangeable hook has been a brilliant addition to my interchangeable needle collection.

In the end, I used 99% of my yarn (woohoo!) to complete the vest, and I’m happy with the result – it’s extremely soft and very warm without being bulky. It isn’t the sort of thing I’d usually wear – either in style or colour – but this extra-warm layer is turning out to be very useful, and it’s the natural colour of the baby camels who donated their yarn so that I could knit this vest, so that’s pretty cool!

camel vest

Skills I learnt in this project:

  • Working an all-over texture throughout a piece (I really like the result of the stitch pattern I used – I think it looks like a yummy waffle).
  • Garter stitch… I know, it’s the most basic stitch, and yet I’ve actually never knitted anything in garter stitch until I decided to use garter edgings on this vest. I haven’t been a big fan of the look of garter, although I’m willing to change my mind on that point, because I love how flat my edgings are compared with stockinette! There are definite benefits to not being an anti-garter stitch snob.
  • Decreasing in pattern for the V-neck (note to self: if I was doing it again, I’d have left two stitches of stockinette at the edge instead of one: one for the selvedge and one to make a neat border at the base of the edging).
  • Weighing the work so far and adapting the design on the fly to account for the lack of yarn.
  • Picking up stitches around an armhole.
  • Making an armhole edging.
  • Making a buttonhole in garter stitch.

camel vest

I was hoping to find some colourful buttons (maybe turquoise or dark purple) to contrast with the yarn colour, but there wasn’t anything in the right size and colour in the button shop, so I went with this dusty pink. I think it looks okay, although I may make some polymer clay buttons and swap them at some point. But, for now, it’s finished.

camel vest

And, with that, my 12 sweater project is complete. Isn’t that amazing?!

I have a lot to say about the experience of the project and where I’ll go from here, but I’ll save those thoughts for a wrap-up post…

Comments (3)

pink cabled cardigan

This is sweater #11 of my ‘learn to knit by making a dozen self-designed sweaters’ project. (Here are links to #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 #8, #9, and #10, if you’d like to see my progress.)

pink cabled cardigan

With only 2 sweaters left to go, I didn’t think I could really claim to have conquered knitting if I’d never tried to cable, and I couldn’t put that off any longer!

I used Ysolda’s instructions for cabling without a cable needle – I’ve done all my knitting so far with just my interchangeable circular needles, and I like the idea of not needing any extra equipment where possible. Cabling is kind of fun – I don’t know why I waited so long to try it!

pink cabled cardigan

Aside from the cables, I tested out a few more new (to me) techniques with this design:

  • I read that, when making a turned hem after a provisional cast-on, using one size larger needles for the joining row gives a less visible result, so I tried that. Verdict: I’m not sure it made much difference….
  • I didn’t know how to tackle joining the part of the facing that sits behind the cable, so I left those stitches on some waste yarn and then sewed them to the back of the cable later.
    pink cabled cardigan
    pink cabled cardigan
    Verdict: I’m really happy with how neat it looks!
  • I worked the cardigan as one piece up to the armholes, but I tried using a ‘basting’ stitch at each side – one extra column of purl stitches, to be ‘seamed’ later to add stability where the side seams would normally be. pink cabled cardigan
    ‘basting’ column (L: right side, before seaming it invisibly away, R: wrong side)

    Verdict: It worked, but I think I prefer working in pieces and seaming. Call me weird, but I love mattress stitch!

Apart from that, I used techniques I’ve used before: waist shaping, and an attached icord edging all the way around (including the bottom edge and sleeve cuffs), leaving the icord detached to form buttonholes – a throwback to my very first sweater! In this case though, I think the icord echoes the width of the cables and gives a nice finish.

pink cabled cardigan

I really like the finished sweater, but keeping track of the 20 rows of the cable proved a bit frustrating at times – I’m not fully able to read the cable stitches yet to see where I am, as the shaping of the cable only really becomes apparent in later rows. I tried dropping down to fix mistakes, but because cabling takes a different amount of yarn than regular stitches, I wasn’t happy with the results and ended up having to frog 4 rows a couple of times when I’d made the open circle in the cable pattern too long or too short, and only realised much later.

I also found the cabling took too much time away from the meditative action of knitting, so I don’t think I’ll be designing many heavily-cabled pieces in the future (although, a simpler cable with an easier repeat may be an option).

pink cabled cardigan

But I’m happy with the end result, and the yarn (a cotton/acrylic blend) will make this a nice lightweight piece for warmer weather (although completely inappropriate for the current Canadian winter – I’ll look forward to wearing it next spring!)


So that was 11 of my 12 sweaters for this ‘learn-to-knit’ project completed, and at this point I was in a quandary as to what to design for the final piece in the collection. Was I still missing any essential knitting skills? (Colourwork is the obvious one, but I want these to all be wardrobe staples I’ll wear all the time, and I really don’t wear multi-coloured sweaters.)

I’ll reveal what I chose to make for the last piece in my next knitting update…

Comments (4)

teal ribbed sweater

This is sweater #10 of my ‘learn to knit by making a dozen self-designed sweaters’ project. (Here are links to #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 #8 and #9, if you’d like to see my progress.)

teal ribbed sweater

After the success of my most complex design yet, I thought I’d try something a bit simpler, and test out the quality of my notes from an earlier design that I’ve got a lot of use from: my green ribbed cardigan (#5).

I decided to make a pullover version, with just a couple of modifications: I added a couple of inches more length (the green one was slightly shorter than I’d have liked as I was working with the constraint of only having 4 balls of yarn!), adding a little more ease so the extra length wouldn’t be too tight over my hips, and modifying the positions of the rib stripes so the side seams would continue the stitch pattern flawlessly.

Other than that, and making a pullover with a single front instead of two half-fronts for the cardigan, I followed my previous notes exactly. I used the same yarn in a different shade and assumed my gauge would be the same (it was!) instead of swatching again.

teal ribbed sweater

To make the neckband, I again followed the style of my cardigan’s neckband. I overlapped the neckband at the point of the V instead of trying to make a mitred corner in pattern. Although it’s a little bulkier this way, it looks neat, and I stitched down the excess fabric on the inside so it doesn’t get in the way.

teal ribbed sweater

It’s good to know I can follow my own notes if I want to remake any of these sweaters, and it was refreshing to work from a pattern (of sorts) and not have to make design decisions and size calculations at every step.

But now I only need 2 more sweaters to complete this project (wow – I’m so close now!) so no more laziness; for the next sweater it’s time to tackle the one big design element I’ve never even tried to date: cables…

Comments (4)

circle-front alpaca cardigan

This post is long overdue, but I haven’t been able to face the thought of wearing alpaca in summer in Africa, so all my knitting posts have sat waiting for photos! But better late than never, it’s very cold here now, so it’s the perfect time to start photographing (and wearing!) my knits. There’ll be a few more of these posts coming soon – I have lots to catch you up on…

This is sweater #9 of my ‘learn to knit by making a dozen self-designed sweaters’ project. (Here are links to #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 and #8, if you’d like to see my progress.)

circle-front cardigan

With a basic pullover out of the way, I felt ready to try a slightly more ambitious design. I envisaged a circle-front cardigan with a cosy shawl collar, made in the same dreamy KnitPicks alpaca yarn I used for sweater #3, but with the benefit of both more knitting knowledge and more knowledge of how the yarn behaves.

I considered a patterned stitch, but the fluffiness of the alpaca would mask the stitch pattern, and I didn’t want to distract from the dramatic shape, or make life too difficult for myself. So I kept the body of the cardigan in plain stockinette, but with interior shaping to keep the silhouette from being too bulky.

circle-front cardigan

Keeping track of the curved front edges, the interior shaping, the armholes and the V neck would have been tricky, so I tried working both fronts at once, in the same way as I’ve seen people knitting two-at-a-time socks: you have both on one circular needle, and knit the same row of each before moving onto the next row, so they always turn out exactly the same. (Definitely worth remembering that technique – it works well.)

circle-front cardigan

I seamed the fronts and back together and then added a 3″ deep ribbed border all the way around the cardigan. I guesstimated pickup rates for the different areas and kept my fingers crossed that I’d crammed in enough extra stitches around the bottoms of the curved front to allow the finished border to lie flat – I didn’t relish the thought of frogging 3″ of fluffy alpaca!

circle-front cardigan

But it all worked out first time, and I remembered to also add three buttonholes at appropriate points (to fit these beautiful large pearlescent buttons I’d been waiting for the right project to use), and an extra 3″ of short rows to form the shawl collar.

circle-front cardigan

This design felt like an ambitious gamble for me, but the end result is cosy and fitted and almost exactly as I’d imagined it. Mission accomplished – I’m so excited with how this all came together!

Comments (6)

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    June Gilbank

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