How to knit a sweater for beginners

A free pattern and tutorial for knitting a sweater – a beginner-friendly bottom-up raglan construction

A sweater seems to be a daunting project for a beginner, right? Not only do you need to knit a lot of fabric but it’s also a complex shape. There are sleeves, hems, and collars to account for. But fear not. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to knit a sweater from scratch – step by step with tons of useful tips and tricks.

me wearing a sample of this raglan sweater pattern
Me modeling the sweater I’m going to show you how to knit in this tutorial

I picked a very beginner-friendly Raglan pattern just for you. This means there are no big seams, you don’t have to pick up stitches, and you can knit it in one continuous round. On top of that, the bottom-up constructions will allow you to try on your work-in-progress at any time and adjust the fit on the fly.

You can buy the tech-edited pdf version of this pattern

Or in my Etsy store

me wearing a simple knitted raglan sweater - seen from the side

Anyway, let’s dive right into it and show you how to knit a sweater!

Expectation management & knitting skills needed

simple knitted raglan sweater - seen from the back

This tutorial is called “for beginners”. I tried very hard to make this pattern as accessible to new knitters as possible. That being said, I will take for granted that you’ve knitted a couple of projects before and that you are reasonably firm in the most common knitting techniques.

Depending on your size, the size of your yarn, and your experience, it can take between 40-60 hours to finish this project (here’s how to work out how long it takes to knit a sweater). And even more, if you want to embellish it with intricate stitch patterns, colorwork, or embroidery. Here are the skills and techniques you need for this pattern:

Materials and notions

materials needed for a raglan sweater

Note: I earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this article.

You’ll need quite a lot of yarn to knit a sweater. While I can give you a rough estimate here, it’s always a good idea to talk with your local yarn shop. Most will allow you to return unused skeins within a reasonable timeframe (1-2 months).

Here are rough estimates for sizes XS/S/M/L/XL/XXL:

  • DK weight: 1100/1200/1400/1700/1900 yds
  • Worsted weight: 900/1000/1200/1400/1550 yds

For my sample (male size S-M) I needed 340 grams of the Pascuali Tibetan (dk weight yarn; 136 yd/50g). That’s roughly 1180 yds or <9 skeins. Please bear in mind that the length of your arms/torso and your personal fit preferences will all influence the total yardage.

Other than that, you also will need:

  • An interchangeable knitting needle set (or two circular knitting needles – one a size smaller for the ribbing). I used the Knitter’s Pride Nova.
  • 5 short spare cords or a stitch holder system of your choice
  • a tapestry needle & scissors
  • stitch markers (in two or more colors)
  • stainless steel pins & a blocking board (a yoga mat or towels on a soft surface are also okay)

Part I: Measurements & Calculations

Once you’ve gathered all your materials and you are reasonably sure you are proficient in all the required techniques, it’s time to start knitting. I split the process into 10 smaller & manageable steps. Think of them as chapters of a book. You can finish them at your own pace and skip them as you see fit.

Step 1: Understanding the basic Raglan constructions

raglan sweater construction schematics showing the different parts to be knitted

First of all, I want you to take a look at the schematics above. This bottom-up raglan sweater does not require any seaming. This does not, however, mean it’s knitted in one piece. Incidentally, it’s one of the reasons why I like bottom-up constructions so much: You can split a huge project into many smaller parts that all come together at the end.

  1. First, you need to knit the torso.
  2. Next, you have to knit two identical sleeves.
  3. Then, you attach the sleeves to the torso (by simply knitting across) leaving a gap for each armpit.
  4. From there, you decrease towards the neck using a special set of so-called “raglan decreases”
  5. And last, you create a cut-out using short rows and knit across it in ribbing to create a nice collar.

Now, don’t let all this overwhelm you. Start with one step at a time and your sweater will be ready in no time.

Step 2: Obtain your gauge

I’m no big fan of swatches. In fact, I wrote a whole article here on my blog about why I believe getting gauge is an illusion. But if you want to knit a sweater that fits, there is no way around knitting a swatch. None.

Neither I nor a sweater chart will be able to tell you exactly how many stitches you need to cast on with your yarn, your tension, your preferences, and for your body. Knitting does not work that way.

A) Knit swatch

knitted swatch in orange yarn on a table

Knit a sufficiently large swatch in stockinette stitch that is at least 15 x 15 cm (6 x 6 in) using the needle size recommended on the yarn label (or the size of your choice).

Here’s a tutorial on how to knit swatches in case you need to catch up.

This swatch should be able to answer the following questions:

  1. Does this yarn work? Take a critical look at your swatch. Not all colors/fibers are equally suitable for every knitting stitch pattern. Some colorways are beautiful as a skein but look a bit peculiar in actual knitting.
  2. Did you pick the right needle size? Does your fabric look balanced? Is it too loose with big gaps between the stitches? Or is it too tight? When in doubt, consider knitting another swatch using a different needle size (add knots to your cast-on edge to indicate the needle size)

The bigger your swatch, the better. You will spend the next weeks working on your sweater. Working 30 minutes longer on your swatch is nothing compared to wasting 40 hours and more on a garment that doesn’t fit.

B) Measure your swatch

measuring the swatch using a ruler

Next, take a reliable ruler and measure your swatch once you’ve bound off all stitches. This will help you figure out how your sweater will behave after blocking.

  1. For your stitch gauge: Measure out 15 stitches horizontally in two different positions. Don’t measure too close to either edge. Note the mean value.
    E.g. 15 st = 6.6 cm
  2. For your row gauge: Measure out 15 rows vertically in two different positions. Again, note the mean value.
    E.g. 15 r= 4.3 cm

C) Block your swatch

blocking the swatch on a blocking mat

Next, you will have to block your swatch. Read this comprehensive blocking tutorial if you need to catch up. Avoid overstretching. Stretch your swatch until you feel the stitch definition looks nice.

In addition: Some people will weigh down their dry swatch and let it hang out overnight. Others, carry the swatch around for a week in their pocket to simulate wear and tear. This is especially important for loosely spun yarn or fibers that are prone to stretching out (like Alpaca).

D) remeasure your swatch

In the next step, you need to remeasure your swatch and obtain your new stitch and row gauge by measuring another two sets of 15 stitches horizontally and vertically – just like before.

Example: 15 st = 7.25 cm; 15 r = 4.4 cm

E) Figure out your gauge and blocking ease

someone doing sweater calculations using a fountain pen

The rest is a very simple calculation.

  1. Stitch gauge = stitches counted ÷ length measured.
    E.g. 15 st ÷ 7.25 cm = 2.1 st/cm
  2. Row gauge = rows counted ÷ height measured.
    E.g. 15 r ÷ 4.4 cm = 3.4 st/cm

You also need to work out how your sweater will behave after washing and blocking. For that, you simply have to compare your new numbers with the ones prior to blocking.

  1. horizontal blocking ease = (2nd length measure ÷ 1st length measured – 1) x 100%
    E.g. (7.25 cm ÷ 6.6 cm – 1) x 100 = +9.85%
  2. vertical blocking ease = (2nd height measured ÷ 1st height measured – 1) x 100%
    E.g. (4.4 cm ÷ 4.3 cm -1) x 100 = +2,33%

Every time you look at your work in progress or try it on you will know: Okay, this is going to stretch out by roughly 10 % and 2,3% respectively!

Step 3: Measure your body

Before you can calculate your cast-on requirements, you need to measure your body.

  1. Ask someone for help. They will be able to ensure that your tape measure is tight and level all around
  2. Wear whatever you would wear underneath your sweater (t-shirt, bra, shapewear, etc)

Here are the measurements you will need:

  • Bust/chest circumference
  • scye depth
  • scye width
  • biceps girth
  • wrist girth
  • sleeve length
  • hip depth
  • circumference of your head
  • neckline depth

Note: I go through all measurements step-by-step in my youtube tutorial.

Step 4: Define your positive ease

If you were to knit a sweater based on your bare measurements, you would create a body-hugging garment that fits you like a glove. Most people want the fabric to be a bit looser. This extra bit of fabric is called positive ease.

As a rule of thumb: the bigger you are, the more positive ease you will want to have. Most people don’t want to accentuate every little extra curve:

  • Tight fit: 0%
  • Standard fit: 5 -10%
  • Loose fit: 10 – 15%

There are no hard rules here. If you are unsure, you can measure the chest circumference of a sweater you own and you feel has a nice fit. Lay it flat, measure right below the armpit, and then multiply times 2 and add 1 – 2cm for the fold line. Then compare that with your “naked” chest circumference. Consider using that percentage as your positive ease.

Step 5: Cast-on Calculations

Next, you need to figure out how many stitches you need to cast on. There will be additional calculations further down. For now, you only need to figure out one simple number.

  1. Apply your positive ease (e.g. 5%) to your chest circumference.
    E.g. 95 cm * 1.05 = 99.8 cm
  2. Multiply your new chest circumference with your stitch gauge.
    E.g. 99.8 cm * 2.1 st/cm = 206 stitches

This is how many stitches you need to cast on. Round up to the nearest number divisible by the pattern of your hem (i.e. 2×2 rib stitch or 2×1 rib stitch, etc).

For a snugger fit of the hem, you could also calculate the stitch count without the positive ease (e.g. 95 cm * 2.1 st/cm = 200 st -> rounded down to 198 st for the 2×1 rib). And then increase the difference in the first round after the hem.

Part 2: Hem & lower torso

close-up of the hem of a knitted sweater

Note: I will incorporate row counts into this tutorial. These are the rounds I had to knit for my sample size (male S-M). You absolutely need to adjust these according to your calculations.

From here, you can finally start knitting your sweater. You will start at the bottom and work yourself all the way up to the collar.

It’s easiest to knit with small circular knitting needles in one continuous round. Your circulars (including the needles) should be at least 10 cm/4 in (but better 20 cm/8 in) shorter than your chest circumference. The shorter the cable, the easier your stitches will flow around.

  • Cast on the required number of stitches. Consider casting on in pattern by alternating the normal longtail cast-on with a longtail purl cast-on (the slip knot will count as your first knit stitch)
  • Join in the round and switch to a needle 1 size smaller. E.g. I knitted my swatch using 3.5 mm needles and I will knit the ribbing using 3.0 mm needles.
  • Round 1: *k2, p1*
  • Round 2: *k2, p1*
  • Continue in this 2×1 rib stitch until your hem is 5 cm or 2 in high (or however high you want your hem to be).

From here, you can continue knitting the lower torso. This pattern is for plain stockinette stitch. I leave it up to you to embellish it with stripes or intarsia. If you want to add Fair Isle motifs or lace, do remember that this will change your gauge and you will have to knit your gauge swatch accordingly to avoid unpleasant surprises.

  • Round 18: knit across
    Switch to the knitting needles you’ve knitted your swatch with (e.g. I switch to 3.5 mm needles.
    You may consider changing colors. Use the twist-and-weave method and then weave in the tail as you go.
  • Round 19-35: continue in plain stockinette stitch

Once your work in progress is around 15-20 cm (6-8 in) high, I urge you to try it on for the first time. The last 1-5 rounds of your knitting will behave drastically differently than the rest of your fabric (because nothing is restricting the stitches from the top). If you try on your sweater too early, you will get the entirely wrong impression.

Make sure that your work in progress fits the way you intended it to fit. Do remember to factor in your blocking ease. It will probably stretch out quite a bit yet. Raise your WIP all the way to the armpits. The circumference won’t change and it needs to fit your whole lower torso.

If you notice that it’s too small or too big, try to figure out how much fabric you would need to add or subtract. Also, countercheck your gauge. Did it change compared to your swatch? Then, unravel and start all over again.

Once you are satisfied, continue in stockinette stitch until your WIP reaches almost up to your armpits (10 cm/4 in below).

  • round 36 – approx. 140: knit across

At this point, try on your sweater one more time to verify everything still fits the way it should. Again, factor in your blocking ease.

lower torso of a raglan sweater finished

Part 3: Calculating your Raglan decreases

Next, you will use your sweater in the making to calculate the rest of the important details, especially the raglan decreases.

Step 1: Block your WIP

As a beginner, I do urge you to block your sweater at this point. Keep the yarn attached (place it beside your sink), slip your stitches onto a stitch holder (if needed), wash your WIP, and block it gently. This will serve two purposes:

  • You can be 100% sure that everything fits perfectly
  • You will be able to obtain a 100% reliable new stitch and row gauge.

And don’t be afraid, as long as you don’t overstretch anything, this will not cause any issues. After all, you will end up washing your finished sweater multiple times as well.

Step 2: Calculate your actual gauge

obtaining the gauge by measuring the actual raglan sweater work in progress

Once dry, you need to obtain your gauge all over again. It’s the exact same process but now you have a much bigger swatch knitted in the round.

  1. Measure 30 st vertically and horizontally in two or three different places and note the mean value.
    E.g. 30 st = 14.3 cm; 30 r = 8.8 cm
  2. Divide this distance by the stitches measured
    E.g. 30 st ÷ 14.3 cm = 2.1 st/cm; 30 r ÷ 8.8 cm = 3.4 r/cm

From here on, that’s what you are going to use for your calculations.

You may also consider calculating your negative ease gauge. Using pins, stretch out your sweater to the max in one place and measure 30 stitches. Then, go through the very same calculation.
E.g. 30 st ÷ 19.3 cm = 1.55 st/cm

This special gauge will help you to ensure that your wrists fit through your cuffs and your head through the collar.

Step 3: Calculate your torso

First, you need to figure out how many rounds you still need to knit before you can attach the sleeves. This bit is fairly simple.

  1. Adjust your scye depth by at least 5%. Most people want a bit of a buffer underneath their armpits. Do know that the more fabric you add here, the more fabric there will be to bunch out. The less fabric there is, the harder it will be to put your arms through your sleeves. I personally use 10% or around 2-3 cm.
    E.g. 22 cm * 1.10 = 24.2 cm
  2. Lower torso depth = Hip depth – scye depth
    E.g. 71 cm – 24.2 cm = 46.8 cm
  3. Lower torso depth in stitches = length * row gauge
    E.g. 46.7 cm *3.4 r/cm = 160 r

This will tell you how many rounds you still need to knit. I urge you to count rounds because your knitting will still stretch out vertically. Plus, if you want to knit colorwork or any complicated pattern, you WILL need to know how many rows there are to design your chart/pattern anyway.

Step 4: Calculate your sleeves

Your sleeves are no more difficult to calculate than that. We do, however, need four answers here.

I. Cast-on requirements:
  1. Add your positive ease to your wrist girth.
    E.g. 18 cm * 1.05 = 19 cm
  2. Multiply your new wrist girth with your stitch gauge.
    E.g. 19 cm *2.1 st/cm = 40 st

-> Countercheck if this will allow your hand to fit through.

  1. Measure your hand at its widest point.
    E.g. 24 cm
  2. Divide the cast-on stitches by your negative ease gauge
    E.g. 40 st ÷ 1.55 st/cm = 25.8 cm

If the resulting number is smaller than your hand, you would have to add stitches accordingly.

You will have to round up the next number divisible by 3 (if you are knitting a 2×1 rib stitch).
Eg. 42 st

II. Sleeve length/rounds to knit:

The sleeve starts with another 5 cm/2 in of 2×3 ribbing and will reach all the way up to your armpit. You will insert increases along the way.

Important: You adjusted your scye depth and moved it down (See #3.3). As a result, your total sleeve length would have to be that much shorter. However, most people want a bit of positive ease for their sleeves as well to avoid the cuff traveling up your underarms every time you move your arms. The two things will typically even out.

  1. Total sleeve length – cuffs
    E.g. 50 cm – 5 cm = 45 cm
  2. Adjusted sleeve length * row gauge
    E.g. 45 cm * 3.4 r/cm = 153 r
III. Stitches at the end of your sleeves:

Of course, you also need to know how many stitches you need to have on your needles to accommodate your biceps.

  1. Add positive ease to your biceps girth
    E.g. 35.5 cm * 1.05 = 37.2 cm
  2. Multiply new biceps girth times stitch gauge
    E.g. 37.2 cm * 2.1 st/cm = ~78 st

IV: Sleeve increase Distributions:

So, all the way up to the armpits, you have to place increases. Typically, you increase symmetrically by 2 stitches per round.

  1. Subtract your cast-on from the final number of stitches. This will tell you how many stitches you need to increase altogether.
    E.g. 42 st – 78 st = 36 st
  2. Subtract ~1/4 of these stitches. For a baloonier fit, you could also do 1/2. Round down to the next number divisible by 2.
    E.g. 36 st – 8 st = 28 st
  3. Divide the resulting number by 2 (you will place two increases per round)
    E.g. 28 st ÷ 2 = 14
    That’s how many increase rounds you have to include.
  4. Divide the total number of rows for your sleeves by these increase rounds.
    E.g. 153 r ÷ 14 = ~11

That’s how often you need to increase:

  • You will increase 1/4th of your stitches (e.g. 8) right after the cuff,
  • and then you increase by 2 stitches in every 11th round.

Important: Most arms aren’t perfectly cone-shaped. If your arms already reach the final biceps girth farther down, it’s better to increase more often early on.
E.g. I will increase every 10 rounds and not decrease at all in those last 12 rounds.

V: Stitches to put on hold

Right at the end of your sleeves, you need to put stitches on hold. You will use these to create the “seam” under your armpits.

  1. Apply your positive ease to your scye width.
    E.g. 8.5 cm * 1.05 = 8.9 cm
  2. Multiply your new scye with your stitch gauge and round down.
    E.g. 8.9 cm * 2.1 st/cm = ~18 st

This is how many stitches you will have to put on hold to create a comfortable fit for your armpits.

Step 5: How to calculate the raglan decreases

close-up of the raglan decreases

The probably most important bit are the raglan decreases. There are many conflicting tutorials and pieces of advice out there but I personally like to go only by the numbers.

I. Calculate the stitches on your needle at the beginning

You will start with your raglan decreases right after you’ve joined in the sleeves (see below). So, you need to know how many stitches you will have on your needles at this very point. For that, you need to collect all your numbers and add/subtract them.

  • torso stitches (e.g. 206 st)
  • final sleeve stitches (e.g. 78 st)
  • underarm stitches to put on hold (e.g. 18 st)

The rest is simple once you realize that you knit 2 sleeves and you will have to put the same number of stitches on hold on the torso as well.

  • torso stitches + sleeve stitches (2 times) – armpit stitches (4 times)
    E.g. 206 st + 78 st * 2 – 18 st * 4 = 290 st

That’s how many stitches you will have to work across at the start of your raglan decreases.

II. Calculate your collar stitches

Next, you need to know how many stitches you will have on your needles at the very end of your project.

  1. Multiply your collar circumference with your stitch gauge.
    E.g. 55 cm * 2.1 st/cm = 114 st
  2. Subtract around 3 – 5% if you want a tighter fit.
    E.g. 114 * 0.97 = 110 st

III: Decreases required

From here, it should be easy enough to figure out the number of decreases you need. A raglan sweater is typically decreases symmetrically in four places: twice in front and twice in the back. Normally you decrease once before each of these decrease lines and once after each line for a total of 8 decreases per decrease round.

  1. Subtract the stitches you start with from the collar stitches.
    E.g. 290 st – 110 st = 180 st
    That’s the total number of times you will have to decrease.
  2. Divide this number by 8 (your decreases per decrease round).
    E.g. 180 st ÷ 8 = 22.5
    This is the number of decrease rounds you will have to work in.

IV: Raglan decrease distribution

For a well-fitting raglan sweater, you need to distribute these decreases according to your scye depth and not simply decrease in every second round. You also need to define how wide your collar should be. Most people knit it a bit shorter than the hem/cuff (I prefer 3.5 cm/1.4 in)

  1. Subtract the width of your collar from your adjusted scye depth.
    E.g. 24.2 cm – 3.5 cm = 20.7 cm
  2. Multiply your actual scye depth with your row gauge.
    E.g. 20.7 cm * 3.4 r/cm = 70.5 r

Now you know how often you need to decrease and how many rows you have to fit them in. Thus, the rest is a simple distribution.

  1. Divide the total number of rows by the decrease rounds you need.
    E.g. 70.5 r ÷ 22.5 = 3.11
    That’s how often you need to decrease: In every 3.11th round. Since this is not possible, you have to split things up.
  2. Multiply the surplus times your decrease rounds.
    E.g. 0.11 * 22.5 = 2.5
    That number will be how often you need to decrease every 4 rounds.

This is, of course, another fractional number. You have two choices here: You can either only decrease by half the number of stitches in one round, or liberally round up or down.

Example:

  • The first 3 times you decrease every 4 rounds.
    • However, the first time, you only decrease by 4 (instead of 8 stitches).
  • Then you decrease 19 times every 3 rounds.

This is the mathematical approach. You can also use graph paper and toy around to approximate the shape of your shoulders in the best way. For a lot of men (and other people with very strong shoulders), it can often be better to not decrease the first 10 or even 20 rounds and then distribute all decreases among the remaining rows (typically you end up with something closer to every 2 rounds).

Step 6: Calculate the spot where you will start with your short rows

Most people want to raise the neck of their sweaters. This is to ensure a fit where the collar does not slide down towards the back. Essentially you will stop knitting in the round at one point right below the collarbone and work short rows from there on.

  • Multiply your neckline depth with your row gauge
    E.g. 6.5 cm * 3.4 r/cm = 22.1 r
  • Subtract this number from your total raglan decrease rounds.
    70.5 r – 22.1 r = 48.4 r

Note: I know these are quite a couple of calculations. But no body is alike, no yarn is alike, and no knitter knits alike. You have to account for all these variables.

V: Finish your torso

Once you’ve finished all the calculations, you can use your results to finish your torso. There are probably around 5-10 cm/2-4 in you still need until your WIP reaches almost up to your armpits.

  • Round 140-160: knit across

Keep the yarn attached. If you are working with an interchangeable knitting needle set, you may detach your needle tips and use cable stoppers.

Note: If you have blocked your WIP as I suggested, you will definitely see a visible transition. This line will vanish once you’ve blocked your whole sweater properly.

Part 4: Knitting the sleeves

close-up of the cuffs of a knitted sweater

The sleeves are pretty straightforward to knit. You need two identical sleeves. I urge you to use stitch markers liberally to mark every increase round. As an alternative, you could also knit your sleeves two at a time.

knitting the sleeves of a sweater - with tons of stitch markers to indicate the increases
  • Cast on the required number of stitches (E.g. 42). Again, consider alternating between casting on two stitches knitwise and one purlwise.
  • Round 1: *k2, p1* (consider switching needle sizes for the cuff; I typically knit it with one size smaller. e.g. 3 mm instead of 3.5 mm)
  • Round 2: *k2, p1*
  • Continue in this 2×1 rib stitch for a total of 5 cm. In my case, that’s 17 rows.
  • Round 17: *k2, p1*
    Note: If you want to change color in the next round, distribute your increases evenly in this round. I always use PLL after a purl stitch. Otherwise, increase in the next round
    (E.g.: *k2, p1, PLL, k2, p1, k2, p1, PLL, k2, p1….)
  • Round 18: knit across (optional: change colors; change needle size back to your normal needles )
    Distribute 1/4 of your increases (See step 3.4.4) evenly across this row here if you didn’t change color. KLL is probably the most invisible way to do so.
    (E.g.: *k5, KLL* (8 times), k2)
  • Round 19-27: knit
    (Note: The number of rounds depends on your calculation; For this sample, I increase every 10 rounds)
  • Round 28: K1, KLL, knit across until there is only one stitch left, KRL, k1
  • Round 29-37: knit
  • Round 38: K1, KLL, knit across, KRL, k1
  • Continue in this manner according to your calculations.
  • Round 170: Knit half of the stitches you need to put on hold for the armpit (e.g. 9 st).
    Then, starting from the last stitch you’ve just knitted, slip all armpit stitches onto a spare cable or stitch holder (e.g. 18 stitches).
    You may break the yarn. Leave a tail that is long enough for seaming. It should be at least 4 times as long as your armpit. 50 cm/20 in will typically be enough.

Repeat these instructions to knit the second sleeve. Before, definitely consider trying it on. If you are unsure, you may pre-block this sleeve as well. I typically don’t, though.

torso and two sleeves finished

Part 5: Attaching the sleeves of your sweater

In the next step, you need to join everything together. This process is fairly simple but will be quite fiddly nevertheless because of all the stitch holders dangling down and all the stitches you need to transfer.

Before you attach your sleeves, look at your torso with a critical eye. Right now, it’s still one symmetrical tubular object. You can still DEFINE where you want to set in the sleeves. If you notice any imbalances or smaller mistakes, I recommend hiding them underneath your sleeves/arms or on the back.

attaching the sleeves to a bottom up sweater
  1. Place a (red) stitch marker at the point where you want to start attaching the first sleeve.
  2. Place a second (red) stitch marker on the exact opposite side of your round. Use stitch markers and place them in intervals of 10 or 20 stitches to help you count (count twice to be extra sure).
  3. Pick up the yarn still attached to your torso and knit across the front of your sweater until you reach the first stitch marker.
  4. Next, slip the armpit stitches onto a spare cable or stitch marker (e.g. 18 st)
  5. Then, pick up your first sleeve. Attach spare needle tips to your cables (they can be smaller, you are not actually knitting with them) or slip them to a spare needle.
  6. Align the sleeve with your torso. The two gaps where you put stitches on hold should be parallel.
  7. Next, re-place the (red) stitch marker and simply knit across the remaining sleeve stitch without a special technique. Maintain an even tension as you bridge the gap.
  8. Once you’ve knitted across all sleeve stitches, place a (green) stitch marker and continue knitting across your round.
    You may remove the now free knitting needle. You don’t need it anymore.
  9. Once you come to the next (red) stitch marker, you repeat steps 4-8. Simply slip your armpit stitches (e.g. 18 st) onto a stitch holder, align the two gaps, re-place the (red) stitch marker, knit across the remaining sleeve stitches, place a (green) stitch marker, and continue knitting.

Important: Do not forget to place the 4 stitch markers right at the 4 gaps. These will mark the place where you will have to knit your raglan decreases in the next step. There is no special technique needed to bridge the gap. We will use the tail from the sleeves to graft the armpits shut later on.

Note: Some people bind off the armpit stitches instead of putting them on hold. This will be a bit easier to handle while knitting but will result in a visible seam later on.

Part 6: Raglan decreases

someone knitting a sweater - both sleeves attached

Right after you’ve attached the sleeves, it’s time to start with your raglan decreases according to your calculations.

  1. Place a special stitch marker right in the middle of the front of your sweater. This will mark the (new) beginning of your round.
  2. Finish your round.

Round 162: Knit across until you are three stitches before the first marker (red), k2tog, k1, slip marker, SSK, knit across until you are two stitches before the next marker (green), k2tog, sm, k1, SSK, knit across until you are three stitches before the next marker (red), k2tog, k1, sm, SSK, knit across until you are two stitches before the next marker (green), k2tog, sm, k1, SSK, knit across to end of round.

Note: If you ended up with fractional stitches in your calculations, you may opt to skip the required number of stitches in this round only. E.g. if you have strong shoulders, skip the decreases between the red and green markers (your former sleeve stitches), if you have small, rounded shoulders, skip the decreases between green and red markers (your former torso stitches).

Round 163-165: Knit across
(Note: the number of rounds will depend on your calculations. E.g. every 4 rounds)

Round 166: Repeat round 161

Continue in this manner until you come to the point where you need to start shaping the neck with short rows.

Part 7: Short row calculations

The last major step will be shaping, or rather raising the neck. This is done with short rows. You can pick any short-row technique: Japanese short rows, German short rows, Shadow wrap short rows, etc. I personally prefer the Japanese ones for this kind of shaping but up to you.

Now, you don’t actually need to do a lot of calculating here anymore because you already know all the hard numbers. You know how many…

  • rows are still remaining (e.g. 22 rounds),
  • and stitches you will have at the start of your collar (e.g. 110 st).

The rest can be easily figured out using graph paper or a program like stitchfiddle.com (this has the advantage of offering you a grid that matches your gauge. A knit stitch is not square but wider than it’s high).

  1. Simply create a chart that has these dimensions. All the remaining rounds and half of the stitches at the end of your work.
  2. Then, reserve 1 round for resolving the short rows, keep two buffer stitches on either side, and mark the start of your round (middle) for easy reference.
  3. Lastly, try to “paint” a pleasing neckline. Don’t think of this as a real chart. This is just a small-scale picture of your actual neckline.
Example chart for short row shaping of the neckline

There are a couple of rules you might want to observe here:

  1. Short rows look best if there is one stitch in between the turns (so try to avoid placing two double stitches next to each other)
  2. You are working back and forth. As a result, you can only shorten your short rows every two rows.
  3. A circle starts very shallow at its base and then gets steeper towards the side. If you take a look at my sample pictures, you can see that the distance between the turns gets shorter and shorter the further up you knit.

Please be aware that there are no other hard rules here. You can create any shape of your choice. More like a V-neck or more like a boat neck. This is entirely up to you!

Part 8: Raising the neck

close-up of the collar of a knitted raglan sweater

Once you’ve figured out your neckline, it’s time to knit it. You simply follow your chart, all the while continuing your raglan decreases. These two concepts overlap but are not related.

Round 210: Knit across according to your raglan calculations (you may or may not have to place decreases in this round) and stop X stitches before the end of the round (e.g. 3 st according to my chart). <Turn your work around to the wrong side>.

Row 211: Make a double stitch (md), and purl across the wrong side in pattern and stop X stitches before your beginning of the round marker (e.g. 3 st). <turn around>

Important: You may or may not have to execute your raglan decreases in this row. You strictly adhere to your Raglan decrease calculations. So, if this is the case you have to do it like this:
Purl across until you are 3 stitches before the first marker (green), p2tog, p1, sm, SSP, purl to next marker (red), p2tog, sm, p1, SSP, purl to next marker (green), p2tog, p1, sm, SSP, purl to last marker (red), p2tog, sm, p1, SSP, purl across to end of round.

Row 212: Md, knit across in pattern and stop X stitches before the double stitch (ds) you’ve created in row 209. <turn around>

Row 213: Md, purl across in pattern and stop X stitches before the ds <turn around>

Continue shaping your collar in that manner until you’ve finished your raglan shaping and knitted all the remaining rows/rounds.

Note: If your short-row shaping crosses your raglan decrease line, you simply skip the decreases that you cannot knit.

Round 231: Knit across one final round and resolve all double stitches as you go.

Note: Do remember that you may have to resolve double stitches that you’ve created on the purl side differently. E.g. a Japanese short row stitch created on the purl side would have to be resolved using SSP. However, you are no longer knitting flat and you have to resolve them on the knit side. So, resolve them with the purl equivalent. In this case, it would be SSK.

Part 9: Knitting the collar

someone starting to knit the collar of a sweater with a contrasting yarn

You can start knitting the collar right after that last round to finalize the short-row shaping. This can be done using the same yarn or a contrasting color.

Round 232: knit across

Note: If the remaining number of stitches is not divisible by 3 at this point, you can easily sneak in a decrease (k2tog is preferable) right above the shoulders on one or both sides to adjust the stitch count.

Round 233: *k2, p1*

Continue knitting in 2×1 ribbing until you’ve knitted around 7.5 – 8 cm/3 – 3.15 in.

Round 257: Bind off by folding your hem over. Then, always lift one purl bump from the wrong side of round 231 back to the knitting needle (if you switched colors, this will be the single line of purl bumps that are separated by a thin line in your old color). Next, knit it together with the currently active stitch. Then pass over. I typically only lift back every second stitch.

Note: For a stretchier “edge”, I typically bind off with one needle size larger (e.g. 4.0 mm). Otherwise, the collar risks being a bit too tight. You can also bind off the regular way and use the tail to sew these two rows together. I find the lifting method easier. Plus, it’s easier to unravel in case you need to redo this section.

Part 10: Finishing your sweater

Now that you’ve bound off all stitches, you only need to tidy up. This should be fairly easy and I urge you to do it right away. Seaming and weaving in can be tedious but the longer you wait the more annoying it will feel.

Step 1: Close the armpits

To close the armpits, simply put the stitches on hold back to a knitting needle (if you used spare cables you can easily attach some needle tips). Then, thread the remaining tail on a blunt tapestry and close the gap using a Kitchener stitch.

Important: The Kitchener stitch has two preparation stitches. To reduce holes, you need to incorporate the adjacent stitches (on the other side of the gap) into these preparation stitches. The easiest way to achieve this is by mentally putting these adjacent stitches back on the knitting needle and just doing the regular Kitchener stitch repeat across them.

The same applies to the very last two stitches. Normally, there is no second stitch left to perform the second half of the Kitchener stitch repeat. Well, simply use the adjacent stitches across the gap to fill in that void.

Once you’ve finished closing the gap, use the remainder of the tail to cover any remaining holes using duplicate stitch.

Step 2: Weave in the tails

You may or may not have any tails left. If you do, kindly weave them in the regular way. Please also note that you can use the same process in reverse to re-attach yarn.

Say, you have a little hole or mistake that needs to be covered up. You can simply use a spare length of yarn, weave it in the regular way, and then bring the other side of the tail to the front to cover your mistake up using duplicate stitch.

Step 3: Block your finished sweater

blocking a sweater on a large blocking mat

The very last step will be blocking. This is a vital step and it should be done diligently. I have a full tutorial on how to block knitting and I urge you to read it carefully.

When it comes to blocking a sweater, definitely consider going to the hardware shop. You can buy backer rods (cheap thin foam cords used for caulking). Insert these into your sleeves, etc to avoid creating permanent fold lines.

Also, be aware that you might not want to block your hem, cuff, and collar. This will ensure that they stay nice, snug, and stretchy.

And then, once dry, wear your sweater with pride!

For easier access, you can buy the tech-edited PDF version of this pattern:

Or in my Etsy store

Anyway, that’s how to knit a raglan sweater bottom-up. Comment below if you have any questions!

how to knit a sweater for beginners

1 thought on “How to knit a sweater for beginners”

  1. I just bought this pattern with the generous email subscriber code. Wow! This is the pattern I’ve been looking for. Unfortunately I no longer have the sort of body that is flattered by this sort of style, but my husband loves hand knits so I’ll definitely be making it for him. I can’t believe how comprehensive the instructions are. I wish I’d had a pattern like this 40 years ago. I’ve always preferred to knit in 4ply yarn but have never known how to convert thicker ply patterns. Using the information in this pattern on how to get the perfect fit regardless of yarn and needle size I’ll be able to convert other patterns. I can’t imagine how long it took you to create this fabulous treasure chest of knowledge. It’s so beautifully written, clear and concise. Congratulations and thank you.

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