If you can knit and purl, cast on and cast off, you can make this

The first thing I ever knitted was a jumper. A grey jumper, with a v-neck, in some sort of wool-acrylic mix. I was twenty and staying with my parents for a few months. My mum, casting around for something to fill my evenings, took me to the local wool shop and bought me the pattern and the wool, and sat me down, and taught me to knit all over again.

I say all over again because like most people, I had knit a bit as a child. A wobbly teddy bear scarf, if I remember rightly. But it hadn’t stuck, and I certainly couldn’t remember how to do it.

A few years later, I wandered into a little wool shop in York. I was expecting our second child and wanted to knit a big cardigan to wear throughout the pregnancy. On the racks were some magazines and a couple of Debbie Bliss books and I flicked through the pages until I found a beautiful drapey affair in duck egg blue. The shop assistant helped me to choose an appropriate yarn and some needles, and I went home and stowed my new book on my bookcase and the yarn in a drawer.

And there it stayed. Because I couldn’t make head nor tail of the pattern. Clearly my mum had done all the tricky bits for me, the one and only time I’d knitted as an adult. In fact, I couldn’t even remember how to cast on, or, erm, knit. And this was in the days before youtube, or even the internet, in our house.

In the end, a friend showed me how to cast on and knit, how to purl, and eventually, at the end of a very long hat, how to cast off. I made a couple of hats, for babies, with pompoms on their ends, but they weren’t what I wanted to make. I wanted to make a cardigan.

Eventually, after borrowing just about every craft book in the library and a lot of sheer bloody-mindedness, I made one. Then another. And then I started to design my own.

I’ve found it really interesting, speaking to people about this particular sweater pattern. I carry my knitting around with me, and post photos of it on the internet, and so lots of people have made comments along the lines of Gosh, that’s really lovely. So I tell them that it’s a pattern designed specially for new knitters. Would they like a go?

Oh, no, they tell me. I can’t read a pattern.

The thing is, you don’t need to be able to read a pattern to make this jumper. It – like all my beginner patterns – will help you to learn to read a pattern. It will help you to go off and make all the standard, commercial, codified patterns you’ve ever dreamed off. But you don’t need to be able to do that yet.

If you can knit and purl, cast on and cast off, you can make this. Heck, if you can knit and purl and know someone who can cast on and off, you can make this. The entire pattern is written out in duplicate: under each section of knitting-pattern-code is a much longer section explaining exactly what to do in plain EnglishWith extra instructions for the bits you might find confusing, or tricky, or just odd. In other words, this is a pattern where I’ve written in all the things I’d say to my just-begun-knitting-friend Mrs. Piper if we were knitting it in the pub together (which we must do again soon, Mrs. Piper). On top of that, there’ll be a friendly week-by-week knit along taking you through everything with pictures – and I’ll leave it up permanently so that you needn’t feel rushed. Of course, it goes without saying that I’ll answer any questions you might have.

 

In my real life, beyond this blog, I’m a teacher. I’ve spent literally years learning how to teach people as effectively as possible. So when I decided to start selling patterns, it was quite natural for me to want to make the first collection for beginners. This jumper is my knitting primer, if you will. You start at the bottom of the back: just a bit of knit-every-row garter stitch to warm up. Then there’s straightforward stockinette all the way up the back, to really get your hand in. Once you’re happy with that, you can choose whether you want an extra (little) challenge on the front, in the form of bobbles, or whether you’d like to keep it plain and simple. We don’t cast off around the neckline, so knitting the edging on is a simple case of a few more rounds of knitting every row. The sleeves are knit two, purl two rib: the next step in any knitter’s journey, with some simple increases to keep them looking good. Then you just sew it all together and weave in the ends in front of a good film.

At the same time, though, for all its simplicity I wanted this jumper to be something I wanted to wear. What’s the good in making your own wardrobe if that’s where it’s going to stay, ill-fitting and lumpen and sad? So I added some flattering little details – notched side seams, an inch of extra length at the back, optional extra-long sleeves with thumb-holes for cold hands, a tiny bit of shaping around the front neckline so that the boatneck collar lies beautifully over your collarbone. The sleeves drop elegantly away from your shoulders, keeping it casual, but the body isn’t so big and baggy that it doesn’t show off your curves. Once I’d sewn in the last end, on Tuesday night, I slipped it on to find that it was all I’d hoped for: comfy and warm and cosy and attractive. I will be living in this, this winter.

I do so hope you’ll join me in making one of these over the course of the next few weeks. Knitting a jumper is such an autumnal thing to do: a way to make the darkening days appealing, somehow, like cinnamon and candles and long walks through reddening woods. The pattern is, of course, to be entirely free for the duration of the knit along, and is yours to keep thereafter. If you are a new – or even an aspiring – knitter, make this the autumn of your first jumper, and one day you’ll be telling your own story to the people you teach how to knit.

Madeleine

If you’re already a knitter, do you have a story about when you first learned to knit?

New knitters (and old!) feel free to ask any questions in the comments below!

If you’ve not already subscribed, you might want to, just so you don’t miss the pattern when it comes out.

23 thoughts on “If you can knit and purl, cast on and cast off, you can make this”

  1. Bonjour
    Merçi de nous “faire partager” çe tres joli pull
    Quel beau travail, les noppes donnent quelque chose de spécial et d original
    Combien de laines alaska as tu utilisées ? Merçi de ta reponse
    J ai bien envie de le realiser et je pense qu il se tricote facilement et rapidement
    Merçi beaucoup
    Bonne journee
    Ps : sorry my english is so bad i préfer to write you in french
    Have a nice day and a good sunday

  2. Hi. I would love a pdf of this pattern. I knit quite a bit but mostly socks and accessories and feel a bit nervous about trying a sweater (jumper):) mostly worried about fit I guess. This one looks like so much fun. Thanks.
    Chris

    1. This is an easy-to-fit jumper as there’s no shaping in the body and the ribbed sleeves are so stretchy. Measure yourself around the fullest part of your bust, add 1-2 inches and let me know how you get on!

  3. How very generous of you to gift us a free PDF! This jumper is gorgeous and made even more beautiful with your hand spun YARN!
    Thank you very much, I look forward to knitting this up then wearing it as the cold days are coming!

    1. Thanks! I love spinning, and have two beautiful fleeces from my sister’s Shetlands waiting for my attention. Bring on the
      Fairisle…

  4. Oh my Gosh! I live this jumper! Made especially beautiful by your handspun yarns! Wow!
    How very generous of you to gift us this PDF. I look forward to knitting then wearing this beautiful comfortable garment! Thank you very much!!

    1. Thank you! I did love knitting it in handspun. This is my third handspun sweater. Let me know how you get on with the pattern.

  5. This looks like somewhere on the internet that might be for me. But, at 61, I have a lot to learn about blogs, links, and such. I’m game! Thank you for providing a space for me to enjoy and learn 💟

    1. You’re very welcome here! Feel free to email me if you have any questions. The craft blogging community is so friendly and inspirational – you’re going to love it.

  6. Thank you for sharing this gorgeous pattern with us, and thank you, also, for thinking of first-time knitters when designing the sweater. I, personally, can’t wait to try this pattern and am looking forward to hearing from you soon! Thank goodness I “stumbled” across your column.

    1. Thank you! All my designs this year are aimed at new knitters and sewers. Make sure you come back to use the weekly tutorials; they’ll really help.

    1. Hi Catherine, I’ve written the pattern to create finished garments in sizes 32-42″. If you want it larger than that, and you’re an experienced knitter, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Let me know if you’d like me to help at all.

  7. Hello. I’ve just subscribed, hope I didn’t miss your pattern launch for this beautiful and fun sweater. Thanks in advance for sharing your work, always an inspiration 🙂

    1. Hi Susan, I’m so pleased that you want to knit along with us! Thanks for your kind words. The good news is that you haven’t missed the launch, or the start of the knitalong. We’ll be getting going at the end of next week – and you’ll get an email notification about it now that you’ve subscribed. Looking forward to it! x

  8. I will find a wool shop and someone to teach me the basics, and then I’m game. I am traveling for a bit but should be ready to start the first of October!

    1. I’m so glad that you’re up for this! A few people have ‘signed up’ already, so to speak, which is so exciting. The pattern is full of detailed explanation but of course you can ask me any questions you might have as well and I’ll be happy to help. October will be perfect, as the knitalong will run throughout that month (but you can take as long as you need to). Happy travels – I hope you have a great time!

  9. This jumper looks fun, definitely a good project for someone new to knitting (and not so new, too). I don’t enjoy knitting much at the moment, this comes and goes. It will be lovely to see the first projects appear on Ravelry.

    1. Thanks, Christina! Yes, won’t it be exciting to see them appear (🤞!)
      I’ve got a few people who have told me they’re going to join in already. It’s quite a nice soothing knit for experienced knitters without being dull, because the texture keeps changing. And a good one for new knitters to learn/ practice on of course!

      Of course we’d love to have you join us should the urge to knit strike again! X

    1. Thank you very much! I put a huge amount of thought into making it a simple-to-knit but lovely-to-wear jumper. Perhaps you’ll join us in the knitalong…? 😉
      Thanks for visiting and leaving another comment! X

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