Knitting & Crocheting Journal #1: Revisiting My First Sweaters

I first learned to knit while I was in college after a classmate of mine did a persuasive speech about knitting as a therapeutic and creative hobby. My mom taught me how to cast on, knit, and purl, and I figured out the rest thanks to a book she gave me and some YouTube videos.

While purging my closets of old things, I came across a bunch of unfinished items (and many of them will stay unfinished), as well as a stash of previously lost needles. I also came across some of my first knit sweaters that I thought had been lost when I moved to another state.

When I was a beginning knitter, I was highly ambitious, ready to tackle some of the most complicated projects in knitting magazines. Out of six completed sweaters I had knitted, three of them were still wearable, and I did wear them quite a bit when I worked in New York City. I stopped wearing them when I moved to Virginia and began working in the culinary industry. I did not want to mess anything up since I played in chocolate and frosting all day.

Now that I’m in a more administrative role, I took these six sweaters out of retirement and began wondering if I could still wear them and if I could learn from some mistakes I had made with them. I was a few pounds heavier and my style had changed, but I had worked so hard on them. So, I figured I could change them up—upcycle, if you will.

To get an idea about where I stand with my first old knits, I paired them with some me-made tops and skirts.

My First Sweater: A Shaping Hazard

My Fair Isle Cardigan paired with a me-made organic cotton skirt.

My very first sweater is one of my favorites even though it is the least wearable. I made it not understanding how raglan and crew neck shaping worked, so I had combined two knitting patterns. I knitted it using different beautiful scrap yarns with variegated colors.

I was super proud of this sweater because I was a beginner and managed some complex colorwork. I modeled the colorwork after a fair isle cardigan in the Vogue Knitting Fall 2009 issue. I still love this cardigan to this day and I might revisit the actual pattern.

Fair Isle Cardigan from Vogue Knitting Fall 2009 issue

However, I have never been satisfied with my sweater’s crooked fit at the shoulders. To give this sweater new life, I plan on redoing the shoulders and creating set-in sleeves instead of raglan sleeves. I would love to wear this sweater again.

My Second Sweater: A Tweed Raglan Turtleneck

My tweed turtleneck paired with a me-made tarot skirt

This sweater was made using a raglan pullover pattern from the Vogue Knitting Fall 2003 issue. After my shoulder shaping debacle, this is the first sweater pattern I completed without altering anything.

I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Tweed Worsted in Forest Heather to make the sweater. This is one of my favorite sweaters and currently my only turtleneck. I wore more turtlenecks when I still lived in New York City because of the cold, but now that I live in Virginia, I don’t need as many.

I’ve worn this sweater the most, so it does have some wear and tear and pilling. It has also felted in place where I’ve sweated the most, but fortunately the tweed look makes the felting and pilling less noticeable. The sweater is super soft and looks really nice with black or earth toned skinny jeans.

The crazy part is that this sweater is now in the “vintage” category.

My Third Sweater: A Bohemian Pullover

My Bohemian pullover paired with a me-made indigo cotton midi skirt

The third sweater I ever knitted, this was my favorite sweater while working my first job at a bookstore. After college, I was really into vintage bohemian inspired clothes with lots of earth toned colors, dresses, oxford shoes, and Roaring 20s inspired updo hairstyles.

I was super proud because it was the most difficult project I ever attempted and I used quality Peruvian wool and well-made wooden buttons. The sleeve cuffs are uneven, but this is unnoticeable.

I wore it a lot with fitted bodycon dresses. I now love it with skinny jeans, especially my black pair.

My Fourth Sweater: A Jewel Blue Cardigan

My jewel blue cardigan paired with a me-made tunic made with Colonial Williamsburg fabric

Because I like to torture myself when I’m inexperienced, this is the fourth sweater I made. I created this one myself using a knit-your-own cardigan math formula. I was happy with how it turned out, and even used pre-war Czech glass buttons.

I don’t wear it as much as I would like because I did knit it a touch too small. When I button it up, the buttons pull on the buttonholes. The sleeves are also a little short. Since it is wool, I might attempted to stretch it to see if that helps the fit. This cardigan reminds me why I always knit sleeves two inches longer than a pattern says to accommodate my long arms.

My Fifth Sweater: A Red Heather Mess

My red cardigan looks nice, but you can tell that the collar and sleeves are HUGE

I made this red heather sweater similarly to the blue one—only this one ended up WAY TOO BIG. The sleeves are super long. In fact, everything is too long. And, the buttonholes also stretched!

I experimented with some brass blazer buttons, but I have to concede: I don’t like it.

What now? I haven’t decided how, but I will most likely upcycle this cardigan and create something new. I’ve made the sweater so huge that it can be cut into fabric.

My Sixth Sweater: Winter Cardigan

I really wanted to love this cardigan, but, alas, it is another piece that I knitted a touch too small for me. The original pattern is called the Cowichan Vision Wrap Coat from Nicky Epstein’s Knitting On Top of the World.

Cowichan Vision Wrap Coat from Nicky Epstein’s Knitting On Top of the World

The colorwork was super fun. I worked hard on the deer pattern. The colors even match my old wardrobe of red, blue, grey, and black! The yarn was also super soft.

The painful part about committing to a sweater is that you don’t know how it’s going to turn out until it’s done. This is one I wanted to love and would have loved if it wasn’t so small. Even the sleeves are too short—and I knew I should have gone longer because I naturally have long arms. The cardigan is still salvageable, but I have to figure out what I’m going to do with it. Maybe this is one I’ll also have to reshape.

2023 Knitting Plans

As part of my wardrobe creation challenge, I will be knitting using more patterns rather than experimenting. After laying out all of the sweaters I’ve knitted, I realized that I got more wear out of the knits where I followed a tried and true pattern.

This year, I also want to make knits that fit the color palette I am following. I want to focus on knitting with greens, neutrals, dusty pastels, and creams. I also have one black cardigan idea.

Other Posts Like This

Beginner’s Guide to Knitting

Knitting Glossary and Abbreviations

How to Read Knitting Patterns

DIY Easy Garter Stitch Scarf

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