Steps for Making Your Favorite Wool Sweater

There is nothing better than cozying up with a warm wool sweater. However, those cherished sweaters can quickly become worn out, shrunken, and even stinky after a few wears. To keep your sweaters in top condition, avoid running them through the washer and dryer. Instead, wash them by hand.

Knitting

Knitting is the process of creating a fabric by looping yarn over needles in a repeating pattern. When it comes to sweaters, there are many different knitting techniques. Some are more complicated than others, but all knitters need to know the basic skills of casting on, binding off and the knit and purl stitch. It also helps to have a good understanding of knitting terms, especially decreases (such as k2tog and ssk) and increases (M1L and M1R).

When choosing a sweater pattern, choose one that fits your size and style preferences. Look for a boat neck or crew neck, some easy ribbing and either stockinette or garter stitch in the body of the sweater. Sweaters can be knit in the round seamlessly or they can be made as front and back pieces sewn together. If you’re new to seamless knitting, try finding a pattern that is knit flat first.

The type of yarn used in a sweater is also important. Choose a quality yarn that is appropriate for the pattern. Wool is a great choice for sweaters because it is breathable, warm and soft against the skin. Avoid cheap acrylic yarns, as they will feel plastic-like and not stand up to wear and tear. The difference between sweater and sweatshirt is that a sweater is crocheted or knitted, whereas a sweatshirt is not.

Fabric

Wool is a natural fiber that has many beneficial properties. It insulates when wet, wicks moisture away from the skin to help regulate body temperature and is resistant to static and odor. It also lays very flat and resists wrinkling. The crimp of the fibers creates warm air pockets next to the skin which retain body heat, while the hard outer surface moves liquid moisture vapors and wicks them away from the fabric, keeping it dry. Its durable nature means that it is often used for outdoor gear and garments.

When selecting sweater knit fabrics look for a high percentage of natural fiber. Look for cotton, linen and silk blends as well as 100% wool. Avoid synthetic fibers like polyester and rayon; they will not hold up under the heavy use of steam you will be giving them as you work on your sweater.

Since sweater knits are stretchy, you will want to stabilize them during cutting and construction by making a paper template of each pattern piece (minus seam allowances) out of grocer’s freezer paper and ironing it to the wrong side of the fabric. When the sweater is ready to be sewn, stitch just outside the paper template and gently remove it from the fabric before pressing the seams.

Anytime you are sewing stretchy fabric it is essential to use a stitch that will allow for stretch; a zigzag on a standard machine or a serger will both do this well. This will ensure that your seams aren’t stretched out of shape as they are sewn and can be stretched back into place later as you wear the sweater.

Stitching

Wool is a naturally odor- and stain-repellent fiber that holds its shape well. It also resists wrinkles. Wool sweaters can be worn for years without pilling and with gentle washing will reshape and look good as new.

Stitching is the process of sewing fabric pieces together, either by hand or machine. It’s important to use a quality needle and thread, especially on sweater knits that are stretchy. Each Cocoknits Method pattern includes color coordinated stitch markers to help you keep track of where you are in the construction process. You’ll also find a sweater worksheet that breaks the project down into manageable chunks and helps you understand your sweater’s structure as you go along.

When it’s time to sew a seam in your sweater you’ll need to be sure that the seams are flattened and lined up before stitching. If you’re unsure how to do this, ask a friend or watch online videos. You’ll need to use decreases like k2tog and ssk, increases like mL1 and m1R when sewing your sweater, but this is easy enough once you get the hang of it. If you’re new to sewing, it’s a great idea to practice on scrap fabric before using your real sweater pieces. Practicing on scraps will help you develop your stitches and learn how to line up your seams and stitch them neatly.

Finishing

Whether it’s a simple cotton tee or a sweater with intricate cables and lace, your wool garment deserves a finishing touch. Blocking not only makes the fabric look a little more polished but also relaxes and defines the stitch pattern. Perky cables will transform into elegant curves, humble stockinette will smooth out and become art, and your finished sweater will drape beautifully – something that’s so important with a garment that will be worn close to the skin.

If your sweater’s yarn is 100% wool or has a high wool content, steeking is a great option. Wool fibers tend to grip together and reduce the risk of unraveling during the steeking process, making it a safe and simple way to give your sweater a new, stylish twist.

For a smooth, finished edge to your sweater’s ribbing or hem finish, you can use a catch stitch. Whether it’s executed with regular serging thread, a specialty yarn or even a piece of stretchy nylon, this stitch will hold the seam allowance flat and neaten a sometimes-wavy seam allowance.

This stitch can also be used for buttonholes. Depending on the style of the buttonhole and your sweater knit, you can use either buttonhole twist or elastic thread as cording. Test both to see which one works best for your garment’s fabric and construction.

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