DIY Knitting Design – When You Can’t Find a Pattern That’s Just Right

You may have heard that knitted vests are all the rage these days. I’ve seen quite a number of knitted vests and armless tunics featured in fashion magazines, though I haven’t really seen many in the stores yet. 

Honestly, I haven’t worn a knitted vest since around 1987. Would I wear one again? I just might. If I could find a pattern I liked….

With plenty of yarn at my disposal (my yarn cabinet overflows), I have many yarn options available. The problem? I can’t find a pattern that works. I searched high and low on Ravelry for a free pattern. But everything on offer featured complicated details, the dreaded short rows, or intricate stitching that would ruin my eyesight. The few I liked called for fingerling yarn (too small) or bulky (too large). I just couldn’t find that Goldilocks “just right” pattern.

As I’ve found many times in my knitting life, sometimes it’s just easier to make up your own pattern that works for you. In fact, unless you have EXACTLY the yarn called for in a pattern – which is rare – you might save yourself a lot of time searching through the multitude of patterns on the web by scribbling out your own design.

It’s not that hard to come up with your own design. Here’s my process:

  • Identify a favorite sweater that fits just right. It can be store bought and manufactured.
  • Measure it. Write down the width and the length of the body, along with the dimensions of the arms and the neck.
  • Knit a swatch and determine the gauge. How many stitches to an inch? Multiply the dimensions of the favorite sweater by your gauge, subtracting stitches for neckline, armpits, and so forth. If you’re off, forgive yourself and carry on. 
  • Use your favorite stitches to give your garment some zing. I usually do this as I go.

Do you need pages-long instructions and umpteen books to do DIY Knit Design? Nope. What I find most helpful are bare bones charts for top-down sweaters (telling me how many stitches to increase on top and how many stitches to put on a lifeline for the arms) and a comprehensive stitch dictionary. Here are my current go-to sources:

As a knitter, you have skills. You have the ability to make precisely what you want. Go for it!

Blessings on your DIY Designs, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

My Season of Knitting Cardigan Sweaters

I wear cardigan sweaters all the time. Here in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, we rarely have bitter cold weather. But in the pastel beauty of the Appalachian spring and among the yellow and orange leaves of autumn, we have cool mornings and crisp evenings perfect for a light sweater. During the heat of the summers, cardigans are perfect for peeling off by midmorning or to cope with excessive air conditioning indoors.

This year, I pledged to learn to knit my own cardigans. My closet is full of fairly inexpensive, store-bought cardigans, but I didn’t have a single cardigan sweater I had made myself. As a longtime knitter, I found this situation embarrassing and unacceptable. I admit, I found all the shaping, button bands, and tricky necklines highly intimidating. 

But I resolved to learn the skills needed and become a Cardigan Queen. Two months into the year, I’m pleased to say I’ve completed two cardigans and have another well under way. I started with a yoke-neck cardi. Much to my surprise, my first cardigan took less than two weeks to complete, fit perfectly, and is now a “go-to” part of my wardrobe. 

The verdict is still out on the “saddle” neck cardi I’m making, using a kit from Kitterly. It’s complicated, using German short rows, make-one-lefts and rights, cable cast-ons, and some other techniques I hadn’t used before. But I followed the directions and somehow got several indescribable shapes onto one set of needles to form a corset shaped garment that is starting to look like a sweater. 

Will my season of cardigans come to a successful conclusion? Probably. Though my season of cardis is not yet in full bloom and I still have a lot to learn, the seeds of a fruitful harvest of all new cardis is firmly planted, taking root, and in a promising growing season. 

Here’s What I’m Using to Make Cardigans

Margaret Hubert, One-Piece Knits: Essential Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges for Sweaters Knit Top Down, Side Over, and Back to Front (This book of charts proved easier than it initially looks. I’ve easily adjusted the charts slightly to fit me. Several techniques are included. Highly recommended.)

Yarn: Knitcrate offers very high-quality yarns at very affordable costs. If you subscribe to the “member crate,” you’ll get enough yarn for a small project (patterns included). At the end of the month, you can get fantastic deals on the featured yarns (and get enough yarn for a sweater). Buy early – they sell out! Click this link to get a crate for only $5.

Kits: I’m using kits from Kitterly. These kits are pricey but include high quality yarn and well-designed but complicated patterns. They work, but you’ll need to pay close attention to the directions. 

Blessings on you own season of knitting, 


Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

Top Down Knitted Sweaters – Where Have You Been All My Life?

For knitters, there’s no greater joy than wearing your favorite hand-knitted sweater, knowing that you made it yourself.  And if the sweater fits perfectly, looks terrific, and gets you lots of compliments, you feel a special kind of pride.

Up until the last year or so, I stayed away from making my own sweaters. I learned to knit sweaters the “flat” way, making four pieces (front, back, two arms) from the bottom up and stitching the pieces together at the end, putting in a neckline by picking up stitches and hoping I had enough yarn left to finish the project. My necklines never looked professional. My efforts looked amateur. 

Then came all those pretty “cake” or “sweet roll” yarns with the lovely colors and inviting rounds rolls begging me to knit something marvelous. I made the big switch to top-down knitting and circular needles. Much to my surprise, I came out with a sweater I wear at least once a week, proudly and confidently that it’s a great looking and fitting garment. (And the sweater’s “done” as soon as I’ve finished knitting – no tedious mattress stitching and few loose ends to tie up.)

This leaves me thinking, “where have top-down knitted sweaters been all my life?” I’m guessing it’s all about the new widespread availability of circular needle sets, along with a plethora of new yarns made for the self-striping colors that make a top-down knitted sweater pop. In any case, I’m so glad I made the switch. I may never buy another store-bought sweater again.

Here’s what I’m using for my top-down sweaters:

Pattern bookThe Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweatersby Ann Budd. (I’m using the chart for the “Seamless Yoke Sweaters” on page 23.)

YarnCaron Cakes (I’ve needed three cakes to make a sweater. You’ll have a good bit left over for a matching scarf.)

NeedlesClover Takumi Circular Needle Set(available online for about half the retail price) I’ve used size 8 needles with the Caron Cake yarn.

MarkersJill’s Beaded Knit Bits. I love these markers, handmade and sold by the artisan online. You’ll need at least one marker for yoke sweaters, a set for raglan designs. Jill also carries row counters and other useful jeweled tools.

Happy Sweater Knitting!

Feel free to comment if you have projects to show off or tips for new knitters!

Blessings, Cindy