Crochet is an excellent craft for making blankets and scarves, but did you know that you can also use crochet to make clothes? Many people associate knitting with wearable items like sweaters and socks, but you can easily crochet a sweater (and use fewer tools to do so). And a crochet sweater has a unique look that’s just as cozy as a knit one.
Crocheting a sweater is considered an intermediate project, so if you’re just starting out with crochet, be prepared for some slightly more challenging steps. However, if you can nail down the basics and have enough patience, you’ll be donning your crochet sweater in no time.
One of the beauties of crochet is that you don’t need many supplies to get started. Here are a few must-haves and some suggested accouterment to help you along the way.
A crochet sweater pattern is a step-by-step guide for your project. When you first look at one, it might seem like a lot of technical jargon. Here are the usual parts of a pattern:
Crocheting a sweater without a pattern is extremely difficult. If you wanted to make a blanket, you could sit down with a hook and yarn and freestyle your way to a simple, good-looking piece. A crochet sweater has several more steps and requires a lot of precision, so it’s worth investing in a pattern. There are tons available on the internet, so find one that fits your style and skill level.
There are two main things you have to consider when choosing a hook—size and material.
When you look at a crochet hook, you’ll notice they are labeled with a letter/number combination—I/9 or K/11, for example. As the numbers and letters increase, the size of the hook also increases. Consult your pattern to know which hook size to use.
Crochet hooks come in wood, plastic, aluminum, and steel, among other materials. Wood hooks tend to have more friction, which prevents yarn from slipping around on the hook. Metal and plastic hooks have less friction, which allows you to work faster, even while the yarn tends to slip more.
You may want to take a few different types of crochet hooks for a test drive to find which feels the best to you. Additionally, some hooks come with an ergonomic handle that helps ease the strain on your hand. Choosing a hook is like trying on shoes—there’s one out there that’s bound to be your perfect match, you just have to try a few on to find it.
Before you make a decision on color, there are two things to consider when choosing your yarn—size and fiber.
Yarn is also measured by number, with 0 (lace) being the thinnest and 7 (jumbo) the thickest. The most common yarn sizes for a sweater are 3 (light) and 4 (medium or worsted). Hook size and yarn size align—a medium weight yarn would use any hook I/9-K/10.
Acrylic yarn is the most accessible and affordable type of yarn you’ll find at your local craft store. While great for big projects like blankets, using it to crochet a sweater might not be the best choice. It doesn’t breathe like natural fibers and can be itchy on the skin.
Wool, cotton, and other natural fibers, while slightly more expensive, make great choices for a sweater as they’re breathable and easy to clean. Wool is an especially good choice—it’s a classic sweater material and it’s extremely warm.
Ultimately, you can use any yarn of the right size to crochet a sweater, so consider your budget and personal preference when choosing one.
In addition to a pattern, hook, and yarn, here are a few other tools that will make crocheting a sweater a lot easier.
A stitch has two main parts: the head and the post. The post is the main body of the stitch, and the head is the two loops at the top of the post. Whenever an instruction says “insert,” you push your hook in between the head and post. The pattern may instruct you to use the back or front loop only. In that case, you push your hook through only the one designated loop.
Some other common phrases you’ll see are “yarn over” (from back to front, put your working yarn over your hook), “loop” (any time the yarn folds over the top of your hook) and “pull through” (using the hook to bring yarn either through a stitch or a loop).
Here are some basic crochet stitches you’ll probably find in your crochet sweater pattern.
Insert hook in stitch, yarn over. Pull through stitch and loop on hook.
Insert hook in stitch, yarn over. Pull through stitch. Yarn over, pull through both loops.
Yarn over, insert hook in stitch. Yarn over, pull through stitch. Yarn over, pull through three loops on hook.
Yarn over, insert hook in stitch. Yarn over, pull through stitch. Yarn over, pull through two loops. Yarn over, pull through remaining two loops.
Yarn over, insert hook in stitch. Yarn over, pull through stitch. Yarn over, pull through two loops on hook. Yarn over, insert in next stitch. Yarn over, pull through stitch. Yarn over, pull through two loops on hook. Yarn over and pull through the final three loops.
This creates two stitch posts that share the same head. You can do this with any kind of stitch (hdc2tog) or over any number of stitches (dc4tog).
This process is known as decreasing, and it shortens the length or width of your project, creating a tapered look you would find in the sleeves and body of your sweater. The opposite process is called increasing. To increase, do two stitches in the same stitch of the row below them.
Modern Crochet: Essential Skills for Getting Started
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get to what you really came for: starting to crochet a sweater.
Before you do your first stitch, take time to read through your pattern. A sweater is far more complex than a scarf or blanket, and it requires you to make multiple properly sized pieces that you will later connect together.
Jumping into crocheting a sweater will only lead to headaches down the road. Make sure you understand all the component parts of the project and have a firm grasp on the stitches you’ll use.
Many crochet sweater patterns will have modular instructions—different stitch amounts to create different sized sweaters. To know which instructions to follow, you’ll have to take some measurements of your body with a tape measure. Here are some useful measurements to take.
Your pattern will often list a gauge size that you should try to match. Gauge measures the number of stitches across and how many rows high make up a four-inch square.
There are several factors that could make your gauge slightly off—a different needle, a different brand of yarn, and the tension of your stitches can make small adjustments to each stitch that can spell disaster for your crochet sweater.
You should try to match the gauge as best you can since it’s a proven measurement. If you make changes to the gauge, be aware that you will have to slightly change the pattern to reflect that.
Making a gauge takes no time at all, and you’ll thank yourself later that you did it.
The slip knot is what you’ll use to attach your yarn to your hook. Loop your yarn around your index and middle finger. Insert your hook through that loop and pull through the yarn that is attached to your ball. When you pull the tail end of the yarn, the loop will tighten around the hook.
The chain is the base for all the rest of your stitches. Your pattern will let you know how many chains you have to make for each piece. Yarn over, then pull through the loop on your hook. It’s that easy!
For a sweater, you’ll likely have to make a chain several times because you’re creating different pieces that you’ll sew together.
Every crochet sweater pattern is going to look slightly different, but there are several parts you might have to complete.
To prevent your sweater pieces from unraveling, you have to finish off your yarn.
Finish your final stitch and chain two. Use your scissors to cut a five-inch tail on your yarn. Pull the tail through the loop on your hook. You can then tighten the tail, creating a knot that will secure your sweater.
Now, it’s time for assembly. Using the same yarn you used for your project, thread your tapestry needle and sew together the sweater pieces according to the pattern’s instructions.
Pay special attention to any place where three different pieces are coming together at one spot, like the armpits and shoulders.
Finally, you’ll want to hide all the yarn tails from finishing off and sewing the pieces together.
Thread your tapestry needle, then weave the ends into the corresponding row of stitches. It’s helpful to go back and forth across the row so that the yarn is more secure.
The final step is to gather your friends in the living room and strut your stuff. They’ll be so impressed you’ve created something functional and stylish.
And, now that you’ve mastered the sweater, you can attempt other clothing items like dresses, capes, crop tops, and shirts.
5 Crochet Hacks Every Beginner Should Know
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