update 1/2/15:  hello friends, i apologize for the inconvenience, but i developed some storage issues on my current server just before christmas, and my gallery archives have been disrupted as a result.  i am working as quickly as i can to permanently correct this issue, but the process has been slowed with the holidays.  i thank you for your continued patience and promise to have the tutorials back in tip top shape as soon as i possibly can.

**pattern now includes 6-9 and 9-12 month sizes…with the disclaimer that i am currently unable to test the new sizes myself.  i calculated the larger sizes based on standard measurements.  let me know how it goes!**

after so much sewing, it seemed the right time to do some knitting.  i love vacillating back and forth between the two activities, and have been enjoying some knitting relaxation time the past week, so i thought i would share this project.  look at this little thing.  isn’t it cute?  don’t you wish you could make something like that for a baby in your life?  what if i told you you can?  yes, YOU.  when i first started knitting, i made several sweaters i pieced together (poorly.  oh god, so very poorly.) before venturing into top down, seamless territory.  then i made my first seamless raglan, wondered why i had waited so long to do so, and vowed never to go back.  before me, i had a really professional looking result without any weird, bulky, uneven seams.

unfortunately, that was a preposterous vow, and soon after making it, i realized a wiser route might be to learn proper finishing techniques, an effort aided greatly by this book.  however, my love for the simplicity and seamless construction of top down sweaters has not waned, and it continues to be my go to when designing my own gifts for little ones (i’m not quite at the point where i can design sweaters for adults, but this class is a major stepping stone!).  what better way to practice some new skills than on a tiny little project, which takes up little yarn or time (indeed, i miscalculated my first draft of this sweater and knit up the entire body with the neck too small, and wasn’t even particularly irritated about it), and will become an appreciated gift and heirloom for a precious little one?  not to mention, babies are a true delight to knit for because their little bodies are squishy and composed of round and straight parts, not complicated curves like adults, so items for them require so much less tailoring and shaping.

i promise, if you can cast on, bind off, knit and purl, this sweater will be a breeze!  the only reason i’m making it into a full tutorial is that, if this is your first time doing top down construction, i know it will help to see how you go from the big bunch of stitches you start with into sprouting little sleeves and a body.  once, early early in my knitting career, i saw a photo of a top down sweater in progress, and only then did i understand those few simple, but critical steps.

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disclaimer:  baby sizing is difficult when you haven’t got a real life sample before you.  my kids are far larger than this sweater now, but when my son was 8 weeks old, he wore 6 month old clothing, and now that he’s 1.5 years old, he comfortably still wears 1 year old clothing.  the point being, babies are individuals who come in all different shapes and sizes (just like adults!).  i made this sweater for a rather petite little lady pictured above (baby cora, the newest addition to our dearest friends and neighbors back in chicago), who just this week donned it at the ripe age of 3 months.  but my son would have outgrown this long before.  perhaps i should go the way of the gap and call it 0-6 months, which i always thought was a total cop out.  regardless, the measurements of the finished piece are:

torso circumference, 16″ (20″, 22″)/ collar to waist, 9″ (10″, 11″)/ shoulder to wrist 8″ (8.5″, 9″), and hopefully that will clear up most confusion!

Photo5tip:  if you read regularly, you know my affinity for seed stitch.  i think it’s so pretty.  however, i based the gauge on the stockinette portion of the sweater, so if you wanted to make it a little more masculine, you might substitute garter stitch for seed on the yolk and borders and just leave off the picot edge on the neckline (see the two versions at left, even teenier sweaters i made for my twin niece and nephew back in october).  unfortunately, i do not currently have time to write up my patterns in different sizes.  but, if you read long enough, i’m sure between my own tots and gifts for friends and family, eventually i will have patterns for various projects up in most baby and child sizes.  so, stick around!

babysweater

this pattern is based on a gauge of 5 stitches per inch.  away we go!

materials

  • 200 yards yarn (i used Sensations Cuddle from joann fabric–the softest acrylic blend i have found, and machine washable, a bonus with tiny ones.  i used less than half the 400 yard ball, so 200 yards is a conservative estimate.)
  • 24″ or 32″ circular needle, size 6
  • set of 4 size 6 double point needles
  • 4 stitch markers
  • waste yarn
  • tapestry needle for weaving in ends

skills

instructions (these are intentionally chatty!  they assume you have little to no experience knitting.  bold faced type cuts to the chase.  even so, please read them through at least once before beginning so there are no surprises.  we all teach and learn in different ways!)

  1. using the long tail method, cast on 58 (64, 68)  stitches.
  2. on your first row (all seed stitch, k1p1), complete 10 (11, 11) stitches and place marker, 7 (8, 9) more and place marker, 24 (26, 28) more and place marker, 7 (8, 9) more and place marker, then complete the final 10 (11, 11).  these markers represent  where your raglan increases will happen.
  3. let’s talk about raglan increases in seed stitch.  on your next row, which you can now consider the right side of your work, p1k1 all the way across (in seed stitch, you just knit the purls and purl the knits from the previous row as you come to them) until one stitch before the first marker, kfb, slide marker (sm), kfb, and continue in seed stitch until the last stitch before the next marker, and repeat.  from now on, every right side row, you will kfb into the stitch before and after every marker.  because seed stitch calls for alternating k and p stitches, sometimes you will have to violate the stitch pattern in order to kfb.  THAT’S OKAY.  your priority is to kfb before and after every marker, then begin again in the pattern as set until the next marker.  so, for example, let’s say you k1, then have to kfb, slide marker, and kfb again, your next stitch will be a purl, because if you hadn’t done the kfbs, you would have gone k1p1k1p1.  this sounds much more confusing than it is and will be much clearer after you do a few rows and can use your existing stitches to guide you.
  4. on the next and every following wrong side row of the yolk (don’t worry, i’ll tell you when this all changes!), you just k1p1, NO increases.  when you come to the funky area around the marker, continue in the pattern as set!  ignore what the kfb increases look like, and just knit or purl them based on what you’d been doing leading up to them.  don’t make it more complicated for yourself!  if you do that, you will have another normal seed stitch row to work with every time you complete a wrong side row, and your raglan increase lines will be quite well disguised in the seed stitch (see below).
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  6. now you need to make a decision rather swiftly, and then never have to think about it again!
  • if you are going to use buttons 0.5″ or larger in diameter, you will want to make buttonholes (if smaller, i forego buttonholes and just wiggle the button through the gaps in the seed stitch, which i did here), and you will want the first one rather close to the top so the neck of the sweater isn’t gaping open and flapping about.  if you’re going to add the picot edge, you’ll want a buttonhole somewhere in these first 3 rows.
  • make a buttonhole as follows: 3 stitches in pattern, k2 together, yarn over, continue in pattern.  because seed stitch is a little tricky when you start adding and subtracting stitches, you might find yourself in a position where you end up purling two together, or having to swing your yarn over in the opposite direction (see photo below) if you have to purl vs. knit the next stitch.  that’s ok!  it will just make a slightly tighter buttonhole.  just do what you have to do to honor the seed stitch pattern after you make that yarn over.  you may place buttonholes as you see fit–if you’d like them to look like mine, place the first one in the second row, and the second about 0.75″ down from the first.  make sure you place them on the same side!  please note, you may want to increase the length between buttons or even add another button for larger sizes.
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    yo so you can purl the next stitch
  • because some unwritten rule tells us girls have buttonholes on the right, and boys on the left, when we come to dividing for the sleeves, we will again determine what is the “right” and “wrong” side of the piece so your buttonholes are in the right place.  we can decide that later because seed stitch is a reversible pattern.  so, don’t worry about that now!

7.  now that the novel on the first three rows is over and done with, let’s continue.  go on doing your raglan increases as outlined above on every right side, and just plain seed stitch on every wrong side until you have completed a total of 16 (27, 29) rows.  now, the stitches along your needle should number as follows:  18 (24, 26) (marker), 23 (35, 38) (marker), 40 (54, 57) (marker), 23 (35, 38) (marker), 18 (24, 26).  good job!  now the fun begins.

  • let’s return to this right and wrong side issue, because now we’re going to switch to stockinette which is not a reversible fabric like seed or garter stitch, so it matters where your buttonholes are.  if you’re making this sweater for a girl, the right side needs to put your buttonholes on the RIGHT as the baby will wear the sweater.  if for a boy, your right side will put your buttonholes on the LEFT.

8.  now that you’ve decided your right and wrong side, you are going to continue in stockinette stitch, so knit all right side rows and purl all wrong side rows, while keeping the first and last 5 stitches of each row in seed stitch (but read the next step before you begin).  it helps to put markers there to remind yourself to switch from stockinette to seed.  even with so many rows in pattern, it’s all too easy to zone out and then have to redo those few stitches!  just place the markers as a little cue.

9.  as you knit or purl (depending on what you decided was your right side in step 6) that first row of the body, proceed to the first marker, remove the marker, and place all of the stitches up until the next marker onto waste yarn, and remove the marker.  that’s a sleeve!  continue knitting (or purling) across the back stitches until the next marker, remove it, place the stitches through the next marker onto waste yarn (another sleeve!), remove marker, and knit (or purl) to the end of the row.  i like to tie the lengths of waste yarn in a slip knot for easy removal later and tuck them in to keep them out of the way.  starting to look like a cute little sweater, eh?

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10. continue in the pattern as set (remember to place your buttonholes as you go if you’d like more buttons down the sweater) until the piece measures 7.5 (9, 10)”.  switch back over to seed stitch for an additional inch (total 8.5, 10, 11 collar to hem), and bind off in pattern.  

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11.  now, back to the sleeves!  transfer the 23 (35, 38) stitches of one sleeve cap evenly onto 3 double point needles (dpn) and remove waste yarn (i do it in that order!).  you will notice a rather large gap right in the armpit.  i like to pick up two extra stitches as i knit my first round to help close that gap (around the arrows in picture 1 below).  wind the yarn around your hand as though you’re preparing to knit, leaving a 6″ tail (it’s nice to have a long tail to close up the gap further if need be when you’re weaving in this end).  poke your fourth dpn under a stitch just left of center (2), pick up a stitch with your tail (3), and continue knitting around until you arrive at the last stitch of the round.  i like to use the needle that just acquired all the stitches (not the empty one) to pick up one more stitch here (4), just to the right of center.

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armpit

12.  continue to knit (remember, in the round, you get to knit every round for stockinette, no purling required!) until the sleeve measures 7 (7.5, 8)” from collar to wrist.  switch to seed stitch, and complete another 1″ (8, 8.5, 9″ total).  because baby arms are quite straight and sweaters are often layered on top of other clothing, i did not taper the sleeves at all.

13. you need to use a stretchy bind off for the sleeve, or those precious pudgy little hands won’t fit through the opening and your hard work will be dashed!  so was the frantic end to my first top down project, before i was aware of my favorite stretchy bindoff dreamed up by knitting goddess elizabeth zimmerman, the sewn bindoff.  if you are not familiar, i provide a tutorial of this method in my mustard seed cowl post.

14.  repeat steps 11-13 on the other side.  now it’s REALLY starting to look like a real sweater, right??

15.  you could probably stop here and be quite proud of yourself!  however, if you’d like to add a dainty little picot edge on the collar, read along.  this adds a nice finishing touch and only takes a few more minutes.  with the right side facing you, take your circular needle and pick up one stitch for every stitch you cast on (total 58, 64, 68 stitches) at the collar, starting with the right front and working left, just like you’re knitting a new row.

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16.  purl one row (wrong side).

17.  k2tog, yo for the entire next row (right side).  this will be your “turning row.”

18.  purl one row (wrong side), and bind off normally leaving a looooong tail, 15″ should be fine.

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19.  the first time i did a picot edge, i followed similar instructions and had a mild panic attack because what i had just produced looked NOTHING like the photo i was looking at.  after searching high and low, i became aware that you must fold it in half to create the picot edge.  this is why photo tutorials save a lot of time and heart palpitations.  fold the collar in half toward the wrong side, and seam it shut in that position against the collar edge.

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20.  sew your buttons on opposite your buttonholes.  i suppose it deserves mentioning that buttons are technically choking hazards (my children never personally tore buttons off their sweaters and ate them, but anything is possible), so sew them on snugly.

weave in loose ends!  admire!  you did it!

as usual, please feel free to contact me with any feedback or questions, either in the comments here, via email, or through ravelry.  i really love to make knitting as accessible as possible because of the happiness it brings me, so if i’ve made a mistake, something is unclear, or there’s something else you’d like to see, please let me know.  happy knitting!

23 Comments on cora’s sweater: a teeny, tiny, top down tutorial

  1. I’m so impressed! I am a reluctant and not very skilled knitter, but I would love to have a couple of non-hat baby gifts in my arsenal. This looks perfect. (And I think seed stitch is really cute on a boy. However, I think all baby-ish things should be gender neutral and classic.)

      • My knitting skills are basic…basically I’m not very good! lol
        I’m self taught and need some practice for sure! I will give this a whirl …thank you for your kind offer to help. I may just take you up on that! I will post pictures as I progress :). Thanks again-K

  2. When picking up and adding the sleeve sts at the underarm….If the pattern calls for 2 sts, I would add 2 more on either side of the center, knit one full round, then in the next 2 rounds k2tog on each side of the enter 2. Eliminates the “gap” and necessity of sewing it in later. How many extra sts you pick up will depend on how big the gap appears to be.

  3. It was pure joy knitting up this dear little sweater.
    Easily followed your instructions.
    Now, I would like to knit a larger size–about 9 or 12 months size.
    However, I have no idea how to do that.
    Will you be posting larger sizes for this pattern?

    • hi there! so happy to hear you enjoyed the sweater. i have gotten a few requests for larger sizes now, so i suppose i ought to sit down and do some math :) i will make a goal to have some sizing worked out by labor day. thanks for stopping by!

      • Thank you many times over for the larger sizes.
        I really appreciate you doing the work for us .
        You have made a great pattern even better.

        I have already knit one in the original size and now am attempting alarger size.
        I love this adorable pattern and consider it a gift from you.

      • thank you, what a sweet message! i hope the larger sizes work ok–let me know how it goes! i do not foresee time to test the larger sizes myself on the horizon. please let me know if there are any issues! enjoy!

  4. I’m planning to start this sweater this weekend this weekend. I’ve only been knitting for a little under a year. I mostly sew. I had only really knit hats (I have a thing for berets) but I would love to start clothing. I’m not that confident of my skills but big want to make this for my niece. Do I have to use long tail cast on? I’ll have to learn that. Everything else I should be able to handle.

    This is a very thoroughly written pattern. Thank you for that. You didn’t just give a chart or simplified pattern. It makes me feel like I should be able to do this.

    • thanks, holly! i’m really excited for you to try your first sweater, and i really think you’re going to do great. at some point, it’s just time to leave your knitting comfort zone, and you will be amazed what you can learn and how you can progress. a long tail cast on is by no means necessary, and if it feels overwhelming to learn a new skill, you can skip it for now. however, it’s actually quite simple and produces a nice, stretchy edge. it’s also incredibly efficient–i promise you’ll be happy to have a speedy and versatile option for casting on. the only time i don’t use long tail is if directions specifically call for something else–it’s my favorite!

  5. I am in the midst of my first top-down baby cardi and am SO glad I was directed to this site. I’m so confused with starting the little cap sleeves, the underarm part seems to be a mess to me, I can’t figure out how to pick up those stitches. The sts on the holding pin are no prob: JUST the ones on the under-arm. Hopefully now I can get this straight.

    • oh good, i am so glad you landed here. are the pictures clear on how to pick up stitches under the armpit? it’s not an exact science–i just pick up one on each side of center to close that gap, but you will be able to close it further when you go back to weave in the ends. knitting is very forgiving (unlike sewing)–enjoy!

  6. In step 17, is it k2tog, yo? It doesn’t look like your adding additional stitches, so the k2tog would be needed to cancel the yo. I think. (I’ve only knitted a couple of pieces so far.)

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