No-Pattern Jumper (Part 2) – Let’s Get Knitting

Let’s get knitting.

A note on how this jumper is constructed

The jumper is made from the bottom up, on circular needles. You cast on for the hem, and knit to the point where the body and sleeves meet. Then you put the body aside and cast on for the sleeves (at their cuff side). You knit the sleeves, and once they’re both done you join the sleeves and body together, and knit it all in one go, decreasing your stitches as you go along, until the point where you’d like your neck to sit. At that point you bind off stitches at the front, and gradually along the side of the neck, until your neck is the height you like. Then you bind off everything, and pick up stitches to add the neckband.

You can choose to knit stripes, or a plain jumper in one colour, totally up to you. I went with stripes, but that’s purely a style thing – it does not change the construction of the jumper.

Making a start

Well, let’s decide how many stitches to cast on!

It all depends on how you’d like your jumper to be: with a tight hem? With a loose hem? The kind of jumper that balloons out over the hem? The kind that’s pretty much straight?

The easiest kind is ‘pretty much straight’. In this case you cast on your stitches, knit your hem in 2×2 rib for as long as you like, and then just switch to knitting every row when your hem is the length you like.

If you like your hem to be a bit more snug, go down a needle size for this. Cast on, say, in 3.75mm needles and then switch to 4mm for the rest of the jumper. This will make your hem slightly tighter.

A third option is to cast on a certain number of stitches for the hem, and then increase a set number once you start knitting every stitch – that one requires a bit more math, and gives you the kind of shape where the hem is tight and the jumper is more balloony.

For my jumper I went with Option 1 – cast on stitches, work in 2×2 ribbing for a while, switch to knitting – but with no change of needle size, and no increase in stitches. I did this because my hips – where I like the hem to sit – are wider than the rest of my body, so if I used smaller needles I would end up with a jumper that’s too baggy for my liking. I also know, from experience, that the way I cast on leads to a snug but not tight first row, which helps keep the hem in (and the wind out). I think it’s worth thinking about your body shape here – the narrower your hips the better you’ll fare with going down a needle size, but the bigger your hips the less it helps. But – that’s just my opinion – you might find that going down a needle size gives you exactly the fit you like.

Casting on

Time to cast on – or rather, time to work out how many stitches to cast on. This is where you compare your measurements, settle on a measurement you’d like to achieve, and use your ‘magic number’ to get there.

For example, if you’d like your jumper to have a circumference of 40 inches, and your ‘magic number’ is 10 stitches/inch, then you cast on 400 stitches. If it is 20 stitches/inch, then you cast on 200. That’s the basic calculation – work out how many stitches it takes you to fill an inch, work out how many inches you’d like your jumper to have, and cast on that many.

Bear in mind that the looser your fabric – ie, the bigger your needle size – the more ‘boing’ it’ll have – the more it’ll stretch. You might like to go down a little in your measurement – to bring in a bit of ‘negative’ ease to your garment. Think about that jumper you really like – when you wear it, does your body stretch the fabric at all, or does it all lie flat across your body (or away from it?)

I tend to err on the side of ‘too loose’ or ‘too big’ and have to remind myself to add in a bit of negative ease, or my jumpers end up baggier than I like. Even if I don’t want them to fit snugly.

I’ll take you through the calculations for the jumper I made:

1. Widest point of the body: the baseline jumper has a wide hem, and the same measurement all the way up the body. As you can see from my measurements, my hips are 2.5 inches wider than my chest, so my body above the hip is 41 inches at its widest point.

2. My baseline jumper is comfortable, but I wanted extra room in this one – baggier, so that I can fit it over a thinner jumper and wear as an outer layer. Adding an inch at each side – two inches in total – gives me a circumference of 46 inches, which is 5 inches more than my chest. Plenty of ease to fit stuff under.

3. On my baseline jumper the hem, though knitted as 2×2 rib, is loose and stretched out – the rib lies flat. It is flappy at the bottom, even though it has 1.5 inches of negative ease (that is, its measurement is 1.5 inches less than my hip measurement). I wanted a tight hem on my new jumper because I don’t want the wind to get in, so the new jumper has a hem that is 5 inches less than my hip measurement – BUT because it is made in a stretchy 2×2 rib, it stretches to meet my body measurement there, but with literally no ease at all. If my hips shrink, the hem will shrink with them. If it rides up, it shrinks.

4. The baseline jumper has extra long sleeves that double as handwarmers, and I wanted to recreate something similar in my new jumper. But – because the new jumper has more ease in the chest – it is baggier – the sleeves actually end up shorter than those of the baseline jumper, because the body of the jumper comes out further to meet them. Had I made these sleeves 21 inches long, they would have gone to my fingertips! Don’t worry about this too much – because of how the jumper is constructed you can try out your sleeves as you go along.

5. Sleeve. The baseline jumper has baggy wrist cuffs, and like the hem I wanted really tight stretchy cuffs, so they’re made in 2×2 ribbing to an inch less than my wrist measurement. Nice and snug, but I can pull it up and down as needed. The elbow is the same on both the baseline jumper and my new jumper – plenty of space for a shirt and thinner jumper underneath. The upper arm of my new jumper is looser than my baseline jumper, and has 3 inches of ease compared to my body measurement. I wanted plenty of room to move around in – I don’t like to feel restricted there – and also for other layers underneath.

6. The neck is the same heigh on both jumpers, just at the top of my sternum.

7. I wanted the new jumper to be an inch longer than the baseline jumper, to come down to where my legs fold in. It matches the length of my body from sternum to the end point.

8. Like with the sleeves: because there is ease in the body and sleeves, the measurement from the arms down is actually the same in my baseline jumper and new jumper, even though the new one ends up an inch longer overall. This is to do with the ease in the chest area and the top of the sleeves.

After some back and forth, I ended up casting on 216 stitches, in DK yarn on 4mm needles. My ‘magic number’ works out at 4.7 stitches per inch – when swatched up to 4 inches I end up with just under 19 stitches per 4 inches. I wanted my jumper to be 46 inches across the chest, so 46×4.7 = 216.2 .

For your own jumper, work out your cast on number using this same formula: measurement you want x magic number = number of stitches to cast on.

Remember to think about your hem, and how you would like it to behave. And be sure to cast on loosely so your cast on edge doesn’t pull in your stitches – unless that’s what you’re trying to do. Ribbing will not stretch if your cast on is tight, so if you’re hoping for negative ease for your hem be sure your cast on is such that it accommodates the stretch you need. I often use bigger needles to cast on – say, 4.5mm instead of 4mm to help make my cast-on looser.

A word of warning: this will likely take some trial and error if you’re fairly new to knitting. You might end up with a jumper that’s too small or too big, but hopefully you can tell pretty quickly. After you’ve done about 4 inches, lay your jumper flat on top of your baseline jumper and see how it compares to that, and to what you’re trying to do. You might need to thread a piece of yarn through your stitches to lay it out totally flat – unless you’re using really long needles that can accommodate the full width of your jumper.

Work the hem and body

The jumper is worked from the bottom up. The hem can be any ribbing you like (or indeed no ribbing at all), but the version most jumpers use is probably a 2×2 rib. That means you knit 2, and purl 2 stitches, all the way round. You keep doing this until the hem is the length you want. Use a long circular needle (100cm works well, though I sometimes use 80cm ones).

Then you switch to knitting every stitch, and keep going until it is the length where your sleeves are added in. This is where the calculations about ease come in – the baggier your jumper, the more difference between your body measurement of underarm to bottom of jumper and what you actually knit. If your jumper is less baggy than mine, making both measurements the same should produce a decently long jumper that works out for you.

If you find that your jumper is too long once it’s finished – or too short – you can unravel the hem and shorten or lengthen it – there is no need to undo the whole jumper for an adjustment like that.

Once you have about 10cm of jumper on the needles, thread your stitches onto a long piece of yarn and lay it flat on your baseline jumper – and try it on, too. Do you like what you see? Is it doing what you thought it would do? Great, carry on! If not, time to adjust, or perhaps unravel and start again.

When your jumper is the right length to where it meets your sleeves, thread your stitches onto a long piece of yarn and try it on again. Is it, in fact, the right length? Is it too short (keep knitting) or too long (unravel a few rounds)?.

If it is the right length and you’re happy with it, it’s time to bind off some stitches at the underarm. A good number to aim for is 10 stitches – unless your arms are significantly smaller or bigger than mine, in which case adjust this number down or up. But 10 is a decent starting point. To do this, go back 5 stitches at the end of the previous row – unpick 5, and put the working stitches back on your left needle. Bind off 10 stitches, 5 from before your marker and 5 from after. Then work out where the halfway point of your jumper is (ie, where the other arm is going to go), and bind off 10 stitches there too – 5 before the halfway point, and 5 after.

In my case, with my 216 stitches, I went back to 5 stitches before the marker and cast off 10 stitches. My halfway point is 108 stitches (216×2). To work out where to start my cast off, I first subtracted 5 stitches from the 108 (those are the stitches that come after the marker, and that are part of one side of my jumper, say, the front). This left me with 103 stitches. Then I subtracted 5 stitches from that – the 5 I’m going to cast off on the other side. That left me with 98 stitches. This means that I cast off those 10 stitches at the beginning, knitted 98 stitches, and cast off the 10 stitches on the other side. Then I knitted the remaining stitches (this should also be 98) to where I began my casting off. 98+10+98+10 = 216.

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