Learn how to knit a cardigan with step-by-step instructions

Learn how to knit a cardigan with step-by-step instructions

Knitting a cardigan can seem like a daunting task for beginners, but with the right guidance and a little patience, anyone can master this rewarding craft. Whether you’re looking to create a cozy sweater for yourself or give a heartfelt handmade gift to a loved one, this step-by-step guide will help you knit a cardigan like a pro.

Before you begin, gather all the necessary materials, including yarn, knitting needles, a tape measure, and a crochet hook. Choose a yarn that suits the style and comfort level you desire, and make sure to check the pattern for the correct gauge. Once you have everything prepared, it’s time to get started on your knitting adventure!

To begin, cast on the required number of stitches for your cardigan, using the long tail cast-on method or any other cast-on method you prefer. Keep in mind that the number of stitches will depend on the size and style of the cardigan you’re knitting. It’s important to follow the pattern instructions carefully to ensure a proper fit.

As you knit each row, pay attention to the pattern and follow any specific instructions for shaping the cardigan. This may involve increasing or decreasing stitches, adding buttonholes, or creating texture through various stitch patterns. Take your time, and don’t be afraid to unravel and start again if you make a mistake. Practice makes perfect, and knitting is all about learning through trial and error.

“Remember to take breaks and enjoy the process. Knitting a cardigan is not a race, but a journey that can be as therapeutic as it is creative. Embrace the rhythmic motion of the needles and the feel of the yarn in your hands.”

Once you’ve completed all the necessary knitting, it’s time to assemble your cardigan. Follow the pattern instructions to sew the various pieces together, such as the front and back panels, sleeves, and any additional components. Don’t be discouraged if sewing isn’t your strong suit – there are plenty of helpful tutorials and resources available online to guide you through this step.

Lastly, add any finishing touches to your cardigan, such as buttons, pockets, or decorative accents. These details can truly make your cardigan one-of-a-kind and showcase your personal style. Take a step back, admire your handiwork, and be proud of your accomplishment – you’ve just knitted a cardigan like a pro!

Gather the Materials

Before you begin knitting your cardigan, it’s important to gather all the necessary materials. Having everything ready will make the process smoother and more enjoyable. Here’s a list of the materials you’ll need:

  • Yarn: Choose a yarn weight and color that you love. Make sure to check the yardage requirements for the pattern you’ll be using.
  • Knitting Needles: Select knitting needles that match the gauge recommended in the pattern. It’s a good idea to have both straight and circular needles in different sizes, as you may need them for different sections of the cardigan.
  • Stitch Markers: These will help you keep track of your stitches and any pattern repeats.
  • Tapestry Needle: You’ll use this needle for weaving in ends and seaming the cardigan together.
  • Scissors: A pair of sharp scissors will come in handy for cutting yarn and trimming any excess.
  • Measuring Tape: This will be essential for checking your gauge and taking measurements.
  • Buttons or Fasteners: If your cardigan calls for buttons or other fasteners, make sure you have them on hand. Choose a style that complements your yarn and desired finished look.

Once you have all these materials together, you’ll be ready to start knitting your cardigan like a pro!

Choose a Pattern

Choose a Pattern

Before starting your cardigan project, the first step is to choose a knitting pattern. There are countless patterns available online, in knitting books, and in knitting magazines. Consider the following factors when choosing a pattern:

  • Skill Level: Make sure to choose a pattern that matches your knitting skill level. Some patterns are designed for beginners, while others are more advanced and require advanced knitting techniques.
  • Size and Fit: Look for a pattern that offers multiple sizes and has clear instructions on how to measure yourself or the person you are knitting the cardigan for. Consider the desired fit, such as loose or fitted, and ensure the pattern provides the correct measurements.
  • Style and Design: Think about the style and design elements you prefer in a cardigan. Do you want a classic, timeless design or a more trendy and modern look? Consider the collar, sleeve length, button placement, and any other design details you have in mind.
  • Yarn Choice: Keep in mind the type of yarn recommended for the pattern and consider your personal preference. Consider factors such as the weight, fiber content, and color options available for the suggested yarn.
  • Reviews and Recommendations: Before committing to a pattern, read reviews from other knitters who have used the pattern and check for any recommended modifications or adjustments.

Once you have taken these factors into account, you can confidently select a knitting pattern that suits your preferences and knitting abilities. Choosing a pattern that you are excited about will make the knitting process more enjoyable and rewarding.

Measure and Swatch

Before you start knitting your cardigan, it’s important to measure yourself and make a swatch. This will ensure that your cardigan will fit properly and that your gauge is correct, leading to a professional-looking finished product.


Take accurate measurements of your bust, waist, and hips. Use a flexible measuring tape and measure around the fullest part of each area. Write down these measurements so you can refer to them later when choosing your size.


Swatching is the process of knitting a small sample to check your gauge. It’s important because everyone knits differently, and even small differences in tension can affect the size and fit of your cardigan.

To make a swatch, start by choosing the yarn and needles you plan to use for your cardigan. Read the label on the yarn for recommended needle size and use that as a starting point. Knit a small square using the pattern stitch you plan to use for your cardigan.

Make sure to follow the pattern for your swatch exactly as you would for the cardigan itself, including any ribbing or stitch patterns. This will give you an accurate representation of how your cardigan will turn out.

After you finish your swatch, measure its dimensions. Count how many stitches and rows fit within a 4×4 inch (10×10 cm) square. Compare this to the gauge specified in the pattern. If your swatch has more stitches/rows than the pattern specifies, your tension is tighter. If it has fewer stitches/rows, your tension is looser.

Based on the measurements from your swatch, you may need to adjust your needle size to achieve the correct gauge. You may also need to try different needle sizes until you find the one that gives you the gauge specified in the pattern.

Keep in mind that even after you find the right needle size, your gauge may change as you progress through the cardigan. It’s important to periodically check your gauge throughout the knitting process to ensure consistency.

Cast on and Start Knitting

Before you begin knitting your cardigan, you need to cast on your stitches. The number of stitches you cast on will depend on the size of the cardigan and the gauge of your yarn and needles. Refer to the pattern for the specific number of stitches required.

To cast on, start by making a slipknot. This is done by creating a loop with the yarn and pulling the tail through the loop. Place the slipknot on one of your knitting needles.

Hold the knitting needle with the slipknot in your right hand. With your left hand, grab the working yarn (the yarn attached to the ball) and make a loop over your left thumb.

Insert the right needle through the loop on your left thumb from front to back. Use the needle to pick up the yarn and bring it back through the loop, creating a new loop on the right needle.

Slide the loop off your left thumb and tighten the stitch by gently pulling on the working yarn. Repeat this process until you have cast on the required number of stitches.

Once you have cast on all the stitches, you are ready to start knitting. Hold the needle with the cast-on stitches in your left hand and the empty needle in your right hand.

Insert the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle, going from left to right. With the working yarn in your right hand, wrap the yarn around the right needle, moving it in a counter-clockwise direction.

Use the right needle to pull the wrapped yarn through the first stitch, transferring the stitch from the left needle to the right needle. You have now completed one knit stitch.

Continue knitting each stitch, moving them from the left needle to the right needle. Make sure to keep the tension even and consistent throughout your knitting.

Once you have completed a row, turn your work and continue knitting in the same manner. Depending on the pattern, you may need to switch between different stitches, such as purl stitches or cable stitches.

Follow the pattern instructions for the specific stitch pattern and continue knitting until you reach the desired length for your cardigan.

Remember to take breaks and stretch your hands and wrists to avoid strain while knitting. Happy knitting!

Follow the Pattern Instructions

When knitting a cardigan, it’s important to carefully follow the pattern instructions. This will ensure that you create the cardigan correctly and that the final result matches your expectations.

Here are some steps to help you follow the pattern instructions:

  1. Read the pattern: Start by reading the entire pattern from start to finish. Familiarize yourself with the terminology, abbreviations, and any special stitches that may be used.
  2. Gather your materials: Make sure you have all the materials needed for the project, including the recommended yarn, knitting needles, stitch markers, and any other tools mentioned in the pattern.
  3. Check your gauge: Before beginning the cardigan, it’s important to check your gauge. This involves knitting a swatch using the recommended yarn and needle size, and measuring how many stitches and rows you have per inch. If your gauge doesn’t match the pattern gauge, you may need to adjust your needle size.
  4. Follow the row-by-row instructions: Start knitting the cardigan row-by-row, following the instructions provided in the pattern. Pay attention to any stitch counts, increases, decreases, or other shaping techniques mentioned.
  5. Use stitch markers: If the pattern calls for the use of stitch markers, make sure to place them correctly. These markers will help you keep track of specific sections or stitches in the pattern.
  6. Take accurate measurements: Throughout the knitting process, periodically check your work against the measurements provided in the pattern. This will ensure that your cardigan is the right size and will fit correctly.
  7. Pay attention to finishing details: Once you have completed all the knitting instructions, make sure to follow any finishing details provided in the pattern. This may include sewing seams, adding buttons or other closures, or blocking the finished cardigan.

By following the pattern instructions carefully, you will be able to knit a cardigan like a pro. It’s important to take your time, double-check your work, and make any necessary adjustments along the way. Happy knitting!

Shape the Cardigan

Once you have completed the ribbing and established the stitch pattern for your cardigan, it is time to shape the cardigan to create the desired fit and style. This is typically done through a combination of decreasing and increasing stitches.

Decreasing Stitches

To create shaping, you will typically need to decrease stitches. This is done by working stitches together or by working a stitch together with a decrease stitch. The most common decrease stitch is the knit two together (k2tog), where you knit two stitches together as if they were one.

Work the decreases according to your pattern instructions, which will specify how many stitches to decrease and where in the row to work the decreases.

Increasing Stitches

In some cases, you may need to increase stitches to create additional width or fullness in your cardigan. This is typically done by working a yarn over (yo), which creates a new stitch on the needle.

Again, follow the instructions in your pattern for when and where to work the increases. This will ensure that the cardigan is shaped correctly and matches the intended design.

Shaping the Waist and Hips

When shaping the body of the cardigan, you will often need to create a more fitted waist and hips. This is done by gradually decreasing stitches at the waist and then increasing them again to add fullness at the hips.

Follow your pattern instructions for the specific number of stitches to decrease and increase at each shaping point. This will help you achieve the desired fit and silhouette for your cardigan.

Shaping the Armholes and Sleeves

To shape the armholes, you will typically need to decrease stitches on both sides of the cardigan. This creates a sloping edge that will accommodate the shape of your arm.

The sleeves are usually shaped by decreasing stitches at regular intervals to create a tapered shape. Again, follow your pattern instructions for the specific number of stitches to decrease and where to work the decreases.

Finishing the Shaping

Once you have completed all the necessary decreases and increases for shaping your cardigan, continue working in the established stitch pattern until you reach the desired length or follow the instructions in your pattern for any additional finishing details.

Remember to try on your cardigan periodically to ensure that the shaping is creating the desired fit. Making adjustments as needed will help you achieve a well-fitting and flattering cardigan.

Finish the Cardigan

Once you have completed all the knitting and sewing, it’s time to finish your cardigan to give it a polished look. Follow these steps to finish your cardigan like a pro:

  1. Block your cardigan: Wet blocking your cardigan is essential to help shape the fabric and even out any uneven stitches. Fill a sink or basin with lukewarm water and a mild detergent. Gently submerge your cardigan in the water, making sure it is fully soaked. Remove the excess water by pressing the cardigan against the side of the sink, being careful not to wring or twist it. Lay the cardigan flat on a towel and gently reshape it to the correct size and measurements. Let it dry completely.
  2. Seam the shoulders: Once your cardigan is dry, use a tapestry needle and yarn to seam the shoulder seams together. Match the stitches on each side and use a mattress stitch to sew them together. This will create an invisible seam.
  3. Attach the sleeves: Place the sleeves into the armholes, making sure they are evenly distributed. Use a tapestry needle and yarn to sew the sleeves to the body of the cardigan. Match the stitches and use a whip stitch to attach the sleeves. Repeat for the second sleeve.
  4. Finish the neckline: Depending on the design of your cardigan, you may have to pick up stitches along the neckline and knit a ribbed or garter stitch border. Alternatively, you can add a crochet edging or use bias tape to finish the neckline. Follow the pattern instructions or use your creativity to customize the neckline.
  5. Add buttons or fastenings: If your cardigan has a button or hook and eye closure, sew them onto the front of the cardigan. Make sure they are evenly spaced and securely attached.
  6. Weave in loose ends: Use a tapestry needle to weave in any loose ends of yarn that were left from joining yarn or changing colors. Make sure the ends are secure and hidden within the fabric.
  7. Give it a final press: Use an iron or steamer to give your finished cardigan a final press. Set your iron to the appropriate temperature for the yarn and gently steam or press the fabric to smooth out any wrinkles.

Once you have finished all these steps, your cardigan is ready to wear! Enjoy the satisfaction of completing a beautiful handmade garment.

Block and Care for Your Cardigan

Once you have finished knitting your cardigan, it’s important to block it to give it a professional and finished look. Blocking helps to even out stitches, relax the fabric, and make the overall shape of the cardigan more defined. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to block your cardigan:

  1. Start by filling a sink or basin with lukewarm water. Avoid using hot or cold water, as it can shock the fibers of the yarn.
  2. Add a few drops of mild detergent to the water and gently swish it around to create suds. Make sure the detergent is suitable for the type of yarn you used.
  3. Place your knitted cardigan in the water, making sure it is fully submerged. Gently press it down to release any air bubbles.
  4. Let the cardigan soak in the water for about 15 minutes. This will allow the fibers to absorb the water and relax.
  5. After soaking, carefully remove the cardigan from the water and gently squeeze out the excess water. Avoid wringing or twisting the fabric, as this can cause it to stretch or lose its shape.
  6. Lay a clean, dry towel on a flat surface and place the cardigan on top of it. Gently shape the cardigan to its desired size and dimensions, smoothing out any wrinkles or puckering.
  7. Leave the cardigan to dry completely. This may take a few hours or even overnight, depending on the thickness of the fabric and the humidity levels in the air.
  8. Once the cardigan is dry, you can further shape it by using pins and blocking mats. Pin the edges of the cardigan to the desired shape and size, and leave it undisturbed until it’s completely dry.

Proper care of your knitted cardigan is also crucial to ensure its longevity and keep it looking its best. Here are some tips for caring for your cardigan:

  • Always follow the care instructions provided by the yarn manufacturer. Different types of yarn require different care methods, such as hand-washing or machine-washing on a gentle cycle.
  • To avoid stretching, store your cardigan folded gently and avoid hanging it for extended periods.
  • Avoid placing your cardigan near sources of direct heat, such as radiators or heaters, as this can cause the yarn to become brittle and affect the shape of the garment.
  • When wearing your cardigan, be mindful of jewelry or accessories that could snag or damage the fabric. Remove any sharp objects before putting it on.
  • If you accidentally spill something on your cardigan, gently blot the area with a clean cloth or paper towel to absorb the liquid. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing, as this can cause the stain to set or the fiber to become damaged.

By properly blocking and caring for your cardigan, you can enjoy wearing it for years to come and keep it looking as good as new.


What materials do I need to knit a cardigan?

To knit a cardigan, you will need the following materials: knitting needles, yarn, stitch markers, scissors, a tapestry needle, and buttons (if desired).

What are the basic knitting techniques I need to know to make a cardigan?

Some basic knitting techniques you need to know to make a cardigan include casting on, knitting, purling, increasing, decreasing, and casting off. It’s also helpful to know how to read a knitting pattern and how to seam pieces together.

Can I customize the pattern to fit my size?

Yes, you can customize the pattern to fit your size. This may involve adjusting the stitch count, lengthening or shortening certain sections, or adding or subtracting rows. It’s important to take accurate measurements and make a gauge swatch to ensure your cardigan will fit properly.

How long does it typically take to knit a cardigan?

The time it takes to knit a cardigan can vary depending on the complexity of the pattern, your skill level, and the amount of time you are able to dedicate to knitting each day. On average, it may take several weeks to a month to complete a cardigan.

Do you have any tips for making the knitting process easier?

Here are some tips to make the knitting process easier: 1) Take breaks when needed to prevent hand fatigue. 2) Keep your yarn organized to avoid tangles. 3) Use stitch markers to keep track of your progress. 4) Count your stitches regularly to ensure you are on track. 5) Take your time and enjoy the process!


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