My top picks for top down beginner knits

We’ve had lots of people chatting with us recently about wanting to start knitting top down jumpers but feeling a little daunted about where to start.

It can be quite a minefield looking for a pattern when you’re new at something.

I totally understand.

I was new to top down knitting too.

Even experienced knitters are put off.

One of these experienced knitters was my lovely Mum. 

Mum messaged me a couple of weeks ago and asked if we could have a look at some patterns.

She wanted to knit herself a jumper. 

I feel a little guilty that I assumed she’d have the confidence to give anything a go. 

She said that lots of patterns overwhelmed her and wanted something ‘easy’.

So I set about finding a couple of simply constructed, top down sweaters that would be perfect for those looking to dive into top down knitting.

Before I jump into my top three picks, let me give you a overview of top down knitting.

Top down jumpers are all created in a similar way.

Knitted with circular needles (more on why I love these here), you’ll start from the neckline then work down, increasing until you get to the widest section (your bust & sleeves).


Evendoon by Kate Davies Design - Raglan sleeve jumper - Image: Crochet Birdie ©


Image: Crochet Birdie ©

Then you’ll separate your work leaving sleeve stitches ‘live’ to be knitted later while you work on just the body.

 
Image: Crochet Birdie ©

You'll then pick up the 'live' sleeve stitches and work those.


Image: Crochet Birdie ©

Some have circular yokes. 

I believe these are the simplest in construction and perfect for beginners.

They increase evenly every few rows and the front and back are often the same height.

This is the style that I recommend for beginners.


Circular yoke on the Sunday Cardigan - Image: Crochet Birdie ©

Some have raglan sleeves. 

These are a little more technical & perfect for those looking to increase their skills.

After you place some markers on your cable, you’ll add stitches with directional increases, near the markers. 

There is often some shaping at the neck too to create more depth in the back so that the front sits lower.


Raglan sleeves on the Doocot Sweater - Image: Crochet Birdie ©

Others have amazing technical increases

And others have amazing saddle shoulders or increases that look like seams. 

These are the most technical and not what I’d recommend for you yet. 


Saddle shoulders on the Contrast Sweater by Petite Knit - Image: Petite Knit ©


Sweater No. 11 by My Favourite Things - Image: My Favourite Things Knitwear ©

So let's get to the patterns and maybe your first top down make.

Number One

Coming in at number one is The Ankers Sweater by Petite Knit


Image: PetiteKnit ©

This gets number one because it comes in multiple versions.
Womens, Mens, Kids, Hats, Cardi’s & more

It has a stunning textured circular yoke with simple increasing techniques.

Once you’ve completed the yoke, you get to experience a little bit of raglan shaping before dropping the sleeves. 

You’ll then work the body before heading back to finish the sleeves.

Yarn suggestions:

Needle suggestion: 

  • Tips: 4.00 - 4.50mm & 3.50mm - depending on gauge
  • Cables: 40cm, 60cm & 100cm

This is the jumper that my Mum chose to knit.

I’m so proud of her progress.

She’s had a rough couple of months with some mental health struggles.

It’s been amazing to see her confidence grow, not just with her knitting but with her self-confidence too.

Number Two

A close second is the Doocot by Kate Davies Designs


Image: Kate Davies Designs ©

Style this stunning cropped, raglan sleeve sweater with a shirt and your favourite jeans or over a dress.

I love how this design, and other's of Kate's, have more rows in the back before you join to work in the round where other patterns use technical short rows - no need for that just yet.


Image: Crochet Birdie ©

Kate’s patterns are formatted into easily digestible sections.

It has raglan sleeves and extra rows in the back so that the front sits lower.

I love styling this cropped sweater with a shirt & jeans or over a dress.

I also have a free knit-a-long Facebook Group for this jumper.
Message us if you’d like more details on this.

Yarn suggestion:

Needle suggestion: 

  • Tips: 4.00mm & 3.50mm - depending on gauge
  • Cables: 40cm, 60cm & 100cm

Number Three

My third pick is the Kelowna Sweater by Tara-Lynn Morrison


Image: Tara-Lynn Morrison ©

Another design featuring raglan sleeves, this sweater uses bigger yarn so is perfect for those who like a quick knit.

Since you are using larger yarn and needles, you’ll need a lot less stitches that 8ply versions.

Yarn suggestion:

Needle suggestion: 

  • Tips: 12.00mm & 9.00mm 
  • Cables: 40cm, 60cm & 100cm

We can source all these patterns for you with the Ravelry LYS Instore Sales program, no need for you to go hunting.

We'll even print them for you.

Tools

Now that you’re inspired with those patterns you might be wondering what tools you’ll need.

We prefer to set you up with interchangeable needles. 


Image: Crochet Birdie ©

These are similar to circulars but the tips and cables are interchangeable. 

You can mix and match the tips with the length of the cable that you need.

Cables

When you cast on your neck, you’ll be using your 40 or 60cm cable.

As you increase you’ll add more stitches, so you’ll move onto larger cables. 

I suggest having the following cables in your kit:

2x 40cm

Great for casting on the neck and holding your ‘live’ sleeve stitches. 

I knit my sleeves (and hats) with this length cable.

If your sleeve has decreases like the Ankers Sweater and the Doocot, your 40cm cable will eventually be too small and so you’ll want to move to the travelling loop method.

1x 60cm

1x 80cm

My preferred cable for working the travelling loop.

1x 100cm

This is the cable I prefer for knitting the body of my jumpers.

1x 150cm

This is too big for knitting in the round but awesome for trying on your jumper as you go.

Needles

This is the needle tip that you’ll be screwing onto both ends of your cable. 

There are also two length tips available.

5 inch & 3.5 inch (affectionately known as ‘shorties’)

I have a 5 inch Lykke set and I’ve added a set of 4.00mm & 3.25mm 3.5 inch tips in my kit.

Needles are set by the pattern or your gauge swatch, more on this shortly.

Here’s some popular yarn & needle pairings:

  • 4ply / Fingering weight yarn - 3.25 -3.50 mm needles
  • 8ply / DK weight yarn - 4.00 mm needles
  • 12ply / Bulky weight yarn  - 6.00 - 7.00 mm needles

Stitch Markers

You’ll need a set of stitch markers to mark your increases (especially for raglan sleeve designs) and to mark the beginning of your round. 

Project Bag

Keep your project organised and portable with a stunning project bag.


Image: Crochet Birdie ©

Will you go for the stunning texture or the Anker's Sweater?

Or get full support knitting the Doocot in my knit-a-long?

Or go chunky with the Kelowna Sweater in some gorgeous NZ made Mohair?

When you're ready, flick us a message or pop in store, tell us you read this post and we’ll sort you out with everything you need to knit your first top down jumper.

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