The Sweater Sampler

Several years ago, when I first started knitting, I purchased a book by Jacqueline Fee called The Sweater Workshop. I immediately started on the recommended “Sampler” only to put it aside when other enticing knitting projects called to me.  I sorely regret never finishing that sampler because I’ve found myself blindly knitting sweater patterns on more than one occasion, patterns that assumed one knew the actual mechanics of the process.

My current sweater, SIRDAL, has proven to be no exception to that experience of blind knitting.  The Dale of Norway patterns are written for those who are skilled in basic sweater techniques.  I have scratched my head in perplexity more than once as I’ve attempted to interpret this pattern.  I still don’t know if I’ve followed the directions correctly.  So, the time has come for me to knit Jacqueline Fee’s Sweater Sampler which, allegedly, incorporates all the skills needed for any sweater I will ever want to design or knit.

I’ve chosen a light colored worsted weight yarn because dark colors will complicate the techniques and make them clear as mud.  The Sampler will be tucked beside me in a knitting baseket and used in the future for reference.  It will be worked in the round on a 16″ metal needle so the stitches will glide along more easily.


The Cable Cast-On resembles a smooth cable or rope of yarn.  Strong and elastic, it is used as the base of the sweater body or sleeve because it has give.  I have always used it because I never new how much yarn to allow for a long tail cast on.  The Sweater Workshop has taught me that you need to have a very elastic ribbing or the edge of your sweater or sleeve will wear out quicker from the stress and strain of not being elastic enough.  Now that is reason enough for me to use a Cable Cast On the next time I cast-on a sweater or sleeve!


The garter stitch is a reversible stitch that looks the same on both sides.  From knitting my Sampler I learned that it makes a wider stitch than a stockinette stitch.  Should I choose to use it as a border or trim on a stockinette garment I will need to narrow it by either knitting it on smaller needles or decreasing the stitches by 10%.

An insightful tip that Jacqueline Fee gives is to knit 6 or 8 rows of garter stitch to prevent the edge from curling when you knit a gauge swatch.  Brilliant!  Why didn’t I think of that?  One of the several reasons I don’t like to swatch is because of the awkwardness of having to ‘pin’ my swatches to something so that I can measure it.  I will most definitely be utilizing this tip the next time I swatch!


What can one learn new about the stockinette stitch since it is the most common and basic knit stitch?  Well, this section of the sampler was dedicated to encouraging the knitter to deal with those inevitable knots in the yarn when they occur.  How often have I just ignored them and kept on knitting?  Too many times!  After learning the ‘correct’ technique of joining in new yarn I have more confidence dealing with, not only knots, but thin or thick spots that sometimes happen in yarn.

Can you see where I broke the yarn and rejoined it?  If I didn’t know exactly where I had done it I don’t think I would know it had been done.

Next sampler lessons…………….several different ribbing styles and discovering how each one acts and feels………


4 thoughts on “The Sweater Sampler

  1. I bought that book too a few years ago with the same intentions. lol You made it much further than I did…..I’m swatching for a sweater now….maybe I should find some light colored yarn and follow your lead. Great post!

  2. That sounds like a great book – I think it would be really helpful in understanding sweaters. I also just usually ignore the knots…and now I think I probably shouldn’t!

  3. I have the book too & it taught me knitting in the round. I knitted the sampler & it was a great learning experience. My sampler is a money bag now. Thanks for this reminder as I think I need to go back & refresh my memory.

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