KWL Sweater Profile: The Pullover

A sweater you’ve made yourself that also happens to be spectacular clothing is knitting nirvana.

But when looking at the latest pattern magazine or collection, it can be really hard to separate the aspirational (I want to be in that place, wearing that sweater!) from the practical (what will I wear with that?). Navigating our (often emotional, or sub-conscious) reactions to a pattern photo and helping knitters create garments that slip seamlessly into their daily life was my primary motivation for writing Knit Wear Love.

The book is centered around 8 “meta-patterns”: Pullover, Cardigan, Vest, Cowl, Wrap, Tunic, Tank, Bolero. Once the silhouette is identified, you can focus on making a sweater that’s truly your style – not in the fashion magazine way, but in the “what do I actually like to wear” way.

Each meta-pattern is written for three gauges, with two different style options (each of which work with all of the gauges) – so you can choose your own yarn, your own style, and get a sweater you really want to wear. I showed three very different samples for each silhouette in the book, to start to excite your imagination.

This is the inaugural post in a series of in-depth looks at each meta-pattern. For each, I’ll share the three samples and styles, talk a little bit about the silhouette itself and what materials can make it shine (or definitely will not work), and do a candid shot of how I’d personally style the sweater.

To start us off:

The Pullover.

KnitWearLove_p042 KnitWearLove_p045 KnitWearLove_p049

For me personally, pullovers are the quintessential sweater. They’re warm, they’re incredibly versatile… …and I feel like for many knitters, they’re pretty intimidating to knit. I’d like to help change that.

The KWL Pullovers

I wanted to start the book off by showing three radically different interpretations of the same meta-pattern:

  • A clean and even a little preppy pullover – the classic style seemed a good fit;
  • An edgier, brighter garment – modern geometric color patterning and an asymmetrical neckline fit the bill;
  • A softer interpretation – I had a ruffled romantic shirt in college, and built the design around that neck detail.

And yes – all of these pullovers were made from the same pattern. But you could, of course go further – love the texture of the classic, but live in a warm climate? I think it would look great in a fingering-weight wool cotton blend. Like the look of the neckline and lace of the romantic version, but hate the ruffle? Leave it off and make the piece more modern in an aran-weight wool. We’re working the modern pullover we’re making for our hand-crafted garment exchange in a super-crisp silk.

Or depart from these samples even more, while keeping the numbers the same – imagine how the v-neck pullover (sans ruffle) would look in a crunchy fingering-weight linen, or the crew-neck pullover in something soft and fuzzy. It’s all up to you.

Pullover Tips & Tricks

Whatever pullover you’re making, I have just a few tips to ensure yours will be a huge success:

  • Make your first pullover a layering piece. The pullover-as-shirt is really tempting, but also the riskiest sort of sweater. If you’re new to pullovers, try a more relaxed layering piece instead. You’re less likely to notice small fit issues (and even if you do notice them, they’ll be less troublesome!).
  • Get up close & personal with your swatch. Your swatch is your chance to tell how that sweater is going to wear in real-life. Play around with it, stick it in a pocket for a few days. Bring it into your closet and use it to select specific pieces you’ll wear with the pullover.
  • Sanity-check the details. Do you like the neckline, or want to drop it? Is the sleeve length something you wear all the time, or does it tend to drive you batty? Details like necklines and sleeves are easy to change… once you figure out that you should.

Amy’s Fave

I have to say, pullovers are my favorite sweaters. I find them to be great layering pieces, and less fussy to wear than cardigans – no button bands to fuss with, no bits of the sweater flapping around with the breeze. Out of the three samples I made for the book, the modern is by far the best match to my own personal style.

I pair it with clothing differently, since my own style is a little more casual and sporty than we wanted for the book. Today, I wore it with a simple jean skirt, some chunky jewelry, and a pair of Converse:


How about you – what are your feelings on pullovers? Do you have a favorite? If so, what’s it made from?

As always, happy knitting!

8 thoughts on “KWL Sweater Profile: The Pullover

  1. I used to love pullovers. Then came hot flashes. The sweater of choice for the perimenopausal set is absolutely the cardigan. I need to be able to get that sucker off in a heartbeat without accidentally flashing the room.

  2. Depends on the yarn. With extremely sensitive skin, I have to be careful with yarn choices…esp. with pullovers. I have found long sleeved pullovers to help. I do knit/wear a LOT of cardigans…even though I prefer pullovers for Ohio winters!

  3. I LOVE the red trim on the neckline! Did you switch colors for the BO only, or knit a row in the red before binding off?

    In terms of sweater preference, pullovers are great for instant cozy warmth (which is much needed in deep Wisconsin winters!) but I find cardigans more year-round useful and versatile in my current wardrobe. Plus I can wear them at work or on the weekend, by changing from a dressy shirt to a graphic tee underneath the cardi.

  4. I am knitting a pullover right now from a Custom Fit pattern. In my mind it will be “the One”. That simple sweater that fits perfectly and becomes the one I always grab. It is tweedy & purple and I am in love with it so far.

  5. I like pullovers, but to be honest tend to go for a vest and a jacket/cardigan instead. The vest keeps my core warm and the cardigan/jacket is easy to remove if I suddenly get hot, which does occasionally happen even though it’s not one of my main perimenopause symptoms

  6. I love pullovers, I’m always cold in the winter and having a nice, thick sweater on helps so much. My favorite sweater that I’ve made was the Taconic Pullover. I added bust darts and waist shaping and it fit me like a glove until I washed it a little bit too aggressively. My cousin’s daughter is enjoying it now. 🙂

  7. Love pullovers (they are my go-to sweater even as much as I love cardigans). LOVE the pullover you are wearing – and love it on you, though I am more inclined for a symmetrical neck because I may have grown more sedate as I get older (though not too sedate for this beautiful border!). Is it straightforward to figure out how to alter the neck to change the skew to make both halves equal?

  8. I am so wanting to knit a sweater but have had a few failed attempts. Your book might be just what I need. My issue is having a good idea of what is going on. I want to understand so when I read the pattern it makes sense. So many patterns are just impossible to understand what and why I need to do something.

    I love pullovers and I love knitting in the round too! But I live in TX so need to consider the usability of what I pick in both pattern and yarn. I find I spend way too much time looking at the pretty pictures on Ravelry hoping that if I make the sweater I might look as fabulous as the model!

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