This sweater looks great in the picture. It’s not.

Howdy everyone! Jackie here. 🙂

Today I’d like to share a sweater with you, from way back to winter 2013 / 2014. I worked really hard on it — agonizing over the consistency of my fabric, re-knitting the collar THREE times — determined that it would be a sweater I’d actually wear and love.


It looks good, yeah? This picture is one that I would be pretty psyched to post in my Ravelry projects. It fits beautifully. The yarn is divine. I love the outfit, and I’m wearing a necklace that was a gift from one of my most favorite and oldest knitting friends. It’s a pretty good picture.

But the picture alone would give you the wrong idea.

Because the truth is, it’s not a good sweater. And I think it’s really important to share that with you all.

Ninety-nine percent of the time on this site, we’re showing you examples of beautiful, and beautifully executed, sweaters. (And there are about thirty more in Amy’s studio that you haven’t even seen yet. So. Many. Sweaters.) I think it can be disheartening to look all around you and see (seemingly) everyone knocking out perfect sweaters left and right, wondering if you’re the only one struggling.

If I’ve just described you, I’m here to say that you are definitely not the only one. And further, it’s okay to struggle sometimes! Becoming a sweater knitter is a process, and each sweater we tackle – success or not – makes us better at it, as long as we take it as an opportunity to learn.


So! What did I learn from this sweater that looks good in a picture, but that I never wear?

What you can’t see from the picture is that I was so afraid that my gauge would start to change, or that I would start rowing out, that I knit this fabric so tight it’s like iron. Amy, in her gentle way, kept warning me about this as I knit it. She was that little knitterly voice in your head that tells you the truth about your project, that you ignore: la la la la la it’s going to be fine.

It was not fine.

The problem with very tightly knit fabric is that the sweater doesn’t move with you like it should. This particular sweater sort of feels like I’m wearing a piece of sculpture – it almost stands up on its own. Just like Amy told me it would.


Lesson 1 of this sweater: Tight gauge isn’t a solution for inconsistency or rowing out. Instead, I needed to work on improving my knitting technique. (And I did! You can read about it here.)

Lesson 2 of this sweater: Conduct the Fabric Test on your swatch. What’s the Fabric Test? It’s a 3-step process we came up with last year where you place a swatch — or sweater — on a table to evaluate whether it’s good fabric for a sweater. Amy demonstrates it in Lesson 2 of her new class, and we’ll post a video of it here on the site this month too. (To be fair, when I knit this sweater we hadn’t developed the Fabric Test yet, and this particular sweater was part of the reason we did so.)

Lesson 3 of this sweater: Listen to that little knitterly voice in your head, always. (A thousand-fold if that knitterly voice is actually Amy, as she looks at your project.)

If you’re not sure what that knitterly voice is saying, but it’s whispering vague nothings in your ear, ask for help! Call your LYS and see if they have a drop-in help class, or see if you can schedule 30 minute private lessons with their sweater person on staff.

Do you know what the cool thing is though? The more sweaters you knit, successful or not, the better that little voice gets. The first several sweaters that voice is vague and speaks softly. But then, after several sweaters, that voice becomes more confident, and speaks up more clearly.

So, if you’re still working your way toward consistently good sweaters, keep heart, and keep knitting! It’s okay. Remember: Every excellent knitter had to knit a lot of things to become that excellent knitter they are today.

23 thoughts on “This sweater looks great in the picture. It’s not.

  1. Well, it is a beautiful sweater in the picture!

    Sometimes rowing out happens with a certain yarn combined with how one knits. There are certain yarns I can’t use for stockinette. And I absolutely will not work in the round and back and forth on the same sweater, because I can see where I switch. I’ve looked at all the solutions, and tried most. I’ve finally decided that my knitting isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough. I don’t mind a slightly uneven fabric if it’s uniformly uneven. And those rare yarns that only won’t row out if I knit them too tightly just become fodder for garter stitch projects, or weaving. The voice in my head is getting better at guiding me, and knitting is supposed to be fun. Thanks for sharing the results of not listening to that voice.

    1. Something to keep in mind: Unless you’re kitting with acrylic yarn, blocking can considerably even out stockinette fabric. Try making some large swatches with yarns you think you can’t use for stockinette and block them well – you may be surprised.

  2. I have not heard the term “rowing out”

    Please expand on that and explain.


  3. The nice thing about a sweater that doesn’t work is that the yarn is still good — you can always take it apart and try again . . . as I have many times! My mom had a sweater she knit so many time (and never finished) that her sister called it her Penelope sweater, after Ulysses’ wife, who wove in the day and ripped out at night to discourage her suitors.

  4. i loved your honesty. Your sweater is a masterpiece of fine knitting. Your stitches are perfect and the decreases are beautiful. It does look like the most perfect of sweaters. You can’t tell from the photo that it is tightly knit, you could have posted this on Ravelery and everyone would have wanted to knit it.
    I attended Amy’s retreat at Asilomar and I tried on just about every one of her sweaters. I just finished Round Cove Cardigan and I had doubts the entire time. I knew it was going to be too big, too small, too short, too long. I kept knitting. On size 3’s. It’s blocked, I’ve tried it on, it fits but I haven’t actually worn it yet. I THINK I will like it, but I won’t know until I have it on my body for several hours.
    Thank you for sharing, I feel not so alone now, there are others who knit things they don’t like.
    Your sweater deserves to be seen, I like the idea of it being a sculpture, stuff it and display it. Art is art. Who’s to say….

  5. I was wondering what “rowing out” meant too?

    can you tell me which sweater pattern you used – it’s a great style.

  6. I’m with Tobie. I’ve never heard the term “rowing out” either.

  7. could you show us an example of rowing out. New to me language/term. But it looking like I am not the only one.


  8. Rowing out is when your purl rows are looser than your knit rows (more common for Continental knitters than throwers or combination knitters), which makes random gaps between rows on the purl side.

    There;’s a good photo of the phenomenon here:

    1. Thanks for the mention. I wondered why I got 359 hits on my blog today – and now I know why!

  9. I’m laughing because I would LOVE that fabric – I’m built like a beach ball (my midsection is my largest measurement), so I need a sweater to hold its own shape and not conform to mine.

  10. Hi Jackie,
    I usually never comment on blogs, but I HAVE to do it now, to tell you that this post was so encouraging to me! This topic is eaxctly what I have been wondering about myself. My first sweater looks good on the picture but is not wearable for me and I was wondering whether it is worth to keep trying to knit sweaters for myself. Thank you for your humility and insights, they definitely encourage me (and certainly many other real-life-not-perfect knitters) to keep learning, trying and enjoying.
    Thank you!

  11. Love to knit, I got out of the habit because of arthritis, it doesn’t bother me as much now and want to get back to it.

  12. So, you knit that sweater you do not, you maybe wear it a few times and then, what do you DO with it? I have more than a few sweaters I can’t seem to part with but I never wear them.

  13. Thank you so much for that post. I have been wondering why my purl sides are so much looser. I guess I will have to practice and learn the combined method.
    Thank you

  14. Thank you so much for this post. For years ive not been happy with something about my knitting & just couldn’t figure out what it was. I now clearly see my knitting ” rows out” . I can now try & sort it out . Thanks.

  15. I like the fabric with rowing out pattern. It looks more hand made rather than manufactured.

  16. I’ve only been knitting seriously for about 2 years, and have changed a lot about my knitting technique in that time, so I’m sure I will eventually even out my stockinette. I didn’t want to let that stop me from doing garments, though, so I swatch flat with two needles, one a size smaller for the wrong size. My other inconsistencies come from having to drop my knitting to stop WW3 in th nursery and other sudden interruptions, so I also had to accept that, for now, my things may need to look homemade rather than hand knit. It was either that or spend all my knitting time tinking and reknitting. Those are the lessons my first sweater taught me.

  17. Yup yup yup…I’ve been expanding my repertoire of skills, but SERIOUSLY…trying them all in one project is nuts
    Too much time in the frog pond. Hood 3x & buttonband #2 in progress.
    Version 3 of this sweater…thank goodness it’s a 6m size!
    Thanks for the post.

  18. What a great post, Jackie. It’s a great reminder to all of us that becoming skilled sweater knitters doesn’t happen overnight. I’m glad to “see” you again!

  19. I was wondering what pattern that sweater is. Did I miss it in the post?

  20. I love the style! What is the pattern?

  21. Thank you very much for sharing you individuality in creativiy. (My terminology for boo boos)
    I’ve now conquered 7 sweaters and altered them for custom shaping & created my own yoke pattern for a cabled tunic I made for me.
    I love knitting sweaters since I finally got brave enough to try one!
    – Billiejean

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