5 tips for successful gift sweaters

Gift season is here, and thanks to my kids’ excitement about CustomFit’s new capabilities, my mind has been focused on gift knitting this week.

I knit a lot of sweaters for different people – both family and friends, of all genders and ages. Lauren, likewise, has a strong history of knitting sweaters for her loved ones. So today, we’ve put our heads together and come up with our list of


Tip 1: Be realistic about your yarn

It’s tempting to try and use gifts to show our loved ones how utterly amazing yarn is, but filter your excitement through your recipient’s life – and choose a yarn that matches their daily routine.


(Brenna is a rough-and-tumble kind of kid. So even though Vendavel is on the dressier side, I knew I had to choose a super hard-wearing, super easy-care yarn. Berroco Vintage to the rescue!)
Do they regularly hand-wash clothing? If not, something that can be tossed in the washing machine on cold is a really good idea. But this tip isn’t just about machine washability – Is the sweater intended for someone who will wear it when they’re being active outdoors? If so, a super-delicate, pills-when-you-look-at-it merino/cashmere blend probably isn’t the right choice. Will a little kid wear it while on the jungle gym? Something dense, maybe with a bit of hard-wearing nylon or acrylic, might be better than a loosely-twisted woolenspun.

Tip 2: Keep it simple for yourself.

Gift knitting isn’t the time to break out a new, unfamiliar technique or an unusual construction you’ve never worked before.

jacob-spidey spidey-2(Jacob’s big request for this sweater was “a scary spider”, which I made out of cables. So I made the rest of the sweater something I could knit in my sleep!)
Gift knitting often involves some improvisation – whether it’s to match a yarn you know the recipient will love, or adjusting a pattern to make a motif something they’ll enjoy, or something else. So keep the canvas of your gift something that you’re really comfortable with. That way, when you need to adjust elsewhere, you’ll be confident the rest of the project is on track.

Tip 3: Match what’s in their closet.

If the gift is a surprise, check your own desires as a knitter as much as possible! Instead, investigate what they already wear and love.


(Beth is a dramatic dresser with a love for jewel tones. Her daily wear inspired my first design for her – and it’s still one of her faves.)
We all love to knit things that speak to us as knitters – but be honest with yourself – what you probably want is for the gift to be loved like crazy and worn all the time. So think about what your recipient loves like crazy, and wears all the time – and then match your yarn and pattern to them.

I promise, the (often surprised!) look of utter joy will more than make up for it.

Tip 4: Don’t worry about deadlines!

Crazy deadlines + gift pressure = super stressed knitter.


(This adorable elephant was a couple of weeks late… …he unwrapped just the front for his birthday! But don’t worry, the sweater was still worn and loved until he grew out of it.)
And none of us are at our best when we’re stressed. To make sure your gift is as lovely as can be, either give yourself ample time to finish the item, or permission to gift it on the needles without guilt.

If you’re taking the first tactic, consider your schedule, the complexity of the project, and be sure to build in finishing time! If you’re taking the second tactic, try to complete one of the most interesting pieces or motifs first, so that there’s something exciting to unrwap.

Tip 5: Consider eliminating the surprise.

This is tough for some knitters to consider, but both Lauren and I have had way more success when our loved ones have been part of the decision making.


(Lauren’s most recent sweater for her husband. He chose the pattern, the colors, and even the yarn… and he wears it all the time!)
Working with your gift recipient is a great way to make sure they’ll adore what you create. Just make sure to listen to their feedback and give them room to express it!

Hand-Knit Love

When it comes right down to it, nothing is as good as the feeling of seeing the ones you love, love what you make for them.


(My most favorite photo shoot out-take ever.)
Don’t you agree?

We’re curious what you think, too – What are your favorite gift knitting tips – most hilarious disasters? Let us know here in the comments, or over on our Facebook page. Until next time, happy knitting!

9 thoughts on “5 tips for successful gift sweaters

  1. I have given boxes of yarn before and the recipient got to pick out the pattern. Best Christmas present ever for my son. He loves his sweater and wears it so much that he brings it back regularly for repairs. This year my daughter in law will get a “coupon” for a sweater. She gets to pick out both the yarn and the pattern.

  2. Am seriously blown away by that spider motif! I’m in awe 🙂 Is there a separate blog post about the sweater, or the technique in general?

    1. Ah, have just used my initiative, and the search box… 🙂

  3. The sweater Lauren’s husband chose is a beautiful pattern and he had a say in the design. This guarantees that it will be worn. Is it one of your sweater designs?

    1. It’s Huron, by Jared Flood!

  4. I’m knitting sweater #3 for my husband. While he loves the first two (and had a big voice in the pattern and yarn selection), they’re a bit “fussier” than what he wears in his every day life. This time, I limited his choices to patterns that truly fit his lifestyle…fingers crossed that it’s a winner!

    1. I’m sure it will be, Kelly – your sweaters always are winners.

  5. Can I purchase a pattern or graph for the Spidey 2 sweater from you? My grandson is spider-mad and I would adore making the sweater for his birthday? Love your blog!!

  6. […] can be the finished garment in and of itself.  Isn’t it interesting that I just came across this article from Amy Herzog about knitting sweater gifts.  Check out Tip […]

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