“Is the pattern suitable for a beginner?” is always a tough question to answer, and the common variation, “Is this a good first sweater?” isn’t any easier. It all depends on what technical skills you possess, your pattern reading skills, and either your ability to visualize what you’re supposed to do or your willingness to trust that the pattern will work. All three of these skills can vary widely among knitters who consider themselves to be beginners. Lauren who co-hosts the Outfit Along knit Agatha as her first sweater, but I’ve had knitters who consider themselves to be at an intermediate level struggle with the pattern because, although they might have more knitting experience, their skill-set was different.
So I can’t tell you if a particular pattern is too advanced for you or not a good choice for a first sweater, but I can tell you how to evaluate a pattern for yourself. The first thing to do is to study the photos and descriptions. Can you visualize the construction? Are there skills mentioned or shown that you’re unfamiliar with? Can you follow a stitch pattern if it’s separate from the rest of the instructions and the pattern requires it? Can you diagnose mistakes in your knitting by yourself, and are you willing to rip back to fix them? Can you keep track of your row and stitch count without trouble? How willing are you to experiment and learn with a sweater on your needles? If your answers make you think that the pattern might be one for you, next you’ll need to decide if you’re willing to spend the $4-8 to buy the pattern and find out if it’s truly something you’re comfortable knitting at your current level. Once you’ve got the pattern in front of you, you can read through and highlight any unfamiliar terms or techniques, and then make a fully informed decision about whether or not the pattern is manageable for you. Patterns are pretty cheap compared to everything else you’ll buy for a sweater, so don’t feel committed to use a pattern you bought if it doesn’t feel right after you’ve read through it closely.
This post probably qualifies as advice that no one wants to hear, so to make it a little less frustrating, I’ll share with you my two patterns that most commonly get knit as first sweaters. Myrna is a popular choice as a first sweater. It’s really simple with small details like the eyelet stitch pattern that surrounds the edges, and the accompanying Outfit Along 2014 blog posts are helpful if you ever get stuck. It also comes in a full range of sizes, and the construction is easy to modify. Miette is my other pattern that frequently gets knit as first projects. It’s a raglan, which many newer knitters find more approachable than set-in sleeve techniques because the construction can be easier to visualize, and it also is free, so it doesn’t cost anything to read through the pattern first. The limited sizes can be an issue for some knitters, though.