Design your own cardigan using ANY stitch!

This is not your typical crochet or knit pattern... Rather than stitch-by-stitch instructions, keep reading to actually DESIGN your own cardigan!

This all started over on my TikTok... Once I started posting "how to" videos on my brand new TikTok account, I started getting questions about how to make a sweater. With both crochet and knit tutorials, that means my audience might not like it if I choose just one when I make my videos. This forced me to get creative.

The 8 steps below will allow you to use knit OR crochet. You can use any stitch, yarn, hook/needle size, colors, and sizing! This is such a fun way for you to make an open front cardigan that is exactly what you want it to be! You choose the yarn. You choose knit or crochet. You choose the size at every step. This way, you know this sweater was made exactly as you want it. 

If you want to watch the whole process, visit me over on TikTok and search for @gingerknots. Some of the links below might be affiliate links and I'll receive a small payment if you choose to purchase through those links. That will not change the price you pay and helps me to keep some of my content free! All underlined text is a link!

Step 1: Choose a sample garment, yarn, and hook/needle

Sample Garment

Find a shirt or sweater you already have in your closet. Ideally, it will be something that you already like the way it fits. We'll be taking two measurements from it so you'll want it to fit around your waist the way you want. I chose a shirt that is loose and has about 3 inches of positive ease on each side (that means the extra fabric is 3 inches when I pinch it at my sides. It also has the length I'd like my sweater to be! (TikTok video for reference)

Mine measured 20 inches wide and 28 inches long! That is how big I will make my back panel.

Yarn and hook/needle

Next, I had a bunch of Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick in my stash. That's a size 6 yarn so my sweater is really bulky. You can choose any size of yarn. I also chose to knit mine with 10mm needles. Again, you can choose either knit or crochet. You'll want to make sure you choose a size that compliments the yarn you choose. 

When in doubt, I always go up a hook/needle size because I think it makes a sweater drape better. I have lots of thoughts on this so check out this post if you're not sure!


Step 2: Make a gauge swatch

Remember, we're using ANY stitch/hook/yarn so we need to figure out how that translates to our measurements. This is a great time to test out your hook/needle size! Whichever you choose, you'll want to make a square that is bigger than 4 inches wide and 4 inches tall (not much bigger). Using that square, we'll figure out how many stitches wide and how many rows tall fit within 4 inches.

For example, mine was 8 stitches wide and 11 rows tall in an 4 x 4 inch square

That info allows us to figure out how many stitches per inch: 8 stitches divided by 4 inches gives us 2 stitches per inch. 11 rows divided by 4 inches gives us 2.75 rows per inch. 

If I need my back panel to be 20 inches wide and I have 2 stitches per inch, that means I need to start with 40 stitches! Using that same math, I would need about 77 rows to get my length. 

This step does involve a bunch of math, but it doesn't have to be perfect! My sweater is over-sized and I love it! (TikTok video)

Sketch of cardigan

Step 3: Make your back panel

Now we've reached the fun part: Cast on or begin chaining! We'll be basing the rest of the garment off the back panel so let's start there. I ended up casting on an extra 5 stitches because I changed my mind when I started casting on and wanted it to be a bit wider. So my back panel started by casting on 45 (in case you're basing yours off mine). Work whichever stitch you choose until you have the right length. Mine was 77 rows of alternating knit and purl stitches.

Here is what the pattern for my back panel would look like:

CO 45

Row 1: Purl all sts

Row 2: Knit all sts

Row 3 - 77: repeat rows 1 and 2

Bind off

Once you've made your back panel, we can figure out how big of a neck opening we need to leave. You could gauge that by measuring your own neck or the neck opening of your favorite shirt. I wanted my neck to sit close to mine so it wouldn't be slouchy and slip off my shoulder. That means about 4 inches so I chose 9 stitches to leave out in the middle. You can mark those with stitch markers if you want to help you count the stitches for your two front panels. 

With an odd number of stitches (45) cast on, that means I need to choose an odd number for the neck opening for my sides to be even. 

Back panel

Step 4: Make your front panels

Count from the outside corner towards your neck opening to figure out how many stitches to make. You can make the panel separately or keep stitching from the edge of your back panel (less sewing this way!). Your front panels will be the same length as the back panel!

Taking out the middle 9 stitches leaves me with 36 total or 18 stitches for each side. I want my front panels to be the same length as the back so each one will be 18 stitches wide and 77 rows long.

Here is what the pattern for my front panels looks like:

CO 18

Row 1: Purl all sts

Row 2: Knit all sts

Row 3 - 77: repeat rows 1 and 2

Bind off

Make 2! At the end of your front panels, I like to leave a long tail and use that to sew my panels together. This will cut down on the number of ends to weave in at the end! YAY!! (TikTok reference)

Step 5: Seam your front panels to the back

Before we make the sleeves, we'll sew our front panel to the back panel. (If you didn't stitch them right to the back panel) I used mattress stitch for mine. Here is how to do mattress stitch! We'll leave the sides open for now and "put on" our sweater for the first time. Always so fun! 

Now we can see how wide our shoulders are so we know how low they will sit on our arms. Time for some more measurements!

Front panel sewn to back and sides. sleeves added

Step 6: Make the sleeves

With your sweater draped over your shoulders, you can see where the shoulders will "sit". This is how you know how long to make your sleeve panels! Measure from the shoulder seam down your arm. Stop where you want your sleeve to start. You can calculate your number of rows with that number. 

Now figure out how many stitches to cast on or chain. Make a circle with your tape measure and put that around the widest part of your arm. If you want a tight sleeve, measure close to your arm. If you want it loose, you can give it an inch or two of "positive ease". I went with one extra inch for mine. Calculate your stitches using the same math as the back panel.

Make two panels! You can reduce your number of stitches as you go down your sleeve or just make straight panels. This would mean your wrist measurement is the same as your upper arm and a slouchy sleeve. That's what I did! I added trim after to gather it around my wrist, but you don't have to! (TikTok)

Before I added the trim, I did Knit 1, K2tog repeated around. This reduced my number of stitches at the end so it would fit closer on my wrist.

Sleeve ending

Step 7: Sew on your sleeves

Lay your sweater flat just like the sketch above. Find the middle point of your sleeve and clip that to your shoulder seam with a stitch marker. I also clipped each edge to the side to be sure the stitches were evenly spaced as I sewed it on. Here is a time lapsed video of me sewing my sleeve on! (It's a TikTok video). 

Do that for both sides!

Final step: Seam the sides of the body and underarm

Gram the shoulder seams and lift your sweater up and fold it so it looks like a sweater. As with my shoulder and arm seams, I used Mattress Stitch to seam my sides and sleeves. Take care not to pull too tight while seaming! (You get the drill)

Optional details

I added trim to mine! I used alternating knit and purl stitches along the bottom, up along the collar, and the wrists of my garment. It isn't necessary, but mine felt like it needed it. There are lots of ways to add trim with wonderful videos for both knit and crochet. My own "how-to" videos for adding trim are coming soon, but in the mean time, here's a great one for knitting and one for crochet!

Knitting: How to pick up stitches and how to K1 and P1 for trim

Crochet: Adding a single crochet ribbing border


Please tag me in your new design! That's what you just did... you designed your own sweater! You chose the stitch, texture, sizing, details, etc. to be what you wanted it to be. That means you're a designer now and I would LOVE to see what you created. Use #gksweaterdesign so we can see what everyone has done!

Here are the videos I posted to my TikTok all in one place!

Measure sample:

Figure out front panels:
Sorting out arm sizes:
Sew on the sleeves:
Seam the sides and arms:
Mattress stitch:
Find all the yarn and crochet and knitting tools I love on my Amazon Page!