Make Your Own Gradient Sweater

KnitcircusOct 17, '13

I’ve been working on own version of the 30-Day Sweater Challenge sweater, and am making a gradient with several complementary skeins!  Learn more about it, the Sweater Challenge and some Knitcircus Yarns prizes to win on the skype segment Johnny from NSAD recorded! I wanted to share this technique with the 30 Day Challenge knitters and anyone who would like to make a gradient or striped sweater using whole skeins.

Make Your Own Gradient Sweater


Use skeins that shade from light to dark to create your own gradient top-down sweater! Match arms and body stripes with the ratio below.

Yarn for your sweater, wound into cakes or balls
food/postal scale
chosen pattern or 30-day sweater guide


First, figure out how many yards are in a skein of your chosen yarn. Say you’re using a sport weight and one skein is 100g/3.5 oz and 300 yards.

Calculate your total number of skeins. For example, if I’m doing a sweater for a  size 36″ bust, I would want 1500 yards total, or 5 skeins. Note: this number comes out even, but there may be some waste yarn involved in getting all of the stripes to come out exactly even, so when it doubt, buy an extra skein!


The first skein is easy; usually you will use at least one complete skein for the neck/yoke of your sweater before you split off the arms. So your first skein will be knit just as usual following the 30-Day guidelines.

Arms and Body:

Here’s where it gets a little more tricky. You’ll need to do an extra calculation for the parts where the arms and body are knit separately.

Use your chosen pattern or the 30-Day Sweater materials to find out what your Body both Front and Back total number of stitches are:___________

Find out what your total Arm stitches will be once you have split them off and cast on extra stitches (add both sides):_________

Let’s say for our example that our knitter’s sweater calls for 140 stitches around the Body and 60 total stitches for both sleeves.

You need to make a ratio of the numbers, putting the sleeve number on top and the body number on the bottom.


Our example is:


You need to simplify the fraction (remember 5th grade math?): our example would simplify to 6/14ths, or 3/7.

Then divide your yarn into those fractions. (A cheater’s tip; if you don’t feel like crunching a lot of numbers, most of these numbers will come out fairly close to 25% for each sleeve, 50% for the body. If you want to divide this way, you may just need to pull back slightly on your Body knitting so that your sleeves will have enough yarn to match the Body when knit).

If each skein is 100 g, then 1/7=approximately 14 grams (round up or down to the nearest whole gram). So for our example sweater, the total gram weight for the sleeves will be: 42 grams per skein for the sleeves.

Yours is:    _______grams/skein

Use a ballwinder and swift, if you have one to create a ball for the sleeves (if you wish, divide this number in half to make a cake for each sleeve as I did for my sweater). To find out how much you have left in the Body ball, weigh the Body ball from time to time, not the smaller one, so you don’t have to take it off your ballwinder!

For my sweater, I decided to just knit the sleeves straight down, to minimize calculation, But if you are knitting an A-line sweater whose body increases while the sleeves decrease, simply repeat the same process above for each successive skein.

Using your Body yarns, knit away until your Body is all done, then use your Arm cakes to knit your arms to exactly match the color change rows in your body. If you’re knitting the sleeves one at a time, I recommend jotting down how many rows you needed for each color so you can easily remember next sleeve.

Keep on stitching, and soon you’ll have a one-of-a-kind gradient sweater designed by you!

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