How to Make a Sweater on a Knitting Machine: With Pattern & Video

A knitting machine can make knitting sweaters much faster and easier than hand knitting. An advanced beginner can make a simple sweater in 4-5 hours whereas hand knitting could take a month or more.

To knit a sweater on a knitting machine, first, the front and back pieces are knit. Next, using the machine, one shoulder is knit together, the neckline is knit on, then the second shoulder is knit together. After that, the sleeves are knit directly onto the sweater. Lastly, the sweater seams are finished.

When I knit a sweater I do not want to be knitting or seaming anything extra by hand so I use the machine for all the seams that are possible. Then I do the last seaming of the sleeves and body by hand but a sewing machine or the knitting machine can be used for that bit of seaming as well.

The simplest type of sweater to knit on a knitting machine is a boat neck sweater with a drop shoulder sweater a close second. For a simple neckline, you can create a simple v-neck sweater with a little decrease along the neckline or do a boat neckline that doesn’t require any extra shaping. A simple stockinette stitch can be used for the entire sweater making it an easy project.

Step 1: Find Your Gauge

Before you start your sweater, you need to make a swatch and find the gauge for your project. The yarn and tension you choose will determine how the fabric flows. So use the tension that gives the best feel on your machine and fabric that you’re happy with. If using wool yarns, then you’ll wash and block your swatch before determining the gauge.

Get the free pattern!

Once you have your gauge, you’ll be ready to calculate your pattern. You can use this pattern spreadsheet to create your unique pattern for any machine, with any yarn!

Enter your name and email below to get your pattern instructions.

I’ll walk you thru making a sweater with Yarn Bee’s Warm & Cozy yarn in the color Blush. This yarn is from Hobby Lobby.

My gauge is 36 rows x 20 stitches for 4 inches in stockinette stitch at Tension 2. I used a Brother 260 bulky knitting machine.

Step 2: Cast on and Knit the Ribbing/Hem

Machine knit sweaters are typically knit from the bottom up to the neckline. This is so that a ribbed hem can be added using a ribber. No ribber? No problem! If you don’t have a ribber, you can do a mock rib or a hung hem.

  • For a hung hem, you start with waste yarn, switch back to your main yarn and knit a number of rows (twice as many as the rib calls for), then hang the hem (where the waste yarn and main yarn meet) back onto your needles and continue the body of your sweater.
  • For a mock rib, same as a hung hem, except that you simply leave one needle out of work every 1 or 2 or even 3 stitches.
  • You can knit twice as many rows as the rib calls for because you’ll be folding it up in half.
  • You can also just let your edges roll, appropriately called a rolled edge. You will need to cast on with a closed cast-on like an e-wrap or crochet cast-on for a rolled edge.

If using a ribber you can choose the type of rib and follow the instructions of your machine. You can choose from a 1×1, 2×2, 1×2, or even a 3×2. There are other possibilities for ribs but this gives you a good start.

I like my hems around 2-3 inches long. So, for my sweater, I knitted 18 rows of 2×2 ribbing.

Step 3: Knit the Sweater Body up to the armholes

You’ll need to decide what type of sweater you plan to create. This will determine the shaping of the body. You’ll also want to think about how much ease (roomy-ness) you want in your sweater. A fitted sweater will have decreases in the waist area while an oversized sweater will not.

For a fitted sweater, you will have decreases and increases in the body of a sweater but most sweater patterns do not have increases and decreases so knitting the body can be a relatively quick process.

The front and the back of the sweater are knit separately on the knitting machine. If you have a small enough sweater you may be able to knit in the round with a ribber but sweaters are usually not knit in the round on a knitting machine.

You can add any color or fancy stitching to your sweater that your machine is capable of. You can even do garter stitch or purl and knit stitches if you have a garter machine. Cables are a fun way to add design to your sweater and lace is great for summer sweaters. Tuck stitches are beautiful as well but usually, you’ll want to have the purl side facing out with tuck stitches.

Types of Stitching for Sweaters

  • Cables
  • Colorwork
  • Stripes
  • Lace
  • Tuck stitches
  • Slip stitches

Step 4: Start the sleeve shaping

After you mark the armholes then the sleeve shaping is started. For drop shoulder, there is no shaping. However, a modified drop shoulder will have a few stitches bound off at this point and then straight stitching to the shoulder. The pattern you are using will tell you when and how often to decrease.

Types of Sweater Sleeves

The type of sleeves will determine the shaping around the shoulder and sleeve area. Below are some sweater sleeve types:

  • drop-shoulder is the simplest style
  • Raglan sleeves
  • Set-in sleeves
  • Saddle shoulder
  • Yoke (full-yoke & shoulder-yoke) – created differently than the sweaters talked about in this post
  • Dolman Sleeve
  • Cold-shoulder
  • Split sleeve
  • Puff sleeve
  • Blouse
  • Vest
  • Cardigan (I cover cardigans in this post… coming soon!)

Step 5: Neck shaping

Before you can finish the body of your sweater there will be some decreasing of stitches to shape the neck, unless you are knitting a true boat neck sweater. Again, your pattern will tell you when and how to decrease around the neckline.

Types of Sweater Necklines

The type of neckline you decide on will determine how simple or complex your sweater is to create. A boatneck sweater is simple to create because there is no special neckband while a cowl neck or hooded sweater will be more complex.

  • boat neck
  • rolled neck
  • crew neck
  • flat crew neck
  • v-neck
  • square neck
  • scoop neck
  • turtle neck
  • cowl neckline
  • hooded sweater
  • button neck closure
  • collared neckline
  • keyhole neckline

Step 6: Knit together one shoulder, knit on the neckband, and join the other shoulder.

Using the knitting machine, the next step is to knit the shoulders together. You hold the right sides facing each other and then put your shoulder stitches onto your needles and knit 1 row then bind off.

Next, the neckband is knit onto the sweater so if you have enough needles you’ll be able to do this in one piece, otherwise, you’ll do it in 2 pieces. You’ll put the stitches that you decreased along with the neckline onto the needles and then knit the neckband. This way you will not have to figure out how to connect the neckband afterward.

Step 7: Knit sleeves onto the sweater.

I do not want to be seaming any more than I have to so whenever possible I knit the sleeves of the sweater by hanging the sweater back on the machine between the armhole markers. This allows me to knit the sleeve right onto the sweater.

A drop shoulder can be knit easily with this method. A set-in sleeve will require some short rowing using the hold position on your machine. Most sleeves have some shaping in them so follow your pattern for the decreases.

If there is ribbing at the end of the sleeve, then I just transfer stitches to the ribber when I get to the end of the sleeve and finish with the ribbing. Lastly, bind off the stitches. To bind off the stitches I generally use the latch hook and do a crochet bind off but a back stitch bind off also creates a beautiful edge.

Step 8: Sew side and sleeve seams.

In general, I prefer to mattress stitch the side seams and sleeve seams. You can, however, use the knitting machine to seam the sides and sleeves, whip stitch them, or even use a sewing machine. The mattress stitch, while a little time consuming, will give you the most professional and invisible seam, so that is what I use.

There are so many different types of sweaters that can be created so this post does not include all of the ways sweaters can be put together. This is just a general way that I was taught to knit simple sweaters on a knitting machine. You can get my pattern for this simple machine-knit Blush V-Neck Sweater below.

Use Any Machine, Any Yarn, For Any Size

  • Tutorial: Knit along with our how-to video
  • Customizable Pattern: Adjust to your own measurements
  • Minimal seaming: Knit the sleeves onto the sweater with the machine

If you have never knit a sweater on a knitting machine before and would like to walk step by step through each piece with me, then join our free 5-day sweater challenge where we’ll walk through exactly how to knit a sweater, and at the end of the 5 days, your sweater will be finished.

Free 5-day Machine Knitting Sweater Challenge

This is an event you don’t want to miss. I’ll be covering a wide range of information on machine knitting your first sweater so that by the end of the 5-day training you will have a beautiful sweater that you can proudly wear or gift to someone you love. 

I have also created a YouTube tutorial that walks you through this same sweater design so you can watch and learn how to knit your first sweater.

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