Over the past few years, as jersey stretchy fabric has become more readily available, the choice of patterns to go with the fabric has really expanded too. But what is the different between different jumper/sweater patterns? And how can you work it all out from just looking at a line drawing on a pattern?
In my latest Youtube video I want to help you navigate some of the most popular choices of jumper and sweater sewing patterns out there, so that you can choose the best one, that's not only suited to your style preferences and where you want wear it but also your sewing confidence.
All the patterns I've chosen are from independent pattern companies and I know there are lots more out there, but hopefully the variation in the ones I've chosen will help you to see the differences (and similarities) so that you can make the best choice no matter what one you are considering. Sewing jumpers is pretty easy once you know a few key things so I hope you feel ready to give it a go!
Top Tips for choosing a size and fabric for sewing a jumper or sweater
- Check out the body measurements compared to the finished garment measurements - this will help you work out how loose or fitted the garment will be. Depending on the look you want to have, you may want to size down or size up and the finished measurements can be really useful to help give you an idea. Usually jumpers are meant to be loose so the finished measurements will be quite a bit bigger than your body measurements.
- Check out the percentage stretch needed for the pattern - some patterns might provide you with a little bar chat to help you measure or some might just state the percentage stretch. Megan Neilsen has a really good free download chart that helps you work it out - follow this link to get it yourself. Just remeber to print it out at 100% scale!
- Percentage stretch is pretty important as if the garment is more fitted - it's likely you'll need a certain amount of stretch to be able to get the garment on/off and move around in it. If its more stretchy than what is recommended then usually that's ok.
- ALWAYS prewash your fabric - jersey stretchy fabric does shrink, it's totally normal and to do with the way it is made. You can expect up to 10% shrinkage - so its better to get that shrinkage out the way before you cut anything out! I've been caught out before when I used some of our fleeceback sweatshirt fabric to make a Grainline Linden.
- I was in a rush to make a sample for a show and didn't pre-wash. The pink version shows me wearing a size 4 with a pre wash and the blue version shows me wearing the same size without pre washing. I actually like the sung fit but you can see it is quite a bit smaller!
- Check the seam allowance included in the pattern - this can vary way more than regular sewing patterns and some sweater/jumper patterns are designed to be made on an overlocker, and overlockers have a small seam allowance as a default.
- You can still sew these patterns on a regular domestic sewing machine, you just need to be aware of the small seam allowance, or cut the next size up and use a bigger seam allowance.
Now let's get into the different styles! I've split them into three mini categories to help break them down a bit more.
Comfy hoodies - Papercut Undercover Hoodie and Tilly and the Buttons Stella Hoodie
Style and options
Despite both being hoodies these garments have quite a few differences. The undercover has raglan sleeves and a hem band (the pink one), whereas the stella has drop shoulders and a regular hem (the minty green one). You can choose to have the pouch pocket on both of them but I left it off the stella for a bit of variation.
In terms of difficulty level, I think they are both straight forward. Normally raglan sleeves are the easier option, but the drop sleeve on the stella is easier to sew in that a normal shaped sleeve as the curves aren't as..curvey!
The hoods also have a subtle difference. The undercover hood is made from two pieces, whereas the stella has 3 pieces, which I think gives a nicer rounded shape.
Top fabric picks
The recommended fabrics for each project is sweatshirt fleece, french terry, stretch velour, ponte, double knit or medium weight jersey or interlock. For the stella it needs at least 10% stretch and for the undercover, a percentage isn't specified.
I've made each sample in two very different fabrics, but you could use these fabrics vice versa with the patterns. The pink one is much more floppy and lighter weight french terry. It has a looser weave and a loopback. The minty one is thicker, has a fleecy back - it's more of a classic sweater fabric. Both these patterns are versatile and you could use each fabric for the other pattern.
Sizing and fit
My stella is a size 3 which going by the size chart matches my body measurements exactly but the pattern has 5 inches of positive ease at the bust so it has a looser feel.
The undercover hood is a XXS which is the size down from my body measurements correspond to (it was Meg our shop manager who made it) but it also has positive ease, so going by the size chart and finished measurements there is still 5 inches of ease in this one for me. At the fabric is more floppy I think it gives a fitted look. The hem band on the undercover hood also makes it more fitted at the hips, whereas the stella skims a bit more and is looser at the hip.
I really like both of these hoodies, but I think I have more of a preference for the Stella. I really like the drop sleeve shaping and prefer a 3 piece hood. For the hoodie tie, I cut a thin strip of the lining for my hood which works really well!
Smart/ casual jumpers - Papercut Kyoto and Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater
Style and options
The next two jumpers, I think, have more of a smarter look compared to the hoodies - but still as equally comfy and cosy!
The Kyoto (the maroon one) is a relaxed fit with a drop shoulder (like the stella) with a ruffle insert. You can choose to have short or long sleeves and with or without a hem band.
The Toaster actually has two quite different versions and the one pictured (in pale pink) is version 2. It is more fitted over the shoulders with a semi-high funnel neck, that then loosens off to a high low hem with a side vent.
In terms of difficulty, both as still straight forward, the kyoto is maybe a little bit easier but I think a lot of it would come down to your fabric choice and if you use a lighter weight one, that could make things more tricky.
Sizing and fit
For the Kyoto, I'm wearing a size XXS (it was Meg who made this one too), and like the undercover hood, going from my body measurements, I'm more suited to an XS. Having said that, the fit is really loose on this garment. There is 3 inches of ease built in at the bust, but due to the drop sleeve, it's quite baggy around the shoulder and under arm area.
There are a few blog reviews out there that highlight the length of the toaster is a little short at the front but I made no adjustments to mine. I usually always wear high waisted jeans and a vest so it wasn't a concern for me, but something to bear in mind if you like things a bit longer.
The high-low hem and side vent is my favourite feature of the top!
Top fabric picks
For the kyoto we used our maroon loopback jersey modal which has beautiful drape and movement and the pattern itself recommends a light to medium weight stretch fabric. For me, I think fabric choice is key for this kind of style. It's loose and baggy under the arms and if the fabric is too thick it will feel bulky and the ruffles will stick out a lot so the modal is a great choice.
The toaster has lots of fabric options, just take note of the minimum 20% stretch needed. This will be so you can successfully get it on/off over your head! Opt for something more light weight, a bit like the Atelier Brunette french terry that I used, and the neckline will fall into a delicate cowl. Use something heavier with more structure and the neckline will stand up more and hold its shape. Both options would look nice, it just depends what look you prefer!
Neat and fitted jumpers - Deer and Doe Ondee and Seamwork Astoria
Style and options
The next two options are both more closely fitting and have a cropped style.
The Ondee (the bright turquoise one) is comes with short or long sleeve options (my version is in-between 3/4 length) and either a scoop neck or contrasting collar.
The Astoria (which is only available as a PDF pattern in this link) also has two sleeve lengths with a higher wider neckline. My minty green version has been lengthened!
I think both these patterns are straightforward, probably the neckband is the most tricky part (or the collar if you choose that version).
Sizing and fit
The side seams are shaped to come in at the waist and along with the hem band means there is a an emphasis on waist definition in both these patterns.
For variation, I decided to lengthen my astoria by 5 inches and I also widened the hem to accommodate my hips. I made a size small, which does correspond to my body measurements, but the main thing to note with this pattern is that it does have negative ease! So what you make will be smaller than you, and therefore the fabric must be stretchy enough (at least 25%) and it will be a fitted jumper.
The ondee in the pictures is a size 40, which is a size bigger than what my body measurements correspond to as I made it as a sample for a mannequin in the shop a while back. It also has negative ease, so like the astoria, it will be a fitted garment if you choose a size based on your measurements.
One thing I will say about these patterns is that they are pretty short. I'm wearing the ondee with my high waisted jeans and they only just meet! So just something to bear in mind!
I hope that by seeing the lengthened astoria you can see, if you do want a fitted jumper that is longer, these patterns can still be a good choice.
Top Fabric Picks
The main thing to consider when choosing fabric for these patterns is the % stretch as they are both so fitted and need to be able to stretch so get on/off and allow you to move.
The Ondee recommends light-medium weight knits with at least 30% stretch and the astoria recommends medium weight knits with at least 25% stretch.
For both my versions, I've used our cosy colours fleece back sweat shirting which is medium weight with a soft fluffy back and little multi-coloured flecks.
Sporty sweaters - Grainline Linden and Sewaholic Fraser
Style and options
My last two patterns have a more casual and sporty vibe to them.
The Linden is such a classic now (pictured in blue), I know I'm not alone in having so many versions of it! It has raglan sleeves and the option to have long sleeves with cuffs and a hem band, or short sleeves with a regular hem.
The Fraser comes with 3 sleeve length options, short, 3/4 and long with a cuff and 3 neckline options - simple with a neckband, a set in contrast collar or a sweetheart yoke that runs through into the sleeves (thats the version pictured in pink and grey).
The linden in certainly the easier of the two styles as getting the points on the yoke section is a little tricky if you are still new to stretch fabrics.
Sizing and fit
I wear a size 4 in the linden which corresponds to my measurements and the pattern has 6.5" of ease built in at the bust so it is meant to be quite a loose fit. Having said that, the blue version pictured above is more fitted and thats because I didn't prewash the fabric. I actually like it, but just be aware that the fit will change if you don't prewash!
For the Fraser I'm wearing a size 6 which corresponds to my body measurements at the bust and waist but not at the hips (my hips are smaller). This is quite typical for sewaholic patterns as they grade proportionately more at the hips to cater for a pear figure. There are 2 inches of ease built in at the bust so it does come up quite fitted.
Having said that, I didn't take it in at the hips at all, which means if my own hip measurement was the same size that corresponded to the size 6, it would be more fitted at the hips than what you see.
Top fabric picks
The linden recommends medium weight knits with a minimum of 20% stretch. I have used and seen lots of different fabrics used to make this sweater. My blue version is made with our marl fleece back sweat shirting which is the same type of base cloth as the cosy colours. My two tone version uses our loopback jersey modal which is much more floppy and flowing but still works really well.
For my fraser, I wanted to choose something with a contrasting 'wrong' side so that I could reverse it for the yoke section. This amazing two tone grey marl loopback has fine pink loops on the reverse, which subtly show though with a marl effect on the front so its the prefect fabric for something like this.
Given how fitted the fraser is over the shoulders and bust the fabric needs to have at least 20% stretch and the pattern recommends medium weight knits. I would say the fabric I choose is more light-medium weight. If you want to do the contrast version I would be wary of anything too thick as I think it would make the seams bulky.
Phew! That ended up being quite long guys...who knew I could talk about jumper so much!
Anyway, I hope its inspired you to have a go! Happy Sewing!