November 10, 2014


How to Knit a Winter Coat

knitted winter coat

I’m almost done with the knitting for my winter coat. I have a ball and a half left of yarn, which will add about 4.5 inches to the body. And I figure my deadline is the super cold weather we’re supposed to be getting later this week.

I’m not sure if anyone else is crazy enough to try knitting a proper winter coat, but if you are, here’s how I did it.

Step 1: decide to do it.
Ignore exactly how much knitting it’ll be, and don’t think too hard about how cold winter gets. I’m in New York City, so it gets cold, but not quite cold enough for me to decide not to do this.

Step 2: find your yarn.
You want something warm (no shit…), so an animal fiber of some sort. You could also use a wool, or llama, or other animal fiber, but you want to stay away from plant fibers, man-made fibers, and silks.

I’m using Misti Alpaca Chunky, which is 100% baby alpaca yarn. I have 14 or 15 balls of yarn, which translates to 1500-1600 yards of yarn.

sweater sleeve

Step 3: pick your stitch pattern. Density is gold.
A stitch pattern that creates dense fabric, helps help keep out wind/rain/snow/winter slush/gross weather. So I would suggest a slipped stitch, or fair isle pattern. If you have a tight gauge, you might be able to do stockinette, or a cable pattern, but stay away from the lace.

I’m using an all-over slip stitch pattern, in a chunky yarn, on a US size 10 (6.00mm) needle. The stitch pattern is a slip 1, knit 1, on the right side, and slip 1, purl 1 on the wrong side. It makes for slow knitting, but really warm fabric. I really wish I could photograph this sweater in a way that conveyed exactly how dense this fabric is.

Step 3.5: Swatch liberally.
It’ll save you a lot of headache, heartache, and knitting time later.

alpaca sweater

Step 4: choose your sweater shape/knitting pattern.
I’m doing a super straight forward, drop shoulder, boxy cardigan, so I’ll be able to layer lots of layers underneath it.

I knit the fronts and back in pieces to keep them portable. Then closed up the shoulder with a 3 needle bind off, picked up stitches for the sleeves and knit down towards the hem. Then I sewed up the side seams & underarm seams.

Now I’m adding as much length as possible to the body, so I picked up the stitches around the hem, and am planning to knit until I run out of yarn.

Step 5: figure out how you want your sweater to close.
Buttons? Toggles? Hooks & eyes? Snaps? Zipper?
I’m waiting till it’s all knit to figure out how I want to close it. I’m debating between toggles, hooks & eyes, snaps, a zipper, belting it, or some combinations of the above.

Step 6: knit.
Because the slip stitch makes for very slow knitting, I’ve kind of lost track of exactly how much tv I’ve caught up on while knitting this sweater.

Step 6.5: just keep knitting. just keep knitting.

Step 7: Finish it. Wash it. Block it. Wear it.
(which might actually be four steps, but I haven’t gotten there yet.)


I’m still knitting the body, which I’ll (hopefully) finish tonight. But I’ve done all of the sewing up, and wove in the ends (mostly so I could photograph it without the sweater having unintentional fringe.)

I waffle back and forth on if the sweater will be warm enough to actually be a coat. Today, I’m leaning towards “it will be warm enough.” And if it’s not, I’ll probably cry, then add a  full (sewn) wool lining.

But I’ll deal with that once the knitting is done, for now, it’s “just keep knitting, just keep knitting.”