When I saw this cotton sweater knitting pattern, it was love at first sight. Long sleeve top patterns designed for cotton yarn are hard to find. So this modern chevron design immediately caught my eye. I just HAD to knit it! 😍
Mode at Rowan
MODE at Rowan focuses on modern knitting patterns made with simple techniques. These are timeless wardrobe staples that even novice knitters can make.
This sweater pattern is from the 2020 MODE at Rowan Summer Knit 4 Projects booklet. It’s still available to buy and costs just £2. As well as this chevron jumper there is a bag pattern which also uses Summerlite DK yarn. You also get patterns for 2 more tops made with Cotton Cashmere DK – a mesh sweater and a ribbed tee.
Summerlite DK Yarn
This pattern uses Rowan Summerlite DK yarn which is gorgeous to work with. It’s super soft and nothing like hard, scratchy or stringy cottons that might have put you off in the past. It feels so soft and luxe it’s hard to believe it is 100% cotton.
It’s available in over 20 shades, all with a soft matte finish. There are lots of neutral and muted colours as well as some seasonal brights and darks. I chose coral blush which is a beautiful orange/pink shade perfect for Spring/Summer. It’s hard to photograph accurately & changes depending on the light, but it’s colourful without being too vibrant. Unfortunately this shade (467) is no longer available.
Now Rowan Summerlite is expensive for cotton. But it does wash and wear well. I knit a top with the lighter weight Summerlite 4 ply 5 years ago and it still looks as good as new. I’ve already machine washed my Summerlite DK chevron jumper several times too with good results.
Of course you could knit this pattern with any DK cotton once you can get gauge. If you are substituting yarn, I’d suggest using cotton that is soft to wear and knits up to a nice dense fabric once washed. It’s best if it has some body to it and is not too floppy.
Pattern Sizing & Gauge
This is a relaxed fit boxy sweater with generous sizing. There are 5 bust size ranges available, going from 28-30 inches to 44-46 inches. Rowan patterns often use size ranges rather than single point sizes. I’m not a fan of this as I find it trickier to pick the right size. But given the looser fit of this design, it makes sense that each size would fit a range here.
I wear size 12 UK tops and so was between sizes. I made the 2nd size (32-34 inches) and it is plenty big. So definitely size down here if in doubt.
The pattern tension is standard DK at 22 stitches and 28 rows to 10cm (4 inches) but with 3.75mm needles. I needed to use .5mm smaller needles to get gauge. I used 2.75 mm needles for the rib instead of 3.25 mm and 3.25 for most of the project instead of 3.75mm. So much for my quick and easy knit notions! This was a slow and steady 4-ply pace project instead. It took me a couple of months on and off to knit it.
My gauge with most yarns is fairly standard, but I often need to use smaller needles than recommended with cotton.
Is the Chevron Jumper pattern easy to knit?
I feel this pattern is suitable for adventurous beginners and improving knitters.
The sweater is knit flat in 4 pieces with a simple boxy construction. You just knit straight up to the armholes with no waist or hip shaping. The sweater has simple drop sleeves, so there is minimal shaping involved there too.
However, the instructions for the chevron pattern are a bit involved. You get the hang of it after a while, but it’s certainly not mindless TV knitting. The chevrons go all the way down the front and back, so these pieces take a while to knit. If you get fed up of the lace pattern, you could knit a plain back in stocking stitch instead as a shortcut.
Also, the eyelet holes are quite large. It’s hard to make them neat and evenly sized, especially with cotton. The left and right hand side ones won’t look identical either. So if details like this tend to annoy you, I’d recommend swatching the central part of the chevron pattern first, to see how you like the look of it.
Depending on your gauge and the size you are knitting, the pattern can get tricky near the top. Once you get into the front neck shaping, it’s harder to keep track of where the eyelets should go. You need to decide whether to continue the chevrons right out to the shoulders too.
Going by the model pictures I skipped the outer ends of the top chevron on the front. This gives the front neckline and shoulders a neat, clean finish. However, there are extra chevron ends at the top of the back without corresponding chevrons on the front. This means that the shoulder top patterns don’t match from the side view which is a shame. Probably nobody else would notice though!
Sleeve Pattern Modifications
The pattern sleeve lengths seemed very long to me. I went with it, since this was my first time knitting drop sleeves. But I could tell near the end of the first sleeve that it was too wide as well as too long.
When I’m having doubts about the fit, I roughly join the work in progress knitted pieces together. I do rough seams, only making a stitch every 6 rows or so. Use a contrasting colour yarn so it’s easy to undo without damaging your knitting. I then try on my WIP garment to get a true idea of how it looks and fits.
While it’s meant to be a relaxed sweater, there was too much bulk around the underarm and the extra length made the sleeve bunch all the way down.
I made the sleeve a size smaller than the rest of the sweater to fix these issues. So I only increased to 84 stitches instead of 88, which made the sleeve 12 rows shorter. I also did no even rows after the sleeve increases. Post wash & wear, the sleeve length measures 45 cm approx. It was likely a bit longer pre wash, but still at least 4cm shorter than the pattern length.
I made no changes to the front or back armhole depth, because I had already finished the front piece. So I was joining a smaller size sleeve to a larger size body, but it all worked out ok.
Other Pattern Mods
The only other change I made to the pattern was doing 1×1 rib for all edges (bottom, sleeve and neck) instead of 2×2 rib. That’s just because I’m not a neat rib knitter. So I stick to 1×1 rib for DK or thicker yarns so it doesn’t look too clumsy.
How Cotton Knit Tops differ from Wool
While knitting with cotton is similar to other yarns, the end result is quite different from a wool garment.
Cotton sweaters feel lovely and soft to wear & are perfect for warmer weather. However, they easily grow in size and lose their shape too.
Unfortunately my chevron sweater neckline quickly loosens with wear, as does the overall shape. Given the relaxed boxy design, it’s still wearable, but something to be aware of.
How handknit cotton sweaters stretch depends on the pattern. This chevron jumper pattern has drop sleeves. So this means the top of the front is wider than with other sleeve types and the sleeves pull the front out and down. This quickly stretches the already generous neckline with wear.
One handy tip is to tumble dry handknit cotton sweaters on low heat for 15 mins to restore their shape. This works well but only lasts a short time before they start to grow again.
I love the idea of knitting cotton sweaters, but of the 3 I have made so far, only my Summerlite 4 ply cotton aran jumper does not stretch out of shape. The key may be the fine yarn, the intricate cable patterns, the light garment weight or a combination of factors. My cotton knitting experiments will continue – stay tuned!
Overall, while I wish my chevron jumper kept its shape better, I still enjoy wearing it. It’s great for breezy mild weather & feels so soft.
You can find this pattern in the MODE at Rowan Summer Knit 4 projects booklet which is still available for £2 from Rowan stockists.