Fisherman’s Sweater: A Pattern Review
Updated: Aug 21
The Fisherman’s Sweater pattern by Lion Brand Yarn (formally called the Inishturk sweater) is a classic fisherman style, cabled, wool sweater that’s perfect for cold winter days.
Important note: This pattern was recently updated and now includes a partial knitting chart. You still have to read off of the smaller charts for each cable, but the outline seems like it would be helpful.
Total time to complete: 66 hours, size small
Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool - I used 4 skeins in Birch Tweed to make a size small --->Note that the updated pattern is referring to a discontinued Martha Stewart yarn. The fisherman’s wool was the original yarn choice (as indicated by the pattern name) and I still recommend it.
Knitting needles in sizes need to obtain gauge (recommended sizes 7 and 8) ---->I used interchangeable circular needles for this project. This ended up being a good choice as you will need to transfer your work when changing needles - using interchangeable needles makes this far easier. You will also need to leave the collar stitches on hold - circular wire makes this a cinch. However, flat needles will work if that’s your preference; everything is worked flat. ---->ALWAYS CHECK YOUR GAUGE. I used needles size 8 and 9 to meet the desired gauge.
Tapestry needle (for weaving in ends and sewing pieces together)
Cable needle or double-pointed needle - whichever you prefer for working cables
Blocking mat and pins --->A note on blocking: If you don’t have a blocking mat, any clean carpeted surface will do. You will still need stainless steel pins though.
Crochet hook (optional) - to help fix mistakes without frogging entire rows
Notes and Thoughts on the Pattern
When I cast on this project, I was super excited to begin my first ever sweater (I know, I chose a tricky pattern for my first sweater, please don’t judge me I like cables) and finished the ribbing in about an hour. Then I started the first row of the actual pattern. Or rather, I tried to.
The way the pattern was originally written was nearly impossible to read. I had a printed copy I used to cross off the stitches I had just made while continuing the first row. I made it through! Then row 3 started referring to smaller cable charts that were, for some horrible reason, on different pages. This made referring to them very difficult for me as I don’t have the best memory for recall. I put it down, telling myself I’d chart it and try again later.
One year later, I actually did that. You can borrow the chart I made on Stitch Fiddle here. Please remember this is a FREE pattern that I DID NOT WRITE. The chart is simply for your reference.
Once I started charting the pattern, I realized it’s really a sequence of 16 repeating rows - much easier to understand when you see the whole thing laid out. To make referencing the chart easier on myself when working on the sweater, I printed it out and taped it to a Manila folder I could place on my lap. The pattern printed in three pages, so I had to flip the folder around every 40 or so rows, but that was a small thing to ask considering I had been totally unable to work the pattern at all when I first started.
After finishing the front, I ended up being able to conceptually recognize where in the cables I was and only had to reference the big center cable (the one with the 16 unique rows) on my chart, saving me the trouble of flipping pages.
After completing the back of the sweater, I fell into the rhythm of the cables. The same cable layout is used on the back, front, and sleeves of the sweater. Once you get used to how they’re all connected, I found it easy to work up the rest of the pieces because it’s all that same pattern over and over again, repeating those 16 rows. Every even row, by the way, is knit the knits and purl the purls.
The yarn is quite comfortable to work with, and I had little trouble with it splitting. Splitting the yarn is something I tend to struggle with. The wool yarn tended to do a nice job of staying together and I used nickel needles which kept it moving smoothly along. Importantly, the needles I have are slightly blunted, making it less likely I’ll accidentally split the yarn. That said, 100% wool can be irritating to some skin, especially if you have a sensory issue with anything a little scratchy. If that’s the case, try to choose a natural fiber with some heft so the cables work up nice and bulky, but remember to meet your sensory needs first.
If you like cables, this is an OK choice for your first sweater. I don’t know why I was so afraid to try making my first sweater, but I put off giving it a go until I’d been knitting for...oh I don’t know, something like three years now. This sweater is worked totally in the flat, then stitched together in pieces. This eliminates a lot of the tricky working in the round bits and lets you really understand how the pieces all fit. Importantly, the shapes are all either rectangles or triangles, so it’s very easy to keep track of where you left off.
Overall, I really love this pattern. The finished look of this sweater is exactly what I was going for: classic woolen, fisherman’s sweater. When I wear it, I feel like I could be on the deck of a ship, casting lines and reveling in the salty spray. I won’t ever do that, of course - I get sea sick. BUT. I feel like I could do that and the sweater would fit in and that’s what really counts, right? Plus, it looks great with just about anything: skirts, jeans, even the grey sweats I definitely intend to return to my husband at some point.
As mentioned, this was my first sweater. Hence, I made a lot of mistakes (some fixable, some not) and learned a lot along the way. Lucky you, I already made the mistakes so you don’t have to repeat them!
(Mistake 1) I should not have shortened the sweater. I looked at the sweater on the model and said, oh, I’d like it to sit right at where most of my jeans do. So I made it 3 inches shorter than the pattern called for. Wrong-o, friends. I forgot that sometimes I like to do things like put my arms above my head, which lifts the whole sweater up. I was going to wear a camisole underneath anyway to cut down on how often it needs to be washed, but now it’s required to avoid flashing skin.
(Mistake 2) I bound of the collar stitches instead of putting them on hold. Oops. This is one of those rookie sweater-maker mistakes that, in retrospect, felt like I should have been able to avoid. Some changes to verbiage like “put the collar stitches on hold” would have also done the trick. So. Put them on hold using a circular cable or scrap piece of yarn so you can pick them up later. This will also make the collar more stretchy and comfortable. You can see my mistake in the photo below, where the finished but unblocked front piece is laid out.
(Mistake 3) Blocked the pieces individually before sewing them together. Ok - it turns out this was actually super helpful in making all the seams line up. However, I washed in the washing machine on a no-spin cycle with regular detergent. My thoughts went like this: should I hand wash this? Nah, the machine has a hand wash delicates cycle, it’ll be fine. Do I need to buy one of those special wool detergents? Eh, I’ve washed wool blends with this before and never had a problem, I’m sure it will be fine! Friends, it was not fine. After the wash, the cables were noticeably flatter and the ribbing stretched out. The picture here shows the cables prior to washing and blocking - see how much more pronounced they were? Of course, I also blocked the ribbing (DON’T DO THIS) which stretched it out pretty badly. You can see the way the ribbing was stretched in the photo in front of the wall, above. Lesson learned: sew together, then hand wash with wool-safe detergent, THEN block.
(Mistake 4) Tried to “pin” pieces together using crochet stitch markers. Nope. Nope nope nope. Get real sewing pins, even if you have to walk up three flights of stairs to get them (or make an abled friend or family member walk up three flights of stairs to get them). Using the real pins worked infinitely better and made the act of whip stitching the pieces together a breeze.
(Not a mistake but a Learning) Sew the shoulder seams first, then do the collar. Stitch the sleeves to the body at the shoulder, then sew in long seams from the wrist down to the hip (wrist, up the sleeve to the armpit, down the body to the hip ribbing). Be aware that the shoulder seams will not sit where they should (slightly forward on the shoulder), but that’s OK because the sleeves are quite bulky so this won’t be a problem.
That’s just about all I have to say about this pattern, friends. Thanks for reading!
What pattern was your first sweater? What did you learn from it? Leave your responses in the comments below!