Sloper: Basic pattern for a sleeveless sweater

Sloper: Basic pattern for a sleeveless sweater - free pattern

The pattern: Sloper by Karen Templer (free pattern)
The knitalong schedule: Start now or whenever. Knit at your own pace!
The hashtag: #sloperKAL

Ok, today’s the day a bunch of you have been waiting for — the day I tell you how to knit my little sleeveless turtleneck sweater — but this is unlike the patterns you’re accustomed to. More like a Japanese knitting pattern, what I’m giving you (this is a free pattern, friends, ungraded) is a stitches-by-rows chart of the garment, which you can use to either knit the exact same sweater or resize/modify it into whatever sort of sleeveless sweater you might like. I’m calling it Sloper, which is a term from the sewing world for a set of raw, bare-bones pattern pieces that might be sized to fit a particular person precisely but that can be used as the building blocks or jumping-off point for any number of variations and adaptations. (Click to download.)

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How to work a slipped-stitch selvage
How to work the sloped bind-off
Sloper pattern at Ravelry
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I’m presenting it to you literally as a scan of pencil marks on knitters graph paper, because I want you to understand that’s how simple this is. And I hope what you’ll take away from it, the ensuing posts and knitalong is the underlying process for modifying just about anything. The garment is two pieces of fabric — a front a back — each 42 stitches by about 74 rows, and in chart form you can see what happens to each and every stitch as you knit your way up through the rectangle of the body into the shaping for the arm and neck holes. So you can knit it exactly as charted (working RS rows from right to left; WS rows from left to right, as with any flat chart), or you can literally print it out, grab a pencil and some whiteout (or your own Knitters Graph Paper Journal), and move those stitches around in the grid however you like.

This will make a lot more sense to you if you’ve knitted a (flat/seamed) sweater before and have a basic grasp on how shaping happens. If you have not knitted a garment before and you want to give this a go as written, I think it’s quite doable. (I wouldn’t advise trying to modify it in any way if you’ve never knitted a sweater before — knit it once as is, then attempt changes after seeing how it works.)


Over the next couple of days, we’ll talk about doing just that — how to change the sizing (through gauge, or by adding/subtracting stitches and/or rows), and ideas for tweaking the armhole and neck shaping and neck treatment to achieve different results. But even simply working from the pattern exactly as it is, you can still change it up in any number of ways through your choices with regard to these details:

Fabric: The versions pictured are solid colored. You could add stripes, colorblocking, stranded colorwork or intarsia, or even a stitch pattern so long as it’s in keeping with the pattern gauge. (We’ll talk about playing around with the gauge later.) Also, these samples are knitted with worsted-weight yarn held triple for a very dense fabric; you might opt to knit lighter yarn at the same gauge, for a looser, drapier fabric.

Seams: Just by playing around with the seams, you can have an impact on the look of the garment. The black version has a 3″ split hem and traditional seams, meaning the seam allowance is on the inside of the garment. The camel version has fully seamed sides (no split hem) and exposed seams at the shoulders. You could easily also make your back piece a few inches longer from cast-on to underarm for a high-low effect, paired with a split hem.

Neck: The pattern includes instructions for either a crewneck or a turtleneck, so those are two different looks right there. We’ll talk about more drastic changes to the neckline in an upcoming post.


So step one is to knit and block a swatch and find a fabric you like that matches the pattern gauge. You could try a superbulky yarn; a strand of bulky with a strand of DK or worsted; or three strands of DK or worsted held together. (This could be a good stash-buster!) Suggested needle size is US15/10mm, but as with any knitting project, you’ll need to swatch to find the right needle size for you to match gauge. Always measure your gauge over at least 4 inches on a blocked swatch.

In reality, your gauge might not be an exact match for mine, and that might be ok. For one thing, I’ve rounded to the nearest quarter inch and the stitch gauge is technically more like 2.3333. At this scale, rounding to 2.25 versus 2.5 has a big impact on the resulting size info. As does blocking the finished garment, where manipulation is possible. (There is always that wiggle room.) So the measurements in the pattern are all given as approximations. Whatever your gauge is, multiply it by 42 stitches (the width of the front piece), double that for total circumference, and subtract for seam allowance*, and that’s how big around your sweater will be at your gauge. If that’s not a measurement that will work for you, we’ll talk tomorrow about how to manipulate it.

The same goes for row gauge. If your row gauge is bigger than mine (fewer rows per inch), your armhole depth will be longer. Divide the number of rows (31) from armhole to bind-off by your row gauge to see what your depth will be, and adjust as needed. For example, if your gauge is 3.5 rows per inch: 31 ÷ 3.5 = 8.9″. Subtract a row or two (between the armhole and neck shaping) if that’s too long for you. Same with the neck depth.


How much yarn? That’s harder to say, as it depends on what you’re using and what kind of changes you might make. The black Lark sample used 9 (50g/134-yard) skeins (technically 411g, not the full 450). Since it was held triple, you could think of it as three 400-yard strands of worsted, so if you were just using one strand of superbulky, it would be more like just 400 yards. For the pattern size. If you make it 10% or 30% or 50% bigger, you’ll need that much more yarn. My advice is always, always to buy more yarn than you think you might need. As long as it hasn’t been opened and wound, you can almost always return any unused skeins (but inquire wherever you’re purchasing.)


This is a super casual knitalong — no prizes or deadlines or anything. Just knit! Ask questions here and I (or anyone else) will answer as best I can. And share your progress on Instagram using hashtag #sloperKAL and on Ravelry by linking your project page to the Sloper pattern listing. I’ll be monitoring that tag fairly religiously for the next couple of weeks (more loosely after that) and can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

. . .

So tomorrow and Wednesday we’ll talk about resizing and modifying. If the existing pattern size (37-38″) works for you (or you don’t need no steenking advice to alter it!), feel free to dive right in! Please also favorite or queue the Sloper pattern on Ravelry.

For a glimpse at what I’m planning for my knitalong sweater, see my last Queue Check. I’ll talk more about how I’m accomplishing those changes in the next couple of days.

OK, let’s do this—


*Traditionally, mattress stitch is worked such that you lose one stitch at each edge (two stitches per seam) into the seam allowance. At this gauge, some people will work into the center of each edge stitch instead, so you only lose half a stitch per edge (a total of one stitch per seam). You can do whatever you like, but I do it the traditional way, regardless of gauge, which means 4 body stitches total disappear into the seams. But really, what you lose in seaming can also be made up for in blocking. Numbers are squishy!


Photos by Kathy Cadigan

67 thoughts on “Sloper: Basic pattern for a sleeveless sweater

  1. I’ve never understood the need for such a sweater. No sleeves and heavy yarn, when are you going to wear it? It’s too hot for spring and summer when no sleeves are appropriate, and without sleeves you can’t wear it in the winter. Please explain. I know it looks cool, but really……? I do speak from experience as I knit one like it about 10 years ago and have NEVER worn it.

    • Gosh, I wear mine a lot and this one was inspired by several sweaters I’ve owned and worn over the decades — it might be my favorite kind of garment, and I find it super useful.

      I love it layered over a t-shirt or buttondown, depending on the weather, but like it best on its own in in-between weather, such as with the linen dress it’s paired with in these photos. It’s my favorite thing at that moment where winter is coming to an end and you can *just* get away with liberating your arms. Or when you’ve got that fall feeling but the weather isn’t *quite* there yet, so a sleeveless sweater gives you the cozy feeling without overdoing it.

      But also, how warm it is depends on what you choose to knit it in. Both of these are wool, but my knitalong version will be linen. And as noted, it doesn’t have to be turtleneck. There are instructions in the pattern for a crewneck (another great layering piece) and we’ll talk Wednesday about other kinds of neckline options. You can make all sorts of sleeveless things from this template.

  2. I have begun mine! It is undyed organic cotton stranded with lace-weight gray silk. I will garment dye it in madder (or coreopsis, I have not quite decided) from my dye garden once complete. I’m so excited!

  3. I love this! I think it’s a great alternative to those puffy vests I hate the look of so much in the fall and winter, and would be amazingly cute in linen for spring and summer. Congrats Karen on the launch!

  4. I love the look of this sweater, and I am looking forward to learning more about adjusting for fit. Thank you so much for doing this and sharing with us.

    • Thanks, Stacy. It’s been really fun (albeit an incredible amount of work LOL) putting it all together, so I hope people will find it compelling and useful!

  5. I am so excited about this! I just recently started knitting and this is exactly the kind of sweater that I started knitting so I could make. (Does that make sense?) The sleeveless option is great because where I live – and the office I work in – the temperature changes so much through the day that I start with layers in the morning and shed them through the day. Thanks, too, for the upcoming instructions for modifying. As a newbie, they will be much appreciated.

  6. I’m going to follow along avidly. I share some of queenpushy’s thoughts about how useful such a garment would be. And I am also concerned about how such a superbulky sweater would look on someone with a 40″ bust and more ample proportions. Hopefully some of the people doing the KAL will allay my concerns with their stunning FOs.

    • Check out the post above — you might opt to do it at a looser gauge (lighter yarn on the same needles) and there’s a crewneck option in the pattern. Lots of possibilities! All to be discussed coming up …

  7. The sweater is beautiful and the visuals of the pattern are as well! A bit beyond a few pencil marks. I often wonder how many stitches I put into some sweater or hat – this one is countable from the get-go. I won’t have time to jump in right away and am still thinking about the neckline – maybe a single layer turtle for me. Thanks much for the generous gift.

  8. Hi Karen, I have never knit anything with yarn held double or triple before. When you sew up the side seams, do you use 2 or 3 strands of the yarn for seaming, or just one strand? Thank you for the free pattern, this looks like so much fun!

  9. I’m not totally sure this will work on my frame, but I’ve been wanting a simple crew neck vest for a while so I’m going to try it. I’ve been eyeballing Woolfolk’s new Luft (bulky), so I think I’ll be using that in the black color way, held with a DK weight to get close to gauge. I’m searching for a solid black DK to pair it with … considering Shibui Maai but would love some suggestions from the more experienced knitters out there. I’ve never combined yarns before.

    • Ooh, combining something with Luft is an interesting idea! I’m afraid Maai might make it too heavy with so much alpaca content. I’d go for something in a wool-cotton blend (similar to the Luft) or a really light 100% wool, like maybe Arbor?

  10. I kind of want to join in and use up some leftover yarn from other projects, but I don’t think I have quite enough! If I do join, it might be a marled look :) I do want to learn about this, though, because I’m super intimidated by knitting alterations, but because I like looser silhouettes and am close enough to straight sizes, it usually works out. I need a little push to get over that intimidation! I am an avid sewer, though, and know how important little adjustments are. Thank you for doing this! Even if I don’t end up participating, I’ll be watching!

    • Hopefully my next couple of posts will demonstrate that it’s not very complicated, especially if you’re a sewer and accustomed to the idea of a lengthen/shorten here line and whatnot.

  11. I really want to knit this is a cotton or linen yarn, any suggestions?

    • Or maybe cotton and linen held together! I’d just start with the yarn database at Ravelry and see what looks good to you. Or look at Shibui, who have some interesting blends in that regard that are meant to be combined in various ways.

  12. I will need to modify – make it bigger, but I got gauge and I can’t to begin!!! My needles are reved up and ready to rumble!!! Thank you Karen!!!

  13. I started my swatch before seeing the correction on US 11 size needles but it actually worked out well for the yarn I chose because it was a chunky weight….I was going to do the sleeveless version turtle neck….But I think I have too much yarn and I really don’t wear sleeveless things in general…..I may just end up with a top-down turtle neck sweater then…Which I will love to wear! So that is good…

  14. I think if this works for me …I am going to make a long version….like a dress…with lighter yarn. I had a knit dress with the turtle neck and sleeveless and I loved it. It was my fave summer dress.

  15. I’m interested…I like a lot of the suggestions for different ways to make it fit into your wardrobe. But I have a question; what is the amount of ease that you are wearing yours at or that it’s intended to be?

    • It’s about 3″ of ease on me, as pictured. (I blocked the black one out a little wider recently so it would work better over shirts when winter rolls back around.)

  16. I really appreciate you sharing this tutorial with us. The sweater is gorgeous and I am looking forward to knitting it up. Thanks so much

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  18. Yeah! I will definitely be KALing along. I have no issues with the measurement parts of a pattern. My “red wine” point is armpits. I wind up going to another similarly gauged sweater pattern and then pray through the rest of the knitting that it fits. I hope you will be touching on this. Stash yarn shopping!

    • I might be, but I can’t say for sure because I’m not sure I know what you mean! Can you clarify for me? When/why are you going to a different pattern? (And what is a “red wine point” — the point where you need a glass?)

  19. Is anyone knitting in the round? I just can’t imagine all that purling on these huge needles and yarn! I have Blue Sky Fibers Bulky in Pluto. Very excited to get going but definitely need to do some mods! Figuring out the details now.

  20. What a wonderful tutorial on adjusting fit. I have very narrow shoulders. Should I adjust at the neck or the armholes or both?

    • Unless you also have a very narrow neck, I personally would leave the neck alone and narrow the shoulders by widening the armholes. Lots more about that in tomorrow’s post!

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  25. Hmmmm…. I received a knitting machine this winter that I just got working! This could be a great first garment project for it as the charts really lend themselves to be followed on a machine. So tempting : )!

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  28. Hi Karen
    I am super excited to knit the sweater. This will be first sweater!This maybe a overkill question, but for a super bulky yarn( gauze 2.25 stitches per inch) what is the total yard length I need to buy? Is it total of 400yards? Thanks!

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  31. Hi Karen I think because this will be my first sweater I will go with Lark like you have done for this pattern. In that case should I order 9 balls like you recommend or more? Also, this is the first time I am looking at a graph pattern. The Armpit section is intimidating :) Could you please tell me the pattern that I will use to bind off the armpits? Thank you so much:)

    • Hi there. On yardage, I generally say buy one more skein than you think you’ll need, just to be safe.

      When you get to the first row of the armhole section, you’ll see there’s just one stitch BO then the rest of the row is stockinette (knit sts). The following row, same thing: BO one stitch, then work stockinette (purl) to the end of the row. Etc. It’s all right there in the chart — just take it one row at a time and it should make sense.

      If this were written out, that portion would simply say “BO one stitch at the beginning of the next 6 rows.” Just make sure to read the note on p1 about the sloped bind-off.

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  42. I think this is a GREAT teaching tool, love it! I’m curious about the needle switch from ribbing to body. I’d like a ribbing that hung flat (I don’t want it to draw in). For that, I’m thinking to use a needle that’s 2 sizes LARGER than the one for the body. Your notes recommend one that’s 2 sizes smaller than the body, which with ribbing would draw it in. None of the photos I see of this vest look like the hem draws in. Am I missing something?

    • Ribbing tends to look flabby as compared to the stockinette portion of a garment when knitted on the same size needle, so it’s typically knitted on a smaller needle. Then if you want it to be the same width as the rest of the fabric, you can just block it accordingly.

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  44. Thank you so very much for this pattern. I have one of these sleeveless turtle neck tops that I bought at at petite store 20 years ago. I wear mine all of the time. I prefer not to have cold air conditioning blowing down my neck at work, but long sleeves are too hot come summer and this is perfect. Thank you again!

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