Back to my top-down sleeves

I just had a comment asking me if I had sorted out the top down set-in sleeves.  I did, and was happy with the result.  Basically the way I went about it was knit the body of the sweater/cardigan first, allowing a big enough sleeve opening for your upper arm size.  Then join the shoulder sleeves (if you are doing it from the bottom up) and also the side seams if necessary.  You need to take care that you set your sleeve in enough (from the bottom up this means decreasing so that you are a little in from the tip of your shoulder).

Then starting at the centre of the bottom I picked up stitches to match the size of the upper arm diameter that I wanted.  Now for most people they will need a bigger size for around the shoulder but your short row shaping over the tip of the shoulder should provide enough ease to accommodate this.   Starting at the center of the bottom of the armhole (where you will have several bound off stitches) you begin to pick up stitches.  For bo stitches pick up one stitch, and possibly when you are decreasing one each end.  For example – if you want to pick up 50 stithes all around, there are 8 bo at the under arm and 5 other decrease each side.  You want 25 stitches each side – starting with 4 in each bo stitch, 5 in each of the decreases and then another 14 stitches evenly divided as far as the top of the shoulder.  Then you repeat it on the other side.  If it looks like you haven’t done it evenly you many need to pull them out and do it again or it can be very obvious.

The next step is doing the short row shaping for the shoulder.  In the Barbara Walker book she says that the top 1/3 over the shoulder top is where you start the shaping.  I was trying to imitate more exactly the look of a cap sleeve so I decided to start it at 1/4.  So knit to 1/8 past your shoulder top  (in our example this will be 31 stitches).  Then wrap and turn work, to purl to 1/8 past shoulder tip (in our example 12 stitches).  Keep doing this, adding one stitch each side until you reach the bound off stitches at the underarm.  It is actually very cool watching the tip of the shoulder appear!

A few further suggestions which may help it run more smoothly.  If you like to know if the amount of rows is sufficient for your arm measure from the tip of your shoulder down and based on your row gauge see how many rows you need to reach this.  Based on this adjust the amount you leave at the top before starting the short rows and the amount of stitches you leave out of the short rows at the bottom.  In our example we leave 12 stitches out at the top and there are 8 bound off stitches at the bottom.  This means that we will have 30 short row (the height of the sleeve cap).  If we had 24 rows per 4 inches this will give us a sleeve cap height of 5 inches.  Based on your own gauge and measurement and desired cap height you can make necessary adjustments.

The other thing to watch with this type of sleeve is how tightly you pick up the stitches (or else you will have a gap) and to be careful to pick up the wrapped stitch when you are working it so it will be less noticeable.  However if the picked up stitches do end up too loose it is possible after the fact to either pull the stitches to tighten or add a little reinforcement with some extra stitches to avoid gaping.

One thought on “Back to my top-down sleeves

  1. Thanks for such a thorough explanation. I’m glad you were able to remember it all! I had tried to knit the short sleeve by starting on the pattern for the long sleeve but up higher. It was too big and not working so I ripped it and am enjoying trying to do the pattern backwards starting at the top of the sleeve and knitting it into the armhole as I go. I will have to analyze your instructions and probably get the book by Barbara Walker too. I would like to do this top down in the future also.
    Thanks again,

Comments are closed.