Monthly Archives: December 2014

Baby Sweater: top down set-in sleeves

Top Down Set In Sleeve Baby pullover

Gauge: 7 sts / 9 rows per inch GET IT RIGHT. It probably doesn’t matter for this project if you are knitting it only to learn the techniques but swatching is an indispensable habit unless all you want to knit is scarves.

Yarn: fingering weight: 416 yards
Size: to fit 20 inch chest. Finished chest measurement: 24 inches.
From shoulder to bottom of hem: 10.5 inches

Skills needed:
Cast on, knit, purl, short rows (I use wrap and turn; Knitter’s Choice), increase by M1, decrease, casting on at beginning of row, picking up stitches, stretchy bind off
If you are not familiar with any of these maneuvers now is the time to dust off your knitting reference books or check on line.

Upper Back
Cast on 56 sts for back neck and shoulders, using a tight cast on such as long tail.
Purl 1 row
SHORT ROWS for shoulder:
K to the last 5 stitches on needle. Wrap that 5th stitch and turn.
P to the last 5 stitches on needle. Wrap that 5th stitch and turn.
K to the last 10 stitches on needle. Wrap that 10th stitch and turn.
P to the last 10 stitches on needle. Wrap that 10th stitch and turn.
Slip the first stitch then K to end, picking up wraps and working them with their stitch.

STRAIGHT SECTION of upper back
Slipping the first stitch of every row to form a chain selvedge, work even for 20 rows.

Do not slip the first stitch on this diagonal section.
Row 1: K2, M1, work to last 2 stitches, M1, K2
Row 2: P
Continue these two rows 6 more times: 7 increases on each side of back for a total of 70 stitches
Put these stitches on hold.  The cast on edge is at the top of the picture, in blue.  The red section is the straight rows and the yellow rows are the armhole increases.

upper back





Work both sides at once using 2 balls of yarn or 2 ends from the same ball.
Pick up first 14 stitches on left shoulder. Using second ball of yarn pick up the last 14 stitches on right shoulder. This leaves the center 28 stitches of the back unworked.

Work short rows to correspond to back shoulder shaping; note that left shoulder you’ll be wrapping and turning on a knit row; on the right shoulder you’ll be wrapping and turning on a purl row. You should end the short row section on a purl row. On the next row knit to end, picking up the wraps and knitting them with their stitch.

STRAIGHT SECTION of upper fronts

Slipping the first stitch of every row on both the armhole edge and the neckline edge, work 6 rows even.


Slip the first stitch of the every row at the armhole edge. Do not slip the first stitch at the neck edge.
Increase at the neck edge of both sides of the front, 2 stitches in from the last stitch, for a total of 4 increases on each side of the front for a total of 18 stitches for each side of the front.
Cast on 2 stitches on each neck edge a total of 2 times each side for a total of 4 increases for a total of 22 stitches for each side of the front.

Work to neckline edge of left front, cast on 12 stitches, and continue to end of the right front using same ball of yarn. You can cut the second working yarn leaving enough to weave in at the end.

NOTE: It is entirely coincidence that the neckline shaping on this sweater is completed just before the armhole increases. This may or may not be true on other shapes or sizes, in which case the neckline increases and the armhole increases might require working both kinds of shaping AT THE SAME TIME.

Work the same as the back; front will have a total of 70 stitches.

When increases are finished, p 1 row. Next join the front and the back.
Work across front, cast on 7 stitches, place a marker for the beginning of the round, cast on 7 stitches, work across back, cast on 14 stitches.


The purple section on the front is the short rows for the shoulder.  The Red section is the “work even” section for the armhole, the turqoise section shows the increases for the neckline and joining the two fronts.  The yellow section is the increase section for the armholes and matches the yellow section on the back.  Next step: Joining front and back.

top of the sweater showing front and back



I use Sweater Wizard, a sweater design program that is no longer available. It generates schematics, but a sweater knit top down with set in sleeves is not one of the options. I usually will generate the schematics to prepare the pattern to knit top down.  i will add the schematics from the program for this sweater.

Top Down Set-In Sleeve Pattern Template

Top Down Set In Sleeve Pattern Template

This is not a pattern in the traditional sense. It does not walk you through, step by step or row by row. It assumes that you are familiar with basic sweater construction, and it involves math. I still maintain that if I had been taught math using knitting instead of sports metaphors, I would be a whiz at adding and subtracting. The basic shape of the sweater is up to you, as is the gauge and any decorative stitch or color patterns.

I learned this method of design from Joan Schrouder (schrouderknits on Ravelry), a phenomenal designer, knitter, and teacher. The percentages used are from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s percentage system, modified in my case to fit my severely A-line shape. You can find the basic percentage system in any of Elizabeth’s books and in many of the patterns published by her daughter, Meg Swansen, at Schoolhouse Press.

Basic construction

The sweater is started with a large swatch in the yarn you intend to use, the stitch pattern (if any) you intend to use, and needles that will give you the kind of fabric you want. The swatch should be at least 40 stitches wide and 5 inches in height, or 2 complete horizontal and vertical pattern repeats. The swatch must be washed the way you plan on washing the sweater, pinned out to dry, (with or without any stretching depending on your stitch pattern) and measured after it is dry and has rested for at least a day. You need accurate stitch and row gauges.

The second step is to take accurate measurements. There are many books out there explaining how to do this, but I find the easiest way is to measure a sweater knit in approximately the same weight yarn that fits the way you want. The most important measurement is the shoulder measurement – I think if a sweater fits properly on the shoulders it hangs well and is flattering. Regardless of how large or small we are in other places, our shoulder measurement usually doesn’t vary that much. This measurement should be taken across the front of your body between the inside edges of the shoulder. You want to have zero ease, or possibly even negative ease of up to 1 inch, for the shoulder of your sweater so it will stay on your shoulder and not slip down.

The sweater is started at the back shoulders/neck. Using a needle 2 sizes smaller than used for the body gauge, you cast on using a very firm cast-on such as long-tail and still using the smaller needle, knit some short rows for shoulder shaping. Change to the body needle and knit down from the shoulder to the beginning of the armhole shaping. The first stitch is slipped on every row until you get to the increase section when you will work K1 or P1 as appropriate. Using a coil less safety pin mark the first row of the armhole increases on both sides. This is done with increases on each side down to the underarm. These stitches are then put on hold (a cable from your interchangeables or a piece of crochet cotton).

Stitches for each front are picked up from the back shoulder (leaving the neck stitches undisturbed) again using the smaller needle. You can either do both shoulders at once or one at a time. Short rows are worked to match the back shoulders, and then you work down to whatever neckline you want. The sample I am working on will be a pullover with a shallow square neck, because this is the easiest neckline and you’ll learn the construction method used and can then modify the neck and other aspects to your liking. You’ll knit straight down to where the neckline shaping begins and probably AT THE SAME TIME you’ll start the armhole shaping to match the back. When you get to the bottom of the neckline you’ll cast on stitches for the bottom of the neck and join the fronts. If you are making a cardigan you won’t join the fronts, but otherwise the construction is the same.

When the front and back are at the same point – at the bottom of the armhole – you will cast on stitches for the underarm. I usually use an e-wrap for this cast-on; it is flexible enough for the sweater to be comfortable. I put a stitch marker between the 2 middle stitches I cast on so I know where the “side seam” would be. Then you join the front(s) and the back and knit round and round until the body is the length you want. You can work bust short-rows, back slope short rows, and/or waist-line shaping; you can figure out where to start by trying on the sweater. Knit on to the bottom of your sweater and finish off with a non-curling stitch or work a hem.

Then stitches are picked up around the armhole for the sleeves. You’ll pick up every row on the sloped section of the armhole, then every slipped selvedge stitch on the straight part of the armhole down to the second sloped section, where you pick up every row. You’ll adjust the number of stitches by increasing or decreasing in the first row worked on the shoulder so you have the correct number of stitches for the sleeve. Short rows are worked (described once we actually start knitting) and on the last short row pick up one stitch on the cast-on edge at the underarm. Working in the round and decreasing approximately every 6 rounds, work to where you think the cuff should start, try the sweater on to be sure your measurements are correct.

So to begin – make your swatch, take your measurements, and get set for this adventure. We will start in January when it is time to start knitting for yourself again.