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.
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.