At long last, after two whole months, I’m at the point of finishing my Top-Down Unpattern with Set-In Sleeves. At last! [Taking a deep breath here.] At times it felt like the knitting and unraveling, starting from scratch and knitting only to unravel again would never end! I learned a ton of things from my mistakes, but going down so many wrong paths was rather demoralizing to my knitting self-esteem. Perhaps that was why I waited to blog about it for almost six weeks!
I could save face by pointing to the explosion of the real estate market in Northern California as the reason for my long silence.
After almost a year of empty desert and tumbleweeds, the real estate market has blossomed along with the spring rains! I’ve sold 3 homes, one after another, and new buyers and sellers are popping up in my calendar like daffodils! Today marks my 17th consecutive workday with no break. Knitting is a second priority to sleep, so that’s been bad news for my blog. However, I suspect that I would have written, if only in little one-sentence bursts, if I hadn’t been suffering from sheer crankiness about my blue fuzzy sweater.
My lack of experience with top-down knitting was a real stumbling block. In the hope of saving others from making the same dumb mistakes that I did, here are some of the do’s and don’ts for top-down, set-in sleeve sweaters I discovered along the way:
Lesson #1. Ease in the Bust Area is Critical!
If you’re like me, and your only top-down experience so far has been with raglan shaping, be extra careful in the bust area! When knitting top down with the raglan method, one grows accustomed to a certain amount of extra fabric in the underarm/bust area, created by the diagonal increases of the raglan shaping. Because of the little unsightly “flaps” in the underarm area, I got used to creating a fair amount of negative ease in the ribcage, and then adding the inches back through horizontal bust darts for the bust points, where it was needed. That was a great way to get rid of the flaps beneath my arms and produce a garment that fit me really nicely in the chest area.
Blue: A raglan, top-down sweater
However, when you’re knitting top-down with set-in sleeves, there will be no extra fabric in the underarm/bust area at all, so be extra careful with your gage if you plan to use any negative ease! The more negative ease you have, the more likely it will be that your armholes will gap into your bust.
The larger your bust is, the more you may want to watch out for the bust gapping, and perhaps consider 0 ease, or even positive ease to be on the safe side.
Lesson #2: Pay close attention to the difference between your shoulder width versus bust width
Not all of us have shoulders as wide as our bust! Watch the resulting gap carefully! My shoulder-to-shoulder span is 15 inches=30 inches all the way around, but my high bust point measurement is 37 inches. Seven inches is a big difference to make up from the shoulder to the bust area!
it—when was the last time you built seven inches
of increases into a sweater? Most of us are used to knitting set-in sleeve
sweaters from the bottom up, flat, and typically the increases we are doing are from
waist to bust. Most patterns build 2-3 inches of increases from the waist before
we start armhole shaping. It is a much taller order to deal with 7 inches of
increases than 2 or 3! This is why
I ended up unraveling the entire sweater so many times, because I was
unprepared for the steep slope of increases my garment required. What I now
know for my particular body type is that, as I am knitting down towards my
bust, if I am not increasing fast enough, I’m going to have quite a bit of
gapping of the armhole into the bust area.
Think about it—when was the last time you built seven inches of increases into a sweater? Most of us are used to knitting set-in sleeve sweaters from the bottom up, flat, and typically the increases we are doing are from waist to bust. Most patterns build 2-3 inches of increases from the waist before we start armhole shaping. It is a much taller order to deal with 7 inches of increases than 2 or 3! This is why I ended up unraveling the entire sweater so many times, because I was unprepared for the steep slope of increases my garment required. What I now know for my particular body type is that, as I am knitting down towards my bust, if I am not increasing fast enough, I’m going to have quite a bit of gapping of the armhole into the bust area.
Lesson #3: Keep your Increases/Decreases in-line!
I learned to my dismay that the more massive the amount of increases or decreases one does, the more likely the line of increases can be to drift off to one side or another, creating an asymmetrical garment. Since I was working with decreasing and increasing 7 inches at a time, I was covering an area of 55+ rows with shaping, which was a real challenge to keep in order! I tried to manage this by doubling my increases or decreases so I was adding or reducing 4 stitches every inch, but because I was doing so much shaping, the decreases in particular had a tendency to drift towards one side.
My mother-in-law, the master knitter, Pipapo, suggested an ingenious method for keeping all my decreases and increases in line. With her advice, I created a mock “side-seam” (my sweater was knitted in the round) by using a central purl stitch every row that marked my “center seam” for each side and prevented things from drifting from right to left.
This is how I did my double decreases: SSK, purl 1, K2tog. By simply maintaining the purl on every consecutive row, whether increasing or decreasing on either side of the purl, I carried the mock “side-seam” in a continuous line. Once I cast on the stitches for my sleeves, I continued the same purled line all the way down the underside of the sleeve as well, to keep those decreases symmetrical. The result was a uniform, tailored look!
I'll post pics again soon when I've blocked my sweater and added the beaded trim. In the meantime, my phone is ringing--perhaps tomorrow I will finally take a day off!