These sleeves weren’t made using my usual technique, and I thought they deserved their own post. Usually I knit the whole body, and then I pick up stitches around the arm hole and use short rows to shape the sleeve cap. For this sleeve I didn’t us any short rows. I started the body like I normally do, but I only knit an inch of the back befog I picked up stitches for the fronts. With about an inch on the fronts and an inch on the back, I picked up stitches along what will be the tops of the armhole, and that joined everything together so I was knitting the front, sleeves, and back simultaneously. The armholes are shaped with increases as you knit. Pretty straight forward, right?

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There are a few great things about this technique. It lets you do stripes easily, and you can more easily incorporate stitch patterns than you can using short rows. You also only need to increase as many stitches as you need for your upper arm. When you pick up stitches to shape sleeves with short rows, the number of stitches you pick up is dictated not by the upper arm measurements but by the number of rows you have. To keep your sleeve cap from bunching up or having gaps where it meets the arm hole, generally you have to pick up more stitches than you actually need so you have to do rapid decreases immediately after the short rows. With this simultaneous method, you just need to increase as many stitches as you need, and then you can work straight until you have the armhole depth you want.

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Sounds almost too good to be true, right? Well, the method has quite a few problems. If you’re working on a pullover, when you cast on the neckline and join in the round, the beginning of the round ends up being smack dab on the front of your sweater. This isn’t ideal for stripes or stitch patterns that jog which pretty much cancels out the biggest perk of this method. There are ways around that problem. You can break your yarn, slip stitches, and move the beginning of the round to somewhere like the underarm, but that’s a bit fiddly. The other big problem with this method is one that’s a deal breaker for me. The top of the sleeve is very structured and the rest of the sleeve isn’t. This causes a wide variety of issues, the most obnoxious one being that the shoulder sticks up oddly when I raise my arms even slightly. This could be used to your advantage if you’re making puff sleeves, but it’s not cute on fitted ones. Other issues include the sleeve cap stretching over my chest and the front or back stretching over my arm when I move around. The line of increases that visually separates the sleeve from the body doesn’t have enough structure to stay where it belongs.

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I might play around with this technique a bit because it does have potential, but I think I’ll be sticking with short rows or seams for my set in sleeves. Have you knit a sweater before using this method? What did you think?

10 Comments

  • Interesting review of the technique, I think I’ll continue to not try it. Like you prefer, if I want to do faux set-in sleeves I used the top-down short-row cap method. I always thought this method seemed interesting but just more trouble than it’s worth, and sounds like the issues you experienced confirm that. At that point I’d rather just set in sleeves!

  • A very interesting technique that I would love to try out when I have some time… I have a feeling most of the problem is due to the garment’s shoulders being a little on the wide side. If the sleeve begins higher up (nearer to the collar) with a relatively wider cap (where sts are picked up. This means a similar width as the current one as extension upwards might mean a smaller sleeve cap width but in this instance I think the same width might work better) it might fit better?..

    • I can see why you would think that the shoulders are the issue, but from the underarms up, this sweater body is identical to Chuck with only a different sleeve cap, and the shoulders of that sweater fit fine. I do think that with this technique you’ll have to assume that the shoulder will stretch and make narrower shoulders from the start. There’s no structure in the upper body of this sweater so everything seems to stretch everywhere. If you have that in mind when figuring out stitch counts before you start, you can adjust to make it work, but I didn’t know it would do that.

  • I have done contiguous set-in sleeves once and I’m not sold. I hadn’t even considered the issues you brought up, but they are definitely true of the one sweater I made. My issue is with the wear. I think Set-in sleeves need the structure of a seam or the more solid ridge short-rows create to help maintain its shape and give it enough weight to sit properly on the body. I can see that my contiguous sweater’s sleeve caps are going to be in a different place and shape than they began and I don’t think it’s going to take much time for that to happen. 😛

  • Interesting! I have not tried this, but I’m just about to seam a sweater with set-in sleeves (my first time with this!). I’ve been putting it off for no good reason. I’m sure it won’t be that difficult, but anytime there’s a new technique, I procrastinate.

  • It works, I have designed a few sweaters & cardigans using this method. The key is not to make the shoulders too wide. You need to end the shoulder “seam” on the outside of your bra strap (but still on your strap) if you know what I mean. This makes the sleeves hug your shoulders more.

    Vera 🙂

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