Sunday, January 30, 2011

attaching raglan sleeves in bottom-up sweaters

I recently helped one of my friends attach the sleeves to her Bellyphant baby sweater, and I admit, it is a little hard to wrap your brain around what you're doing the first time you do this. What you have when you join the sleeves to the sweater body is two small tubes and one large "tube" that is not a tube because it is a cardigan. The difficult thing to imagine beforehand, but what becomes really obvious once you've done it, is that when you're holding a sleeve tube up next to the sweater to attach it, the back side of the sleeve (closest to the armpit) is held with right side facing the right side of body, and the outside of the sleeve is held with right side facing out. So the stitches you are binding off at the armpit are bound off with right sides facing -- using the tail end of the yarn you used to knit the sleeves -- and then you use the working yarn from the body section to knit around the outside of the sleeve all the way to the other side, and then continue working the back of the sweater.

The diagrams in this Vogue Knitting article by Jared Flood help to clarify this all. Jared has you put the armpit sleeves on holders rather than binding them off. If that is easier for you, by all means, do it his way. For me, I like as little finishing as possible, so I like the three-needle bindoff.

So here's the process as I am working that row where the arm stitches are joined:

First I knit the right number of stitches of the body section for the cardigan front. Then I hold my sleeve up to the body section. (I've been working the sleeves magic-loop, so half the sleeve stitches are on one side of the circular needle and half are on the other, and the two needles are both facing with the points to the right.) I use the length of yarn that's hanging off the sleeve stitches to bind off the right number of stitches of the body and the sleeve together with three-needle-bindoff. The sleeve needle that I am binding stitches off of is the back needle of the sleeve (the one that has purl stitches facing me as I am looking at the sleeve tube). After I've finished binding off these stitches, I knot that yarn from the sleeve and drop it. Then I pick up the working yarn from the body section and continue knitting across the sleeve -- but this time I knit across the top needle of the sleeve (the one that has the knit stitches facing me). When I have knit all the sleeve stitches, I go on across the back of the body section until I get to the next sleeve and repeat the process.

Does that help at all? It sounds really hard until you do it. It's hard to visualize ahead of time and to describe in words, but it's very intuitive when you are actually knitting.

Side note: some knitters on Ravelry have wondered why I designed this one bottom-up instead of top-down like the other raglan sweater patterns I've done. The answer is that there's a little bit of variability in people's row gauge, and if you are knitting the sweater top-down, it's hard to be precise about placing the elephants at the bottom and making sure that the sweater is the right length. If you start with the elephants, you can knit the striped part of the body as long as you need it to be before adding the sleeves -- the stripe is only a 4-row repeat but the elephants are something like 18 rows tall.


Lori Breuker said...

Thanks for posting this, I hope this will help, I am sure it will. I just need to read it through a a couple more times. I have done top down and have had no problem, its just this bottom up thing I am sure.
Thanks again, I will let you know and hopefully post a picture when I get it done.
Lori Breuker

abby said...

Reading about knitting does my head in sometimes. Much better if someone shows me. BUT you've done a really nice job explaining and I think I might just give this a go!

Lizzzzzz said...

It's me. I'm the confused friend! I'm the now famous confused friend!

Carole said...

Right on with that added note about the length of the sweater (for my long-waisted grandson) and even placement of elephants or anything else. Additionally, I prefer the look of a "knit together decrease" moving up the raglan line over the "increase" look. I also love double point needles for the sleeves.

Your designs are quite lovely. Thanks for sharing.

Maria said...

I come back often looking for some new entries... but nothing!!! Some of us miss your postings! Come back!!

Julie said...

You're post has really helped me understand how to attach sleeves in a bottom up sweater but I'm still a little foggy on the bind off part. You mention using 3 needle bind off on 1 side of sleeve/body but not the other side before joining the sleeve to the body. My pattern says to bind off 4 sts on all sides of markers, so would I do the 3 needle bind off again before starting to knit sleeve onto the body needles? And would I use the sleeve tail to do this? I've knit the sleeves 2 at a time in magic loop and the body on circular needles. Thanks!
Julie Silistria