I'm working on a top-down raglan sweater right now, and I love this method for a couple of reasons: I like being able to try it on as I go (which I did last night and it fits perfectly!), and I love how the increases look on the raglan sleeves.
This will be the third top-down raglan I've knitted, and I was thinking the other day about different constructions-within-the-construction, i.e., is there a different way to do sleeves on a top-down sweater?
I found my answer in Kristeen Griffin-Grimes's French Girl Knits, which was on my bookshelf long before I started working at Interweave. She details knitting legend Barbara Walker's technique of knitting top-down sweaters with set-in sleeves.
And it's so easy!
Here's Kristeen to spell it out for us.
Barbara Walker's description of seamless set-in sleeve
construction in Knitting from the Top provides inspiration as well as
in-depth detail for this intriguing technique. It gives knitters who love
seamless construction the means to achieve the sophisticated look of made-in-pieces
sweaters without the tricky and often frustrating armhole seams. This
construction technique is especially useful for sweaters worked in solid colors
or with fine-gauge yarns, where poorly sewn seams are obvious.
Top-down & Set-in
|Top-down sweaters with set-in sleeves
This method has an elegant simplicity that knitters of all skill levels can
achieve. I'm partial to this method because it gives a smooth look, requires
that only a few stitches be picked up at the top of the shoulder (rather than
around the entire armhole), and produces a tidy, almost invisible seam line, depending
on the type of increase.
For this method, the sweater begins at the shoulder line with a provisional
cast-on for the entire width of the shoulders. This approach lets the work
progress in two directions-down the front and down the back. You work the front
and back separately, with short-rows worked across the back to add a bit more
fabric at the back neckline (Figure 1), until each measures about a third of
the way to the underarms.
You then join front and back as you pick up stitches
for the sleeves at each armhole edge (Figure 2).
For a pullover, work across the front stitches, pick up stitches for the left
sleeve, work across the back, pick up stitches for the right sleeve, then join
for working in rounds.
For a cardigan or a pullover with a low neckline, the row begins at the left
front and ends at the right front. Continue to work
the body and sleeves together to the base of the armholes (Figure 3).
point on, you work the garment the same way as a top-down raglan—you knit the body down to the hem, shaping the bust, waist, and hips along the
way, and you knit the sleeves down to the cuffs, using decreases to create the
desired taper (Figure 4).—from French Girl Knits
Kristeen's design Viola uses this method; isn't it a darling sweater? I love the feminine accents at the neck and sleeve cuffs, and that button cuff is so smart.
||Viola, from French Girl Knits
Kristeen has a wonderful story about her inspiration for Viola: "Stringed instruments hold a special place in my
life. Once upon a time, my husband and I were itinerant musicians. It wasn't
that we lacked a home; we were simply on a journey to a place we hadn't yet
found. Along the way we played music on the street for a bit of money to propel
our crusty Dodge van just one mile farther.
We actually met each other on the street, or more correctly the road, a wide
esplanade in Santa Barbara called "The Green," where hitchhikers gathered in
hopes of a ride north. When the van in which he was riding pulled up, he jumped
out, guitar in hand. I jumped in, also toting a guitar. To this day, I bless
whatever force pushed him back into that van and my life.
Viola was named for the stringed instrument whose curvaceous shape inspired its
silhouette and whose rich wood called for the wine-deep tint of the yarn. Add
floaty edgings to this top-down, set-in sleeve beauty if you wish or keep it as clean
and simple as a well-played sonata."
Isn't that sweet?
If you don't have French Girl Knits
, now's your chance to pick up a copy for a song
(perhaps accompanied by a viola?), because it's on sale!