Knitting a Raglan Sweater

I just finished a raglan sweater, and I'm really enjoying wearing it. It's comfy and the style is flattering, if I do say so myself.

    
The Banstead Pullover by Lisa Shroyer, from her book Knitting Plus
Sigma Tee by Melissa Wherle, from the eBook Easy Seamless Sweaters to Knit

Being a word person, I got to wondering about the origin of the word "raglan," so I did a little research.

The raglan sleeve got its name from Englishman FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, the 1st Baron Raglan, who lost his arm in the Battle of Waterloo. His tailor developed this style of sleeve to be more comfortable for him after the loss of his arm.

Interestingly, in the Crimean War Baron Raglan fought alongside British Army General James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, after whom the cardigan sweater is named!

Isn't that cool? I just love this sort of historical stuff.

Here's Interweave Knits Editor and Knitting Plus author Lisa Shroyer, to tell you more about raglan construction and how it works for plus-size knitting.

Ah, the raglan. A sporty bit of knitwear that can take on many personalities—feminine and lacey, structured and austere, simple and chunky, or refined and fitted.

The raglan is characterized by diagonal shaping along the join between the sleeve cap and upper body. These diagonal seams are created by regular decreases that gradually taper the yoke from the underarm width to the neck width. Both sleeve cap and yoke are truncated triangles. The sleeve cap extends all the way to the neck edge.

A raglan has a true yoke, often worked in one piece, and is particularly suited to working in the round. The casual, sporty look of raglans gives them a somewhat youthful look that has long made them a favorite in knitwear.

Raglans can be attractive on plus-size women, but it's an issue of individual shape. Because the raglan lines draw the eye in from the curves of the bust, they're quite flattering on curvy women—emphasizing the bust while creating a look of feminine narrowness across the shoulders. On small-busted women, especially those with large upper arms or lower bodies, these same lines can serve to emphasize that disproportion.

The extended sleeve cap, which matches the yoke in depth and number of rows, has a diagonal tension (a line of stress in the fabric) that cuts across the outer arm and shoulder and can be uncomfortable for women with larger upper arms or broad shoulders. The sleeve cap has to stretch over the outer joint of the shoulder and across the top of the shoulder to the neckline, requiring a flat plane of fabric to curve over an angled area.

For some women, this construction can result in sleeves appearing too short and too tight, and can create discomfort at the underarm and armhole. If a raglan is worked with plenty of positive ease, however, these problems are alleviated.


    

The Audubon Shrug by Lisa Shroyer,
from her book Knitting Plus

Raglan Construction

When working a raglan sweater, each piece can be worked bottom-up or top-down. The body and sleeves can be worked separately in pieces that are seamed together or the body and sleeves can be worked in the round to the armholes, then joined and worked in a single piece to the neck. The sleeve cap is a triangle that mirrors the shape of the armhole, with the top of the sleeve (the neck edge) measuring 0" to 4" (0 to 10 cm); plus sizes fit best with at least 1" (2.5 cm) remaining at the top of the sleeve.

Because the top of the sleeve forms the neck edge, the front neck shaping can be included in the final rows of the sleeves—angle the top of the cap by working more shaping on the side that will correspond with the front of the body. The sleeve cap and body can be shaped at different rates or at the same rate; just remember that in most cases, the sleeve and body need to have the same number of rows or rounds between the armhole and the neck. In raglans worked from the bottom up, the raglan shaping is achieved with decreases.

To work a raglan from the top down, you would begin at the neck edge and achieve the raglan shaping with increases. This is a useful construction that allows you to try on the sweater as you go.

—Lisa Shroyer, from Knitting Plus

The raglan style is fun to knit, and I love how the shaping becomes a design element. In Melissa Wherle's Sigma Tee, she uses dropped stitches along the raglan sleeve shaping. So cute for a summer tee, don't you think?

Lisa's designs from Knitting Plus are lovely. I have the Banstead Pullover in my queue; the slightly ruched slip-stitch panel at the center front is such a neat element, and so flattering. I love the neckline, too. The Audubon Shrug is truly special. Its deep back covers any unsightly lumps we may have, and the tailored style is classic.

I enjoy raglan knitting, and I know you will, too. Download Knitting Plus or Easy Seamless Sweaters to Knit—they're both on sale, along with all of our other eBooks!

Cheers,

P.S. What's your favorite sweater style to knit—raglan, set-in sleeves, dolman? Tell us, in the comments!

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Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

11 thoughts on “Knitting a Raglan Sweater

  1. My mother suffers from scoliosis and osteoporosis, and one of her shoulders is markedly higher than another. It seems that her clothes are always falling off her shoulders, and there is always a gap around her neck. We finally tried a raglan sweater pattern, and our LYS was able tailor a pattern to fit. She is so pleased with the results, that she will knit this again and again (with a little help).

  2. Love the raglan shape, but hate seaming- especially the tiny “few-stitches” at the tops of raglan sleeves! Try to convert all raglan patterns to in-the-round and avoid this,

  3. Could someone speak more about knitting the body and the sleeves together after the underarm bind off? I love this method, but can’t ever find directions for it. I’m working a pattern now that the body raglan is decreased faster than the sleeves. Any information, directions, links would be appreciated ASAP since I’m almost at that point!! Nothing like waiting until the last minute!

  4. The Lord Raglan of the Battle of Waterloo (1815) and the Lord Raglan of “the Charge of the Light Brigade” in the Crimean War (1854) were likely related but almost certainly not the same man – too separated by time. Thanks for the factoid about Lord Cardigan. Both were part of the famous Charge. Poem is by Tennyson.
    “Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon in front of them
      Volley’d and thunder’d;
    Storm’d at with shot and shell,
    Boldly they rode and well,
    Into the jaws of Death,
    Into the mouth of Hell
      Rode the six hundred.”

  5. The Lord Raglan of the Battle of Waterloo (1815) and the Lord Raglan of “the Charge of the Light Brigade” in the Crimean War (1854) were likely related but almost certainly not the same man – too separated by time. Thanks for the factoid about Lord Cardigan. Both were part of the famous Charge. Poem is by Tennyson.
    “Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon in front of them
      Volley’d and thunder’d;
    Storm’d at with shot and shell,
    Boldly they rode and well,
    Into the jaws of Death,
    Into the mouth of Hell
      Rode the six hundred.”

  6. I recently completed a raglan sleeve cardigan pattern and I enjoy this sleeve over the set-in sleeve. They fit my shoulders better in such a way that there is no bulk. I’m probably not the best sewer when it comes to set-in sleeves, so they tend not to look polished, like a raglan would. Thanks for your Knitting Daily posts, Kathleen. I do enjoy reading them.
    Nancy

  7. hi
    I have a question. Is this ebook suitable just for plus-size knitting?
    or everybody can use it?
    Because I am looking for a good book to learn the knitting techniques like how to calculate for raglan sleeve and so on. and i suppose this book can be helpful . but i don’t know is it useful for me or not because i am not a plus size.

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