Seamless Knitting: Sleeves the Easy Way

We’re about to release the Fall 2016 issue of Love of Knitting, and I couldn’t be more excited. First, it contains stunning projects for autumn weather—look for a post, with images, soon. This is just a sneak preview for now. Second, we’re releasing three premiere patterns honoring some highly deserving designers. Third, this issue advances my sleevevangelism! I love seamless knitting, especially when it comes to sleeves.

Seamless knitting: sleeves from the cuff up, joined with a special method.
Kristen TenDyke’s Goblet Cardigan, a premiere pattern.

Ever since I discovered seamless knitting, I’ve been hooked (needled?) and have tried to convert others to methods of seamless construction. In particular, I’m on a mission to get people into seamless sleeves. Raglans and circular yokes offer easy ways to get around sewing in sleeves—and you’ll see beautiful examples of each when the issue appears. Set-in sleeves, however, are a little more challenging.

Before I saw the light, I hated sewing set-in sleeves. The sleeve seam was tedious to sew and then uncomfortable to wear. But the cap was the worst! Oh, there was nothing easy about easing in fullness. My caps didn’t fit neatly into the armhole. Pulling out puckered seams was ghastly. I gnashed my teeth and thought, “There MUST be a better way!” Then I discovered how to pick up stitches around the armhole and knit the sleeve from the top downward. I was saved! (And the Fall 2016 issue has great sweaters that use this technique too.)

Not all sleeve designs will turn out properly with this method, unfortunately. Some motifs and stitch patterns cannot be turned upside-down, or they will look funny. But other sleeveangelists created the perfect solution: the simultaneous set-in sleeve, knit from the bottom up! Kristen TenDyke, a guru of seamless knitting, uses this very technique in her classic Goblet Cardigan, a premiere pattern. (It will not be printed in the magazine; buy it here.)

Simultaneous set-in sleeves use a visual trick to work. You knit the sweater body from the bottom up, to the base of the armhole. Then you put the body aside and make both sleeves, again stopping at the base of the armhole. Then you join all these pieces in what the pattern calls a yoke. But this yoke is shaped so that it looks like you’ve sewn set-in sleeves to the armhole opening.

Compare this “yoke” to other styles used in seamless knitting. On the left, the green Embossed Leaves Pullover has a standard circular yoke: there’s no visual separation between sleeves, front, and back so the leaves make an uninterrupted pattern. In the center, our Orbit Pullover in tones of purple features raglan shaping, with slanted lines setting off sleeve and body. (You’ll see both these sweaters in more detail when we reveal the Fall issue. I mentioned this was a sneak peek, didn’t I?)

Kristen’s Goblet Cardigan on the right simply realigns all the decreases to create a vertical line distinguishing sleeve from body. This sleeve knitting technique is not difficult. I had a hard time visualizing the steps the first time I tried it. Then I simply put my faith in the designer and followed instructions. Behold: a perfect set-in sleeve emerged! It was a miracle!

Seamless knitting in 3 kinds of sleeves.

Please, please, come to Seamless (knitting)! Save yourself from more of my bad puns—I promise to pursue better wordplay if you join me!

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