A possibly boring post about sleeves

It has finally gotten cold in England.  There may even be snow on the way.  What does your friendly knitting mom do on a freezing cold afternoon?  Why, make her daughter stand in the cold in a T-shirt modelling a knitted sleeve. To add insult to injury, the sleeve is for her sister’s sweater.  Here is Leah, shivering but being a good sport modelling the sleeve for the Venetian Audrey sweater:


You might recall that Audrey is designed by Kim Hargreaves to be knit flat. I decided to re-write  the pattern to (1) knit it in the round, and (2) re-size it for an XS as the pattern directions had too much ease.   I described my reasoning behind both of these in this post.   It was fairly easy to re-write the sweater body.  The written pattern calls for 96 stitches to be cast on for a size small.  I cast on twice this number, or 192, joined in the round, and knit in K2P2 rib (starting with K1, P2, K2, and ending with a K1; this keeps a K2 rib up the center sides).  I already said that the pattern had too much ease, so why did I start with so many stitches?  Well, despite the fact that Emma is very thin, she is also quite curvy and has hips.  I also hate sweaters that are too clingy on the hips.  For Emma’s figure, I want the sweater to be fairly loose on the hips and then to pull in quite dramatically for her waist.  (I used to be shaped exactly the same about 30 years ago!)

Bear with me now as we delve into technical detail.  The pattern calls for 4 sets of double decreases, each decrease being made about 4″ in from the side seams.  When knit in the round, this means 8 stitches decreased on each decrease row for a total of 32 stitches decreased.  I made 7 sets of decreases for a total of 56 stitches decreased, to 136 stitches (68 each side).  The pattern calls for 74 stitches at the waist for an XS and 80 for a S.  So, I have now decreased from a size S at the hips, to 6 stitches less (per side) than the XS.  The bust increases are single, rather than double, increases so each increase row adds 4 stitches when knitting in the round.  As the shaping disrupts the K2P2 pattern, and the aim is to end up with the pattern intact, you must make sure that after your increases are complete you have K2P2 all the way around.  I made 6 sets of increases, to end up with 160 stitches (80 each side).

OK, that takes care of the body, but what to do with the sleeves?  I want to knit them in the round, but this means I need to make some decisions about how to incorporate the increases into the pattern.  In the original pattern, increases are made at the edges, and then the sleeves are sewn together.  My first issue is how many stitches to cast on.  The pattern calls for 56.  I know I need less; for the body I was knitting at a ratio of about 8:9 for the size XS (thus, I had roughly 8 stitches on the needle for every 9 stitches in the XS).  Looking at the pattern, however, I think that the sleeves are designed too wide in proportion to the rest of the sweater.  First, this is because there is no difference in the pattern between the size S sleeve and the size XS.   Second, you can see it in the photo from Rowan 35, where the pattern is published:

theknittinggarden.com-audrey-lgI think that these sleeves look really baggy, so I want to cut back on the number of stitches even more than my 8:9 ratio.  The pattern calls for 56 stitches to be cast on, and I cast on 43.  Why an odd number?  Well, I decided to have a purl stitch running up the center sleeve, and to increase on either side of this stitch, incorporating increases into the K2P2 ribbing pattern.  The increases look like this:

IMG_5841I think it looks kind of interesting, and though I don’t have a good photo to compare with (since my Audrey is knit in black yarn and thus hard to show these kind of details) it looks a lot less messy than the seam on mine.  Here is a close-up:


I increased 8 times, at 2″ intervals for a total of 59 stitches.  My goal was to knit it 2″ longer than the sleeves on my Audrey pullover because Emma has longer arms.  I thought I had done that, but as you can tell from the photos, once it is on it stretches horizontally and this makes it shorter.  This sleeve is not yet long enough for Leah so I have to make it longer still to fit Emma.  I won’t make any more increases, however, as I would have to add 4 more sets of increases to keep the rib in pattern.

It took me an entire week to make this sleeve (egads!), mostly because I kept second guessing myself and measuring and remeasuring and contemplating. Now that I have it all figured out, I hope to turn out the second sleeve fairly quickly.

8 thoughts on “A possibly boring post about sleeves

  1. A bit too complicated for me but very interesting. Wondering, if you weren’t doing so many adjustments, do you usually knit the two sleeves at the same time?

    • Hi Joss, when knitting sleeves in the round, I would do them one at a time of course. When knitting flat, many knitters knit two at a time, and I can see the advantages (mainly making sure that they match and that you have the increases aligned). I have tried it a few times however, and it never seems to work for me. I read a recent post from someone who was doing fair isle knitting and she knit both sleeves in one piece with steeks between them and then cut them apart and sewed them. I love that kind of brazenness.

  2. Not boring at all! It’s always nice to see how others modify patterns and find a way to make things work for them.
    I really like the adjusted sleeve pattern – looks very interesting and like it is supposed to be made that way.

  3. I agree, very interesting and informative. Plus, you’ve managed to transform K2P2 rib into a subtle, stylish detail that takes this sweater to a new level.

    • Thank you; these comments make me feel much better about what I’m doing with this sweater. I find it hard to be second-guessing aspects of it without Emma around to try it on every step of the way. I am really thinking I need a dress dummy, but don’t know where I’d put it.

  4. I agree, not boring at all! It’s part of the process and a good thing you documented it here. Hopefully that second sleeve is coming along nicely. I once read a tip on Rav regarding sleeve length. If you use a provisional cast-on, you can always adjust the sleeve length up or down as needed. Most tips like that go through my mind like a sieve, but that one stuck for a change. It’s food for thought!

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