Not Martha

fifth sweater: bumbling starts to my top down raglan

I decided to try to make a top down raglan cardigan with some bulky yarn I have because having no seams, and therefore less bulk, sounded appealing. Working from the top down will also allow me to make 3/4 sleeves in case I start to run out of yarn, which I’m afraid of.

Taken from the Google Books pages of Knitting In Plain English is this:

The basic idea behind a knit-in-one-piece-from-the-top-down raglan sweater is to make a carefully calculated rectangle that grows bigger every other row and keeps the same proportions until that rectangle is large enough to be divided up into separate sleeves and body.

And this diagram is included, which helps me picture what’s going on nicely:


This is Lana Grossa NewSoft yarn, which has been discontinued. I didn’t intend to do another sweater in gray but a bag of this was half price at kpixie. I like the yarn, it’s surprisingly lightweight and springy for a cotton/nylon yarn.

I decided to make a high neck (it was cold when I started the sweater) so I got a measurement a bit bigger around than my head and cast on 112 stitches using a 2×2 tubular cast on.

Did I use any of the free top-down raglan sweater generating patterns for this? No, that would have been too easy. I did look at one for some guidance on where to start the increases. At first I had my two areas of increasing close together starting on either side of the neck but before I got too far along I realized they were not placed correctly. I ripped back and placed the increase areas equally around the sweater in quarters. I was some way along before I realized that would leave me with two sleeves that would be X inches around and a body that would be 2X inches around, and the circumference of my arms is not equal to that of my bust. (I probably would have known all this had I bothered to read about top down raglans.) So I measured my arms and my bust and found that the ratio is roughly 2to3, arms to bust. So, I divided up the stitches accordingly, moved the areas of increases so they’d line up with the ribbing, and I’ve started knitting down the body for the third time. I’ve been doing m1 right and left slant increases.

The thing that made how to attach arms to a seamless raglan sweater first click for me was this entry at ChicKnits on How to Join Sweater Pieces to Knit in the Round with Two Circular Needles. Glampyre Knits also has a page showing a top down raglan in process which helps me picture how it will work nicely. I’ve been prepared for the trouble that is knitting the sleeves down from the live stitches because you have to lug the full weight of the body of the sweater around each time you turn, though Glampyre knits the sleeves separately and attaches them.

I’ll figure out what type of closure I’m going to use once I reach the end of the sweater and see if I have any yarn left over to do a button band. Now, I just need another circular needle so I can handle the full width of the sweater up to the point before the sleeves are divided.

· comments [12] · 02-3-2009 · categories:knitting ·

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Liz // Feb 3, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Hey, perfect timing! I’m a few rows into the February Lady Sweater–my first top-down raglan cardigan, as well–and I’m realizing that I don’t totally get how this works, either. Like…how the circular (?) collar becomes a square for the yoke. But this is helpful. And at least I’m not the only one who’s confused (but I’m impressed that you’re doing it without a pattern–hardcore, yo).

  • 2 Jane // Feb 3, 2009 at 11:47 am

    I too am knitting my first top down raglan cardigan – Knit and Tonic’s Flair. It was hard to picture, but once you take the sleeves off and put them on spare yarn, it all comes together.

  • 3 maria // Feb 3, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    You could always knit the sleeves first and THEN the body, but I suppose if you’re worried about running out of yarn that’s not the best option. How fun to reverse engineer something that’s already been done. And when you’re finished you can see how close you were to the usual method. I’ve done that with a few things.

  • 4 tasterspoon // Feb 3, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    I’ll be waiting breathlessly till you CUT it into a cardigan! Yikes!

  • 5 megan // Feb 3, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Tasterspoon – Don’t worry, it’s not being worked in the round, it’s already a cardigan, see the first photo.

  • 6 Marnie // Feb 4, 2009 at 8:39 am

    If you ever feel the inclination, you might want to pick up Sweater Design in Plain English.
    She talks about raglans and how this method is good, but that the ratio of stitch depth to width often forces you to knit a sweater that is too bulky in the sleeves in order to be deep enough in the armhole area.

    She has a fairly simple formula for working around this. I used the method for one of my patterns and I think it came out well.

  • 7 ellen // Feb 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Ooh, this sweater looks lovely!

    I’ve recently started dabbling (AGAIN.) in knitting, and I am truly useless at it. Any recommendations for great knitting “how to” books or tutorials that will help me wrap my mind around it?

  • 8 Kristen // Feb 5, 2009 at 7:50 am

    When you get to the part where you knit the sleeves in the round, it definitely helps to put the body of the sweater in some kind of light weight bag and just leave the sleeve sticking out. I used one of my Envirosacs and it worked great.

  • 9 megan // Feb 5, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Thanks Kristen!

  • 10 megan // Feb 5, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Thank you Marnie, I’ll take a look. If this sweater doesn’t work out I might be taking a look sooner rather than later.

  • 11 Cori // Feb 18, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    http://www.cosmicpluto.com/blog/?page_id=397

    Cosmic pluto has a free and easy top down cardigan that can easily be changed based on gauge.

  • 12 Karen // Feb 22, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Don’t worry about the sleeve thing — instead of turning the whole sweater each time your sleeve gets too twisted to continue, just start out by twisting the sleeve counter-clockwise several times; then knit, and you’ll find that it “unwinds” naturally. You do have to retwist fairly often, but it beats sweater-wrestling! Good luck — this is my absolute favourite sweater construction.

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