The Top-Down Sleeve

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a new video because I am in the process of putting the whole method into an ebook (coming soon). I thought is would be a fairly quick process (hysterical laughter here). It hasn’t been, and that’s why the videos have been temporarily tabled. However, I’ve had several requests for information on how to work the sleeve, and I hate to leave anyone hanging.

So here is a quick and dirty description of how to knit a top-down sleeve:

1. Measure upper arm and add half of body ease (e.g., if your body ease was 3″, add 1-1/2″ to upper arm measurement).
2. Use your stitch gauge to compute the number of stitches this is. This is the number of stitches you need to pick up around the sleeve opening. You will pick up the bound-off underarm stitches one-for-one, so subtract this number from the total to get the number of stitches distributed around the rest of the sleeve. You could count the total number of rows and figure out a ratio, or be a little more casual and divide the sleeve up by folding and placing markers. Whatever method you choose, you will also want to place markers at the shoulder seam, and 1/3 of the way down each side of the opening.
3. With right side facing you and a 16″ circular or double-points, start at center of underarm and place a marker. Pick up the bound-off stitches one for one, then pick up the rest of the way around in the proportion you’ve determined, and finish with the rest of the bound-off stitiches.
4. Knit around again, up one side, past the shoulder seam marker and on to the 1/3 marker beyond. You will now start short-rowing. Wrap and turn at the 1/3 marker, purl back across the shoulder seam again to the other 1/3 marker. Wrap and turn.
5. Here’s the pattern now: work back and forth across the cap, each time working one additional stitch past the last row, then wrapping, turning, and working back. According to my sources, you don’t need to pick up the loop–it’s supposed to snuggle into the seam.
6. When you reach the bound-off stitches, work straight across them, picking up the center underarm marker, and your sleeve cap is worked. From then on you’re working in the round and decreasing to shape the sleeve.
7. To figure decreases, measure your fist. This is the cuff measurement. Figure the number of stitches this is. Subtract this from the number of stitches in your upper arm to get the number of stitches to decrease–round up or down to make it an even number. You will be decreasing one stitch on each side of the center marker.
8. Check your row gauge to figure how often to decrease. Typically on the sleeve it is two stitches on a right-side row every four rows, but do what works.
9. When your sleeve is as long as you want it (minus edging), work your edging stitch and bind off.

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17 Responses to “ The Top-Down Sleeve ”

  1. tienchinho Says:

    Thank you for this series of videos. Watching another knitter’s design process is fascinating and educational. Your presentation is also lovely, neither rushed nor tedious. I look forward to seeing more.

  2. Line Bork Says:

    Thank you so much for your introductions. They are really useful. But I can not find the measurement table as you showed in your videos. Where can I find it?

  3. Line Bork Says:

    You are a great teacher. Thank you a lot!!! look forward to seeing your demo videos.

  4. admin Says:

    If you look under the “Design Your Sweater” tab, you’ll see a video for taking measurements. If you read the accompanying text, you should find a link for the Measurements Form–in my browser the link is in red text, but not underlined.

  5. Marcia Says:

    Thanks very much for the excellent videos. You managed to pack a lot of information is such a clear way, it is impressive.
    Do you think I can use your principle on a mid size doll? I check the measurements, and it could make sense as a first project.
    Do you have any suggestions?
    again, thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge with us.

  6. admin Says:

    Absolutely– a sweater for a doll will be easier, because she can’t complain. Seriously, if your doll has a tube-shaped body (more like that of a child), you could skip the set-in sleeve. The body of the sweater could be rectangular, with sleeves picked up along a straight armhole edge.

  7. admin Says:

    Thank you! My nephew is a web designer, and he set the whole thing up for me. Otherwise I would have never been able to figure it out. I can do rudimentary things like create posts, reply to comments, etc. but have found it pretty confusing. I did find a book, WordPress for Dummies, at my library, which helped somewhat. As much as I love the look of the site, if I had it to do over again, I might go with something simpler, like

  8. Valerie Says:

    I am working on my first knitwear design, and was terrified about adding sleeves, because I had no idea how to do it. This is exactly what I was looking for!!! But I have one question… If I wanted the sleeve to have a slight puff to it at the shoulder, should I start my short rows maybe 1/4 of the way down the armhole instead of 1/3? Or will that just make it stick out funny? Or maybe just pick up more stitches around the armhole that normal? Thanks for all you great tips! : )

  9. admin Says:

    I have never worked a puffy sleeve before, but I believe Maggie Rhighetti describes how to make one in Sweater Design in Plain English. If I had to guess, I would just pick up more stitches around the armhole, concentrating them on the top third of the armhole. Again, that’s a guess.

  10. Emily Says:

    You are a great teacher. Thank you a lot!!! look forward to seeing your demo videos.

  11. Valerie Says:

    It’s me again! I worked one sleeve cap (thank you so much for the instructions!) without picking up the loop from the wrap, and it was very obvious when I finished. Mine didn’t snuggle into the seam. It could just be that I’m new at it and didn’t do it tight enough or something, but I pulled out the sleeve cap and I’m going to try it again picking up the loops. Other than that, though, it looked great! : ) You’re awesome!

  12. admin Says:

    I just posted youtube videos on working the sleeve cap: the first one is at Maybe it will help. The trick for me is to hold the contrasting color yarn when I pick up stitches around the armhole. When I’m finished with the sleeve cap, I use the contrasting yarn to help find the pickup row so I can pull the excess yarn out of that row and snug up the seam.

  13. Valerie Says:

    Oh! Wow! That is exactly what I needed! I’m on my third try working my sleeve cap, because I’ve been trying to make the stitches tighter around the seam. I had no idea you could tighten up those picked up stitches. Hopefully I can find the right row to tighten on this first sleeve, without starting over. But I will definitely use contrasting yarn on the next one. THANK YOU!!!

  14. admin Says:

    Excellent–I’m glad it helped.

  15. Tracy Says:

    When shaping the sleeve beyond the cap as you knit toward the cuff, so you do the 2 decreases on either side of center in the same row? For example, say need to decrease every 4 rows, knit a decrease on either side of the center then knit 4 rows evenly then knit a decrease on either side of center again?

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