Designing the Perfect Cardigan Part 2 | Adjusting the Sleeve Top

in NeedleWorkMonday2 months ago (edited)

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Last week, I started designing my perfect cardigan pattern by blending two different pattern sizes together to match my body measurements. This week, I'm selecting the sleeve size and modifying the sleeve top to fit the armscye I've created on the body.

The first task was checking my arm circumferences against the standard pattern sizes. Although these measurements are not usually given, you can extract them from the pattern. Size L matched well:

Body measurementcmsSize L
Forearm24cms49 stitches/18 stitches x 10cms = 27.2 cms
Bicep30cms73 stitches/18 stitches x 10cms = 40.5cms

Size L
Tension: 18 stitches and 28 rows = 10 cms
From the pattern:
Cast on 49 stitches at cuff.
Increase to 73 stitches at widest part of sleeve.
The sleeve length is easier to adjust as you go along.

These measurements allowed appropriate ease at each place - tighter at the cuff and room for movement higher on the arm. Although knitted fabrics are more forgiving than woven fabrics because they are stretchy, the bicep measurement is one that can vary a lot. I have quite skinny arms to go with my small upper chest, but other women can be larger and this measurement is worth checking.

You may be wearing other garments underneath the cardigan which will give extra bulk. In addition, the texture of this pattern and the thickness of the yarn create more bulk.

The next thing was comparing the armscye length adjusted for my body measurements against the sleeve top edge length in the pattern.

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I knitted an armhole depth (from the shoulder to the underarm) of 21 cms. The armscye length, shown by the red thread, is longer to provide enough width for the fabric to go under the arms. My armscye is 26 cms.

The corresponding edge of the pattern sleeve top is 22 cms:

Cast off 5 stitches x 2 rows210
Dec 1 each end x 5 rows510
Dec 1 each end alt rows x 366
Dec 1 each end foll 4th row x 284
Work 1 row10
Dec 1 each end alt rows x 61212
Dec 1 each end x 7 rows714
Cast off remaining stitches-17
Total rows and stitches4173
Total cast off (c/o) stitches/2-13.5

To calculate length of pattern sleeve top
41 rows/28 rows x 10 cms = 14.64 cms
13.5 c/o stitches/18 stitches x 10cms = 7.5 cms
Total length = 14.64 + 7.5 = 22.14 cms
There is a variation of about 4cms between the pattern measurements and my armscye measurements. Knitting is quite stretchy and you can leave differences of up to about 5cms: simply ease the larger piece to fit the smaller piece when you are making them up.

If I wanted the pieces to match exactly, I can calculate how many extra rows I would need and add them where it says work 1 row in the pattern:
28 rows/10 cms x 4cms = 11 rows. My tension tends to be a bit looser than the pattern, so I'm going to add 5 rows and see how it works out.

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My calculations. The lefthand page has the rows set out for increasing the sleeve width from the cuff to under the arm - this is so I can keep check on both sleeves! As I complete each row, I cross the number with a forward slash for one sleeve and a backward slash for the second sleeve.

Before starting the sleeves, I did pin together the shoulder seams and try on the cardigan for fit. I was really pleased with it: it covers the full bust without straining 😵, and the shoulders and neckline sit snugly.

I have sewn together one shoulder seam with back stitch, but the second one will have to wait until I am in the right mood. In other garments, I have used the three needle cast off technique (two needles with each of the back or front shoulder stitches; and one needle for picking up the corresponding stitch from each needle and knitting together before casting off). I prefer this for a smoother seam (and less sewing up).

The sleeves shouldn't take too long to knit - they are fairly small pieces. Then there will just be inserting the sleeves into the cardigan : I prefer to do this in the round, so I would sew the underarm seam to create a tube and then set the tube into the armscye. Then finishing the neckline and adding the buttons! Yay!

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I'm amazed how much patience you have, truly amazing, congratulations! I used to do knitting, but I guess I don't have the patience anymore.

I think you have to really like knitting to have the patience to do it 😃.
I knit quite slowly and I love the rhythm of it, I find it really pleasing, soothing and relaxing. When I was younger, I used to knit for the pleasure - I never actually made anything 😂. The best thing is having several items on the go so that whenever I have a few moments (on the phone, sitting down with a cup of tea), I can pick up some knitting and get a few lines done.

This project, to find/create the perfect pattern, is a good idea, because then your fingers learn the pattern and you can drift away and become immersed in listening to a play or an audiobook or a podcast or just your own thoughts. It's like time-out or meditation. I read an article yesterday about "knit anywhere" because people will come and ask what you are knitting.

Good to see you, hope life is treating you well 😍

"knit anywhere"

This reminds me of Miss Marple 😂

You are right, I fully agree with you and i know from experience how it is. I've created cardigans, sweaters and what not when I was younger. Maybe one day I'll return to knitting, although sewing is my love now 😄

Thank you for the engagement tokens, it's nice to return to the Needlework group from time to time. I hope I can show you something new soon 😀

This reminds me of Miss Marple 😂

Please don't encourage me, I already have ideas for an elderly knitting sleuth with superpowers 😂.

From where I stand, you don't need encouragement 😂 I can already see you with you little stylish basket, full of yarns 😂😂


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Ambitious of you to do set-in sleeves. I always have a hard time with those because my row gauge never matches a pattern even when my stitch gauge does. Perhaps I should follow your lead and make my own pattern? !BEER

Hello @fiberfrau how are you? Good to see you.

I have a similar problem with row gauge, it rarely if ever matches the pattern. I'm using the pattern tension here for simplicity to explain the calculations. It's exactly why I'm making my own pattern. Once I've learned the construction considerations, I'll be free to experiment with colours and texture.

Thank you for the beer and bbh 🙂

I guess it is comforting to know I am not alone in my struggle with row gauge.

I'm sure it must affect many people - knitting is so individual.


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Experimenting with different molds until finding the one that is perfect is a challenge, I hope everything ends in the best way ❤️.

Thank you @lauramica, I'm enjoying the process 😍.


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I am so impressed with the technicality you are using here. When I was making my own patterns for clothes, I got it right for the tunic I made, but so far I haven't quite gotten it right with shirts that go underneath. Looking at all your math, I'm like, oh, see, this is what a smart person does. LOL
I love the pattern on your cardigan, too. Can't wait to see more of your project as you progress! :D

I think there is a formula for calculating the curvature and decreases at the base of the sleeve top, this attempt is a bit of a mix and match, but I'm enjoying it 😁.

What are you finding with the shirts? Shaping woven fabrics around the dimensions and curves of a human body is quite a challenge, knitting is much more forgiving on the whole.

I love the pattern, too, it is so satisfying to knit. Once I've got the construction right, I'm looking forward to experimenting with more patterns.


Yeah woven fabrics is where it got weird making the shirts. No stretch, lol. I'm not suuuuuure what I was doing wrong as I was piecing them out based off of favorite shirts I already owned, however said model shirts were stretch fabric and not woven. That being said, I think part of the forgivingness of stretch fabric being such a noticeable difference on a bottom layer might be because of my scoliosis? Like I have woven fabric bought shirts, but they're all outer layers like button-downs, so they're looser than inner layers which is what I was trying to model off of (thermals, specifically). The ones I made out of woven fabric just feel askew somehow in a way I can't quite define, and so that's what I'm wondering. My little twist isn't noticeable if it's loose enough or stretch fabric, but if I'm using woven fabric I should model it off of looser outer shirts that are also woven fabric, I think.

Yes, I think you've pinpointed the issue there - knit garments (like thermals), tend to have negative ease, they have some give in them, so using them as a pattern for a woven fabric would be a challenge. I think you're right with your solution 🙂.

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