How to improvise a top-down sweater, Part 4: Separating the sleeves and body

separating sleeves from body on a top-down sweater

To quickly recap, you know you’re done knitting your yoke when you’ve met a couple of criteria: 1) You’ve worked enough increase rounds to attain the targeted number of stitches in each of your sleeve and body sections, giving you your desired dimensions (when factoring in the anticipated cast-on underarm stitches). 2) The raglans are long enough to reach the target spot, somewhere south of your armpit, where you’ll be casting on the underarm stitches. Note that I’ve added pics of my finished yoke to the previous post (and to the Ravelry page). Which means it’s time to talk about separating the body from the sleeves.

We’re going to do this with the assumption that the body will be knitted first, followed by the sleeves, although you’re free to proceed in any order you like. You’ve presumably finished a full yoke round, so you’re at your front-center marker. Drop that marker and work to your first raglan marker. You’ll also be dropping all of your raglan markers as you come to them. (Remember that what happens to any raglan seam stitches is up to you. I have two stitches running down the center of my raglans, and I’m splitting them right down the middle: One will become a body stitch and one a sleeve stitch.) Transfer the sleeve stitches onto waste yarn. On your right needle, cast on the number of underarm stitches you determined you’ll need, placing a marker in the center of them — e.g., I’m casting on eight stitches, so placing a marker after the fourth one. Then continue knitting across the back of the sweater. When you come to the right sleeve, same thing: Transfer the sleeve stitches onto waste yarn, cast on your underarm stitches, placing a marker at the center point, then continue with the front stitches. You’ve now got your body joined in the round, with a marker at the center of each side. The left-side marker is your new beginning of round.

For anyone knitting a cardigan, separate the sleeves and body as described above, ignoring the bits about joining in the round — just keep working the body back and forth like you have been.

The image above and detail shot below are of my sweater after the separation round — the sleeve stitches are on waste yarn, and you can see the cast-on stitches at the right underarm, with a white marker in the center of them. Below right is a photo of the sweater on me again after knitting just a few rounds of the body. If you want to knit an inch or two of your body, that’s fine, but don’t go too far until we talk about how to shape the body and sleeves. That’s all that’s left!

top-down try on with armholes

POSTS IN THIS SERIES: [Favorite it on Ravelry]
Introduction / Part 1: Casting on and marking raglans / Part 2: Raglans and neck shaping / Part 3: Finishing the neck and yoke / Part 4: Separating the sleeves and body / Part 5: The art of sweater shaping / Prologue: The possibilities are endless

14 thoughts on “How to improvise a top-down sweater, Part 4: Separating the sleeves and body

  1. Pingback: How to improvise a top-down sweater, Part 3: Finishing the neck and yoke | Fringe Association

  2. Pingback: How to improvise a top-down sweater, Part 2: Raglans and neck shaping | Fringe Association

  3. Pingback: How to improvise a top-down sweater, Part 1: Casting on and marking raglans | Fringe Association

  4. Pingback: How to improvise a top-down sweater: Introduction | Fringe Association

    • Exactly! That’s really the point of working like this. When someone is writing a pattern, they have to make a lot of assumptions and generalizations. But when you’re knitting to your own measurements, trying it on along the way, and moving on to the next step when it’s exactly right, you’re getting a totally customized fit.

  5. I’ve read all the posts, thank you so much for this. I have been thinking about armholes, because on the last sweater I knit for my daughter was bottom up, and I got the idea to put the under arm stitches on hold and then kitchener stitch them together.

    So my thoughts are to use a provisional cast on under the arm, remove it later to get live stitches, and then to knit in them for the sleeve (or do the same on the sleeve and then graft, which was my plan until I read your posts).

    I’m not sure if this will work – now I have the know-how to give it a try!
    Thank you again!

  6. Hi, I am in the process of following your instructions and I a little mixed up on the underarm cast on stitches. This is what I think I’m supposed to do… Cast on for the underarm on each side (will count towards body sts) and again cast on underarm sts for each sleeve. So if my underarm cast on sts = 8, I will cast on 8 sts to each sleeve, and a total of 16 for the body portion? It seems every time I read this, I see info I didn’t see last time! Would like to end the “do over” cycle.

    • Hi, Pamela. You certainly can do it that way, and then seam the armhole closed at the end. (Or do what Kay Gardiner does and leave it open for venting purposes!) My preference, described at the beginning of the next installment of this tutorial, is to pick up and knit one stitch in each of the cast-on underarm stitches.

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