As of our last installment, you’ve got your stitches cast on and raglan markers placed, so it’s time to get busy! If you’re taking the Reversible approach, you’ve joined for working in the round and knit however many rows of ribbing your heart desires. (Remember we’re using “ribbing” for shorthand when discussing the edge treatment; you may be doing garter or rolled stockinette or whatever.) And you’ve placed your raglan markers during the final round of your ribbing. Because you’re not doing any neck shaping, and you’re already knitting in the round, you’ll only be increasing at the raglans.
If you are taking the Shaped approach, we’ll get to the neck shaping after this little bit about …
Standard operating procedure is: You increase TWO STITCHES at each raglan seam, EVERY OTHER ROW. As I mentioned in Part 1, you have all the liberty in the world where the size and style of your “seams” is concerned. For this demo, I’ve marked off two stitches for the center of each raglan, and I’m doing simple kfb increases on either side of those. You might do m1’s, left and right, or yarnovers, or any increase you like. (Barbara Walker’s book contains a great photo comparison of 10 or 12 different options.) But bottom line is that each increase round involves an increase on each side of four seams, for a total of 8 stitches increased.
If you’re working the Reversible method, go ahead and start working those raglan increase rounds, alternating with straight rounds. For the neck shapers among us, we need to talk about …
In order to shape our front neck, we’ll be working back and forth for the first couple of inches, increasing at the raglans as described above (increasing on every right side row), and also at each end, the front neck stitches. As we add to these stitches, we create a crescent shape, with those front/end stitches reaching gradually toward each other, as seen in the tippy-top pair of photos up there.
There are varying opinions on frequency for this, and it’s part personal taste and part what neck shape you’re after. For a standard crewneck, increase at the neck every other row, same as your raglan increases. For more of a scoop neck, you might choose to increase every fourth row. For a V-neck, the frequency will depend on how deep you want the V to be. A faster rate of increase (i.e., every other row) will mean they’ll meet in the middle in fewer rows, for a shallower V. A slower rate of increase (i.e., every fourth row, or more) will mean they take more rows to meet, for a deeper V. This is relevant, too, if you’re knitting a cardigan — the rate of the neck increase will determine the shape of the neck and front of the cardigan in exactly the same way, from a crewneck to a jewel neck to a shallow V or more of a deep “boyfriend” V. For this crewneck, I’m increasing the neck stitches every other row, same as the raglans.
For a V-neck, you keep increasing until you have the same number of stitches in the back and in the two fronts combined, and the front stitches should meet when you lay it around your neck. But for a crewneck, there comes a point where you cast on additional stitches so you can join for working in the round. Again, when you do that is up to you. As your crescent grows, lay it around your neck — being mindful of where the raglans are sitting on your shoulders — and see what you think.* Mine, in the photo at top right, is about three inches of knitting (measured down the center of the back) and I’m happy with the dip at that point, ready to connect the ends. If you want a bigger differential between the back and the front, keep knitting and trying it on until you’re happy with it — just remember if you keep going you’ll wind up with a V-neck.
JOINING THE NECK
The only functional difference between a cardigan and a pullover is that the cardigan is never joined for working in the round — you just stop increasing at the ends and continue knitting back and forth for the whole sweater body. For a V-neck pullover, as noted, just join your stitches once your endpoints meet. For a crewneck, however, once you’ve got your desired neck shape, you need to cast on stitches to bridge the gap. How do you know how many? You count. Traditionally, we make pullovers with the same number of front and back stitches. So count your back stitches, then count your two bits of front stitches, add those together, and cast on the difference. Me, I’ve got 37 back stitches and 13 stitches on each side of the front, for a total of 26 front stitches. So I need 11 more. That’s my cast-on number.
Using backwards loop or whatever you like, cast on those additional stitches at the end of a right-side row — which will have been an increase row; remember that. Using a 24-inch circular, join for working in the round. But there’s the question of where your new BOR (beginning of round) is. Some patterns tell you, when you get to your first stitch marker, to switch it out for a contrasting marker, and this is your new BOR. Others will tell you to put a marker in the middle of your new cast-on stitches and that‘s your BOR. Either will work, but the latter is the more meticulous choice, as it will keep your increases at that front-left raglan more properly paired within the round.
Once you’ve joined and knitted a few rounds, put it on again and make sure you’re happy with the size and shape of your neck. You’ve done very little knitting so far — just a few small inches. It’s no big deal at this point to rip it out, make whatever adjustments and knit it again.
OK, so that was the hardest part! From this point forward, there’s no difference between the Reversible and Shaped methods. Assuming we’re doing a pullover, we’re all joined in the round, working only from the right side of the fabric, and continuing to work our raglan increases on every other round. What we’re creating now is our yoke. Carry on, but don’t knit more than a few inches of your yoke before the next installment, in which we’ll talk about how to know when you’re done increasing.
* A note about trying on your sweater: You should do it a lot — that’s the whole point of knitting in this fashion. To do so, you’ll need to be able to spread out your stitches to really see what you’ve got. You can always slip them all onto waste yarn, then back onto the needles, but that’s tedious. The best bet is to either knit or slip half the stitches onto a second needle. Both needles will need a cord that’s at least half the circumference of the sweater. Pull all four needle ends free (as seen in the lower left photo above), so the stitches rest on the cables, and then you can easily pull the sweater on and off over your head. (See also: Save time at try-on) My habit is to pretty much do this on the last round each night. I put it on before I put it away, see how I’m doing, and note what I need to do next. Be sure to keep good notes for yourself throughout this entire process!
POSTS IN THIS SERIES: [Favorite it on Ravelry]
Pattern + overview / 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 / Epilogue: The possibilities are endless
NOTE: The photos and methodology described in this post were both updated in August 2016.