Time to talk about yoke sizing, but first: You can see my sweater now has its neck ribbing. You can do this anytime, and most patterns tell you to do it at the end, but I like now. Now is good. As previously noted, if I am not completely in love with my neck, I want to know that while it’s not a big deal to rip it out and do it over. So after knitting a little ways past the join, I picked up stitches all the way around and worked my neck band — in this case, 3 inches of ribbing which I folded inward and whipstitched to the cast-on edge. Do whatever rib multiple (or garter stitch or stockinette roll or whatever) and height you like, and bind off very loosely or you won’t be able to get it over your head!
(I’m not going to do a whole picking-up-stitches tutorial here, but I recommend this video. Pick up one stitch through the center of every cast-on stitch — both the original ones and the additionals at the front neck — and 2 in 3 or 3 in 4 stitches along the slopes. For figuring out where to pick up along the sloping sides of the front neck, this diagram might help. I like the one in Pam Allen’s “Knitting for Dummies.” And make sure your total picked-up stitch count is the correct multiple for your ribbing.)
ARM AND CHEST DIMENSIONS
So back to the question of how long we carry on with our raglan increasing. Before we get too far into our yoke (or ideally before we even started), we have to decide, generally, what shape our sweater is going to be. Will it be fitted and shapely? Wide and slouchy? Somewhere in between? If you’re a seasoned sweater knitter or seamstress, you’ll know what you want your bust and upper arm dimensions to be. For everyone else, I recommend measuring a sweater (or shirt or sweatshirt) that fits like you want this sweater to fit. Lay it flat, measure across an upper arm, and double that to get the circumference. Same for the chest — measure where the arms meet the body, then double it. (See also: How to knit the right size sweater.) I have 10-inch upper arms and a 34.5-inch bust. For this sweater, I want about 4 inches of ease in the upper sleeves and about 7.5 inches of ease in the chest — or, 14-inch sleeves and a 42-inch chest circumference. At my gauge of 3.5 stitches per inch, that means I’ll need 49 stitches for each sleeve (14 inches x 3.5 stitches per inch), and about 149 stitches for the body (42 in. x 3.5 sts/in., rounded to an odd number because I happen to have started out with an odd number) — that’s front and back combined.
However, I’m not going to increase all the way to those numbers, because some of those stitches are going to be cast on at the underarm, just like we cast on stitches at the neck to form a circle. Elizabeth Zimmermann’s rule of thumb is that each underarm is about 8% of your total body stitches, which in my equation would be 11 or 12 stitches. I find 3 or 3.5 inches is a good underarm width for me, so I’m going to cast on 12 stitches for each underarm.
Now we have to think a tiny bit. Remember that I have 2 stitches trapped in each raglan seam. (The basting stitch I’ve added at the center of each raglan does not factor into the stitch counts — we’ll get to that later.) When I go to divide up my stitches into sleeves and body, I’m going to opt to split those two raglan sts right down the middle. So I need to count 1 stitch from each seam as a sleeve stitch, and 1 stitch from each seam as a body stitch. If I want 49 stitches in each sleeve, and 12 of them will be cast on, that means I’ll keep increasing until I have 37 stitches per sleeve (including those from the raglans). When we increase — 8 stitches per increase round, across the 4 sections of the sweater — we add 2 stitches per section. I started with 11 sleeve stitches, need to add 26 to get to 37, and increase two per increase round, so that’s means I’ll work a total of 13 increase rounds in the sleeves. Dividing the body stitch target of 149 sts in two (74.5) for the front and back, and subtracting the underarm count of 12, means I need to increase the front and back sections until I have 63 sts each (rounded from 62.5, and remembering again to count one st from each raglan). I started with 25 in the back, need to add 38 to get to 63, and increase two per increase round, so that will mean a total of 19 increase rounds for the front and back.
So I’ll stop increasing in the sleeves after 13 increase rounds, when my sleeve counts reach 37 sts, continue increasing in the front and back for another 6 increase rounds until those sections clock in at 63 sts each, and then work even for all rounds until I reach my desired yoke depth.
But before we resume knitting, we need to think about armhole depth, which is also the finished depth of our yoke. You might very well want your sweater to have “zero ease” (meaning the sweater’s chest and yours are the exact same size) but you always want some ease in the armhole depth. Measure diagonally from neck to underarm — running your measuring tape from wherever the top of your raglan seam will hit you down to your underarm — and take that lower measurement from about an inch or two below your actual underarm. That’s how long you want your raglan seam to be. I’m aiming for 9 inches, and I’m working at 5 rows per inch — that’s a total of 45 rounds of knitting. To increase my sleeves from the original 11 to 37, increasing at a rate of 2 stitches every other round, I’ll be done increasing in only 26 rounds — or a little more than half my yoke depth. And my 19 front/back increase rounds will be done over the course of 38 rounds, 7 rounds shy of my finished yoke depth. If you’re working at a finer gauge and/or making a smaller sweater, it’ll take you more of your yoke rounds to reach your target stitch counts. But regardless, if you’ll reach your counts at any point before your yoke is long enough to come down to your underarms, you’ll simply stop increasing and work even for the remainder of the yoke. But keep those raglan markers in place.
If, like me and my sleeves in this scenario, you reach your increase targets in a comparatively short portion of the yoke, you might opt to space them out a bit farther for the last few increases (every third, fourth, fifth round instead of every-other), so they sort of fade out rather than stopping abruptly. I didn’t do that on this sweater, and you can see it looks just dandy as is — one of those things that’s totally up to you.
So work until your yoke reaches your desired armhole depth, and next we’ll talk about separating the sleeves and body. It’s all downhill from here!
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.