When we left off last time, we’d talked about how to calculate shaping for your body and sleeves, so all that was left to do was knit them to the length you want them, work your ribbing (or whatever) and bind off. Block your finished sweater. Then how much “finishing” there is to do depends on choices you’ve made along the way:
– Just like with a thumb gusset on a glove, there may be a little gap at each side of the underarm where you cast on and then picked up stitches, even if you picked up an extra stitch at each corner and decreased them out on the next round. My preference is to simply take a tail of yarn (ideally the tail you left when reattaching yarn for the sleeve) and weave the holes closed. I use a tapestry needle and, as with the duplicate-stitch method of weaving in ends, essentially trace the natural path of the stitches around that area, matching the tension and closing up the gaps.
– If you’ve included a basting stitch in the raglans or sides seams, and/or knitted the sleeves flat, go ahead and use mattress stitch to seam those up.
– If you’ve knitted a cardigan and still have button bands to do, or have left your neckband for last, that will be your final step.
Other than that, voilà: A sweater has emerged from your needles, fully formed and ready to wear.
THE END … AND THE BEGINNING
The thing I want to leave you with is that, once you’ve grasped the basic process, you can throw nearly everything I’ve said out the window and do whatever you want. If you have a large chest, you might want to have more stitches in the front of your sweater than the back, rather than making them match. If you want a slower slope to your raglans, perhaps for an extra-deep armhole, you might work your yoke increases every third or fourth round. You might also increase for your sleeves and body at different rates, for instance if you’re creating a comparatively wide body and fitted sleeves, or vice versa. When you get to the hem, you might choose to do a split hem (maybe bi-level), or use short rows to create a curved shirttail hem or to make the back of the sweater hang lower than the front. Whether you knit the body first or the sleeves is completely up to you. If you don’t like rotating a whole sweater in your lap while knitting sleeves in the round, you might choose to knit them back and forth (still from the underarm down) and then seam along the underside of the sleeve. If you’re truly improvising, or averse to grade-school math, you can even just feel your way through the shaping of the sleeves and body. Pull the sweater over your head every couple of inches; decrease whenever the sweater needs to get smaller; increase whenever it needs to get larger. The point is: You’re in total control of your sweater, and you can and should do whatever works for you.
As I said in the intro, this is really just scraping the surface of what’s possible with top-down. I wanted to show you the basic method so you can see how simple (and empowering!) it is, and to that end, I’ve kept the sample sweater as simple as possible. But with this method, the world is pretty much your oyster. The type of neckline, the gauge of the sweater, whether it has raglan sleeves or contiguous set-in sleeves, whether it’s a pullover or cardigan, striped or two-tone or colorwork, what kind of stitch pattern, what kind of edging … the possibilities are endless. Make just about any sweater you like, no pattern required.
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.