How to knit inset pockets (top-down)

How to knit inset pockets (top-down)

Last February I did a tutorial about how to knit inset pockets on a bottom-up garment, and today I want to talk about how to flip that around and knit inset pockets in a top-down sweater, for those who might be doing an Improv sweater for the Top-Down Knitalong and want to add pockets to their design — or just want to add pockets to a pattern you’re knitting from, or whatever the case may be. (I apologize for doing this with yet another black sweater — it’s just the pocket-in-progress I had available.) Basically, the premise is the same: You’ve got the fabric of your sweater body, and you need to create a slit in it from which the pocket lining will extend. When you’re knitting upward from the hem of the garment, you bind off stitches at what will become the top edge of the pocket front, then join the lining (which you’ve knitted separately) to the next row and carry on upwards (loads of pics in the previous tutorial on this). From the top down, it’s the reverse: You need live stitches set aside from which you’ll knit the pocket lining, and new spanning that divide for continuing on with the sweater body.

As with pretty much everything in knitting, there are various ways you could accomplish this. The two most obvious are:

A) Work it like an afterthought heel or thumb, where you knit your desired number of pocket stitches onto waste yarn, slip them back to the left needle and knit into them again with your working yarn. In that case, the slit is held closed by the waste yarn while you finish your sweater. When you’re ready, you’d return the upper row of stitches to your needle and knit the pocket lining downward; then return the lower row of stitches to your needle and either bind them off or knit upward for a few rows to create the pocket edging. Or—

B) What I’ve done and photographed here is I set aside the pocket stitches on waste yarn and cast on the same number of stitches for continuing on with the body. When the body was complete, I put the live stitches back on a needle and knitted downward for the pocket lining. (I find it useful to use a smaller needle when picking up live stitches like this — just make sure you knit into them with the correct size needle!) Then I picked up stitches along the cast-on edge and knitted upwards for my pocket edging — this time deliberately using smaller needles for a denser fabric at that edge.

I chose the latter method because I would rather have a bound-off edge than a cast-on edge for the finished edge of my pocket — easier to make it a nice clean edge — but I wanted cast-on stitches rather than live stitches to work from for that edging because I don’t like a droopy pocket. I felt like picking up stitches along a cast-on edge would give it some useful firmness there.

However you want to go about it, the basics steps are to figure out how many stitches wide and how many rows tall you want your pocket to be, and where exactly you want them to fall within your sweater body — i.e., work out your placement. I like the bottom edge of my pocket to be stitched down right along the row where I switch to my waist ribbing. I wanted this pocket about 2.5″ deep, so at my row gauge I decided on 16 rows of pocket depth — which means I started my pocket 16 rows from where I planned to start my waist ribbing. When I put the live stitches for the pocket lining back on my needle, I put a marker in that row so I’d know for sure which row to count from, and I knitted 16 rows and bound off, then tucked it in through the slit so it’s sitting behind the main fabric before proceeding with the edging. Make sense?

Again, however you go about creating your pocket, the last step (after it’s blocked) is to whipstitch the pocket lining to the backside of the sweater (see Cocoknits’ great tutorial on this) and mattress stitch along the sides of the pocket edging if you’ve done that.

I’d love to show you a finished photo of this pocket, but with it all seamed together the camera just sees a solid mass of black fabric. I’ll try to get a pic once the buttonband is done and I can shoot it vertically. But it just looks like an inset pocket!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: WIP of the Week No.3

15 thoughts on “How to knit inset pockets (top-down)

  1. I have a couple of questions:

    “I set aside the pocket stitches on waste yarn and cast on the same number of stitches for continuing on with the body”

    Are you casting these stitches on the same row you set them aside (i.e. slip x amount then immediately cast on x amount) OR are you casting these stitches on the row below (i.e. when you come back “around” to the pocket and you’re working below the slit)

    “I picked up stitches along the cast-on edge and knitted upwards for my pocket edging”

    Perhaps because I am visualizing this in my head instead of doing it, I’m a little confused. Knitting upwards meaning toward the collar/shoulder of your garment or knitting upwards toward the bottom hem (because knitting top down is upside down)

    ” tucked it in through the slit so it’s sitting behind the main fabric before proceeding with the edging.”

    To be clear, are you seaming this pocket to the wrong side of the fabric? (Since you are tucking it through the slit)

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    • Yes, slip stitches to waste yarn and cast on the new stitches, then proceed with the rest of the row.

      Upwards meaning toward the neck, downwards toward the hem.

      And yes, no matter how you do an inset pocket, you are left with a flap of fabric that is the pocket lining, which gets whipstitched to the wrong side of the body fabric.

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  5. Hello,
    Love doping thuis kal, thx for creating it. Being à dutch woman who has learned english at school , I find myself not understanding everything you write and want to ask if you would please make à little gauge with a pocket inside in à bright colour because the combination of black + some words I do not understand is no help for me. I want to make pockets, have throught it over for à week or so, was allready searching info and finaly ran into pictures from you on the web.
    Because the kal only takes à couple of days I need to ask this now even if I cannot see much to knit now. Sunday I had an accident , needed to go to hospital and go back yesterday for an operation on my eye so sorry for anny mistakes in here, still see everything in ablur with 1 eye 😉
    Thx, Ellis

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