This is the last official week of the Top-Down Knitalong (aka #fringeandfriendsKAL2016) in terms of blog focus and bonus prizes — the last of which will be announced on Friday — but the show goes on! We, the panel, are obviously still knitting, and I’ll have FO posts about our sweaters as they’re completed. But meanwhile, let’s talk about underarms!
There are two points I want to make:
1) You need fabric at your underarms in order for your arms to be able to move. There are people who don’t like raglan-sleeve sweaters for a variety of reasons, one of which is they’ll tell you that raglans will always leave you with too much fabric (and “bunching”) around the underarms. I say it depends. On your sweater, the amount of ease/fabric you’ve built in, your body type, where you positioned your raglans, whether they’re straight 45° or compound raglans, what kind of drape the fabric has … a million variables. But regardless of sleeve type or those variables or anyone’s point of view, you need some fabric there if you want to be able to move your arms. There have been a few sweaters in the knitalong where something went a little awry with the underarms (see below) but I feel like there are also a few sweaters where people have been concerned about what they see as “bunching” that is actually just a perfectly normal and healthy amount of fabric at the underarms. The hard part for me has been trying to gauge the difference based on tiny photos on my phone, rather than being able to see the garments in person and in motion. It’s awesome that this process has led to people being so tuned in to every detail of their sweater in a way they perhaps haven’t been when following a pattern, but I think it can also lead to overanalyzing and even over-fitting your garment! So if you’re someone who’s concerned about your sweater, put on some other clothes from your closet (of every type and fit, and then also of similar fit to your sweater) and take a look at how the fabric behaves around the underarms. I’ve included a few random images above of clothes of mine you’ve seen before — knit, knitted and woven; raglan, set-in and dolman — to demonstrate the point. There is fabric around the underarms; it’s good.
2) It’s been extremely educational for me to watch so many people knitting from my tutorial, as a way to see potential pitfalls that I hadn’t thought to address or emphasize. As it happens, there are a couple of sweaters in the knitalong where something did go a little off — and interestingly, it’s all to do with the underarms, which I would not have anticipated. When I tweaked the tutorial in August, I put more emphasis on EZ’s 8% rule of thumb for calculating underarm stitches, and less emphasis on my own rule of thumb of measuring your armpit. In fact, I completely removed the original line where I said “here’s an idea — measure your armpit!” I have cast on anywhere from 2-3 inches of stitches in the past, thinking of it only as a measurement and not a percentage, and never had a problem. It turns out the 8% rule can backfire on you if you’re making a big, slouchy sweater or otherwise working with a large number of stitches. So a few people wound up casting on problematically large numbers of underarm stitches, and I regret that enormously. And there have also been a few people who just chose really shallow yoke depths. I say in the tutorial to measure to a spot at least an inch or two below your actual armpit and use that for your yoke depth calculation, but I need to put more emphasis on the importance of underarm ease. If you’re making a sweater with a good amount of positive ease and you cast on your underarm too soon, you’re going to have a large amount of fabric … jammed right up under your armpit. And that will cause unsightly bunching of said fabric. It needs some room to hang! (Conversely, if the armhole were deep and the sleeve more snug, that would also cause the sweater to fit a little oddly.) So I’ll be tweaking that part of the tutorial to talk more about the need for the underarm ease to be in proportion to the upper-sleeve ease.
I totally get how shallow yokes can happen. You’re knitting along on your yoke, the rows are getting longer and longer, you’ve got that shimmering point ahead of you on the horizon — the moment where you get to separate the body and sleeves and put your arms through armholes for the first time — and the temptation is SO STRONG. It’s one of the funnest moments in knitting. I don’t think I’ve ever made a top-down sweater where I didn’t have to consciously force myself to keep going that last inch or so, rather than separating too soon and winding up with shallow armholes. You just gotta hang in there till the moment is right!
PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: WIP of the Week No.6