Hot Tip: Start with a sleeve

Hot Tip: Start with a sleeve

I know I’ve mentioned doing this many times and it’s a fairly common practice, but it’s worth including in Hot Tips for those who might not be aware of it. That is, if you’re knitting a bottom-up sweater, start with a sleeve. I sometimes let the sleeve be my swatch — cast on as directed and knit several inches of the sleeve, then block and measure for gauge. You can transfer it onto waste yarn, or just leave it on the cord if you’re using interchangeable circs. If you’re way off, no harm done — it’s essentially the same as having knitted a swatch, except you’ve also swatched for the edging (another bonus). Whereas if you’re on track, you’re already making progress!

But there’s another way of looking at it, too. If you’ve knitted a sweater before, and you are a devout swatcher, you’ve likely had the experience of your sweater gauge turning out to be slightly different than your swatch gauge. So if you have swatched and measured, and then you knit and block and sleeve, it’s a chance to confirm you’re still on track. (Of course, if you’re knitting sleeves in the round and the body flat, or vice versa, you might find a difference in your gauge between the two. So there’s always that to keep in mind, no matter what.)

Plus getting the sleeves done first will make you feel like you’re ahead of the game! Win/win.

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Count your cable crosses correctly

19 thoughts on “Hot Tip: Start with a sleeve

  1. Yes! I always try to knit the sleeves first. Both for swatching purposes but it also somehow seems to make the sweater feel like it knits up faster. I know that’s all in my head but no harm right? :D

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    • While it doesn’t literally go any faster to start with the sleeves, a sweater is less likely to languish in its project bag for months while you try to get the momentum to finish if the sleeves are already done. Plus, sleeves are a really big, really accurate gauge swatch, as Karen said.

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  2. You can also start with a provisional cast on and do the ribbing later. This lets you get immediately to the sleeve/swatch of the pattern. If you need to frog & start the sleeve over to get the right gauge, there is less work lost.

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  3. I find this to be a very helpful tip, bc I don’t usually swatch…just start knitting and measure as I go. It takes quite a lot of knitting on the body to know if I’m in gauge, so the sleeve would be a better place to start. I know, I know…just swatch! :)

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  4. I will often cast on both sleeves at once, each on a separate ball, and knit them row by row at the same time. I find that starting the second sleeve after I’ve finished one is hard for some reason, and this way really gives a boost when I’m done.

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  5. Never, never, ever! I’m a larger woman on a petite frame. Sleeves are the hardest part to fit for me. If I make them first, that’s a guarantee they will be the wrong proportion for my body. The last two sweaters I made, I actually knit my sleeves in place, by picking up stitches and using short rows. That way I got the sleeves to 1) fit the armhole perfectly and 2) hit my wrists at the right place. I prefer knitting sweaters from the neck down, but if I must make it from the bottom up, I’ll fudge the pattern by knitting my own sleeves in place. And no, I’m not that experienced of a knitter.

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  6. Sweater knitting for women(well, for me) is in thirds; one third (plus a little more) for the back, one third for the front (a little less), and one third (also a little less) for the sleeves. Knitting the sleeves is also a good way to judge that you have enough yarn!

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