17 March 2008

More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater: Roll-neck Raglan

The top-down approach to a sweater is wonderfully and thoroughly covered by Barbara G. Walker in Knitting From the Top, originally printed in 1972 but widely available in the Schoolhouse Press reprint from 1996. A top-down yoke sweater is just a bottom-up sweater in reverse. Depending on the pattern, one direction or the other can be a better choice. In this case, you'd cast on at the neck, and work a few short rows. Then work round and round, increasing an average of 4 stitches each row (8 stitches every-other row). At the underarm, the stitches are divided. Extra stitches are cast-on at the underarm, and the body and sleeves progress individually to the end. Cast off is at the cuffs and bottom ribbing. Underarms are seamed or grafted.

On my example, I've worked raglan increasing at the corners -- i.e. double-increase every-other round at each of four points. I established a small braid at the raglan lines and worked the increases behind the braids to create a lovely, decorative little line. There is also a small underarm gusset because I couldn't quite figure out an elegant way to end the braided raglan line. This is just a doll-sized sweater knit in Lion Brand Microspun so that I could learn the top-down technique.

The downside of this approach is that increases -- especially double increases -- can be harder to execute nicely than decreases. Lace might be an exception to this, since increases in lace can sometimes be achieved by making the requisite yarn over but not fully following through on the matching SSK or k2tog. On the plus side, a top-down garment can more easily be tried on as you knit. For the sleeves, you alternate knitting and trying it on until the sleeves are long enough. For the body, again you keep knitting and fitting until a length is reached that you like. Tape measure not required!

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