Plotting A Sleeve

So it came to my attention today that I may have blown right past a whole "How to Plan a Sleeve" lesson. My fault, entirely: I just get so excited when it's time to cut the knitting. Allow me to back up the Permission Denied truck: Here's how to plan your knitting for stranded colorwork, drop-shoulder sleeves.

Measuring for drop-shoulder sleeves is twitchy: where will the armhole seam end up on my body, anyway? Halfway down my arm? Don't worry; there's a way to tell.

Below are two worksheets which should help. (click them to embiggen) Take some measurements and do some math. Fill in the blanks and you'll be ready to proceed with sleeve-making.

To take your Wingspan measurement, you'll need the help of a friend. Face a wall with your arms spread out and touching it, like the illustration above. Keep your body as close to the wall (touching it) as you can. Now have your friend measure you from wristbone to wristbone. That number is your Wingspan. Do the math above to find out your desired sleeve length.

To determine your armhole depth, divide your finished chest measurement by .25. Your sleeve top will measure twice this number, or .5 of your finished chest measurement.

Now that you have these numbers, you're ready to determine the desired finished measurements of your sleeves. Specifically, you need numbers for the wrist (cuffs), the top (also your armhole depth), and the length:

Now import your armhole/sleeve top and sleeve length measurements from the first worksheet. Make a command decision about the size of your cuff and fill that in.

Translate your measurements into stitches and rows by multiplying by your gauge (Thanks, Swatching!). Now you know how many stitches you'll start out with at the cuff, and how many you need to end up with at the top. The only thing left is to determine how many increases you need, and how often they'll happen. Here's the math (Hang in there; we're almost done with The Maths):

# of sleeve top sts minus # of cuff sts = total number of increases, divided by 2 = total # of increase pairs.

# of sleeve rows divided by # of increase pairs = increase interval (every ____ rounds)

And that's it! Fill in the blanks and your sleeve "pattern" is written. You are now free to knit your sleeves, two at a time. Don't forget to add 5 or 6 steek sts in between the sleeves, omitting them from your actual sleeve stitch counts. And remember, when you knit two sleeves at a time, each increase round will have a total of 4 increases: one adjacent to each side of both steeks. 

Enjoy! And holler for help if you get into the weeds. I've got your back, my friends.

Separation; No Anxiety

Today I'll show you how the rubber meets the road when you knit conjoined sleeves. Here are my Permission Denied sleeves, all done, with characteristic stockinette roll at the top edge (happens to us all).

Once I've knit the sleeves to their proper length(s), I bind off the steek stitches on the last round, then move all the remaining live stitches to two separate waste yarn holders (hiding under the rolling top edge here).

The first steek will have lots of yarn tails adjacent to it, just like the body tube did. The other steek, which falls in the center of each round, has none. So that's the one I'll secure and cut first.

Here are my sleeves, partially separated. Notice the naturally-occuring jogs in each round, adjacent to the steek? Ha ha, I don't care. The're going away! Watch this!

Here you can see the second steek, with more sexy yarn tail combover action. Now that my piece is opened up flat, I can manage the tails and secure it, just like I did with the body tube.

Gratuitous scissor shot, because, well, Steeks...

Woot! Twins, no longer conjoined! The one on the right is showing you its insides.

Now I block both sleeves the same way as the body tube. In the case of this yarn, a gentle shot of steam is all I need. Your mileage may vary, of course.

And now things get a little surreal. I've done all this knitting in the round, only to end up sewing seams! Trust me: It's worth it. I just sew regular old mattress seams with yarn, working from the right side.

See? By cutting and sewing, I can match my sleeve seams with surgical precision. No jogs in the bands or motifs.

I promised you wouldn't have to weave in any ends: Here's where I wave my magic wand and make them disappear! Thanks, bias binding!

TIP: Pre-cut bias binding comes pressed out to 1" wide. I usually have to re-press the edges so it measures 1 1/4". No big deal to do, and it makes covering the cut steek edges easy. To sew, just use a sharp sewing needle and thread with a bit of beeswax or this stuff on it. Only catch the surface of the floats when you do this - don't stab all the way through to the right side of the work.

Only one more magic trick left to perform on the sleeves. I'm going to knit a facing onto the top edge of each, which has a little gusset on it for underarm ease. This knitted facing actually serves to cover the cut edges of the armhole slashes, after the sleeves are mounted. 

I place all the live stitches back onto a needle. Then, with any color yarn that strikes my fancy, I work 7 rounds in reverse stockinette. I cheat and hold the knitting wrong way 'round, so I don't have to purl. At the beginning and end of every round, I increase 1 st to make a cute little mitre.

This mitred gusset will cover the base of the armhole slash at the armpit, just like a plumbing flange covers the edge of a pipe. Don't worry if it doesn't make sense yet; all will be revealed in the next post. Just smile and knit your facing. TIP: Bind off the facing with a needle a couple of sizes larger than the one you knit the gusset with. That way the bound edge won't pull in too tightly.

Here's my sleeve, all finished. Underarm seam happily matched and sewn? Check. Cut edges, knots and yarn tails cunningly hidden by bias tape inside? Check. Armhole gusset worked, with adorable wee mitre for the armpit? Check Check.

Commencing sleeve insertion sequence in 3, 2, 1...

Sleeves: Now With More Sass!

Having smugly cut open your knitted body tube, it will be time to turn your attention to making some sleeves.

For the purposes of our KAL, I'm going to ask you to knit them from the cuffs up. This is because there is a little magic to be worked at the sleeve tops, and I want to do it with you at the end. Just trust me; you'll like it.

The first consideration will be what type of sleeve silhouette you choose. The original Pattern-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named features kimono style sleeves which are worked from the top down (flat, of course) and shaped ever-so-slightly with a few decreases (6 total) giving only about 1" of difference between the sleeve top and the cuff. For the life of me, I cannot tell why the sleeves should be knit in the opposite direction to the body. The charted motifs would look different when oriented like A-shapes, rather than V-shapes(!). It must be some misguided Fair Isle thinking, which, I reiterate, this design is NOT.

So your sleeves could be straight cylinders, moderately-tapered flowerpots, or steeply-sloped funnels, depending on what you're going for. Once you've made that decision, calculate the number of cuff stitches you'll need (can be any odd number) and write it down. The math is like this: # of desired finished cuff inches X your gauge +/- 1 st for an odd # = CO.

I'm making traditionally-shaped non-kimono sleeves. I decided I wanted my finished cuffs to measure about 9 1/2 inches, so my CO is 61 sts for each.

I'm knitting my sleeves both at the same time, a Sexy Party Trick I hope you'll try along with me because 1. Your finished sleeves will have no jogs in their rounds. 2. They will match one another precisely. 3. You won't have to weave in any ends.

Let me just say that again: You won't have to weave in any ends. How often do you get a promise like that?

Here's how to start: If you know what your edge treatment will be, CO the number of sts you calculated and work it. If you haven't decided yet, do a provisional CO. 

Here are my two cuffs, worked back and forth in rows. They're simple faced hems, knitted in on the final row. All I do is arrange them on a circular needle like this, and knit across the first one. At the end of that, I cast on 6 new sts for a steek, then knit across the second one. Then I cast on 6 more new steek sts at the end of that, and join the whole thing (without twisting, naturally) for working in rounds. That's it! From this point I just work in rounds, increasing as needed on both sleeves.

Here are my two sleeves, growing along simultaneously:

Remember, when setting up the first row of the chart, you'll need to center the motifs on each sleeve, just as you did for the body tube. It's helpful to draw on your chart where the sleeve edges/increases land. Mine looks like this:

Here's another view of my conjoined sleeves, with one of the steeks visible:

I like to put stitch markers on either side of each steek. The first stitch marker of the round is a different color, so I can tell if I've worked both sleeves or not.

See how hard this isn't?