Astute readers

I love observant and astute readers! I was actually thinking to myself, how many of my readers will question my claim of a top-down seamless raglan that, well, has a detachable front flap? Call my bluff and incompleteness? :) (the sweater in question is this one, of course)

A few picked up on the unusual construction. TracyKM (who knew me through the about.com forum back when I didn’t even know how to purl) commented, “Okay, I get there’s no seams, but Pico. doesn’t have button openings… so how’d you do it? Separate balls? Back and forth?” and Vanessa wrote, “how did you do the button openings on the top dow raglan? steeking?”

Very observant, you two ;).

I want to share the construction of this sweater with you because raglans are so easy to knit seamlessly, no matter the variation on the traditional theme. I actually don’t particularly love knitting adult sweaters in the round/seamlessly (my reasons are not arbitrary and possibly deserve their own post), but baby sweaters are a different story. When you’ve got just a handful of stitches, and two get eaten up by seams, there’s bulk and unsightliness and general cringing on my part.

I’m writing this explanation for knitters who are experienced in top-down raglan construction, just to show how a variation can be accomplished. For basic instruction, you may wish to consult Knitting from the Top.

Typically I would sketch these in Illustrator and edit/color them in Photoshop, but I’ve had such an itching for my Prismacolor pencils lately, and you suffer as a consequence ;).

You start out by casting on the stitches for the back and the tops of the sleeves only (deep pink), plus a few stitches on either side of the (yet to be knit) front, so you aren’t increasing right on the edge. Knitting from the top down, and working back and forth, you increase along the raglan seams to create the yoke.

I don’t limit myself to increasing the same number of stitches for the front/back as for the sleeves – sometimes the desired finished dimensions cannot be accomplished by such simple mathematics. In the case of LL’s sweater, for example, the back was increased from 23 to 47 sts (a total of 24 sts) but the sleeves started with 19 and ended with 35 sts (a total of 16 sts increased). Treat each section as its own entity, increasing evenly no matter what’s happening in the neighboring one, and it will look just fine at the end. Keep in mind the total desired raglan length to determine the frequency of increasing.

Once the yoke is completed, place the sleeve sts on a length of yarn (light green). A few stitches get cast on in the armpit (deep pink). This is the raglan equivalent of binding off about an inch at the start of sleeve cap and armhole shaping, and is partially responsible for eliminating batwings, my pet peeve of all pet peeves. I know the little deep pink dash looks all weird sticking out in mid-air, but that’s actually where the stitches end up.

Now, for the fun part: provisionally cast-on (forest green) the stitches which will form the front. The number is equal to the stitches you have in the back section, minus the few stitches you’ve already got framing the sleeves. Join the whole thing in the round. It will look like a full back, two little cap sleeves, and a very risqué front.

Knit in the round to the hem to complete the body. Come back to the held sleeve sts, and when joining in the round, pick up a few stitches right on top of the armpit stitches (deep pink). Knit to the cuffs.

To complete the front, undo the provisional cast-on, and working back and forth, mimic the back shaping by working at the same rate, but making decreases instead of increases. Bind off (blue) when the front is completed. I placed the buttonholes in the trim, so you don’t even have to think about that at this point ;).

Simple, isn’t it?

Karma correctly identified that it was her blog where I originally saw this cute design. She also pointed out that I placed buttons on both raglan seams, while the designer intended them only along one (click on the link to her blog to see what I mean).

Oops! I admit I didn’t read the instructions, and obviously didn’t look at the photo too closely. However, seeing the sweater as it was intended, I shook my head in agreement – it, too, can be accomplished seamlessly from the top-down! Think about it for a second… simple, isn’t it? Cast on for the entire neckline, but don’t join in the round, work back and forth creating the yoke, then join in the round while casting on a few armpit stitches, and that’s that!

P.S. Of course you can also knit the yoke as I described, then separately knit the front from the top down to the point where I had the provisional cast on, and then join the whole thing in the round to complete the body. Why not?!?

24 thoughts on “Astute readers

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  1. kerrie

    Thanks so much for that mini tutorial, I love the pink raglan sweater and that flap at the front is just perfect for babies. So cute!

  2. Kelly

    I thank you muchly!

    I might make a sweater like this for my boyfriend’s niece but I am much more likely to decide that I need one…

  3. SallyT

    This may seem silly, but I just love knitting blogs that make me realize so much can be accomplished by just using your brain! Thanks Grumperina for showing me the way of the thinking knitter (I know there are lots of them out there–I just found you first).

  4. Angela

    Ingenious! I’m not a slave to symmetry, but in this case I like the look of your symmetrical version better than the designer’s original (but both are cute).

  5. Sarah

    Thanks for sharing the secret to the buttoned flap! I was wondering about the whole seamless but buttons thing, but I guess I wasn’t brave enough to comment on it (thank goodness for the rest of your readers!) The construction is smart but yet pretty simple. I will have to try it!

  6. Rachel

    Is there any reason (and there probably is, but I’m not a designer) that you couldn’t knit this from the bottom up and just work back and forth with first the front and then the rest of the yoke (or vice versa) on stitch holders, thus avoiding the need for the provisional cast-on? (Which is undeniably nifty, but makes it a bit more challenging if one were a beginning knitter.) Related question: do you have an opinion on the superiority of either top-down raglan knitting and bottom-up raglan knitting?

  7. Bee

    Fantastic! I love the intelligent construction; with about a thousand (seemingly) expected babies in my circle of family and friends, I may be using this idea a lot!

    Thank you so much!

  8. Stacey

    I love this! Do you think that there would be a way of continuing the buttons down the front a bit and turning it into a nursing sweater???

  9. Janice in GA

    So on the front, you knit down from the armholes to the waist, then go back and pick up the provisional cast-on and knit up from there? So you’re knitting in two different directions? I’m assuming there’s no obvious difference in the stitches, because you’re enough of a perfectionist* to notice if it did. But I know some patterns done this way would have you knit the top half of the front separately and graft it, so that all the knitting is done in the same direction (i.e., top to bottom.)

    *I don’t mean that in a BAD way, mind you. :)

  10. joy

    I’ve always liked this sweater in the book, but am reluctant to buy the whole book for one pattern. Now, I guess I won’t have to! ;-)

  11. Stephanie

    I’m finding the provisional cast-on so very useful. I love your logic and it makes perfect sense. Now to find some yarn to knit a baby sweater!

  12. lorinda

    Prismacolors! Yay. Nothing more wonderful than opening that box–except knitting–especially with your wonderful tutorial. Thanks for sharing your amazing talent and expertise.

  13. gleek

    great tutorial grumperina! i have that knitting from the top book and i’m continually amazed at all of the different variations on sweaters (and other things!) that can be made from that book. did you go back and pick up stitches for the red button band?

  14. TracyKM

    Wow! I finally got my name on a blog (and it’s not my own which has yet to have a single entry since creating it)!! I knew cyber stalking would pay off eventually, LOL. Yup, I knew you when….which incredibly is not anywhere as long as it would take ‘normal’ people to reach your level!

    I was all set to say “why not knit the flap downwards then join” but you covered that too!

    Now I just have to find my needles and stuff. Moving was not fun. The new hot tub is, but I’m thinking we should have just bought one for the old house!

  15. MJ

    It’s a whoe new world with top-down! I’ve been experimenting with top-down construction–so ingenious. Thanks for the explanation–I’d have done it the same exact way.

  16. Gabby

    I was thinking about Wendyknit’s new book, and it made me wonder why on earth haven’t you got a book out? You would be perfect! You have the best patterns and the most innovative approaches to pre-existing patterns, and best of all, I bet your patterns would fit really well. So….will there be a book?

  17. Heide

    Thank you for the instructions. I’ve knitted for almost 30 years now and I’m humbled by all that I don’t know. I’m still eagerly awaiting a time when I can knit your Picovili sweater!

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