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Son Of A.R.A.N. Project

Part 10: Sleeves

Copyright 1999 Janet Szabo. All rights reserved.

Here we are, having knit the front and back of our Aran down to the base of the armhole. We could cast on the additional body stitches and continue along to the bottom of the sweater, but I have decided to take a slight detour to the sleeves. My rationale comes from Barbara Walker's Knitting From the Top in which she points out that if you stop and do the sleeves here, you can pick up the body stitches in the base of the sleeve stitches. Doing so completely eliminates the need to sew closed the opening which would be there if we were to do the body first and the sleeves second. (There are ways to eliminate that seam even when you knit the body first, but they are a bit more convoluted -- I'm sure Meg Swansen or Elizabeth Zimmermann have addressed those methods somewhere in their volume of work.)

My armhole measures 10" deep, my preferred measurement. I picked up stitches for the sleeve, beginning at the right-hand side of one of the armhole openings. Picking up the correct number of stitches can be a trial-and-error process, although it seems to work out well for me to pick up 3 stitches in every 4 rows. I picked up 42 stitches on one side. The 29 stitches from the saddle were still "live," on a holder, so I slipped them back to a needle and knitted across them. Then I picked up another 42 stitches on the other side of the armhole opening. The saddle stitches stay in the cable pattern already established, and the stitches to either side of it in moss stitch or other filler stitch (however, I do keep a single purl stitch on either side of the saddle pattern).

At this point I am working back-and-forth. If you recall, I had you take measurements at the beginning of this process to determine how much additional fabric you were going to cast on at the base of the armholes to accomodate the body. That number was between 1" and 3" on each side of the front and each side of the back. I had planned to add 2" at either side of the front and either side of the back, so I have knit flat for 2" on this sleeve. Then I joined the work and am now knitting in the round for the remainder of the sleeve.

The next point we need to tackle is when and where to make the decreases that shape the sleeve as we work toward the cuff. You've got two choices with respect to the question of where:

  1. You can designate a center "seam" stitch on the underside of the sleeve, and make a center double decrease on that "seam" stitch. A center double decrease is made by working to the stitch before the seam stitch, slipping the next stitch and the seam stitch together knitwise, knitting the next stitch, then passing the two slipped stitches over that stitch.

  2. You can place your decreases on either side of the center cable pattern. I have a purl stitch on either side of my center cable pattern. When I want to make a decrease as I approach the cable pattern, I work to the stitch before the purl stitch, then work a P2tog. When I want to make a decrease on the other side of the cable pattern, I slip the purl stitch knitwise, the next stitch purlwise, then I purl them together through the backs of the loops. These maneuvers help to insure that the decreased stitches hide nicely behind the purl stitch. I find this method of decreasing less obvious than method #1.

As for when to decrease, well...there is a scientific way of determing this. First, decide how long you want to make the sleeve. Go back to that trusty well-fitting sweater and check it. Let's say that you want a sleeve which measures 17" from the underarm. 2 1/2" of that length is taken up by the cuff ribbing, so there really is only 14 1/2" in which to make decreases. I always knit an inch from the underarm before I start making decreases (personal preference only), so that leaves 13 1/2" in which to make decreases.

Next, you need to decide how many stitches you want in your cuff ribbing. I usually aim for somewhere around 48-52 stitches if I'm doing a 1 x 1 ribbing in a worsted weight wool yarn. If you remember, I picked up a total of 113 stitches for the sleeve (42 + 29 + 42). I like my sleeves to blouse a bit above the cuff, so I'm not going to calculate my decreases from 113 down to 48, but rather from 113 down to 72. On the last round of knitting before I begin the cuff, I'll make a set of evenly spaced decreases to take the cuff from 72 down to 48 stitches.

Now the math: 113 - 72 = 41. I need to decrease 41 stitches down the length of the sleeve. The decreases will be paired, so there will be 20 sets of paired decreases (ignore that extra stitch for the moment). I have 13 1/2" in which to make decreases, and when I multiply that length by the row gauge (let's say 8 rows/in for sake of example), I see there are 108 rows in which to place those 20 pairs of decreases. The math, as you can see, doesn't always work out so elegantly. We need to space our decreases approximately 5 rows apart. We're working in the round so we can do that; if we were working back-and-forth, we would have to alternate the decreases -- every 4th row, then every 6th row, then every 4th row, etc.

I confess that I usually bypass the figuring and just start making my decreases every 6th row/round. (Note: I start counting when I join the sleeve stitches and begin knitting in the round -- the first set of decreases comes 6 rounds after that point.) I check as I go along, and if it looks like I'm not going to be decreasing out enough stitches, I'll either speed up the rate of decreasing to every 4th row, or decrease out the extra stitches in that decrease round before the cuff ribbing begins. Hardly scientific, but it seems to work for me. If you think I'm bad, go read the chapter in Knitting From the Top and see how cavalier Barbara Walker is about it! :-))

Oh, and I always mark my decreases on the inside of the sleeve with safety pins, so it's easier for me to count the rounds between decreases.

As usual, I am prepared to entertain questions about this latest installment. :-))

Janet (about 4" into her sleeve)

Last Updated: July 14, 1999
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URL: http://www.cs.oswego.edu/~ebozak/knit/soa/part10.html