Edited 2/7/17: I've updated this post here, with more concise instructions and better pictures.
Knitting top-down, set-in sleeves is a technique I learned years ago, and from that first time, it became my go-to sleeve construction. This is the best way to get a perfectly fitted sleeve around your shoulder and arm. It occurred to me that many experienced knitters aren't familiar with this simple and fool-proof construction. This sleeve technique can replace any standard sleeve that has a bell shape at the top. I've only used it with stockinette and garter, but I think with a little bit of planning, this technique could be used with more complicated stitch patterns.
The sleeve scythe, or the opening where the sleeve is set into the body, is totally customizable. If this is a sweater you will be wearing right next to your skin, you might like the look of a more fitted sleeve. If this is a sweater you will most likely be wearing over a shirt, such as a cardigan, you'll likely want the opening a little larger to accommodate for that. Top-down set-in sleeves give you the freedom to change these measurements on the body of your sweater, but your sleeve will need no adjusting; your sleeve will automatically fit! You'll never have too much sleeve and not enough sweater or vice versa, avoiding any potential puckers around the sleeve scythe once and for all. And, this sleeve will fit your arm too, because you can try it on as you go along.
You can either knit your sleeves in the round or flat. If you knit them in the round, seam both sides. If you are going to knit them flat, leave them un-seamed. For both, seam the shoulder seams.
Before you proceed, please read the entire directions below.
Start with the right sleeve, and using a circular needle with the right side of the back facing you, start at the underarm and pick up stitches all around the back arm scythe to the shoulder seam. The ratio is 1 stitch per 2 rows, even at the underarm. Pick up the same amount of stitches down the front arm and underarm. If you have 30 stitches up the back, you will need 30 stitches down the front. Now the knitting begins. Turn your work and with right side facing, begin row 1.
Row 1: Knit stitches up the front to 1.5" (for an adult, less for a child) past shoulder seam, wrap and turn next stitch.
Row 2: Purl to 1.5" past shoulder seam, wrap and turn next stitch.
Row 3: Knit to your last wrapped stitch, knit the wrapped stitch, wrap and turn next stitch. Turn your work.
Row 4: Purl to your last wrapped stitch, purl the wrapped stitch, wrap and turn next stitch. Turn your work.
Repeat rows 3 and 4 until all stitches have been incorporated into the bell. Note, I almost always stop at the last 1/2" on each side of the side seam, the first cast off stitches at the underarm. These stitches do not need to be wrapped and turned, instead, simply knit "through them".
If you are knitting your sleeves in the round, join for working in the round. If you are knitting your sleeves flat, cast on one stitch each side for seaming and continue working to end. For either way, you can add any sleeve shaping desired. Generally, the decreases are made every 1.5-2 inches, but try it on frequently to get your perfect fit. Knit to desired sleeve length, adding the finish edging the pattern calls for; ribbing, lace, etc.
Directions for Short Rows, Wrap and Turn:
On knit side: Knit to the stitch you want to wrap, bring yarn between needles from back to front. Slip stitch purl-wise from left needle to right needle. Bring yarn between needles again, from front to back. Slip stitch back purl-wise to left needle. Turn work to begin next row.
On purl side: Purl to the stitch you want to wrap, bring yarn between needles from front to back. Slip stitch purl-wise from left needle to right needle. Bring yarn between needles again, from back to front. Slip stitch back purl-wise onto left needle. Turn work to begin next row.
If you are familiar with wrap and turn short rows, you're probably used to "picking up the wraps". In this sleeve technique, you DO NOT pick up wraps. This gives a more "full-fashioned" look to the sleeve, which I prefer, however, you can pick up the wraps if you prefer that look.
See the pictures below for help with each step. I hope you give it a try! I bet you'll find yourself using it as often as you can! (Please see this post for better pictures!)
|This color does not represent the color at all, it's a very bright and cheery navy blue. In this picture I've finished the short row shaping for the bell and now knitting down the arm and just starting my decreases.|
|A close up. This sweater may not be the best one to show off the technique as the body has ridge panels on the side, but I think you can still get a good idea. See, no puckers, and no seaming!|
|This shows just a few of the short rows at the beginning. Again, maybe not the best sweater to show this technique because the stitch pattern on the body hides it a bit.|
|I'm making Langestt from the Winterscapes book by Sarah Hatton. I had the FA and KSH in my stash and knew it would be perfect.|