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That Pesky Underarm

I have probably mentioned once or twice that I love top-down sweaters because of the seamless construction.

As soon as I see that a sweater or cardigan is knit in pieces I'm not interested anymore. There are people that say that seamed garments fit and hold their shape better, but I'm in the other camp as a firm supporter of seamless construction.

There are so many seamless garments out there that are beautiful and they don't even have to be top-down. Quite a few of them are knit from the bottom up (both the body and the sleeves) and then joined at the underarm, with the top part of the garment finished in one piece.

For both ways of knitting a seamless garment the instructions usually tell you to cast on extra stitches for the underarm on the body and on the sleeves.

In the section for finishing you are usually told to seam both cast on edges together to close the hole. Or they will tell you to pick up and knit from the underarm cast on and it can get messy with holes at the sides of the cast on stitches.

Has this ever happened to you? Well it happened to me quite a few times until I found this way to do things with some help from the lovely Alexa and Emily at Tin Can Knits (I believe I have mentioned them before a few times):

For this tutorial I am using The Flax Sweater by Tin Can Knits, a lovely free pattern, knit in Queensland Haze, a corn and cotton blend.

Follow the instructions of any top-down pattern to where it says:

Separating the sleeves from the body:

Below you can see the yoke spread out on two needles with the beginning of round marker (orange) at the right bottom, which is also the beginning of the sleeve. The next blue marker (going counter clockwise) marks the end of the first sleeve. The next two blue makers mark the second sleeve.

The pattern instructions will tell you to place the sleeve stitches on hold.

I like to use 1/8" craft ribbon for that purpose because it is flexible and smooth to pick up the stitches from but any smooth yarn will work.

1. Using a large, dull tapestry needle slide the sleeve stitches including any pattern markers onto the ribbon.

2. Do not put the BOR marker or the sleeve marker on the ribbon. Tie the ribbon together securely.

The pattern instructions will tell you to cast on x stitches for the underarm using the backwards e-loop or knitted cast on.

3. I like to use a temporary cast on and my favorite is the crochet cast on onto the left needle, using a smooth, contrasting yarn, approximately the same weight as the yarn you are knitting the garment with.

Just like that: your working yarn is still on the right needle.

4. Knit across the temporary cast on stitches with your working yarn. Knit all the way to the next sleeve marker and repeat steps 1-4.

Continue working the body as per the pattern instructions. You can see that both sleeves are on hold and only the body stitches are still on the needles. For small circumferences I like to use two (2) 24" needles, not one 16", but that's total personal preference.

Once the body is finished we can work on the sleeves:

For working one sleeve at a time:

1. Slide the sleeve stitches on hold onto one (1) short circular needle or two (2) 24" needles, or onto three (3) double pointed needles.

I always use two circular needles; make sure any pattern markers go on the needle as well.

2. Pull the ribbon out carefully. Place locking stitch markers on any missed stitches to catch when knitting.

3. Where the pattern tells you to pick up and knit or cast on X stitches I work another temporary cast on at the underarm.

The beginning of round marker will go in the centre of those temporary stitches. OR you can t

Divide the stitches onto the other needle if you are using two (2) needles like me and hook the BOR marker onto the cast on chain between the two needles.

4. You are ready to knit your sleeve.

If you are knitting both sleeves at the same time as I like to do, you have to make sure that both armholes point one way. Flip the right shoulder in like you see in the picture below.

Follow steps 1-3 for knitting the sleeves one at a time.

Now take the top needle (purple cable) and pick up the stitches of the second sleeve beginning at the top of the arm (where the sleeve is folded in half), not the underarm. See picture below:

Take the second needle (black cable) and pick up the other half of the sleeve stitches in the same direction as the first needle (from the top of the second sleeve).

As you can see both armholes are at the beginning of each sleeve.

Work another temporary cast on for X stitches as you did for the first sleeve.

Place the BOR marker (orange).

Attach two separate balls of yarn; one for each sleeve.

With needle # 1 (the front needle with black cable) and yarn ball # 1 , knit sleeve one

When you get to the middle of sleeve one drop yarn #1, pick up yarn ball #2 and knit sleeve two, beginning with the temporary cast on stitches, still using needle #1.

When you get to the end of needle #1 you have knitted half a round. Half of sleeve one and half of sleeve two.

Turn your work and with needle #2 and yarn ball #2 work the rest of sleeve two including the temporary cast on stitches.

In the middle drop yarn ball #2, pick up yarn ball #1 and finish knitting sleeve one, including the temporary cast on stitches at the end, still using needle #2.

Continue knitting both sleeves, following your pattern instructions until the sleeves are done.

And now comes the fun part: Finishing the underarms, a fantastic tutorial by Tin Can Knits.

All you have to do is undo the temporary cast on and place the stitches on a double pointed needle.

I use a separate piece of yarn for the grafting; that way you have two ends to close any unsightly holes beside the temporary cast on stitches.

And that's all there is to it!

Easy right?

As soon as I get this sweater done I'll post some more pictures; I promise!

Until next time,

I hope you enjoyed this blog.

We've had a some nice weather and got some garden work done but it looks like winter is back for a few days.

Stay warm and keep those needles and hooks moving!

Happy and Productive Knitting


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