3 surprisingly simple sweater solutions

Recently, I’ve been knitting more sweaters, and as with all knitting projects, sweaters can present a few irriating little problems.  Fortunately, there are some brilliant knitters working on solving these problems.  These three really simple techniques are among my favourite recent discoveries:

A hoodie for my son - you can see the underarm marker and  faux seam (in garter stitch) in the centre

A hoodie for my son – you can see the underarm marker and faux seam (in garter stitch) in the centre

1. The faux seam. (from Ann Budd’s Top Down Sweaters)  I love knitting sweaters in one piece. You avoid so much hassle, since there is no seaming and usually less purling.  In general, I think sweaters constructed using this method look much neater and are easier for beginners.  However, seams can stabalize a garment and keep it from twisting and torquing.   Fortunately, Ann Budd included this little tip in the introduction of her reference book on top down sweaters: construct a fake seam under the arms by using a different stitch pattern for a single stitch under the arm.  For example, slip a stitch or purl a stitch every second round to create a slip-stitch or garter stitch faux seam, as you can see photographed here.

The underarm gap on yellow scrap yarn: a bottom-up lifesaver!

The underarm gap on yellow scrap yarn: a bottom-up lifesaver!

2. The bottom up gap. (from Alana Dakos’ Watermelon pattern) Many knitters will complain about bottom up sweaters, because of one major irritation: how difficult it is to knit the first few rounds after joining the sleeves.  When knitting a bottom up sweater, you knit the torso, and sleeves seperately, and then join the sleeves to the torso on a single circular needle.  The added stitches make the first few rounds tight and frustrating.  Fortunately, when I encountered the directions for joining the sleeves on the watermelon cardigan this week, I actually gasped. How had I never encountered this before? Why doesn’t every bottom up sweater pattern contain this direction? The simple solution: Set about 20% of the arm stitches on scrap yarn. Put a corresponding number of underarm stitches on scrap yarn.  This creates a little gap at the underarm and makes knitting the first few rounds so much easier.  The gaps are easily closed at finishing time, using kitchener stitch. Brilliant.

3. The flat cardigan edge. (from Thea Coleman’s Vodka Lemonade pattern)  Most cardigans call for a button band or zipper that flattens and squares off the vertical edges of the sweater.  However, when a simple cardigan calls only for a single button loop, like the Watermelon cardigan, or is meant to be worn open, like the Vodka Lemonade cardigan, the edge can look unfinished.  Fortunately, this pattern has a simple solution for a beautiful squared edge.  While it requires a little bit of attention, it’s well worth the work: the first and last stitches of each row are slipped on one row, and knit through the back loop on the other.  As you can see, it does a spectacular job making the edges of the cardigan neat and tidy.

A nice flat edge, no blocking or finishing required

A nice flat edge, no blocking or finishing required (Vodka Lemonade in Cascade Ultra Pima)


5 thoughts on “3 surprisingly simple sweater solutions

    1. lisagono Post author

      You’re welcome! I just finished my first of two watermelon cardigans for my (baby) nieces. I didn’t do the fake seam. I thought it was unnecessary, since it was so small, but now I regret it. Once you start, you won’t stop – sweaters sit so much better with them.

      1. monsteryarns

        My first ever jumper for me was a top down seamless affair from Ravelry (where else?). I think it would have been much better with some seams as it would have made the waist shaping less visible.
        Anyway, obviously lots to learn still!

  1. happyhomeeconomist

    I always used to use the technique of leaving the underarm stitches on holders, and just grafting them later. However, I now prefer just to bind them off and seam them. I find that the grafting technique tends to leave holes at the beginning and end of the row of stitches that I have to seam anyway, so it’s easier just to bind them off and sew it all up later.

    1. lisagono Post author

      You’re right! I did have to close the gaps on either side of the graft. I like the smooth inside that the graft gives you, but it isn’t really necessary in an underarm. Now that I’m confident with my seaming technique, I think I’ll give that a try. Thanks.


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