theraineysisters knitting and so much more

October 21, 2012

From Susan — A Whole New World!

Filed under: Updates — lv2knit @ 12:09 pm

I feel like I must be the last knitter on earth to figure this out,  but I do think the potential is there to change my knitting life forever!  Hyperbole?!?  You bet!

What am I talking about?  The best kept [knitting] secret of all time: the bottom up contiguous sleeve.  Yes.  A fitted sleeve knit in one piece with the body from the bottom up.  Others have tried it.  Others have succeeded.  But this is a first for moi.

Let me just say for the record that I don’t have a problem with seams.  They have their place and I am comfortable doing them.  But, that said, I hate sewing sleeve caps into the armscye.  Just hate it.   Many designers have glommed onto the fact that people do not like seams: there are many top down sweaters out there right now to prove it.  But there are still many bottom up designs that are worked in pieces to achieve the look of the set in sleeve.

Recently, Jared Flood introduced a new series of patterns, one of which really caught both Sally’s and my attention: Burr by Veronik Avery.  It is knit bottom up in pieces.  Could it be converted to bottom up contiguous?  I had to know.

The answer.  Yes.

Burr knit in Rowan Tweed, Color Reeth

Look at the beautiful set in sleeve!  And it fits me perfectly!  It is still wet and blocking, but I was too excited to wait to share it with my knitting peeps.

I love the beautiful details in this sweater: the YOs on the front and back, the gorgeous collar, and the inverted “V” ribbing details on the hems of the body and sleeves.  I did make major modifications though to achieve my goal of seamless, fitted sleeve:

1 – work both fronts and the back in one piece (I also made some other small changes in my set up)
2 – work to the armhole
3 – work sleeves in the round to the underarm
4 – join all pieces (leaving live sts at the underarm of both the sleeves and the body — ‘bound off’ sts in pattern) and start all shaping as needed (for this step, I graphed out all of the pieces onto graph paper to figure out my shaping)
5 – at the top of the sleeve cap (which was 2 inches wide at that point = 12 sts), stop knitting the sleeve and instead work the fronts and back as separate pieces for 1 inch each (and add short row shaping for the shoulder) — I added a ‘make 1’ to the fronts and back at the edge next to the sleeve cap for the seaming in Step 7
6 – join shoulders using 3-needle bind off
7 – graft the sleeve cap sts to the front and back extensions
8 – graft underarm sts

The picture below shows the work in progress after Step 5 is complete:

I am thrilled with the results and will share additional photos when it is dry and I have buttons.  This easy to do method is just one way that people eliminate the seam on sleeve caps.  I have experimented with other ideas for doing this and will try them out in the future.

This is another reason I love knitting — even after doing this for over 45 years, there is still so much to learn!!  Yowza!!


  1. Ingenious! (and beautiful) Thank you for sharing! I am interested in knowing whether a grafted sleeve cap is a sturdy as a seamed cap with wear. Love your website–I’ve learned so much from the two of you (and I’ve been knitting for over fifty years).

    Comment by Nancy — October 21, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

  2. Brilliant!

    Comment by stashdragon — October 21, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

  3. Very clever, indeed, and a lovely garment to boot! Thank you for sharing it!

    Comment by Mary Lou — October 21, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

  4. The sweater is lovely. Love the color, love the design!

    I am still learning new knitting tricks, often from my daughter who has only been knitting a couple of years, but is much more savvy at finding out how to do things. Each new little technique is like a wonderful little gift!

    Comment by joanna — October 21, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

  5. That’s one beautiful and elegant sweater. Thanks for sharing your technique.

    Comment by Katie K — October 21, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

  6. Genius! I would love to see this “on” and look forward to trying this sometime soonish!

    Comment by Pam — October 22, 2012 @ 12:54 am

  7. Great design, fabulous construction and gorgeous yarn (love the colour Reeth -been there!). Did the yarn bloom much with washing? I’ve only knit with the fine tweed so far and it blooms significantly…..feels lovely too after washing…….great sweater and great job!

    Comment by Anne — October 22, 2012 @ 7:05 am

  8. I did not see a pattern, is it free? Maybe I missed it when I read it, please let me know?

    Comment by Debbie Batog — October 22, 2012 @ 8:18 am

  9. Your sweater is beautiful and a wonderful example. After reading Elizabeth Zimmerman books for a long time but never trying, I delved into the bottom up and then adding the sleeves and what a wonderful experience. Three sweaters later, i will never go back. I totally dislike sewing seams and even worse knitting the front pieces to match each other and the back (recently reminded myself, that I don’t do that very well 🙁 ). Salley forth, I highly encourage it. Your loyal follower, cv

    Comment by catherine vanderloos — October 22, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

  10. Beautiful sweater! Thanks for sharing the ‘how to’ part of built in sleeves. Grafting it out is a great idea.

    Comment by Cathy L — October 23, 2012 @ 9:48 am

  11. Thanks for sharing this tip. I did try EZ’s one piece set in sleeve – similar to her saddle shoulder sweater but without the saddle of course. But I found the sleeve cap a bit wonky. I think your plan which is the same same but different different at the cap is probably the perfect combo. Thanks. I will try it.

    Comment by Brenda — October 23, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

  12. I have an ancient (maybe 20+ years old) Classic Elite pattern booklet somewhere that features a pullover knit this way. I’ve always been meaning to try it, but never got around to doing so, as with so many other good knitting intentions. Thanks for posting (and jogging my memory). Now, I just need to find that pattern . . .

    Beautiful cardigan.

    Comment by Purrl Gurrl — October 23, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

  13. I’m intrigued, but if you had to bind off the shoulders, it wouldn’t be contiguous, would it? Contiguous is much more a shoulder innovation that lets you get to Barbara Walkers simultaneous set in sleeve faster and with fewer ends, or so it is to me. (SuzieM doesn’t quite agree with my opinion on this shoulder thing either and I am very open to being utterly wrong) This reads a lot more like EZ’s bottom up simultaneous sleeve. I did something similar on my hubbies gansey but did a perpendicular join at the sleeve cap and then just did a 3 needle bind off at the shoulders. Grafting probably is a tidier technique though, preserving the smooth line of the sleeve utterly and doing full contiguous to establish the shoulder slope seems like a lot of work in comparison to this.

    When I started knitting, they said don’t play with the shoulders and sleeve caps. They were wrong. This is magical isn’t it?

    Comment by Needles — October 23, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

  14. Fabulous sweater! I’m going to have to try those sleeves.

    Comment by rebecca — October 23, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

  15. As I knit my current fairisle sweater, a greatly modified version of Bute (Rowan 52), I have been contemplating almost exactly this method so I can keep all the patterns matching. Thank you so much for thinking ahead of me and putting it out there so graphically! BTW, the sweater is great too!

    Comment by miniknits — October 24, 2012 @ 12:33 am

  16. Can you steer me toward a contiguous sleeve pattern to study? I am curious to learn more about what you did here. The sweater looks GREAT!!!!

    Comment by Ruth — October 25, 2012 @ 11:26 am

  17. Susan, I thought you would be interested in this, post 505 on the Show Your Contiguous Projects thread on the Contiguous group.

    SusyM says do the shoulder in one and graft! We are both right! I still don’t know if I would bother when I could just 3 needles bind off though. I think your way is smarter knitting.

    Comment by Needles — October 27, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

  18. Ingenious! Thanks so much for sharing and for writing it up so beautifully!

    Comment by Martha Coons — October 27, 2012 @ 6:59 pm

  19. Love that you have encouraged me and two others to try this bottom up technique with this Burr pattern. I have completed the contiguous join up to the sleeve cap where the original pattern refers to 4 rows of 3 st bind off. If I understand correctly you left the 3 st bind off as live sts by completing the short rows. My confusion lies in the 12 st cap! Are the 6 live sts on each side of cap from the short rows in addition to your 12 st cap? I hope I haven’t completely confused you especially after a few months of your completion! Passionknitly, Marimon

    Comment by Marimon Nettleton — November 12, 2012 @ 11:59 pm

  20. Beautiful! I’m in the process of knitting the same sweater; ready for the sleeves which I plan to knit in top down. Sure wish I had known of your take on the contiguous method ’cause I want my finished sweater to look just like yours. : D


    Comment by Roberta — January 20, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

  21. I adore your sweater, but I’m another who thinks this is EZ’s bottom up simultaneous set-in sleeve.

    Comment by kittenknit — May 14, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

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