Sleeve Setting

May 6, 2015

I must confess that sweater sleeves make me nervous — specifically, the sewing of sleeves to the body and shoulder of a sweater. The seams along the length of the sleeve are easy enough since the stitches line up one-to-one. But as you approach the shoulder, the geometry gets a bit more complicated, with decreases that create shapely curves but can create challenges when it comes to lining up the sleeve to the sweater body.

So it’s no accident that the sweater pattern than I selected as the basis for Michael’s sweater has “flat top” sleeves, no taper, no sleeve cap. If I’d watched this terrific, clear, and helpful video from Knit Picks on how to set in sleeves before selecting the pattern, I may have chosen something different. Next time perhaps….

First step (after blocking all pieces, so really it’s the second step) is to line up the sleeve with the body and secure it. Some knitters use safety pins, clip-on stitch markers, or even paper clips. I prefer to tack — or tie — the sleeve to the body, taking care to line up the center of the top sleeve edge with the shoulder seam.

tacking sleeve edge to shoulder of knit sweater

It’s also important to be sure that the side edges of the sleeve extend equally down the front and back of the sweater. That makes an even armhole, but even more importantly, ensures that the sides of the sweater line up evenly when the time comes to sew those together.

close up knit sweater sleeve tacked before sewing

When I’d secured the sleeve to the shoulder, I asked Michael to try it on to see if the armhole was big enough. He carefully put his head through the neck, draped the cape-like garment over his shoulders — and the sleeve dropped right off!

Pro tip: be sure to actually tie the yarn that holds the sleeve to the shoulder. Gravity is everywhere and will pull off just looped yarn “tacks.”

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One Response to “Sleeve Setting”


  1. […] the past week, I’ve used lifelines to rescue two projects, Michael’s finished-but-not-done sweater and the recently started Old Shale […]

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