Knitting Finishing: Setting In Sleeves

Set-in sleeves are my favorite sleeve construction, because they’re the most flattering on me. I was looking through my sweaters the other day, and I think 90 percent of them have set-in sleeves. I have a few raglan sleeve sweaters, which I like the look of, but I have to be careful when knitting them because they tend to be too tight under my arms. To combat this, I have to make the sleeve openings longer.

knitting finishing techniques

A beautiful example of a set-in sleeve

So set-in sleeves it is. I’m pretty good at setting them in at this point, but I struggled with this part of knitting finishing when I was a newer sweater knitter. I always thought the sleeve cap was too short to fit into the opening, but it was an optical illusion because the sleeve cap was rounded, and until the front and back of the sweater was sewn together, the sleeve opening was straight. Like many things in knitting, you have to trust the pattern and keep on going!

There are lots of tricks out there for setting in sleeves, but I like the method I learned in episode 1407 of Knitting Daily TV with Vickie Howell, which uses pins to keep the middle of the sleeve attached to the middle of the sleeve cap. This technique is from finishing expert Leslye Solomon.

Here are the highlights:

1. Align the sleeve cap bind-offs with the body bind-offs and pin in place. Pin the top of the sleeve cap to the shoulder seam. Thread the garment yarn into a large eye needle. With right side facing, in a mattress-stitch style of sewing, take a small portion from the sleeve armhole bind offs near the edge and a small portion of the stitches under the armhole bind offs. You will not necessarily take identical bars or stitches for this technique. Go back to the sleeve cap and continue taking small stitches from the edge of the cap and the armhole of the body.

Important: The first part of the armhole has decreases but when the decreases stop, the straight edge stitch sewing line should not be broken. Be careful to insert the needle between the first and second stitch from the straight edge of the body consistently. The sleeve cap, however, has many stitches, rows, decreases, and bind offs. When inserting the needle into it, place the point farther away from the very edge to eliminate the visibility of the sleeve cap shaping. There will be a slightly larger seam from the sleeve cap edge than the body edge.

2. Regularly check the top pin to see if there is equal fabric on both the sleeve cap and the armhole. Take a slightly bigger quantity, skip a small space (if there seems to be more fabric on one side) or a smaller quantity of fabric (if there seems to be less fabric on one side) to
ease in place. There should be no gathers or bunching.

Leslye has some more tips for a clean set-in sleeve, and there’s also a great sleeve-cap-shaping tip sheet from Trendsetter Yarn’s Barry Klein. Visit this post to download Leslye’s entire set of instructions and Barry’s tip sheet, too.

And get so many more knitting finishing tips, plus techniques, guest stars, and plain old knitting fun in Knitting Daily TV with Vickie Howell. The entire set of KDTV DVDs is 50 percent off in our store right now! That’s an incredible deal for over 90 hours of knitting instruction.

Cheers,
1KCsig

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