Set-In Sleeves, Top-Down

Top-down sweaters are all the rage, and for good reason: many of them are knit in the round, so no purling, and there's relatively no finishing except weaving in ends.

Ann Budd has jumped on the bandwagon with her new book The Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters, which is written in the same style as her phenomenally popular books The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns and The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweaters. Yay!

There are several types of top-down sweater patterns, such as seamless yoke, raglan, set-in sleeve, and saddle-shoulder.

Top-down sweater styles. Clockwise from top left: Seamless yoke, raglan, saddle-shoulder, set-in sleeves
Alpine Tweed Sweater
Brioche Basic

I'm most intrigued with top-down set-in sleeve patterns because that's a construction that I don't see too much, and I like knitting top-down and I think I look better in set-in sleeves than raglan sleeves. So, here's some information from Ann about this interesting construction.

Top-Down, Set-In

Sweaters with set-in sleeves have tailored silhouettes and a timeless, classic quality. Because there is no excess fabric at the armholes, it gives a more refined look to even casual styles. The set-in style is particularly well suited for close-fitting variations, that can be enhanced through hourglass waist shaping.

The sleeve cap is shaped with short-rows that form a somewhat visible line along the armhole join, and differs more from its bottom-up counterpart than other top-down styles. However, this method eliminates the need for armhole seams and combines the refined set-in silhouette with the convenience of top-down construction.

The set-in sleeve sweaters in this book begin with stitches cast on for the upper back, which is worked back and forth in rows. The armholes are shaped with a series of increases worked at each edge. The back stitches are then placed on a holder while the front is worked.

For either a pullover or cardigan, the front begins in two sections with stitches picked up for the width of each shoulder along the cast-on edge of the back. The two halves of the front are then worked separately in rows to the base of the neck shaping. The two halves are joined for a pullover or left separate for a cardigan, and the armholes are shaped with increases to match the back.

At the base of the armholes, extra stitches are cast on between the front(s) and back for the underarms, and the body is worked in one piece to the lower edge. Stitches for the sleeves are picked up and knitted around the armhole openings and worked in a series of short-rows centered over the shoulders to shape the caps.

Then the stitches are joined and worked in rounds to the cuffs and tapered with decreases along the way. Finally, stitches are picked up around the neck opening for the neckband or collar.

—Ann Budd, from the book The Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters

I think my favorite is the Alpine Tweed Sweater by Jared Flood, pictured above left. I love the colorwork band at the top and the little scallop detail at the hem. I think this type of sweater would be more flattering on me than a seamless sweater with a colorwork yoke. I feel like that construction would make my shoulders look too round.

The set-in construction, though, adds the slimming lines of the sleeves meeting the colorwork band. I really like it.

Basic Brioche (above) is a basic workaday cardigan that also appeals. It's perfect for cool weather because the brioche stitch is lofty and warm. I think this one would be a sweater that I'd wear all the time.

Get the fabulous The Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters, choose your favorite top-down style, and cast on!


P.S. What's your favorite feature about knitting sweaters from the top down? Leave a comment and let us know!

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