The Joy of Modifying Armholes On-the-Fly (not)

Let's be honest. When it comes to having to modify armhole shaping on-the-fly, I have a great alternative.

Let's all just go play in the shark tank instead.

Yeah. Because that would be a ton more fun, methinks, than having to do the nifty math involved in tweaking those curves.

No? No shark tank play date? Well, shucks. Guess I'll just have to pull it together and figure this out then…

It all began with some luscious shiny yarn (a 50/50 cotton/tencel blend) and a cute summer tank top pattern: Tattoo Tank by Marlaina Bird, from Knitscene Winter 2010. As I knitted, the yarn started talkin' sass to me, and in order to get my self-respect back get the shaping right, I started modifying things as I went along, right there on the needles.

I don't generally advocate for shaping-on-the-fly, as therein can lie both madness and a UFO-in-the-making. However, sometimes you just gotta ad lib to make the music keep playing, and so that's what I ended up doing with the top: Knitting Ad Lib (if not Ad Loco).

Keep in mind that by the time I had arrived at the armholes, the stitch count had become a thing of wonder and beauty. It had also become something not resembling anything in the published pattern. My careful planning was shot to sulfur and back due to the mischievous yarn, and here I was contemplating some serious geometry around where my arms were supposed to go.


It was then that I suddenly Received A Clue, and realized that I had gotten lucky this time: Armhole math is only complicated when one has to match it to the corresponding sleeve cap math. This was a sleeveless tank! No sleeve caps! All I had to worry about were The Holes. Most of my problem was solved right then and there. Whew!

I now looked at the situation with a fresh eye. First, for some miraculous reason, I found I was actually getting stitch and round gauge for the last few rounds (we shall not question Fate). Second, from measuring other comfy sleeveless tops I own, I knew that I preferred an armhole about 8.5" high from the top of the shoulder to the level of the bottom of the armhole. So I needed a decrease scheme which would match the rate of an armhole shaped for an 8.5" height. I looked at the pattern schematic, and the largest size was written for exactly that height! I also needed a certain width of armhole, side to side, due to my bust size. I measured my favourite top at home, and then compared those measurements to the schematic, and again, the largest size was very close to what I needed.

Thus, even though I was not knitting the largest size, I could use the largest size as a template, just for the armhole. In essence, the pattern had become a puzzle, and I was pulling out just the piece I needed–the armhole shaping from the largest size–and using my own numbers for the rest of it. This isn't the way I like to operate, normally–but we're not in Normal anymore, Dorothy.

To cover up any Unfortunate Shaping Events in the armhole, I intend to eventually pick up stitches around the armhole and knit myself a wee pair of sleevettes. (I am hoping the sleevettes will also help to cover up a few Unfortunate Shaping Events in my upper arms, as well.) So stay tuned for the sleevettes!

I'm sending out thoughts of a cool, breezy spot on the porch for you, complete with icy drink, clicking needles, and the laughter of friends. Knit on!

– Sandi

P.S. Feel free to leave a comment because I love to hear what you have to say… 🙂



Sandi Wiseheart
is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, you can follow her: sandiwiseheart.

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