Friends, I have been knitting obsessively. I have had my nose to the proverbial grindstone. I can’t stop working on this spiral sweater because I can’t wait to see how it turns out. It’s kind of like reading a really good novel that sucks you right in. I’m closing in on the end of the main body piece – about halfway through the fourth and final level of the spiral.
That’s the status as of right now. I took the picture with flash in my poorly lit living room, but I have a couple of lovely photos taken outside several days ago.
With this fingering weight yarn, and all the back-and-forth knitting and complex stitch manipulation, it’s kind of slow going. I’ve been making relatively fast progress only because I’m devoting every single spare moment I have to it. I’ve been thinking there’s an even chance that I could finish it in time to enter in the State Fair, and it’s been driving me a little crazy trying to calculate the available time left before the deadline versus the amount of knitting left to be done. It’s a toss-up, really.
Meanwhile, over on Ravelry, several others have been knitting along with me, and I’ve really been enjoying the company. One busy knitter has even completed a toddler-sized sweater for her daughter. And she spun the yarn for it herself too. It turned out really cute, and she’s posted pictures over in the forum there. All of this without any guidance from me on sleeves or pulling the whole thing together – so color me impressed!
I know that one or two others are waiting for some directions on sleeves, and it’s really pretty simple, so here we go. First we need to know how many stitches to cast on.
We start with the measurement at the sleeve cuff of the sweater we really like to wear. Lay the sleeve flat, measure the width across and multiply that number times two. In my case that number is 9 inches. For the moment, let’s not worry about the stitch pattern we’ll use for the cuff. Instead, let’s think in terms of right after the cuff edging.
If we’re going to run the stitch pattern we’ve been using for the spirals up the outside of the arm, then we can account for that portion of the sleeve width separately from the stockinette portion of the sleeve. In my case, I measured my original spiral swatch as 3.5″ across after blocking. That portion of the sleeve is going to be constant all the way up, so we can just subrtract it from the starting width 9 – 3.5 = 5.5″ while we figure out the stockinette portion of the sleeve.
I know from measuring the stockinette portion of my spiral/swatch (before the patterning began) that I’m getting 7 sts/inch. So I know that I’ll need 7 times 5.5 or 38.5 stitches for the stockinette portion of the cuff circumference. I know I’m going to have to round that number, so let’s start by rounding it down to 38, and then add the 29 stitches of the lace/cable pattern to that for a total of 67 stitches. That wasn’t too terrible, right?
Now we just need to back up and think about our cuff stitch pattern for a moment. If you’re going to use seed stitch for your cuffs as I did for my original sweater, it’s easy. You just need an even number cast on and can simply round down one stitch, casting on 66. For my new sweater, I’m planning to use the little cable pattern on the edge of my texture panel, which requires a multiple of 4 stitches. I can just round up to 68 and voila I have my cast-on number.
Okay, we have our starting point. Now we need to think about where we’re headed. We measure the width of our sleeve at the top by the underarm, same way as we did the cuff. I got 14″ around. I’m going to do some of the same math as the cuff. 14 inches minus 3.5 for the lace panel is 10.5″. 10.5 remaining inches times 7 stitches per inch is 73.5. Round up to 74. 74 plus the 29 stitches of cable/lace is 103, and that’s my goal for the number of stitches I want to end up with at the top of the sleeve. This is not hard math, really!
Now how do we get from the cast-on to the top of the sleeve? We need to figure out how often to increase. First, how many stitches are we going to add during this process? Well, 103-68 is 35. Oops, that’s an odd number, and we need an even number since we’ll be doing two increases on every increase row. So after I finish my cuff edging, I’m going to increase one stitch somewhere that makes sense – either at the top to get the lace panel to synch up with the cables from the cuff, or at the bottom where the other increases are going to be starting shortly. It’s only one stitch, so its location doesn’t matter much.
Alright, so I’ll say 103-69 is 36. If I divide 36 by two (because there are two increases in every increase row) I’ll get 18, and that’s how many increase rows I’ll need. Hold on to that number for a minute.
Now let’s look at our sample sweater from our closet. Lay it out flat and measure the edge of the sleeve from the point where it joins the body of the sweater at the underarm down to the edge at the sleeve cuff. In my case, that’s 17″. I have long arms. I know that I want my cuff edging to be 2″ long, and since that counts as part of the sleeve length, but will not include any increases, I’m going to subtract it from the total sleeve length. 17-2=15″.
I need to translate that sleeve length from inches into rows. So I go back to my post-blocking swatch measurements. I got 10 rows per inch over my lace stitch pattern, and pretty much the same for my stockinette portion. I guess if I’d had a difference between the two, maybe I’d have averaged them, or – well, I don’t know. Maybe I would have just gone with the lace number. So, 15″ times 10 rows per inch is 150 rows.
So I have about 150 rows in which to spread out 18 rows of increases. 150/18 is 8.33333. So I need to increase on every 8th row. That’s handy for me with my cables in my lace panel that repeat every four rows. I’ll just increase every other time I hit a row where I need to twist a cable.
Okay, and that’s the eye-crossing math of sleeves. It sounds complicated, and really I guess it is a bit complecated. But it’s a simple formula that you will come to understand once you’ve worked it through on your own example. AND! This is the big part. It’s like riding a bike. Once you’ve done the math for one sleeve, you can do the math for any sleeve. You are now free to make the sleeves of virtually any sweater you knit in the future to the exact length you want them to be without worrying about fitting in the correct number of increases in the number of rows allotted.
Alright, I’m tired. It’s late. I know I’ve skimmed over the whole where to place the increases and where to place the lace panel part. Tomorrow, I will take a break from my incessant body-spiral knitting and start a sleeve. I will take many pictures and explain that part a little better. While you’re waiting, go ahead and try your hand at a little math and see how it comes out for you.