A knitter contacted me to clarify the instructions for the sleeve increases for the Blue Ridge Sweater, which is one of the patterns in the Spring 2016 issue of interweave Knits. So I decided to include this information in a blog post, and also to offer an alternative to some of the instructions given in the published pattern. If you are just looking for these clarifications, skip to the last third of the post, because I first explain some of the practical challenges that shaped the final design of the body and sleeves.
The Blue Ridge Sweater is an unusual pattern for me in that it only includes three sizes (I usually try to do a least five, and more often seven). This is because the pattern repeat is large, at 4 1/2"/11.5 cm wide--and if you consider that an odd number of repeats would bring the additional challenge of centering the design differently on front and back, it really makes the repeat 9" (so that there is always an even number of repeats). Since there is usually about a 4" difference between adjacent bust sizes, this pretty much meant that I could only write the pattern for every other size.
If this had been a more traditional Aran sweater, where the stitch patterns go straight up and down, large panels would have been less of a problem: many Aran sweaters center a large cable or textured pattern on front and back, or else have paired large panels on left and right, and surround these focal points with smaller panels in between (and on the sleeves). But since this is a yoked sweater, with the same two stitch patterns repeating around body, sleeves and then yoke, I had to figure out how to fit in the right number of the two types of panels for each size.
I started at the top by figuring out how big the base of the yoke (where sleeves and body are joined) should be for each size, which determined the number of pattern repeats. The size of the base of the yoke was guided by how big I wanted the body and sleeves to be at the levels of the bust and the upper arms, but I also had to decide how many stitches from body and sleeves I would hold for the underarms. If not enough stitches are reserved for the underarm, the sweater will be uncomfortably tight in this area; if too many, then the outer sleeves and/or the front and back will be too tight.
But holding back these stitches meant that there would be an interruption in the stitch patterns from sleeves and body, and for the patterns to continue unbroken around the yoke, any partial panels from sleeves and body would have to combine to make a single panel. Even if it happened that the stitches for the underarm were enough for one whole panel, I would have to make sure that the sequence of patterns from sleeves and body coordinated, so that I didn't end up with two of the same panels next to each other on the yoke. I used the diagram below to help me figure this out for each size (B stands for Cable & Bobble panel, and L for Lace panel, and the vertical lines between the large and small circles of Bs and Ls represent the underarm stitches).
And what I finally concluded is that the various parts of the sweater would fit better if there was a narrow plain (stockinette stitch) panel on each side of the body. This allowed me to more easily allot the right number of stitches to underarm, body and sleeves, for the best fit for each size. The plain panels are not noticeable, and disappear into the underarm, allowing the Lace and the Cable & Bobble stitch patterns to continue uninterrupted around the yoke.
This solution also suggests an alternative to the sleeve increase instructions given in Interweave Knits, which tell you to work all of the increases into repeats of the Lace or the Cable & Bobble pattern. In every size, there are enough stitches increased to complete one or two of the patterns, but then there are additional increases which are not enough to form full panels.
So instead of working incomplete Lace or Cable & Bobble panels, here is what you could do:
For Size 36 1/4", after working the first 11 increases into the Cable and Bobble pattern, work the remaining four increases as follows: first as a purl stitch, and then as a knit stitch for the last three increases.
For Size 43 1/2", after working the first 11 increases into completing the Lace pattern, work the remaining five increases as follows: first as a purl stitch, and then as a knit stitch for the last four increases.
For Size 52 1/2", after working the first 8 increases into completing the Lace pattern and the next 11 stitches into the Cable and Bobble pattern, work the remaining five increases as follows: first as a purl stitch, and then as a knit stitch for the last four increases.
I feel this is easier than trying to decide how to work a partial lace or cable panel that no one is going to see anyway (unless you are raising your arm). You will end up with a narrow plain triangle at the top of the underside of the sleeve. The first stitch of the round will remain in the center of the top of this triangle, which will thus be 7 (9, 9) stitches wide (not including the purl stitches on each side), to join to the top of the plain panel at the side of the body. The photo below shows how it will look.
Whether you decide to work the sleeve increases as published in Interweave, or as described above, here are a few clarifications:
- Increases are paired; that is, you will be forming two new panels with the increases, one just after the beginning of the round, and one at the end of the round.
- The first stitch of the round remains at the center of the underarm.
- When you are working the sleeve increases into the stitch patterns, do them starting from the left side of the chart for the increase near the beginning of the round, and starting from the right side of the chart for the increase at the end of the round. This will make the partial panels mirror images and also make them continuous with the rest of the stitch patterns (see above).