A tale of two sleeves

Tag Team Sweater Project progress report

There’s good news and bad news about this Tag Team Sweater Project. The good news: I get to knit with an amazing yarn I’ve never knitted with before. It’s Swans Island Pure Blends, undyed merino and alpaca, and it is heaven. It’s knitting up into a sleeve so luscious I can’t stop pausing to pet it and slip my forearm in there. The bad news: I don’t get to keep it! Anyway, here’s where things stand on my end:


You guys know I like to let the sleeve be my swatch, so I cast on the prescribed number of stitches on US6 and knitted the first cuff. My garter gauge for this puts the cuff at 8″ circumference instead of 8.75″, but Anna and I agreed that’s a good thing — especially with garter’s tendency to splay. So then I forged ahead into the stockinette on US7. Two inches in, it was abundantly clear I’m a tighter knitter than Anna and Carrie Bostick Hoge, whose pattern Lila is. The pattern gauge is 19 stitches per 4 inches. I was getting 21. Anna is getting 19 on 7s, and I’m now knitting loosely on 8s to match it. Interestingly, I thought the fabric was a little loose at 21 sts, but seems perfect at 19. Go figure.

So now I’m obsessing a little bit over sleeve length. The hardest part of a bottom-up sweater is getting the sleeves the exact right length. It’s always a bit of target practice: You’re knitting up to the underarm, but you don’t know exactly where that underarm will be. You’ve got a pattern schematic with a yoke depth measurement, but that depends on your row gauge matching the pattern’s row gauge. Thankfully, Anna and I are both matching row gauge here. So last night while she was trying to write her blog post and put her kids to bed, I was pestering her to measure a sweater she likes the fit of. (I wish you all could see this string of texts.) It had an armhole depth of 7 inches and a sleeve length of 18 inches. Since her row gauge matches Carrie’s, we can have faith that her yoke will match the pattern’s armhole depth of 7.25, which means I’ll knit her sleeves to 17.75. And hopefully that will hit the mark. I really don’t want to be responsible for her having a sweater with sleeves that are the wrong length!


Pattern gauge for Trillium is 20 stitches per 4 inches. Anna swatched and got 19 stitches on 7s and 21 stitches on 6s. My gauge for Acer using Shelter and 7s was 21 stitches, and I’m pretty reliable about that — see above, for instance — so we decided to knit this sweater at 21 stitches instead of 20. (For both sweaters, we’ll be knitting on different size needles to get the same gauge as each other.) The size we’re knitting is about 4 inches of positive ease on me, so there’s some wiggle room. And there’s always blocking.

I cast on my first sleeve as well, to make sure all is well at the outset as she’s starting on my body. And all is not well. This is the first time I’ve ever had the benefit of having tried on the sample garment before knitting from a pattern. Apart from the sleeve length (my arms are really long) I loved the way it fit. So I went into this thinking it would be a no-brainer — just knit the sample size and stick to the pattern. But the surprisingly big cast-on count got me scrutinizing the schematic after all. Turns out the cast-on count makes sense with the schematic: The pattern is for a 10.5″ cuff. But that’s not the sweater I tried on. My wristbone is 6.25 inches. You can see in this photo (and another taken that day) that no way is the cuff 40% bigger than my wrist. What gives?

There’s no problem adjusting the cast-on count for the cuff dimension I like, but it’s unsettling. If the sleeve cuff on the sample doesn’t match the pattern, does the rest of it? We shall see.

Meanwhile, there’s another matter on which Anna and I agree: This twisted broken rib is the slowest thing on earth! Dear Anna, let’s only knit 3 inches of it instead of 4 — deal?


19 thoughts on “A tale of two sleeves

  1. Wow! So interesting! Coming from a “long armed” family, we always had our grandmother add length to the sleeves of the sweaters she knit us, and I continue to do the same. I can see how that WOULD BE pressure! This is such an interesting experiment! Karen, I thought I WAS a detail person, but I can see that I would blow this project if it was me. On another note, I am going to make some of those medicine pouches! Thanks!

      • Your comment was perfect. I was thinking the same thing – that I would be so much more concerned with the other’s sweater than I would on anything I made myself. I can’t wait to see the finished projects!

  2. Hello! I’m so sorry about the confusion on the twisted rib measurements. The sleeve’s ribbing came in a little tighter because of the small circumference. The gauge measurement works out well for the body because there’s more of it. I know – that sounds totally bizarre. But the twisted rib is a tricky bugger. The sleeve may eventually stretch to the 10″ after wearing it and will not recover as well as a normal rib. But to begin, it will be tighter.

    • Thanks, Michele. I knitted it first at 60 sts and it was definitely 10+ inches, so I redid it at 52 and am happy with the revised dimension. I wouldn’t want the body/hem ribbing to be any smaller than the sample was, so hopefully that will match up!

  3. I have a (maybe dumb) question, as I’m planning to start knitting a Lila of my own pretty soon, and, to make matters more complicated, I want to throw Breton stripes into the mix and want to match them between the body and sleeves. I’d been thinking of casting the sleeves on near the top of the garter cuff with a provisional cast-on and then knitting & striping my way up to the armpit join, then later going back and adding stockinette (if needed) and the garter cuff in order to better control the sleeve length and make my stripes a little easier to figure out (more like top-down). Do you think that would work? Would that work as a general solution to the sleeve-length conundrums of bottom-up knitting?

      • Brilliant indeed! Thank you so much – I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around all kinds of elaborate ways to get my stripes to match, and Felicia’s solution makes perfect sense!

        Now back to swatching…. evidently I am a super-relaxed knitter, since I’m getting stitch gauge for Lila on US6s before blocking, and am guessing I’ll wind up going down to 5s once I block. :)

  4. I can’t knit (yet) so sometimes reading your posts is like reading another language, however, I am obsessed with wool & I love your blog so here I am. Am in love with that purple, gorgeous!

  5. Curious, why DPNs for the sleeves and not Magic Loop? It seems once I learned to use Magic Loop, I use it for most projects in the round. I can use DPNs, but usually don’t. Is it a personal preference? You could also cast on both sleeves at once and then they’d both be done =)

    • Yeah, everyone’s different — I love DPNs and don’t enjoy Magic Loop. I keep wishing I did, though, and that I could wow the world by knitting all FOUR of these at once!

  6. Pingback: Knitalong FO No. 5: Anna Dianich | Fringe Association

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