Hot Tip: Save time at try-on

Hot Tip: Easiest way to try on a top-down sweater

The number one benefit of knitting a sweater from the top down is being able to try it on as you go, fine-tuning the fit along the way. The only challenge (such as it is) is not losing stitches off the ends of your circulars as you pull it over your shoulders, especially once you’ve joined the body below the armholes. The following tip is buried somewhere in my top-down tutorial but I wanted to pull it out and shine some daylight on it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to do any extra work — whether that’s threading stitches onto waste yarn and then back again onto the needles, or inserting “try-on tubes” or anything that has to be done and then undone. The easiest way to resolve the issue, when you’re on a round where you want to try it on, is to simply knit half the stitches onto a second circular needle. That’s it! As long as both circs have a cord length that is at least half the circumference* of the knitting, you can pull both sets of needle tips free and clear of the stitches — so half the stitches are resting on one cord and the other half on the other — and pull it safely over your head. Then when you’re ready, just start knitting again. When you reach the end of that round, all of your stitches will once again be on a single needle, with no extra doing or undoing of any kind.

You may also find it useful to steam your sweater before you try it on — especially if your swatch changed meaningfully before and after blocking.

This tip builds on the very first Hot Tip, too, regarding mismatching your needle tips. If you’re knitting with interchangeable needles, you don’t even need two sets of tips!

*You can see that the second needle I used for the top photo is not half the circumference, but the two combined lengths are still equal to or greater than the circumference. Just make sure your second needle is of appropriate length for completing the round. This one will be a tight fit for the rest of the stitches, but you can always switch back to your first needle on the following round, if the second one is either too short or too long for carrying on with.


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30 thoughts on “Hot Tip: Save time at try-on

  1. I love this idea as I’ve always slipped stitches onto waste yarn.

    Hoping you will sometime address how to avoid or fix underarm holes on the top down sweater. I haven’t seen a good way to avoid these.


  2. I just tried a sweater on yesterday by threading it onto waste yarn. If only I had waited until today and read your tip. Now I know! Thank you and Happy Holidays.

  3. I love top down sweaters. My favorite books are by Barbara Walker and Ann Budd. If you can use interchangeable needles with an extra cable added, it is even easier than using 2 circular needles. Just my two cents.

  4. If you’re using Knit Picks/Pro circulars, they also have a handy little tool you can buy called a cable connector – I connect a long 100cm cable to my working cable, draw the stitches on to that for try on, then push the stitches back and reconnect my needle once I’m done. Quick and easy.
    The cable connectors are also great for when you need a longer cable but don’t have one handy – just join two shorter ones together, and off you go!

  5. This resurrected tip from your old file came at just the perfect time, as I’m knitting a top down dress and am at the point (approx -1.5″ from arm pit) where I’d like to try on for fit. Thank you for posting this valuable tip!

  6. What an excellent tip!! I could have used that when I knit my Antler sweater. It’s top down but I couldn’t try it on because I wasn’t about to take all 200+ fingering stitches onto scrap yarn just to try it on. It ended up being too big after all so I wore it and now I’m going to frog the whole darn thing and start over. If only I had come across this before all that.

    • I did exactly the same with my Antler, Diane. It was far too big as well as having quite a few ( visible to me, if not to others) mistakes in as it was my first attempt at sweater knitting. So I frogged it and am now knitting Wanderling by Isabell Kraemer. I just wish I had known to wash the wool after frogging to get the kinks out- another lesson learnt the hard way!

    • I didn’t try on either for exactly the same reasons, but thankfully got away with it. Sorry to read that you had to frog.

  7. Posting again to thank you for the tip re mismatched needles. I am knitting a cowl where after the edge band on 4.5mm I had to change to 6mm for the pattern section. I just put a 6mm on the RH end of the circular needle and it has made slipping the stitches for the pattern so much easier. Thank you!

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