KTFO-2016.3 : Quick black raglan pullover

KTFO-2016.3 : Quick black raglan sweater recipe

We’ve talked about how this sweater wound up being a V-neck, why this sweater reinforced my love for top-down knitting, and how much I adore this yarn (especially at this gauge), but I know a lot of you just want the details already! I hear you — here they are! Please accept my apologies for the terrible FO photos lately — I am really struggling with the grainy winter light and cannot wait for it to end.

This here is a super straightforward top-down raglan, and if you know how to knit a top-down sweater below is everything you need to replicate it. The one thing I really wanted to play with on this one, though, was actually shaping the raglan seams. I first toyed around with the notion a few years ago (and have since heard the term “compound raglan” floating around but am not sure precisely what’s meant by it!) but had a different idea I wanted to try. Basically, I wanted something in between a saddle shoulder and a raglan, and wanted to see if I could curve the seams in a way that was more flattering than a straight 45° line jutting out from the neckline (often at an odd starting point). So rather than beginning with a sleeve stitch count that’s 30% of the back-neck count, as is the norm, I started with a higher ratio of sleeve stitches and worked the increases in the sleeves and body at differing rates, such that the front and back initially got wider at a faster rate than the sleeves did (for a more outward raglan line), then at the same rate for a bit (the old 45° angle), and then the sleeves got wider faster than the body (for a more downward slope). Hopefully between the photos and the notes below, you’ll see what I mean. I’m totally thrilled with the outcome.

Pattern: Improvised
Yarn: Lettlopi by Istex in Color 0005 (purchased at Tolt)
Cost: no pattern + 5 balls of lopi at $5.50 each = $27.50, plus shipping (I know!)

Quick black raglan sweater recipe


3.5 sts and 5 rows = 1 inch (measured over 4″ = 14/20) knitted on US10


42″ chest = 148 sts
16″ upper arm circumference = 56 sts
9″ cuff circumference
21″ total length
9″ yoke/armhole depth (45 rounds)
12″ body length (3″ hem ribbing)
7.5-8″ sleeve length (3″ cuff ribbing)


— Wanted 6.5″ back neck measurement and higher ratio of sleeve stitches, as noted above = 23 back neck sts, plus 15 for each sleeve, 2 for each raglan and 1 each at the front neck

– Thus CO 63 sts, divided with markers as follows ( 1 | 2 | 15 | 2 | 23 | 2 | 15 | 2 | 1 )

– Planned on 11 sts cast on at each underarm, and divided the raglan stitches evenly between sections when separating sleeves from body

— Worked raglan increases as kfb on either side of the raglan stitches, differing increase rates as noted below

— Increased at the front neck on 1st RS row then every other row until 18 sts each front, 41 back sts between markers; cast on 5 sts and joined in the round (front sts at 18 each + the 5 cast on = 41 front)

— Increased the sleeve sts on the 1st RS row, then every 4th row 3x, then every other row until until 43 sts (plus 2 from the raglans at separation, plus 11 underarm cast-on = 56 / 16″); work-even till separation at 9″ depth

— Increased the front and back on 1st RS row, then every other row 11x, then every 4th row 2x, then every other row until 61 sts each (plus 2 from the raglans at separation, plus 11 per underarm cast-on = 74; front + back = 148 / 42″)

— Worked sleeves even for 4.5″, then decreased 8 sts evenly around (48), one row even, decreased 8 sts evenly around again (40), then switched to US8 needles and worked 2×2 ribbing for 3″

— Worked body even for 9″ (with a basting stitch at each side seam, to be mattress stitched later), then switched to US9 needles and worked 2×2 ribbing for 3″

— Worked the neckband as 2×2 ribbing for 5 rounds

— Wound up blocking it at 44″ wide (9.5″ positive ease) and it’s perfect

I did have to think a little about that V neck, since it wasn’t a complete V but more of a blunted one — remember I had actually cast on 5 stitches. When picking up stitches for the neckband, I picked up (and marked off) the center stitch, skipped the two flanking that stitch, and picked up the remaining two, and picked up the rest of the way around the neck as normal. That pulled it into more of a true V. Then I worked that center stitch as a purl stitch and the rest in 2×2 ribbing, and decreased on either side of the center stitch (inward leaning decreases) every other round. Worked out great.

Shaped raglan details

PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Bob’s rollneck sweater

59 thoughts on “KTFO-2016.3 : Quick black raglan pullover

  1. What is the difference between actual chest measurement and finished measurement? Very attractive sweater.

  2. Totally gorgeous curve to that raglan! Makes me want to try out something similar. And congrats on having something come out just how you envisioned it, that is an amazing feeling.

  3. It looks so beautiful – simple, yet very stylish. I love how you put different looks with it to show the sweater off! Thank you so much for all your notes!

  4. This looks great! I’m actually thinking of trying something like this for my son, who wants just a plain pullover sweater. Might be just the perfect recipe. Thanks for sharing your details!

  5. Very interesting raglans. Are there basting stitches in them?

    Thank you for sharing this post. Your improvised sweaters are inspirational.

    • There are two stitches in the raglan seam and I can always opt to mattress stitch one of them up later. This sweater is so light and (hopefully) durable, I decided not to for now. Plus they look so perfect as they are. But I just really don’t love that flimsy feeling of a seamless yoke! So I might do it. We’ll see.

  6. It’s really perfect. I love how you really ended up with what you sketched.
    I’ve been working on a top down raglan with different rates of increase on and off for a few years – mostly just a sketch model to see what happens. It makes so much more sense.
    I just ran into this yarn at a new to me place in minneapolis last weekend. It seems just a teeny bit scratchy – does it soften up after washing at all?

    • It does — it really changes with a good soak — but it’s never going to be merino soft. Given how cheap it is, I recommend you buy a ball, knit a big swatch, and block it with a lanolin-based wool soap (or a lot of people say a drop of hair conditioner for this). And see what you think.

  7. Congratulations! What a beautiful sweater! & what an inspiration! Did you have any trouble knitting with the very dark yarn?

  8. A great shape. Simple and square, which I love. It’s the sleeves that are really distinctive….almost puffed in the way they pull in at the cuff. Well done, Karen!

  9. I have only been knitting since August but I am ready to attempt a sweater that may actually fit me. I have completed one Raglan and it was way too big with a few big holes in it to go along with the sleeves. I had no idea what I was doing or why. I have been on your site now every night for several nights in a row. I have read all your articles two to three times on Raglans. I really enjoy your posts and find I can follow what you are saying even if most of it is new to me. What I do not understand I believe just comes from lack of knitting experience so I am going to jump in and try again with the guidance from your site. Thank you for the detail you supply and the pictures (especially on the How to Knit a Top Down Sweater post). Your site is a wealth of knowledge for new knitter like me!! Thank You!

    • Some of it is a little abstract if you’ve not done anything similar before, but it should all make sense when you’re actually doing it!

  10. Just to clarify for myself… did you just knit the top raglan in the round, then seamed the sleeves and body? Or did you finish down to the end of the body in the round, then add the sleeves later? Sorry… I am a strict pattern follower and not good at adaptation… yet :)

    p.s. I adore this sweater and want to make some for myself! OH… and another question… how would I go about doing the math if I didn’t want as much positive ease? THANK YOU!

  11. I also love knitting top down sweater…got a long sleeve cardi on the needles, as I type this…it is screaming “finish me before starting something else!”
    I love your v-neck and the abbreviated sleeves, it is so lovely on you.
    Nice knit! <3

  12. This is a beautiful garment, and like everything you do and present, in impeccable taste. But I have a very basic practical question. I grew up in Montreal and now live in Central New York, so I’m familiar with cold weather and how we use wool to deal with it. I’m always intrigued as to why anyone would knit a short sleeve sweater, or a tank top using wool. It does look great, but if it is warm enough to keep your arms bare, isn’t the wool covering your torso too warm, especially lopi yarn?

    • I pretty much always have my sleeves rolled or pushed up over my elbows no matter what, but for me on this one it was part design wishes and part practicality. I likely couldn’t wear lopi much where I live if it weren’t for knitting it at this very loose gauge and abbreviated scale overall. I’ll likely make at least one long-sleeved lopi garment (still at this gauge) in part to see if it’s too hot for me. But this light and short-sleeved number is already proving incredibly useful in our late winter/early spring weather.

  13. Very interesting! I think Ysolda in her Blank Canvas pattern also does a modified raglan/saddle shoulder – she calls it a raddle!

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  17. Love this! Question on pattern details – Is the back increased at the beginning at same rate as fronts (every other row)? I’m not following how the front increases to 18 per front before the join and the back only has 41 st at the join if the increase rate is every other row 11x. Thanks for this pattern.

  18. Sorry if this is a duplicate comment…
    Love this, but am having trouble understanding the back increase rate.. It seems the same as front 11x, but then don’t see how there are 41 back stitches when joined in the round. Thanks for any help!

    • The front and back are increased at the same rate, yes. But the join happens before all of the increases are complete — it happens when there are 18 sts per front and 41 in back (a difference of 5 sts, which are then cast on when joining the fronts).

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  28. Karen, I am trying to follow your instructions and make this as my first sweater ; it is challenging but exciting! I have a question: what size needle did you use for the neck ribbing, I am not seeing it indicated. Sorry if I missed it. Thank you :)

      • Thank you so much for a quick response Karen :) I am just getting ready to do the collar, so this is really timely! I hope mine turns out similar to yours, I love the shape and the yarn (although i chose to do it in a grey shade, but i am in love with Lopi!)

  29. Karen, I have another couple of questions about the neckline. Did you have to make extra 2 stitches on each decrease round to ensure that you could keep working the rib? And when you say that you purled the centre stitch, you mean on the RS of the work, right – since I presume the neckline was worked on circ needles in the round. If you could let me know, I would be very grateful.

    • Right, it was worked in the round so it’s done entirely from the RS. The decreases at the center front are what allows the V to lay flat, so you don’t want to offset the decreases with increases — the decreasing is the point. You just continue working the remaining stitches as either knits or purls depending what the ribbing needs them to be in that spot — i.e. “decreasing in pattern.”

  30. Hi Karen, it’s me again. I am at the point where I’ve divided the sleeves and am ready to work the body of the sweater bit I realized I am not sure how to implement the basting stitch. Could you please tell me if I understood correctly: in each of the 4 raglans I will choose 1 of the 2 stitches to be purled ( reverse stockinette). This selection is done in a way that only 1 of the 2 raglan stitches per garment part become purled ( I drew a diagram and it looks like this: left front raglan seam – knit, left sleeve raglan seam adjacent to left front – purl, left sleeve raglan seam adjacent to back – knit, back raglan seam adjacent to left sleeve – purl, back raglan seam adjacent toright sleeve – knit, right sleeve raglan seam adjacent to back – purl, right sleeve raglan seam adjacent to right front – knit, right front raglan seam – purl) Is my understanding correct? Also, if I chose not to seam the sweater in the end, will the purled stitch seam look odd? Thank you for your help!

    • If you’re at the sleeve separation, you’ve already completed the raglans — without having built in the extra basting stitch, sounds like. To put a basting stitch in the center of the raglans, you establish that stitch at each raglan point on the very first row and maintain it all throughout the yoke rows.

  31. I see, that makes sense. So basically, i missed the boat on this one :) so in the future, if i want to include a basting stitch, I would have 3 stitches for my raglans – k,p,k – between each set of markers. Thank you for explaining Karen!

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