How to knit a compound raglan

How to knit a compound raglan

For this week’s Top-Down Knitalong post, I want to address the notion of a compound raglan, even though I know a lot of you are already past thinking about your yoke! But it’s interesting to think about and maybe play with on your next sweater, if not your current one. (I definitely think you want to have a grasp on the standard raglan method before messing around with this!) Shaped raglans are one of those things I started tinkering with when I was first knitting, just pondering how sewn patterns come together as opposed to how top-down raglans are created, and long before I heard the term “compound raglan.” What does it mean? When you knit a raglan the traditional top-down way (as detailed in my tutorial), what you’re making for the yoke is a flat rectangle with a hole in the middle for your head and mitered corners, which are the raglan “seams.” By increasing evenly in all four sections of the sweater, you’re creating raglans at a 45° angle to the neck, which isn’t necessarily the most flattering line running across the body, depending on the body in question and how high/low those angles start and so on. With a compound raglan, you increase at different rates in the sleeves and body, allowing you to create more of a curved raglan line.

My first attempt at it was just spacing out the raglan increases and then varying the rate of increase toward the bottoms of them, so that the fabric would sort of bend toward the underarms more gracefully, as explained in this old post. When I went to knit my black lopi pullover earlier this year, I wanted the ease of the raglan process but a look that was more like a saddle shoulder. I took a good look at (and some measurements from) a saddle-shoulder sweater in my closet, and wondered why I couldn’t just start out with a higher proportion of sleeve stitches than tradition calls for, and not increase them as quickly or as much. That would mean the sleeve-top sts would stay fairly constant in the beginning while the front and back sections got wider at a faster rate. Then I sped up the sleeve increases (to every-other row) while slowing down the body increases (to every fourth row), causing the seam to bend downward and creating something in between a raglan and a saddle shoulder. You can see from the stitch markers in the image above where I was increasing only every fourth row vs every-other row in each section, and what the resulting raglan seam looks like. There are precise details in the FO post about this sweater, but the key thing is that if you’re going to try this, you have to be really meticulous about your increase math, making extra sure you can fit all of your increases into the number of yoke rows you have available.

When I sat down to write this post yesterday, I thought about the fact that I now know there is this term out there, compound raglan (which I first heard on a episode a couple of years ago), and I wondered what sort of norms or standards are reflected in people’s use of the term. So I googled it, which you’d think I would have done a long time ago! Apparently credit for the term goes to Maggie Righetti, who wrote about it in her book “Sweater Design in Plain English” long before I learned to knit. From what I can tell from the few blog mentions that come up in a Google search, her method involves increasing every fourth row vs every-other in certain places! Which means now I’m dying to know how close my approach is to hers. So if, like me, you want to know more about how to calculate for compound raglans, get your hands on a copy of her book.


PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: WIP of the Week No.1

25 thoughts on “How to knit a compound raglan

  1. Karen, a lot of this is over my head right now but I am eager to grow into it! I think you should absolutely write a book!
    Jean Holt

  2. Love that sweater. It still amazes me what you have accomplished in such a short period of time. I have been knitting for over four decades, and I never really thought about creating my own pattern until your blog came along. At this point, I can’t quite wrap my brain around the math of it all, but I plan on doing it! For now, I’m knitting from patterns. (I look forward to your book/ebook! That will help me!)

  3. lol – I have that book, got it way before I was ready for it, and gave up. But now I think I will get it out and review it. I love your compound raglan sleeves, they look much nicer than the standard ones.

  4. Thank you, your blog has been answering my questions ahead of time as I plan my Improv sweater. I’m with MJK above, my brain finds the math daunting but it does feel nice to try a new way.

  5. I have been waiting for this! I have never done it the old fashioned way but this is really tempting. Of course, I’m having so much fun with this kal, I might have to do another sweater in a fingering weight to contrast the super bulky beast yarn I’m using. I have wonderful hand dyed spruce green in the stash.

  6. Karen, Just another thanks for all your remarkable ideas! I, too, have been knitting for years and love all these new (to me!) ideas. I’ve thought the neckline on this particular sweater is great. Been trying to figure out exactly how you did it, so this will help. Will also order the book and wait for yours! Also, love all the Fringe bags! Super handy!

  7. Your sweater almost looks like one done in a contiguous fashion, much like ‘On the Beach” by Isabel Kraemer but starting out with more stitches on the sleeve portion. Great blog post!

  8. I’ve been attempting to grade my raglans a bit, too! Maggie Righetti is so great, I’m glad I have a copy of her sweater design book. It makes my life easier! I’ll be writing a bit about that on my own blog, but for now, if you feel like checking out what I’ve had to say so far, I’m writing about my process and inspiration for this KAL over here:

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  10. So I’m wondering why you use all those little markers on the raglan seam. I’ve been a knitter for a long time and I’ve never done that.

  11. I am enjoying your tutorials and the whole top down KAL process. Having done a few raglans, I decided to try my hand at a top down circular yoke.

  12. LOVE! so going to give this a go for a sweater. I’m planning something. im thinking. its in my head. i wish i had time to do the knitalong. i’m an avid viewer though. xxx

  13. Your skill in improvising this blows my mind! for those less assured (like me, at the moment), Ysolda’s Blank Canvas does the same thing bottom-up – she calls it a ‘raddle’ (mix of raglan and saddle) – and it does fit so much better than a traditional raglan.

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