The Details: Sleeve cap short rows

How to knit sleeve-cap short rows

There’s a trick I have wanted to try for as long as I’ve known the term “short rows” but hadn’t until my Grace pullover — for reasons unknown. What finally prompted me to try it was that I was knitting this sweater out of chunky yarn and in pretty fitted proportions, the combination of which made the urge more pressing. What am I talking about? Making more room for my shoulders.

If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know that (even before discovering the freedom of experimentation that comes with top-down sweater knitting) I learned to favor raglan sweaters at a young age because my shoulders are so broad that fitting into set-in-sleeve clothes is a challenge — if the sleeve cap seams hit at the tips of my shoulders where they belong, the garment will be too big for me overall, and vice versa. Raglans solve this in that there’s no sleeve seam to sit uncomfortably in the wrong place, but it can still be the case — especially on a snug pullover — that there’s not quite enough fabric to get over my big shoulders. It has always seemed to me that this should be addressable with short rows, and I’m glad I finally gave it a go!

This was an especially easy case for them, too, since the gauge of this sweater meant I could create extra fabric in only a couple of short-row turns. I’ve left my pink waste yarn in place for the pic up top so you can kind of see, but here’s all I did:

1) After separating my yoke into the sleeves and body and knitting a few inches of the body, as I like to do, I put my sleeve stitches back on my needles. (That’s the upper pink strand of waste yarn.) I’ve knitted my sleeves flat, as usual — picking up underarm stitches starting at the midpoint of the underarm (aka side seam), knitting across the sleeve stitches, and picking up the last few underarm stitches back to the midpoint — but this process would be the same if you were knitting in the round.

2) I then purled back across the WS of these stitches, stopping one stitch before the end of the row, and did a YO-and-turn. (You could wrap-and-turn, or whatever your favorite short-row method is.) Then knitted back to 1 st before the end of this third row, YO and turn. That’s one pair of turns.

3) For my second pair of turns, I placed them in line with my front and back raglan “seams.”

4) And then I worked my way back across the stitches one last time, closing up the YOs as I encountered them, to the end of the row. (That’s the lower strand of pink waste yarn.)

This amounted to a wedge of six extra rows of knitting at the sleeve cap before I continued downward with the full set of sleeve stitches as normal, giving me an extra 1″ of fabric to help accommodate my shoulders before worrying about my arms. For a finer gauge sweater, I would want to do the equivalent number of rows at whatever row gauge to create the same amount of extra fabric, and would distribute those turns within the underarm stitches.

This will factor into every top-down raglan I do from now on, stitch pattern permitting!

For all other details on this sweater, see the original FO post.


PREVIOUSLY in The Details: How to sew a kangaroo pocket

The Details: How to sew a kangaroo pocket

The Details: How to sew a kangaroo pocket

I’ve had a number of people ask for the details on how I made the kangaroo pocket on my recent Fen mods: tunic and dress variations. Following is how I do it — and since I’m not a sewing professional, there may be people with even better advice in the comments on this. You can of course adjust the numbers to your liking, but my measurements result in a generously sized pocket 14″ wide and 8″ tall. You’ll want to make and attach the pocket to your garment front piece before sewing the rest of the garment together.


Using tracing paper or butcher paper or whatever you’ve got, draw a rectangle 15″ wide by 9″ tall.

On the right edge, measure 3.5″ up from the bottom right corner and make a mark. On the top edge, measure in 3.25″ from the upper right corner and make a mark. Draw a line between those two marks for your slant pocket edge. Repeat on the left side. Cut that out and you have your pattern piece, with .5″ seam allowance included.


Matching the grainline for your garment front piece, cut your pocket piece(s) out of your fabric. If you’re using lightweight fabric, like my linen, you may want to cut two identical pocket pieces and make it a double thickness. For sweatshirt knits or heavier woven fabrics, a single layer will suffice. Either way, you can zigzag or pink the edges if you like.

For a single layer pocket, press all of the edges under at .5″, then for the slant pocket edges (which will remain unattached), press the raw edge under another .25″; top-stitch along the slant edges, starting and stopping just shy of the corners.

For a double layer pocket, with right sides together and using a .5″ seam allowance, stitch the two pieces together along all but the long bottom edge. Clip the corners, turn the pocket right side out, and form and press carefully into shape. Fold the bottom edges inward and press; pin together if needed. Top-stich along the slant edges, starting and stopping just shy of the corners.


Mark the center of both your garment front piece and your pocket — I just fold them each in half and press at the appropriate spot, then line up the creases to center the pocket on the garment. Pin the pocket in place, being careful to keep the bottom and top edges parallel to your hem (i.e., perpendicular to the grainline).

First, stitch across the top of the pocket, starting and stopping at the rows of stitching you’ve done across the slant edges. Then starting at the lower slant corner on one side, sew down the side, along the bottom, and back up the other side.

Give it a good press, and carry on assembling the rest of your garment!


PREVIOUSLY in The Details (sewing): How I sew elastic waistbands

The Details: How to make a pompom

The Details: How to make a pompom

It occurred to me as I was shooting my beret the other day that I’ve never posted about how I make pompoms, although I’ve taught it in my classes. Here’s the tried-and-true method for making pompoms that I’ve been using since childhood, no special tools required:

1.) Wrap yarn around the fingers of one hand (or piece of cardboard, a spatula, anything that’s a bit bigger than you want your finished circumference to be). It takes more yarn than you might think. For a loose, shaggy pompom, use less yarn. For a denser, fuller pom, use more. Experiment!

2.) Carefully slide the bundle off your hand and lay it across a separate strand, then use that strand to tie a knot around the belly of the bundle. Pull it tight, but don’t break the yarn. If you need your pompom to have tails for attaching to something else, leave them long and keep them out of the way as you proceed.

3.) Insert your scissors into the clump of loops on each side of the belly band and cut through them, being careful not to cut the strand holding them together. You now have a limp, shapeless pre-pom.

4.) Start pruning! Trim the ends just like you would a hedge, shaping it into an orb. The more you trim, the denser the pompom will be. (Especially if you use a loosely plied yarn that unplies as you work.) Again, experiment to see what suits you! 

The Details: How to make a pompom (free tutorial)

That’s it! For a hat, run the tails down through the top of the hat, secure on the underside and weave in the ends. (Pictured above is my version of Courtney Kelley’s April Hat, a free pattern.)

If it’s going to be attached to any surface, I like to leave the bottom a bit flat. For any other purpose, you’ll want to make it fully round. Pompoms are a great use of yarn leftovers, and you never know what you might find to use them for!


PREVIOUSLY in The Details: That sweatshirt V-patch look

The Details: Selvage pockets

The Details: Selvage pockets

One challenge about these remnant fabrics I’m using for my alternate Carolyn pajamas is that the bolt size is quite narrow. (I think they’re Japanese?) For instance, it wasn’t possible to cut the two pattern pieces for the pant legs side by side. As I was cutting, and being left with these long narrow bits of fabric alongside each of the leg cuts, I decided to cut the waistband and the pockets on the cross-grain — meaning the stripes would run horizontally instead of vertically — thereby using that otherwise wasted bit of fabric and preserving my remaining yardage. It also meant I could lay the straight edge of those two pattern pieces along the selvage, which is a lovely red stripe. In the case of the pocket, that straight edge becomes the  bottom edge of the pockets, which also meant I didn’t have to do any kind of finishing on that edge, since it wasn’t raw — I could preserve the selvage and save a step in one fell swoop.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think it through with the waistband, which I was sewing via my usual elastic waistband method rather than with the concealed seam allowance as written in the pattern. I could have zigzagged the non-selvage edge of the band and been careful to make sure it got attached with the selvage side on view, but I had already prepped it the wrong way around, so that bit got serged off. Nevertheless, I’m happy to have that little strip of red across the pocket bottoms!

In deciding to turn the stripes sideways, I also decided not to even think about the pattern matching and just let it be however it turned out. (They are pajamas, after all.) To my great surprise and delight, the pocket stripes miter in a way that totally looks like I meant to do it! Love it when that happens.

See these Carolyn pajama pants
Lean how I sew elastic waistbands

The Details: Selvage pockets

PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Pajama pant perfection

The Details: That sweatshirt V-patch look

The Details: That sweatshirt V-patch look

I mentioned when I first envisioned this little sweater vest that it was inspired by a jersey garment I once owned and adored — a sleeveless fleece top modeled on a classic sweatshirt. Unlike my version (full post here), that one did have a waistband; and I don’t remember whether it had the side panels or not, but I believe it did. I’m certain, however, that it had that classic sweatshirt neck detail of the little V patch just under the ribbed collar. Does anyone know if there’s a proper name for this neck detail? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard one, which is surprising given how ubiquitous it is. It must have a name — and I’m sure one of you will know. Anyway, I knew I wanted this vest to have it, and it was simple enough to do!

I’ve seen various such treatments in many knitted garments over the years (a favorite being Ysolda’s Polwarth sweater), but rather than studying them, I just measured the V on a sweatshirt in my closet and got out my trusty pencil and Knitters Graph Paper Journal and charted it out. Because of the marl here, I was concerned about the V having enough contrast with the main fabric, being rather small, so to help it stand out I worked the adjacent stitch on each side as a twisted knit stitch (knit through the back loop, in other words) holding only the grey yarn, then worked the stitches within my V in reverse stockinette. For the first few rows, I thought the grey stitch wasn’t accomplishing anything meaningful (and you definitely can’t see the lower ones shown in the chart below, meant to mimic the overstitching), but in the end I think that subtle frame of grey twisted stitches does help set it off just enough.

Mine is basically 13 sts wide (and 8 rows tall), which is slightly more than the number of stitches I bound off at the center for the start of the neck shaping. That was a conscious choice and meant the V business continued upwards at the neck edge for a couple of rows into the shaping, as you can see in the upper chart below — which made it a little more complicated. (And I have no idea why I didn’t BO an odd number so it was perfectly centered; told you I was apathetic!) But the easiest thing to do would be simply to make your patch the same number of stitches wide as the center neck BO called for in your pattern, as shown in the lower chart below, and then all there is to do is begin knitting it that many rows before your neck BO. In the totally hypothetical 13-st example shown, 8 rows before you reach the neck BO, you’d start this. Make sense?

IN SHOP NEWS: We’ve got the indispensable Cocoknits Knitter’s Block back in stock, plus a full complement of Bento Bags once again, and all the other beauties over at Fringe Supply Co.

Happy weekending!


PREVIOUSLY in The Details: How I sew elastic waistbands

The Details: How I sew elastic waistbands

The Details: How to sew an elastic waistband

Elastic waistbands are tricky, let’s face it: They can look great or utterly disastrous depending on the type of fabric, the amount of fabric piled up on the elastic, and most of all in my view, the width. To me, a wider band will always look better, and it definitely lays flatter. If you get the variables right, an elastic waist can be perfectly flattering and even chic. As noted yesterday, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how I do the waistbands on my modified Robbie pants, so here’s a rough how-to for you. I’m using photos I snapped while sewing the denim pair last year, and apologize for the photo quality and not reshooting them when doing the latest pair, but I think it’s easier to see what’s going on (even though the photos are so messy!) since the denim has a visible right and wrong side.

This is a method I learned sometime in my youth and have always preferred and used when making the assorted elastic-waist skirt or whatever. This is a totally different width and attachment approach than what you’ll find in the Robbie Pant pattern, and you can use this method with basically any waistband that is just a rectangle formed into a loop.

STEP 1: Cut a wide waistband
I like 2″ elastic. For that, your waistband piece needs to be 4″ tall, plus seam allowance on top and bottom, plus a smidge for wiggle room. And the width of your piece (the circumference) should be as it is in the original pattern, to match the pieces it attaches to. With the Robbie pants, I’m pretty sure I simply doubled the height of the waistband pattern piece to get the piece I’ve been using. Robbie is 1/2″ seam allowance, so that’s 5″ plus a smidge.

How to sew an elastic waistbands

STEP 2: Sew the ends to form a ring
Line up the two short ends, right sides together, and mark the center point. Using 1/2″ SA — or whatever your pattern calls for — stitch from one edge to the center point or just a hair beyond, and backtack firmly. (This point will undergo some stress.) Press the seam allowance open. Note that only half of it is actually stitched together, so fold and press the rest of open at the exact same width as if it were sewn all the way.

How to sew an elastic waistbands

STEP 3: Edge-stitch the seam allowance
I don’t like for there to be any flap of fabric inside the casing for my elastic to get stuck under when I’m inserting it, so I like to stitch down the seam allowance, as close as possible to the edges.

How to sew an elastic waistbands

STEP 4: Press the waistband in half
Now fold the waistband in half with wrong sides together and press along the fold. At this point, you have a prepared waistband ready to attach. On the outside (the right side, or public facing side) it’s a continuous ring, seamed at the join (aka the center back). On the inside (which is now officially the wrong side), there’s a gap at the seam, which is where you’re going to feed the elastic when the time comes. Lay the band on your ironing board with the seam at one side and press or mark the opposite side — that’s your center front. Now bring the seam (center back) and center front together, lay it flat again, and mark the fold at each side for aligning with the side seams.

How to sew an elastic waistbands

STEP 5: Attach the waistband
With your pants right side out, pin the waistband all the way around the outside, right sides together, lining up the opening in the waistband with the center back, and matching up the center front and side seams as noted. Seam the band onto the pants using the specified SA (which for Robbie, again, is 1/2″). I like to then serge the seam allowance, but you can zigzag, pink, or finish as you like. Press the seam allowance toward the pants and top-stitch in place. Again, this way there is no loose seam allowance inside the waistband to fight with your elastic.

How to sew an elastic waistbands

STEP 6: Insert the elastic
You can now feed the elastic through the opening in the inside of the waistband. It’s a torturous process, but I do it the old-fashioned way: with a large safety pin threaded into the leading end of the elastic. I also like to pin the loose end to the pants just inside the opening, so there’s no chance of it accidentally disappearing into the casing while I work.

When you’ve got it all the way through, overlap the two ends of your elastic and pin them firmly. Pull them out as far as possible so you can get them under the foot of your machine, and zigzag across them to secure. You can now put on your pants (or skirt) and see how you did!

I like this method, among other reasons, because I still have access to the elastic and can adjust the overlap however many times I might need to get the snugness exactly right. Once you’re sure you have it how you want it, you can either hand-stitch the opening closed (in case you ever want to get back in there) or pin the layers in place and top-stitch along both sides of the opening, which will permanently secure it and keep the elastic from trying to fold or twist. If you like, you can also anchor it at the front and/or sides.

And that’s it! I also prefer to work with stiffer elastic, which I find easier to insert and less likely to misbehave once it’s in there. It lays nice and flat, and that’s my whole objective!


PREVIOUSLY: Hipster painter pants

The Details: Sleeve length

The Details: Sleeve length

Being a persnickety sort, I’ve written before about converting seamless-bottom-up sleeves to top-down and stopping to block top-down sleeves before finishing them off (among other sleeve-obsessive posts), all in the service of knitting a sleeve to hit exactly where I/you want it. The challenge with sleeves — no matter what you’re making or how you’re making it — is that no two sweaters fit or sit exactly the same way. It’s not enough to think you prefer an 18″ sleeve (and to know how to re/calculate the shaping for yourself), because an 18″ sleeve attached to an 8″ armhole will be an inch shorter than an 18″ sleeve attached to a 9″ armhole. And even then, depending on the density of the garment, the drape, the way it sits at the neck (what kind of neck), even two sleeves of the same length will hang differently. So I’m fanatical about studying a schematic (or plotting out my own course), doing the math — hopefully making sure I’m calculating rows, not measuring unblocked knitting — and so on. I take time to get things just where I want them, and I know how to do that. But then along comes a sweater like this grey Cline of mine, which presents a whole new conundrum.

It seems simple enough: The Cline pattern is designed for 3/4 sleeves, which is not my thing, plus I have long arms and compact row gauge. So if I knitted it as written, they would be more like elbow sleeves (as learned in my try-on). So I needed to add some length, but figuring out how much in this case is not straightforward. Cline has a very unusual sleeve shape — it reminds me of a stingray — and no normal spot from which to calculate measurements. Working from a simple shoulder-to-wrist measurement isn’t an option because the sleeve doesn’t start right at the tip of the shoulder (especially on me). But nor is it a regular raglan yoke-depth situation, where you can add yoke depth and sleeve length for the desired total. It’s something of a hybrid. So once again, the only way to get it exactly how I wanted it was to knit the lower part of the sleeves last. To do this, I did the following:

1.) Cast on the allotted number of sleeve stitches in hot pink waste yarn, as seen in the photo up top, and knitted into them, working in stockinette upwards. (In other words, skipping the cuff ribbing and starting the pattern on the next row.)

2.) Added 8 rows into the start of the sleeve, simply by knitting a couple of extra rows before each of the first few increases.

3.) Knitted the remainder of the sleeves as written, plus the front and back of the sweater.

4.) Blocked everything and seamed the sleeves into position, as well as sewing up the side seams, leaving only the unfinished sleeves unseamed at this point.

5.) Picked up the neckband stitches and knitted the ribbing, so the neck’s affect on the sweater’s hang would be taken into account — especially as I was deliberately cinching up the neck a bit.

6.) Clipped together the unseamed edges of the sleeves and tried it on, and at this point determined how much more stockinette I needed to knit downwards before starting the 2″ cuff ribbing (23 add’l rows, in my case).

7.) Removed the waste yarn and put those live stitches onto the needle to complete knitting the lower arm and cuff.

8.) Used the long-tail tubular bind-off, the world’s best BO, which I find faster and less fiddly than the equivalent version of the tubular cast-on. Same effect with less fuss!

The only thing I didn’t do, and should have, was take a moment to check what the cast-on circumference would amount to. It could actually stand to be 3 or 4 stitches bigger through the forearm (I do have slight Popeye arms) but I’ll see if I can do anything with that the next time I block it. And meanwhile, it’s totally fine!

If you missed it yesterday, here’s the full rundown on this fabulous sweater.


PREVIOUSLY in The Details: Grafted patch pockets