Fixing the sleeves on the Devonshire jacket combines the changes I’ve made on Liv’s sleeves (which were too long) and the Calvin Klein cardigan sleeves (which were too wide). And I thought that with this experience under my belt, there would be few surprises. Well, surprise. There are surprises, but not that many. Fitted sleeves will always be a part of a sweater that requires attention, but I have come up with some procedures to help. In addition to really careful measurements, I will block the finished pieces before knitting the sleeves and block the partial sleeve to verify that my fabric matches the size I want.
The problems with the Devonshire sleeves for me are these: Although the schematic in the pattern looks something like the shape on the left, the actually knitting will give you a sleeve that looks like the one on the right. And, the cuff is too wide.
Narrowing the cuff is relatively easy, but getting the vertical distance was not a simple measurement.
In making my sleeve adjustments, I consulted some excellent sources:
• The Vogue Ultimate Knitting Book
• Deborah Newton’s Designing Knitwear
• Maggie Righetti’s Sweater Design in Plain English
• Jenna Wilson’s excellent Knitty articles on knitted sleeves
The things you must know in designing or adjusting sleeves are the stitch gauge and row gauge. You also need to know the measurements of your desired sleeve. This seems somewhat straightforward, but it isn’t.
The Yarn Harlot has proclaimed that gauge swatches lie, and indeed they do. So to make them more truthful, I’ve started blocking my big pieces—the sweater fronts and back—to get a more precise measurement. The sweater body pieces give me knitting to match that is just as big as the sleeve, and so it is more accurate than a 4-in x 4-in square. I’ve found that the pieces still lie, but not as much. The slip-stitch pattern for Devonshire knits up much more tightly than the blocked pieces. It is a bit subtle in the photo, but it makes a noticeable difference in the row depth. The unblocked knitting is on the left, and my blocked front is on the right.
When I measured to get the 17-inch sleeve length that I wanted, I got 34 orange “dots”. I based my math for the increases on that desired 17-inch length. After knitting for a while, I measured again. When I held the back vertically and got 33 dots, even though I measured this about 20 times before and ended up with 34 dots. I like to use pattern features and not just a tape measure for planning. It is the pattern features that you see on the garment, not a tape measure. So I may have to do some adjusting toward the top, just before the cap decreases. I may lose two stitches from my planned measurements, but that is not too significant.
From Maggie Righetti, I saw in print something I’d been doing but not read or noticed in any other source. The actual “rectangle” that you use for the sleeve to armhole should not be a rectangle. Maggie says you should stop the increases about 2 inches before your armhole bindoff. I planned my Devonshire increases so they would stop 1 inch before the bindoff, which was largely a mathematical convenience. It doesn’t really make sense to do the last increase and then bind off immediately. I generally fudge here, depending on the number of increases I need, I’ve stopped as much as 3 inches below the armhole.
So this is what I’ll be doing when I increase from the cuff to the armhole:
It is always nice when you can increase at even intervals, say, every inch. But for this sweater, that wasn’t possible. If I need to change the distance between increases, I generally place more of them closer to my wrist because this fits me better. My wrists are relatively thin, but my upper arms are large (from all that swimming).
To be sure that my knitting matches these measurements, I’ll take the piece off the needles and block it. If it is too long or short, I will adjust before attempting the cap. Ripping three-colors of slip stitch isn’t fun, and I think this interim block will save me the trouble of doing much of that.
I’ll deal with the cap adjustment when I get to that part of the sleeve. So far I’ve got 7 inches of sleeve to go before then.