design, sweater

The Sleeve Cap Nightmare

sleevecapThe sleeve cap curve is a bit of a mystery to me.  It’s why I’ve stuck to raglan construction for most of my knitting life.  It’s not that I haven’t designed and knitted set-in sleeve sweaters but it’s always with a deep breath and my fingers crossed that the sleeve cap will fit correctly.   I just follow the armhole bind off and initial stitch reduction curve from the sweater body and then fudge it a bit until I get to the 3″ final bind off.  It’s worked for me until this sweater.

To dodge plotting the sleeve cap curve, I found an after-thought knit-in-place scheme.  This method worked okay when the sweater was all one color but you can see in the pic above that when you are dealing with stripes, it looks terrible.  There’s no avoiding plotting the stupid curve for this sweater.  Or, maybe it could be an ugly oversized vest?  Hmmmm.  Tempting!

sleevecap2My second attempt at the sleeve required knitting the sleeve in-the-round from the cuff up.  When I got to the sleeve cap, I took a deep breath and shaped the bottom exactly like my armhole and then reduced stitches on the way up while keeping an eye out for overall circumference so it would fit into the hole.  It was a half-success.  The cap fit into the hole but it looked ridiculous and pulled in on the sweater.  The pic doesn’t clearly show the spectacular awfulness of the sleeve cap but it was really bad.  Fail #2!

sleevecap3For the third attempt, I pulled out a sweater design book and skimmed through the sleeve cap section.  The information I gleaned- follow the sweater curve and leave a wider final bind off.  Easy enough.   Keeping an eye on the overall circumference, I knit the sleeve cap again and carefully seamed it in place.  Voila! – worse than the last sleeve cap!  This pic shows more clearly that my sleeve cap just isn’t wide enough.

Back to the drawing board!  After reading more extensively and taking my shoulder-to-shoulder around-the-arm measurements, it’s became clear to me where my problem lies.  I cannot duplicate the armhole curve in my sleeve cap, which is counter to most of the advice in my books.  My sweater has lots of ease that I’m reducing away in the armhole.  If I follow that curve, I’m reducing my sleeve cap too much and it doesn’t fit around my arm.

The upside to all of this knitting and frogging and seaming and ripping, is that I’ve been forced to actually learn how to plot the dreaded sleeve cap curve.  While I still need to knit yet another one of these guys, I’m pretty confident that this one will not only fit into the armhole, but will also fit my arm nicely.  Time will tell.  Keep your fingers crossed for me, please!

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