From the Top – EZ-style Basic Raglan

Elizabeth Zimmermann’s method of determining how many stitches to cast on is an excellent start to this very basic raglan sweater. The sweater, however, is knit in-the-round, and starts at the top rather than the bottom of the sweater. The benefits of this approach are two-fold; the entire sweater is knit up in one piece without any sewing or seams, and it can be “tried for size” at every step of the construction, to get a truly custom fit for body and arm lengths.

You must knit a swatch! This is extremely important for any EZ-style pattern since the gauge is used to determine how many stitches to cast on, and in this pattern is also used to figure out how increases to knit in the raglan, and more.

Instructions

This pattern does not determine which stitch pattern you will use for your sweater. Which stitch you use does not matter so long as you knit your swatch in that pattern, on the needles you will use for the sweater, with the yarn you will use for the sweater. Measure your gauge! There’s no need to adjust it if the fabric has the right “hand”.

This is a very basic sweater, and suitable for a beginner’s project. It is easier to knit in plain stockinette stitch than your average wash cloth or scarf, but can take quite a bit longer.

Measuring your victim

You will need the following measurements for the intended sweater recipient:

  • Neck (where the desired neckline should be)
  • Shoulder (from neck to shoulder on the top)
  • Chest/breast (largest circumference)
  • Arm hole (a comfortable circumference allowing movement; try using a comfy sweatshirt’s measuring from shoulder point to armpit seam and multiply by two.)
  • Arm length (from point of shoulder on top to where the cuff should end)
  • Wrist (circumference of wrist measured where cuff should end)
  • Back length (vertical measure from neck to desired sweater length)
  • Hip/waist (at desired sweater length)

You will need the following stitch gauge numbers:

  • Number of stitches per cm (inch) [stitch gauge]
  • Number of rows per cm (inch) [row gauge]

Materials and tools

This pattern can fit newborn babies or extra extra tall/wide, so few guidelines can be given for how much yarn you will need. Check out other patternsin similar yarns for similarly-sized people, and buy a bit more than that just to be sure.

You will need double point needles (dpn), and probably a circular needle. The size needles are determined by you, when you knit your swatch. You will also need at least 4 stitch markers, and some waste yarn or stitch holders. You should also have a knitting journal/notebook, to record measurements and calculations as well as to track your progress.

Determining your numbers

Knit your Swatch! This is not optional.

Plug your gauge and measurements into the following formulas, and write down the results:

  • cast-on stitches = neck measurement * stitch gauge
    This number should be divisible by 6; add 1-5 stitches as necessary.
    • Back stitches/Front stitches = cast-on stitches / 3
    • Sleeve stitches = cast-on stitches / 6
  • Number of increase stitches = (chest measurement – neck measurement) * stitch gauge
    This number should be divisible by 8; add or subtract 1-4 stitches as necessary.
  • Number of increase rows = number of increase stitches / 8
  • Cuff stitches = wrist circumference * stitch gauge
  • Cuff/bottom ribbing length = 7.5cm (3 inches) or your choice of length
  • Arm hole stitches = arm hole * stitch gauge
  • Number of sleeve rows = (arm length – cuff length) * row gauge
  • Number of sleeve reduction rows = (arm hole stitches – cuff stitches) / 2
  • Number of plain round rows = (Back length * row gauge) – (number of increase rows + (bottom ribbing length * row gauge) )
  • Number of waist stitches = hip/waist circumference * stitch gauge

Decide how you will increase your raglan. You can increase every row, increase 2 of three rows, or every other row to get slightly different angles and fit of the upper half of your sweater. Every row results in the shallowest angle for the raglan, while every other is nearly a 45° angle. Remember that each increase row will add a stitch at either side of the front and back panels, as well as the sleeves, so you will need to make allowances when knitting your pattern stitch. You can leave these stitches “lazy” until there are enough of them on each side to make another repeat of your pattern.

Putting it all together

So here are the instructions, and you’ll just need to plug in the variables you calculated above where they are in the pattern instructions text:

  1. Cast on left sleeve stitchs and place a marker, backstitches and place a marker, cast on right sleeve stitches and place a marker, and cast on front stitches and place a marker. Depending on the size of the neck opening you may need to start on double point needles; if so distribute the stitches evenly but making sure the markers are not at the start or end of any one needle. Join the circle, insuring there is no twist in the stitches.
  2. Create the raglan top with increases.
    • k1, k into back and front loop of the next stitch (increase, substitute your favourite increase method if you prefer), knit (in your pattern stitch) across to all but the last two stitches, increase 1, k1, move marker, repeat from * for back stitches, left arm stitches, and front stitches. Repeat increase rows times. Number of front and back stitches should now equal chest measurement * stitch gauge.
  3. Move the arm stitches to holders, and knit the body of the sweater.
    • Move the marker, slip purl-wise onto a waste length of yarn or a stitch holder, including the next marker. Knit across in pattern to next marker. Move marker, then slip purl-wise onto a waste length of yarn or a stitch holder, including the next marker. Knit across in pattern.
    • Determine if you need to increase or decrease to get from the current number of stitches to waist stitches, and whether you will spread increases/decreases out over the plain round rows or do them all now/just before the waist.
    • Knit plain round rows in pattern.
    • k2tog, * k8 k2tog, repeat from * making sure the final number of stitches is even.
    • * k1 p1 across, repeat row until bottom ribbing length.
    • Bind off with a stretchy bind off pattern.
  4. Pick up arm stitches and knit arm
    • Slip stitches from right arm holder onto needles. Count stitches; cast on stitches at armpit if less than arm hole stitches. Distribute on needles so center of armpit is near the start of a needle, place marker there.
    • Starting at marker, knit front side of sleeve to back of sleeve. Knit in pattern for 1/3 of sleeve rows.
      Sleeve reduction: evenly taper the sleeve for the final 2/3. The number of sleeve reduction rows will likely be about 1/3 of the total sleeve rows, which would call for every-other row to remove two stitches as follows:
      • k2tog, knit in pattern across leaving 2 stitches, k2tog
      Adjust the rate of reduction rows to suit.
    • k2tog, * k8 k2tog, repeat from * making sure the final number of stitches is even.
    • * k1 p1 across, repeat row until cuff ribbing length.
    • Bind off with a stretchy bind off pattern.
    • Slip stitches from left arm holder onto needles. Count stitches; cast on stitches at armpit if less than arm hole stitches. Distribute on needles so center of armpit is near the start of a needle, place marker there.
    • Starting at marker, knit back side of sleeve to front of sleeve. Knit in pattern for 1/3 of sleeve rows.
      Sleeve reduction: evenly taper the sleeve for the final 2/3. The number of sleeve reduction rows will likely be about 1/3 of the total sleeve rows, which would call for every-other row to remove two stitches as follows:
      • k2tog, knit in pattern across leaving 2 stitches, k2tog
      Adjust the rate of reduction rows to suit.
    • k2tog, * k8 k2tog, repeat from * making sure the final number of stitches is even.
    • * k1 p1 across, repeat row until cuff ribbing length.
    • Bind off with a stretchy bind off pattern.
  5. Pick up the neck stitches
    • Finish in any manner you find appropriate, such as a simple k1 p1 ribbing.

One Response to From the Top – EZ-style Basic Raglan

  1. MeghanQ says:

    I have a question… for the number of increase rows…if you divide by 8, this seems to include the stitches for the sleeve. For instance if my chest measurement is 46″ and my neck measurement is 21″ and my stitch gauge is 4.5 stitches per inch – we have (46-21)*4.5=112 (rounded). 112/8=14 increase rows. When I do the increases 14 times i am left with 44 stitches for each sleeve, 60 each for the front and back. (when I really should have 104 each for the front and back).

    I am trying a raglan sweater for the first time and I don’t want to mess it up. Please let me know if my calculations are off or if I am missing something.

    Thank you!!