Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Knitting the Top-Down Raglan Cardigan, Part One

I recently released a new edit of all the Figheadh Fundamental Top-Down Cardigans, because after being contacted a couple of times about the fact that the very first right-side row of the sweater didn't have enough stitches to actually do what the pattern asked, I wanted to fix that. I also got all perfectionist on the thing and made the increases at the right front edge match the ones at the left front edge. That one was bugging only me, I think. Unless it was bugging you, too, then let me know!

I have also been contacted by a couple of new knitters attempting the cardigan who were confused about how to begin. I would imagine that if this were your first top-down raglan sweater, some things might be confusing. Let's clear this up a little.

In the pattern, I ask the knitter to cast on stitches first and then work the increases and place the markers in the first real row. There are a couple of other ways to do this.

I am knitting the size 36 in the 3-stitch gauge (meaning that I am working with bulky yarn). For this size, I am instructed to cast on 30 stitches. I can see from the way the markers are placed in the Set-up row that I have 2 stitches before the first marker, 5 stitches between the first and second markers, 16 stitches between the second and third markers, 5 stitches between the third and fourth markers, and 2 stitches after the fourth and final marker. Knowing that, I can place temporary markers at those positions before I begin my increases (shown above) just to keep things really straight. Then I can replace the temporary markers with ring markers as I work increases in the Set-up row.

Another method is to place the ring markers in their places as I cast on the stitches, as shown above.

The photo above shows the stitches after the first increase, the Set-up row. Now there are 3 stitches, first marker, 7 stitches, second marker, 18 stitches, third marker, 7 stitches, fourth marker, and finally 3 stitches for a total of 38 stitches. Eight stitches are increased in the row when only raglan increases are worked. 

The raglan increases are the ones worked along the lines between body and sleeves and are indicated by the four stitch markers. Since we are starting our sweater at the neckline, that means that the stitches before the first marker form the left front section, the stitches between the first and second marker form the left sleeve, the stitches between the second and third form the back section, the stitches between the third and fourth marker form the right sleeve, and the stitches after the fourth marker form the right front section of the sweater.

The raglan increases are just one set of increases needed in the sweater. Different increases are needed at the front edges where the collar and then button bands will be. The way that you work these increases determine the shape of the neckline. Most of the Fundamental Cardigan patterns have options to work a crew neck or a V neck with different increase sequences for each type of neckline; however, the men's version has only the V-neck option. In the crew neck shaping, only a few sets of increases are worked at the neckline every right-side row until the piece has 3.5 to 4.25 inches of depth (depending on size) and then the front is worked from there with no more shaping. In the V-neck shaping there are more increases worked at a less frequent rate, but they are worked along the entire depth of the armhole. From there, the front edges are worked with no shaping, as with the crew neck option.

The photo above shows the right front neck edge after increases have been worked in the first right-side row after the Set-up row (which is what I just added to the new pattern edit). You must work two kf&b increases (knit into the front and back of the same stitch) one after another just in this row because there are too few stitches to work them otherwise. This increases this section from 3 stitches to 5 stitches.

Above shows the left front neck edge, which looks a little different, but has also increased from 3 stitches to 5 stitches.

Here is the whole shebang after working a couple more right-side-row increases. Now it's starting to look like something. We now have 9 stitches before the first marker and 9 stitches after the fourth marker and we can work the neck edge increases as they should be worked--a couple of stitches away from the edge. That way, when it comes time to pick up stitches for the button bands, the little "purl bumps" made by the kf&b increases are positioned away from the edge, making it easier to pick up into those edge stitches later.

At this point we can also see the raglan line begin to emerge. See those two knit stitches lying side-by-side at the marker placement in the above photo? That's the good old raglan line. It will be even more distinct after washing and blocking your sweater. In the above photo you can also see the neckline starting to take shape.

As I am working another of these sweaters to formulate these pictorials, I can see some little tweaks that will make the pattern better and so (sigh) there will be a need for a fourth version. Until that is ready, be assured that there are no found errors. The current version will certainly guide you just fine.

I hope this post sheds some light on how to get started on your top-down raglan sweater. I'll be back in the next post with help for the next part of your sweater--separating the sleeves from the body.  

Happy Cardigan Knitting!

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