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Blessedly, even sleeve caps come to an end. Finally, part 2 of the sleeve cap.

sleeve cap

The area we’re dealing with is the space between the first and second arrows in the picture above. For this the knitter or designer needs to know the three numbers the garment industry uses for the Estimated Cap Length. Estimated cap length is based on the king of measurements, chest size. For a chest 30″ (76) cm or less the estimated cap length is 2″ (5) cm. For a chest between 31″ (79) cm and 48″ (122) cm the cap length is 3″ (7.5) cm. For a chest over 48″ (122) cm, the cap length is 4″. The cap length is crucial in finding the total number of rows in the sleeve cap.

Part 2 calculations begin by taking the final bind off width, 3″ (8)cm and dividing it in half. 3 divided by 2 = 1.5″ (4) cm. Next, select the estimated cap length number that goes with your chest size and divided that in half. In my case it was 3″ (7.5) cm divided by 2 = 1.5″ (4) cm. Then subtract the two figures from the armhole depth. The equation looks like this: 8.5 – 1.5 – 1.5 = 5.5″ (14) cm. The total cap length from the first arrow to the third is 5.5″ (14) cm.

Find the total number of rows for this length by multiplying 5.5 by row gauge 6.5. Answer: 35.75 rows. No such thing as a .75 row so rounded up to 36. 36 rows exist between the first and third arrows. Check the math by subtracting the cap length from the armhole depth. The answer should be the estimated cap length. 8.5 minus 5.5 = 3″. The math is correct, I get the estimated cap length.

Find the total number of stitches decreased in this section by subtracting the number of stitches bound off in parts one, three, and four from the total number of stitches in the upper arm. The equation looks like this: 66 -10 -8 – 16 = 32 stitches bound off in part 2. Divide 32 by 2 to get the number of stitches to bind off on each side of the sleeve cap. Answer: 16. Thus 32 sts total are bound off or 16 on each side.

Find the number of rows over which to bind off these 32 stitches by subtracting the number of rows in parts one and three from the total number of rows in the sleeve cap. The equation looks like this: 36 – 2 – 4 = 26. In part 2 there are a total of 26 rows. Thus, I needed to bind off 32 stitches (16 each side) over 26 rows.

I need a bind off rate. The best way of calculating shaping over a knitted area is with the Shaping Formula used by Shirley Paden in her book Knitwear Design Workshop. If you are serious about designing this is the book to read from cover to cover. If you want to be a tech editor, this is the book to read. Heavy on the math, but worth every struggling moment of it.

Find the bind off rate by dividing the total number of stitches by the total number of rows. 32 divided by 26 gives a messy answer. It doesn’t divide evenly. When finding rate of increase or decrease and numbers don’t divided evenly, the following is the solution.

32 sts / 26 rows = 1 st with a remainder of 6 rows.
26 rows minus 6 rows = 20 rows. So far, this tells me to bind of 1 st at the beginning of 20 rows.

Find the remaining amount of sts to bind off over the six remaining rows by taking the 1 st and adding 1 to it for a total of 2 sts. This tells me I need to bind off 2 sts at the beginning of 6 rows.

To sum up the sleeve cap shaping directions are:

BO 5 sts at beg on next 2 rows. BO 1 st at beg of next 20 rows. BO 2 sts at beg of next 6 rows. Bo 2 sts at beg on next 4 rows. BO rem 16 sts.

Check the math by adding up the number of rows: 2 + 20 + 6 + 4 = 32. Row count correct.
Add up the number of sts: 10 + 20 + 12 + 8 + 16 = 66 sts. Stitch count correct.

The final thing I do before I take up needles and begin knitting again is plot my sleeve cap shaping directions on graph paper to see that it does form a nice bell shape curve. If it doesn’t, I adjust the decreases so that it does. Then I knit the sleeve.

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Sleeve review: 66 sts at the upper arm equals 13″ (33) cm in width. Gauge is 5 sts per inch, 6.5 rows per inch. I know the initial bind off is 5 sts each end of the needle on the first 2 rows. I know too 16 sts is my final bind off.

sleeve cap

A moment of pause before I launch off into the math for part 3 (I know I haven’t done part 2 yet) of the sleeve cap. The only numbers we searched for in this sleeve cap ordeal exercise were the number of stitches to bind off at a specific point and the number of rows over which to do it.

The figures for part 3 of the sleeve cap are found before the figures for part 2. Part 3 is the area between the second and third arrows in the picture above. This area, when done right, will round the top of the bell-shape. To get that rounded effect each side must have the same number of bind offs and they must take place over an even number of rows.

Here comes the math.

Again, the only numbers we needed to find were how many stitches to bind off over how many rows. The stitch gauge of 5 multiplied by 2 equals 10 sts to be bound off. The row gauge (yes, row gauge is important) of 6.5 I rounded up to 7. I divided 7 by 2 and got 3.5 rows over which to bind off the 10 sts. I rounded this odd row number up to 4. I then divided 10 (the stitches to be bound off) by 4 (the number of rows over which to bind them off) and got 2.5 stitches bound off on each row. I rounded this stitch number down to 2. What my math told me: Bind off 2 sts at the beg of the next 4 rows. Part 3 is complete.

So now I know: Bind off 5 sts each end of needle at the beg on the next 2 rows. Info to be filled in…. Then bind off 2 sts at the beg of the next 4 rows. Bind off the rem 16 sts on the last row.

Part 2 of sleeve cap shaping on Monday. This is the part that’s the real humdinger.

Have a good weekend.

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Time once again for paper, pencil and calculator. I’ve learned few things in life are nice and neat and make sense from beginning to end and figuring out a sleeve cap isn’t one of them. The figuring itself is a back and forth kind of thing. The first 4 times left me dizzy, frankly, so I am going to try to make this as simple as possible.

The only reason I needed to rework the sleeve cap on the Spring Sweater was I changed the length of the armhole and the number of stitches bound off as well as the rate at which they were bound off. Nothing was wrong with the original pattern numbers. They were spot on standard figures. But my frame and build don’t match those figures. The minute a knitter has to alter the armhole from what is given, the knitter also has to alter the sleeve. Armhole and sleeve are like jigsaw puzzle pieces that are meant to fit together.

I need to begin my sleeve cap by finding the total number of stitches I’ll bind off initially, and the total number of stitches in the final bind off. The numbers for the initial bind off equal the same amount of stitches I bound off at the beginning of my armhole.

A word here about armhole shaping and armhole depth. They are two different measurements. Armhole shaping refers to the area over which armhole decreases occur. This area is usually 1.5 – 3″ (4 – 8) cm in length. Most armhole shaping takes place quickly and occurs underneath the arm in the armpit area. The initial bind off usually removes 0.5 – 1″ (1.25 – 2.5) cm of stitches on each side. Armhole depth is the measurement of the entire armhole from beginning of shaping to ending at the shoulder.

My stitch gauge for the sweater was 5 sts per inch (2.5) cm. My initial bind off on the armhole was 5 sts. Thus my initial bind off for the sleeve cap needs to be the same, 5 sts each side. A total of 10 sts removed over 2 rows. Part one of the sleeve cap complete.

Next I need to know the number of stitches bound off in the final bind off, part 4 of the sleeve cap. This part needs to be about 0.25″ (0.6) cm less than the width of the upper arm. I prefer to work in even numbers if possible when I am doing knitting calculations. Sometimes, when I am lucky, even numbers make things easier. Here I chose to go with an even number and hold my lucky charm as I crunched the numbers. The width of the upper arm is the measurement of the fullest part of the bicep when the arm is hanging loosely at the side.

Since my mastectomy sometimes causes lymphedema, which causes my upper arm area to swell, I take the measurement of both arms to get an idea of my parameters. My usual upper arm width is around 11 or 11.25″ (28 or 28.5) cm. The original stitch count for the upper sleeve area was 65 sts. I increased it by one st just to make it an even number, 66 sts. Thus the upper arm width is 66 sts x 5 (st gauge) = 13.2″ (33) cm. This is a comfortable sleeve fit for me.

To find the final bind off figure, I divided the upper arm width by 4, then subtracted 0.25″ (0.6) cm. The calculation looked like this: 13.2 / 4 = 3.25″ – 0.25″ = 3″. Or in cm: 33 / 4 = 8.25 – 0.6 = 7.65 cm. Thus my final bind off (FBO) width was 3″ (7.65) cm. How many sts does that equal? Multiply the FBO width by st gauge. 3″ x 5 (st gauge) = 15 sts. Stop the train.

I can’t do 15 sts. Toss the lucky charm. If the upper sleeve stitch count is even numbered then the final bind off number needs to be even too. If it were odd numbered the two would be odd. My upper sleeve stitch count is even, 66 sts. Therefore, I need to round 15 up to 16 sts.

What do I know so far? I know to bind off 5 sts at the beg of the next 2 rows…(info to be filled in)…on last row bind off rem 16 sts.

Next time, parts 2 and 3 of the sleeve cap. Isn’t knitting math fun?

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One of the aspects of knitting that drives me nuts is sewing sleeves to the body of the knit. I need the seam created by this joining to look and be perfect. If it is not, I will rip and join, rip and join, until A) it is perfect or B) I’ve ruined sweater and sleeve and it ends up on my pile of knits to be frogged to save the yarn.

What I’ve learned is a good join starts with knitting the armhole and sleeve so they are meant to fit together. The schematic below shows how a set in sleeve should fit into the armhole: like jigsaw puzzle pieces meant for each other.

set in sleeve schematic a

To achieve this fit, I need to mirror the number and rate of bind offs performed on the armhole on the sleeve. Easier said than done.

sleeve cap

This was the sleeve cap for the Spring Sweater I just completed. It has a nice flowing curve that is bell-shaped. I point this out not to brag, but to say that unless a sleeve cap has that bell-shaped curve toil and trouble lie ahead. Therefore be aware of the shape of the sleeve cap while knitting to make sure this curve is forming.

The sleeve cap has 4 sections. The 3 arrows delineate these sections. The bottom arrow indicates the first part of the sleeve cap. This first part has two rows of initial bind offs. The bind offs exactly mirror the initial bind offs of the armhole. The second arrow shows the end of the second section and the beginning of the third section of the sleeve cap. Naturally, the third and second sections–the biggest and most conspicuous–are the most complicated to figure out. Remember, weeping allowed. A mistake here is noticeable. But the twisted path to getting them correct is worth it when it comes to the sewing. The third arrow indicates the fourth and final section.

I think I will stop here and take a moment to address Winter.

Dearest Winter,
Other areas of the world are waiting for you. Although you like it here, you’re a house guest that’s over stayed her welcome. Time to move on. Take your polar winds and snow and ice, pack them in your suitcase and scram. Please don’t take this personally, it’s just time for you to go.

Next post, get out the calculators, pencils and paper. It’s knitting math.

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