Nothing bothers knitters more about seamless knits than pesky holes under the arm.
I’ve tried various tips for avoiding the holes between the held sleeve stitches and the stitches picked up from the cast-on underarm shelf stitches for top-down sweaters. Invariably, I end up using the tail to duplicate stitch around the holes. Would love to know how you’ve solved this one.
And knitting tighter doesn’t help either . . .
I follow instructions exactly, but anytime I knit a top-down raglan, when I make my sleeves, I get these big holes under the arm. I try knitting really tightly, I’ve even tried twisting the stitches on purpose, but I can’t seem to fix my tension. Also, why are the stitches I pick up over the cast-on stitches backwards? Is this because it’s top down? I hope I’m making sense.
It’s not you, it’s the directions
Dear Rosemary and Kristin,
The answer is obvious: knit seamed sweaters. (Writer ducks.) Just kidding.
I too was baffled by those gaps when I first knit top-down. The pattern had me cast on a set number of stitches under the arm—check. It directed me to put my sleeve stitches on a holder—roger that. Next instructions: Pick up stitches into the same number of stitches cast on, knit across the sleeve stitches on the holder and knit my sleeves! No problem.
When I did that, I got this mess (sleeve stitches in a contrasting color to heighten the horror we all feel):
Sure, you can make it work with duplicate stitch:
But a gap on either side of the duplicate stitch is still visible.
When we ignore the usual pick-up instructions, we get this instead:
More on that later. Why do the holes happen in the first place?
There’s no way that we can simply pick up stitches over the cast on and go about our merry way without a hole.
On the right you see a big ol’ gap that looks like it’s two rows deep. Picking up stitches over the cast-on leaves two stitches in that gap with two big loose threads on the side. One loose thread is coming right out of the last sleeve stitch held. The next one is connected to the first loose thread.
The upside-down stitches
Kristin, you nailed the why about stitch direction confusion. It’s because of top-down construction. Here you see I cast on five stitches. You can see those stitches between the markers. You can also see where I’ve put a needle right at the base of that first cast-on stitch.
But when I hold the sleeve right side up, with the underarm stitches at the bottom (ready to pick up stitches), things look entirely different.
When I look at the Vs (that are really the space between two stitches) it looks like six stitches ready to pick up.
Notice how the stitch markers look like they go through the center of stitch 1 and stitch 6. On the right, I’ve removed the stitch marker and I’m putting my needle right through the middle of the first stitch I’m going to pick up.
In the MDK Holiday Shop
The Fix: More Is More
We are going to pick up five more stitches than the pattern calls for. Don’t worry, we’re going to get rid of them. It took a lot of trial and error to come to this path, but eventually I arrived at picking up two stitches at each corner and an extra in the cast on.
Start by holding the armhole facing you with the underarm stitches at the bottom.
Step 1: Using your right-hand needle (I’m using magic loop) pick up that first loose strand, the one coming right out of the last sleeve stitch, by inserting your needle back to front. We aren’t going to knit this yet.
NOTE: You COULD join the yarn now and do a make1 (m1) with the loose threads and then decrease the added stitch later, but I found that it was just as easy to skip the make one and just twist that loose thread as we decrease. Stick with me, it will make sense.
Step 2: Place marker and pick up that second loose strand—the one connected to the first loose strand—by inserting your needle front to back. We aren’t going to knit this yet.
Steps 1 and 2
Step 3: Starting with the first full V, attach a ball of yarn and pick up and knit underarm stitches. You will pick up one more than you cast on because you are really picking up the space between the cast on stitches.
Step 4: Continuing with your right-hand needle, pick up that first loose strand, the one coming right out of the last sleeve stitch, by inserting your needle back to front, and place marker.
Steps 3 and 4
Step 5: Pick up that second loose strand—this one is connected to the first loose strand—by inserting the tip of your left-hand needle front to back.
This is going to feel REALLLLY tight. You might need to give those two stitches a little stretch. Now work those two stitches together with a k2tog to twist the loose strand and close it up, leaving the full stitch on top. One stitch added has now been decreased away.
Step 6: Work to two stitches before the next side marker. Slip the first stitch as if to knit, put it back on the needle, and knit that stitch together with the loose strand by doing a k2tog through the back loop (a modified ssk) to twist the loose strand and close it up, leaving the full stitch on top. Two stitches have been decreased away.
Step 7: Slip marker and do a k2tog with the next two stitches to twist the loose strand and close it up, leaving the full stitch on top. Three stitches have been decreased away.
Step 8: Repeat step 6. Four stitches have been decreased away. Remove marker.
We still have to get rid of that extra stitch we picked up in the cast on.
Step 9: Work another k2tog. Five stitches have been decreased away. And work your sleeve!
Steps 7 and 9
The result is a lovely, no hole, top-down sleeve!
So go ahead, wave to your friends, walk around like Evita in the balcony scene, raise your arms in triumph like Simone Biles after nailing a vault. No more holes!