Tag Archives: top down

Seamless Saddle Shoulder Construction


Saddle shoulder construction at its most basic involves 2 saddles (strips of fabric) at the top of each shoulder that continue on to the sleeves. The body is connected at the front and the back to these saddles.
Obviously saddle shoulder sweaters can be constructed in pieces with the saddle continued from the top of the sleeve and then the front and back seamed on to the saddle at each side. However my preference (as always!) is to construct saddles seamlessly.

Top Down



Here’s a breakdown of the different steps that you’ll need to work your top down saddle shoulder sweater. This method creates a very polished finish and is fantastic for combining 2 colours. This is the method I uses for Viminal.

…remember you can still get 15% off any of the Dovestone Hills Individual patterns or digital book until the 14th of February if you use code HAPPYDOVES this includes Viminal!


To create top-down saddle shoulders you start by working ‘strips’ of knitting for each saddle. These start at the side of the neck and end at the edge of the shoulder. When they’re finished you put those stitches on waste yarn or holders and they will form the top of the sleeve caps.


Now we will work on the back and pick up stitches. If you lay the 2 saddles flat you can see how you pick up the stitches; first from the left shoulder, next you cast on neck stitches and then finally pick up stitches from the right shoulder.

After stitches are picked up we work short rows on each side so that the neck edge is higher than the outer edges. This is to create a shoulder slope as our shoulders are naturally sloped not flat.

Once that is complete you just work straight down until you reach the point where you want to increase stitches at the underarm. You increase slowly first and then more rapidly to create a nicely curved underarm. These stitches are then held until later.

This is worked in a similar way to the back but you will need to include neck shaping as well. For a sweater you’ll shape the neck with increases and a cast-on but for a cardigan you’ll never join the two sides of the front.

When the back and front are complete to the underarm you will join each side by casting on stitches at the underarm area. From there you work the body straight down to the bottom of the sweater, adding any shaping you might like.

When the body has been complete you go back to work the sleeves. You’ve got live stitches held at the top from the saddle stitches. If you put those on a needle and pick up stitches from each side you’re ready to go. The saddle stitches will form the centre of the top of the sleeve cap and you then work short rows back and forth, adding one extra stitch every time you turn. When the sleeve cap has reached the underarm stitches you join it in the round and work your sleeve all the way down to your cuff, decreasing as you need.

Bottom Up
The bottom up saddle shoulder construction I’ve used before are a little more complex than top-down. Elizabeth Zimmermann created a very interesting method that I used for my Woodburne Cardigan.

Woodburn Cardigan

Woodburne Cardigan

This method involves using a series of alternating decreases for the body and sleeves until you reach the saddle. Then each saddle is worked back and forth, one at a time, using short rows to decrease the stitches at each side of the saddle and create the saddle shoulder. If you’ve every created a standard sock heel where you work back and forth, decreasing on each turn it is a very similar method.

Picking Up Stitches
There are a few skills you’ll need to master in order to create top down saddle shoulder sweaters. The first is picking up stitches so that the ‘seam’ at each side of your saddle is neat and attractive. You can find a tutorial on that here.

Short Rows
The second skill that’s important for this construction is short rows. These are used in 2 places; the shoulder slopes and the set-in sleeve cap shaping. To create a well-fitted sloped shoulder you work short rows at the front and back of the body after you pick up stitches from the saddles. The second place is at the set-in sleeve cap. Short rows are used to create the curve so the sleeve cap fits the top of your arm correctly. You can use any type of short row you wish. Typically I’ve used standard wrap & turn short rows but leave the ‘wrap’ in place to form a seamline. More recently I’ve been experimenting with German Short Rows and I love how they work! For a full primer on short rows you can take a look at my Craftsy Essential Short Row class here (this is a 50% off coupon, valid for 3 months). For some basic short row tutorials just check out my website here.


Whistle Stop is a saddle shoulder cardigan that uses a slightly different construction, the saddle is much wider at the top so one half goes all the way across the back behind the neck. This cardigan was started with a provisional cast-on at the centre of the neck so that both sides could be knit towards the shoulders.

Whistle Stop

Whistle Stop

Knockmore is a bottom up sweater that uses the same construction technique as Woodburne Cardigan above.



Have you tried a saddle shoulder construction before? I think its a really fun technique to try out!

Top Down Raglan Construction

Dovestone Knits
In August 2015 I released the book, Dovestone Hills, that coincided with the release of baa ram ewe’s Dovestone DK yarn. Up until now these patterns have only been available as part of the book but over the coming weeks I’ll be releasing the individual patterns one at a time!
Until the 14th of February if you use code HAPPYDOVES you’ll get 15% off any of the Dovestone individual patterns or off the digital book.
As an extra special bonus from baa ram ewe you’ll also get a discount code for 10% off their Dovestone DK yarn for the same time period. That code will be available when you purchase the patterns or digital book.

So watch out for all the patterns, there will be a new one added ever couple of days!

(And the code works for all of them…..)

Top Down Raglan Construction
This seemed a perfect opportunity to talk a bit about different types of seamless construction as there are 4 different seamless methods used in Dovestone Hills. The first that I want to talk about is top down seamless raglan. This was traditionally the most common method of top down knitting as it’s very easy to knit. It doesn’t always create perfect results but with a little bit of knowledge you can easily adjust patterns to suit your body and taste.

Caelius is the sweater in Dovestone Hills that uses this shoulder construction method. It starts with a cowl neck, uses short rows to shape the back of the neck and then uses raglan increases on either side of a decorative seam. This decorative seam continues down into the a-line body and forms the focus of interest for the sweater.

Top Down Raglan Techniques

A ‘raglan’ is a shoulder construction where the sleeves come all the way up to the neck. For a raglan to fit correctly you would typically increase/decrease on each side of the body (and at the front and back) and on each side of the sleeve on every right side row or every other round if working in the round. This gives you 8 increases (or decreases).
If you are knitting from the top down the raglan seams are all increases but if you were knitting bottom up the will be decreases.

Increase Types
When you are creating your raglan seam you can use any type of increase that you wish. The most basic would be a kfb (knit into the front and back of the stitch), for a bit more refinement you could have a mirrored M1R and M1L and if you were working on a lace cardigan you might opt to use a yo (yarnover) increase as it would fit with the lace.

Adrift uses kfb increases

Vivido used M1L and M1R increases.

You can change the way increases look also by adjusting the number of knit stitches between them. This creates a wider or narrower ‘seam’ along the raglan.
While it looks like Caelius uses yarnovers as the increases it’s actually got a centered decrease with yarnover and then the increases are outside this. The reason for this is so that the pattern can be continued down the body when you no longer need raglan increases.

Rate of Increase
In a traditional raglan you start with neck size you want, increase the body and sleeves every second row or round until you get close to the body stitches you want. The final stitches are then cast-on across the underarm. For some body shapes this works just fine BUT on the smaller and larger end of the spectrum you can have problems. Most body shapes don’t increase the size of their upper arms as fast as the bust size increases. This means that for larger bust sizes using traditional construction the sleeves will be too large.
To correct this I write my patterns with two rates of increases. You start with full raglan increases and then move on to alternating body only rows with full raglan increases so that everything fits right at the bottom of the yoke. If you do a few calculations you can adjust for yourself in the same way to fit a pattern exactly to your body shape.

Short Row Back of Neck

If you work your raglan straight down from the neck you will have the front of the neck the same height as the back. However generally a neckline is more comfortable to wear if the front is a little lower than the back. You can do this by adding short rows across the back of the neck. If you’ve got pattern work near the neck you can even put those short rows lower down the back as well.

Underarm Cast-on

When you are finished the raglan yoke increases you still need to join the body together. You do this by knitting to the sleeve, using a tapestry needle threaded with waste yarn and slipping all of the sleeve stitches on to the thread (tie it together so you don’t loose the stitches!!)
Now you need to join the underarm. To do this neatly you cast-on the underarm stitches and then join up the back of your body and work on to the other side. Typically patterns suggest a Backwards Loop Cast-On. This is because you can keep working in the same direction with that type of cast-on. However it doesn’t really give the most stable underarm area. I prefer to turn to the wrong side of the work and using a Cable Cast-On which is lovely and firm.

I’ve designed an awful lot of top down raglan sweaters and cardigans. You can find them on here.
Dusty Road and Santa Rosa Plum are both from last summer and I’m still in love with them both :-)

Santa Rosa Plum

Santa Rosa Plum

Dusty Road

Dusty Road

Do you have a favourite?




Casadh Socks

I’ve just published my first pair of socks on Ravelry – Casadh.

I have been playing with this stitch pattern for quite a while before I reached my final version.  The first time they were toe up socks in stripes for my 6 year old.  While they were cute the stripes didn’t really add to the design (and the combination of cables and a short row heel was tight to get on) I wanted to keep working on the the pattern.

I redesigned it to be cuff down and  knit a version for my husband.  Second time round I really like how they work.  The cabling is interesting enough to keep you alert but not too taxing!

The brown version was knit by my friend Sue for  her husband, I just love the color of the Krafty Koala yarn.



add to cart

Until January 31, 50% of the sale price of this pattern will go directly to relief for the Haiti earthquake.

The name ‘Casadh’ is the Irish word for “twisted” which is what I was thinking of as I knitted these socks. The cables weave in and out of each other organically forming an intriguing all- over pattern.

Although designed as men’s socks, the all-over ribbing pattern makes these socks stretchy enough to be used by women too, just shorten the foot length by half an inch or so to your desired length..

Knit from the cuff down, these socks are worked using the magic loop method, however if you prefer double pointed needles they can be substituted. I have also included dpns for use with the heel flap, the circular needle is used here as the stitch holder for the instep stitches.

If you have experience with cables these socks are fast to work.

Needle size: 2.5mm/US size 1 1/2

Yarn used:  Green version – Cascade Heritage solid; color moss

Brown version – Krafty Koala BFL; color, Log Pile

Seamless Saddle shoulder

For an upcoming design I’ve been researching all the various different ways you can knit a saddle shoulder sweater.  Now, the idea of sewing seams for a saddle shoulder doesn’t seem like such a fun idea so I’ve confined myself to bottom-up and top down.

Two of the old favourites that detail different methods are Barbara Walkers ‘Knitting from the Top’ that shows the top down method and in Elizabeth Zimmermann ‘Knitting Workshop’ (and I’m sure several more of her books) she describes the bottom up method.

For a sweater I made my husband last winter I tried the top down method.  It is actually a very intuitive and straightforward way of doing it – you begin by knitting a strip for each saddle starting at  the neck, for both the back and front you pick up stitches along the side of the saddle (plus extra between them for the neck).  Next you work some short rows to slope the shoulders and knit both front and back down to the underarm (adding some shaping around the armhole).  Then you cast-on your underarm stitches and work down the body.  For the sleeves, if you have ever worked set-in sleeves from the top down it is the same method – you have live saddle stitches at the top, and you pick-up stitches around the armhole.  Working from the saddle around the armhole you work short rows (usually adding 1 st at a time) until you reach the desired length of your sleeve cap.  From my own experience you need to be careful to keep the saddle a little shorter than the shoulder or you end up with a ‘puff-sleeve’ effect.  Now while this is sometimes desirable for my husband’s sweater not so much!

I was all set to do top-down saddle construction for this design until I picked up the knitting workshop and I’m fascinated by the bottom-up method.  The way Elisabeth Zimmermann has worked the shoulder decreases in this is really fascinating.  Both the body and sleeves are worked in the round from the bottom up.  Then they are all joined at the armhole level (after removing underarm stitches) and worked for around 1 inch together without shaping.  Next each of the start and end body stitches are marked, and for every round body stitches are decrease each side.  After the shoulder width is reached it switches to the arm stitches being decreased – but the reason that the decrease lines work so nicely is that both of the body end stitches are effectively your seam lines and are always included in your decreases.  So even though you are alternating between body and sleeve decreases all that seems to change visually is a change in the direction of the seam line.  Very pretty.  Next you decrease a few more body stitches and finally the top of the saddle is worked.  This is effectively like turning a heel – except you’re turning a shoulder.  You are working short rows across the top of the saddle, at each end decreasing and turning until you’ve decreased enough stitches to reach the neck size you need.  I’m going to have lots of fun designing this saddle shoulder!  With of course the added benefit that you can easily carry your stitch pattern all the way up the sleeeves to the neck.

Fisherman Twist

Fisherman Twist


Difficulty: Intermediate


Create a unique neckline with this twisted rib neckband that is both elegant and cosy. The sweater is worked from the top down starting with the ribbed neckband. Short row bust shaping and a gently curved waistline create a streamlined, flattering sweater.


Bust size: 28-30 [30-32, 32-34, 34-36, 36-38, 38-40, 40-42 / 42-44, 44-46, 46-48, 48-50, 50-52] inches

0-2 inches positive ease recommended.


Chest : 30 [32, 34, 36.25, 38, 40, 42 / 44.25, 46, 48, 50, 52.25] inches

Length: 24.5 [24.5, 24.75, 24.75, 25.5, 25.5, 25.75 / 25.75, 26.25, 26.25, 26.5, 27] inches

Size 36 inches modelled with 1 inch positive ease.


Artesano Aran (50% Alpaca / 50% Wool; 144yds/132m per 100g skein); Color: Sunset (C805); 6 [7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8 / 9, 9, 10, 10, 11] skeins

1 set US 8/5mm double-pointed needles

1 set US 7/4.5mm double-pointed needles

1 US 8/5mm circular needle, 24-inch length (or longer for larger sweater size)

1 US 7/4.5mm circular needle, 24-inch length (or longer for larger sweater size)

Cable needle; tapestry needle; stitch markers; waste yarn.


17 sts/21 rows = 4″ in stockinette stitch on larger needles

22 sts/28 rows = 4″ in fisherman’s rib on larger needles

New Knotions up

I’m very excited to have a free pattern up in the Summer 2009 issue of Knotions


This pattern is knit from Debbie Bliss ‘Prima’ which is really beautiful to knit with (even it it does have a few knots in the balls!).  It’s a top down raglan with a cable detail running down the neck and front and has waist shaping.  I knit this when I was visiting my in-laws in Sarasota last Christmas, the photos were taken on ‘Siesta Key’ – hence the name ‘Siesta’.  Not very inventive I know but it does evoke happy memories for me!

There are some wonderful patterns in this issue, I’m especially fond of Emma by Janine Le Cras.  Having recently begun knitting with laceweight yarn I’m in awe of her knitting a full cardigan in laceweight!

I don’t have time to add them now, but I have got some more photos to show you later from ‘Knitting in the Sun’ which is now in the shops!

Amelie and Laced Leaves

I’m happy to say that both Amelie and Laced Leaves are up for sale.  Thanks to my wonderful tech editor Kristi Porter and husband Joe (who does my pdf layout) I managed to release both of them before the start of May.  It is so rare to get something finished ahead of schedule that I think it deserves a bit of excitement!



Joining Yarn

For anyone who knits in the round (top down or bottom up) you have probably encountered the problem of joining new yarn without it showing.  With flat knitting it is just a matter of finishing your yarn at the end of a row and all ends can be hidden in the seams.  Knitting in the round means that you need to be a bit more inventive.

My two favourite methods of joining are a Felted join and a Russian Join.

The felted join can only be used with an animal fibre. You need to split the end of the old yarn and the new yarn into two pieces for a couple of inches.  Then layer the two sides together like a yarn sandwich and give it a gentle twist.  Now wet your fingers (if you aren’t too squimish you can spit on them!) and dampen the yarn making sure they are all a little damp.  Beware of getting stray hairs in your mouth.  Then roll them quickly between the palms of your hands and the friction will felt them together. Truely magic.

The Russian Join can be used on all sorts of yarn, animal and plant based. However if the yarn is very splitty it won’t work very well (if the yarn just unrolls in your fingers). Thread the end of the working yarn through a tapestry needle and work the tail down onto itself in the working yarn. Try to keep it towards the center and work for around 2 inches. Before you pull the needle through pull the start of the new yarn through the loop created. Now do the same with the new yarn. Pull the yarn flat, trim any loose ends and keep knitting.

If the yarn you are using is very thick you may find that the Russian Join creates too big a lump in your knitting. In this case you can try splitting each end of yarn in half and cutting half of the yarn. This means that there is less bulk being woven through.

My camera battery is dead right now so I can’t add photos but you can also take a look at the Russian join here Russian Join.