Sweater Construction Methods: Sideways

sideways sweater construction

Welcome back to the Sweater Contsruction series! In this series we are taking a look at some of the most popular sweater construction methods as well as the pros and cons of knitting each style of sweater. Today we’ll be examining a sideways sweater construction! If you haven’t already, take a minute to check out our previous posts in this series. They do not have to be read in order but you may find some of the additional information useful when choosing which style of sweater to knit.

Sideways Sweaters

Today we are going to be looking at the pros and cons of knitting a sweater sideways, cuff to cuff that is. Technically there are versions of this style that would fall into the dolman category but I think it is unique enough to merit it’s own post. Along with the advantages and disadvantages of knitting this type of sweater I will be providing links to a few patterns for you to try if you decide that this method is the one for you.

If a garment is knit in one piece sideways (cuff-to-cuff), the first cuff is cast on, and increases are used to shape the sleeve until the body begins; extra stitches are cast on at the end of two consecutive rows to equal the length of the body. When the depth for the neckline is reached, stitches are decreased or bound off to add the shaping; increases or cast-on stitches close the neckline on the other side. Two more bind-off rows create the body sides, then the sleeves are gradually decreased to the second cuff. To assemble, the garment is folded together at the shoulder, and the underarm seams are sewn.

PROS of Sideways Sweaters

Here are some of the best reasons for knitting a sweater sideways.

sideways sweater variety in construction
1898 – Ladies Short Pullover by Tanja Steinbach

Variety In Construction

If you choose to knit the garment with the front, back, and sleeves as a single piece, it is one of the simplest styles of sweater to assemble, with only two underarm seams to sew. This makes it an excellent choice for lacy or holey fabrics (think novelty ladder or confetti yarns) that just don’t seem to take seaming gracefully.

Additionally, you could knit a sweater sideways from cuff to cuff without casting on additional stitches for the body. The body stitches could then be picked up and knit down to the hem. Or you could knit the yoke like a top down raglan sweater and just knit the body sideways (as demonstrated in the 1898 pattern). There are a ton of different options to be creative within this style!

sideways sweater construction pattern continuity
Margot Pullover by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark

Pattern Continuity

Sideways sweaters provide for continuity of pattern from sleeve to body much like Dolman style sweaters. This fact is particularly handy if you’re knitting a color work, texture, lace or cable pattern.

NOTE: When the garment is knit sideways there will be an small interruption in your pattern as you bind off stitches to shape the neckline.

sideways sweater construction  easy to fit
Long Weekend by Annamária Ötvös

Easy To Fit

A sideways sweater is easy to fit because usually this style of sweater is worn large or slightly baggy. Since there is no seam between the sleeve and body, the sideways style “forgives” an imprecise fit at the upper body.

Depending upon which parts of the sweater you decide to knit sideways you could also do a little bit of body shaping for a more precise fit.

CONS of Sideways Sweaters

Now that we’ve checked out some of the benefits of this construction method, let’s look at some drawbacks.

Bunched Fabric At Underarm

The sideways sweater tends to be constructed in a so that the sweater you end up with is a T shape. The disadvantage to this shape is that you can end up with extra fabric bunched up at the underarm. If the body of the sweater is close fitting this extra fabric can draw extra attention to the top of the torso creating a top heaving look.

Unitary Construction Inconsistencies

Unitary construction means that there will be a lack of symmetry in the knitted design. Knit stitches, having a “V” shape, have only one axis of symmetry. If you knit the garment from side to side, then the arrows of the stitches will all point in one direction making for a very slight asymmetry in your sweater. This is a minor inconsistency, and is more noticeable with ornamentation that highlights the shape of the knit stitch, such as Fair Isle or intarsia.

Imprecise Fit

Because this style of sweater doesn’t have shoulder seams the top of the sweater almost always ends up looking baggy. This look is very popular at the moment so that’s not necessarily a bad thing however if you are looking for a nicely tailored sweater the sideways sweater is not the style for you. The lack of seams at the top may also result in slightly stretched out fabric at the shoulders which have to hold the entire weight of the sweater.

Additionally, if the sweater is knit in one piece with the body stitches being cast on in the middle of the work then bound off on the other side of the body; you may have a couple problems with matching the tension of edges. To combat this problem you can use what is called the COWYAK method. Check out this awesome article over at TECHknitting to learn how to apply it to your sideways sweater.

Sideways Sweater Patterns

Here are a few great sweater patterns using that are constructed sideways. I have included sweaters with varying design styles so there should be something for everyone. If this is your first sweater you might want to start with the Scarpetta sweater.

sideways sweater construction patterns

Scarpetta by Kirsten Johnstone
Bridal Veil Mesh Top by Irina Poludnenko
Grecian Elegance by Jean Clement

Lacie Lynnae

My name is Lacie and I am the in-house knitwear designer at the Yarn Craft Academy and the author of the 30 Day Sweater. When i'm not knitting you can find me doing yoga, paddle boarding or finding great food! I am also a runway model for Vidal Sassoon and am privileged to travel quite a bit so you may see me posting from new and exciting places! Follow me on Instagram: Lacelue