Welcome back to the Sweater Construction series! If you haven’t already, take a minute to check out the other posts in this series. They don’t necessarily need to be read in order but the more you know the better prepared you will be to decide which sweater construction method is best for you.
Contiguous Set-In Sleeves
Today we are going to look into the pros and cons of knitting a sweater from the top down with contiguous set-in sleeves and give you some pattern ideas to try out this construction method.
The contiguous method was developed by Susie Myers and is a way of knitting the shoulder seams and sleeve caps of a garment from the top down.
This construction is achieved by casting on for the neckline and continuing to increase every row at the shoulder seams until you’ve achieved your desired shoulder width. If you are used to a raglan construction it can be a bit confusing the first time you try it as it is unusual to see the shoulder seam grow horizontally along your shoulder and not starting the sleeve until later on.
This method differs from Barbara Walker’s simultaneous set-in sleeve methods, as this method uses one continuous row (or round) right from the start. This incorporates the front, shoulder seam, back, other shoulder seam and other front. Whereas Barbara Walker’s method only reaches this stage after knitting about a third of the yoke.
PROS of Contiguous Set-In Sleeve Sweaters
Let’s dive in and check out why you might want to try knitting a circular yoke sweater!
Perfect Fit At Shoulder
This method naturally forms a nice shoulder slope. This very clever construction helps obtain a nearly perfect shoulder fit with much less fuss than some other methods. Because it is knit from the top down it can also be tried on as you knit and the fit can be easily adjusted.
Sophisticated Look Of Set-In Sleeves
One wonderful thing about contiguous set-in sleeves is that the sweater has the classic form of the traditional set-in sleeve sweater but without any of the seaming that usually goes along with it. This is perfect for someone who whants that familiar form but would prefer to knit their sweater seamlessly.
The contiguous set-in sleeve sweater has no seams so when you’re done knitting your sweater is finished. This fact is very attractive to those who shudder at the idea of seaming.
CONS of Contiguous Set-In Sleeve Sweaters
Now that we’ve checked out some of the benefits of this construction method, let’s look at some drawbacks.
Lack of Structure
One of the disadvantages of sweaters constructed seamlessly is the lack of structure provided by seams. This can mean that you will be limited to yarn choices that include some structure and elasticity themselves, such as wool or wool blends, and plied yarn. With certain yarns, the sweater may twist on you over time, having been knitted in a spiral, which is what “in the round” technically ends up being. Overall the lack of structure can make for a less durable sweater.
In comparison to a sweater that is knit in small pieces and seamed together the one big piece may feel more cumbersome to work with as it grows into a sweater. You will need to mentally reckon with yourself that you will at some point have almost an entire sweater in your lap while you are still knitting with it, this puts more weight onto your hands and wrists.
Less Pattern Availability
Because this method is still relatively new there are fewer patterns that use this construction compared to other construction methods. However, there are still over a hundred over at Ravelry.com which is plenty to get started with.
Contiguous Set-In Sleeve Sweater Patterns
Here are a few great sweater patterns using the top down, contiguous set-in sleeve construction. I have included a basic pattern, a pattern featuring eyelets and a pattern featuring cables. If this is your first sweater or you consider yourself to be a sweater knitting beginner I would recommend starting with the Zephyr pattern.