Sweater Construction Methods: Saddle Shoulder

sweater construction saddle shoulder

Welcome back to the Sweater Contsruction series! If you haven’t already, check out the other posts in this series. They don’t really need to be read in order but the more you know about the different construction methods the easier it will be to find a suitable style to knit.

Saddle Shoulder Sweaters

Today we are going to look into the pros and cons of knitting a sweater with saddle shoulders. 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 is the method for you.

A saddle shoulder is technically a variation of a raglan sleeve, where the shoulder portion forms a straight band knit in the same piece with the sleeve. This little extension at the top of the shoulder extends to the neckline and lies directly over the top of the shoulder. The garment is constructed so that the “seam” at the shoulder lies parallel to the shoulder at the front and back instead of at an angle as in the raglan style.

This type of sweater can be knit from the top down or bottom up. Depending on your choice of direction you may have to do some seaming to do but generally less than you would for the traditional set-in sleeve.

PROS of Saddle Shoulders

Here are some of the best reasons for knitting a sweater with saddle shoulders.

saddle shoulder showcase design elements
Side Impact Sweater by Kira Dulaney

Showcase Design Elements

This particular method of construction creates a wonderful canvas for showing off different design elements at the “saddle”. Lace, cables and even color work details along the sleeve and into the saddle make for eye catching design features.

saddle shoulder simple finishing
Weekend Jacket by Ann Budd

Simple Finishing

The saddle shoulder construction can be knit top down or bottom up. Either way the body and sleeves are typically knit in the round and joined at the underarms. This means that if you are adverse to seaming or large amounts of finishing work this sweater construction may be a good idea for you to try.

saddle shoulder easy to fit
Rebecca by Margie Mitchell

Easy To Fit

Much like other top-down construction methods the saddle shoulder can be tried on as you go when constructed from the top down.This fact makes it easy to adjust the fit as needed. However, if you choose to knit it bottom-up this is no longer the case.

CONS of Saddle Shoulder

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

Imprecise fit

Sometimes (not all the time) this construction method can make for a slightly baggy underarm. Additionally it has been said that one of the biggest drawbacks of this style of sweater is that since it draws attention to your shoulders that it can actually make you appear quite broad. Because of this the saddle shoulder sweater tends to look best on men trying to accentuate the shoulders or women with narrow shoulders trying to provide visual balance to their figure.

Not Very Portable

Just like any type of seamless sweater, the saddle shoulder style of sweater is not the simplest project to bring along with you. Eventually you will be carrying around an entire sweater and knitting with the entire thing on your lap. If you’re ok with carrying around a big project with you then you should check out my favorite bags for sweater knitters, they are all big enough to carry a full sweater along with you!

Lack of Patterns

Unfortunately there are very few patterns for this construction method in comparison to other styles of sweaters. There are a couple of books on the subject but still relatively few patterns available online.

Saddle Shoulder Sweater Patterns

Here are a few great sweater patterns using the saddle shoulder construction. I have included sweaters of varying skill levels so there should be something for everyone. However, if this is your first sweater you might want to start with the Barnaby pattern.

saddle shoulder patterns

Little Wave by Gudrun Johnston
Joist by Andrea Rangel
Barnaby by Mari Chiba