Provence Baby Cardigan, Part 4 – sleeves, math, knitting up stitches, tracking progress

OK, here we are with a cute little sweater body, ready to start on the sleeves.  Oh, but first we need to do a little… MATH.provence card body no sleeves

Or, you could decide it was supposed to be a vest all along.  I believe I *just about* got the whole body out of one skein of yarn, too, so if you make it a little shorter and edge it in something else… let me know how that works out for ya, k?  😉

Trust me, it’s not going to be that bad.


We need to know where we’re going before we can figure out how to get there.  So first, let’s take a look at what they tell you to do for the sleeve, when worked in the traditional way, from the cuff up (and remember, these numbers are all for the second size in the pattern):

1)  CO 34 sts.  Work an inch of seed stitch.

2)  Change to stockinette, and increase 1 st at either end of this row.  36 sts.

3)  For the second size, “increase every 6th row 0 times, and every 4th row 10 times” for a total of 10 more increase rows.  Each increase row adds 2 sts, so that’s 20 more sts for a total of 56 sts.

4)  Work even until piece measures 7.75 inches.

5)  End with a WS row; bind off.


Now, if we knit according to the pattern instructions, how many rows would we knit?

1″ of seed stitch = 8 rows.

First inc row = 1 row.  ( this first increase occurs on row 9)

10 more increase rows at every 4th row = 40 rows.  (these increases occur on rows 13, 17, 21, 25, 29, 33, 37, 41, 45, and 49)

Work even until sleeve measure 7.75 inches = hmmm… how nice of them to switch from rows to inches on us, eh?  This is part of why knitters have a hard time adjusting patterns.

Well, at my gauge of 8 rows per inch I will work (7.75 inches x 8 rows per inch), for a total of 62 rows, which is an even number and so it will happily also be a WS row, as they direct.

We have 49 rows already, from the cuff and all the shaping part, so that means (62 – 49) = 13 additional rows worked even at the shoulder end, or a little more than an inch and a half.

There!  that wasn’t so hard, was it?


Now, let’s take a look at the number of stitches.

I happen to know that my armhole was 5 inches deep, or 40 rows exactly.  There are two sides to that armhole (front and back) so multiply that by 2 to get 80 rows all the way around the armhole.

BUT — we are going to be working stitches sideways to the existing knitting, yes?  So we need to know how many stitches should go sideways off of 80 rows to get a smooth fabric.

Fortunately, the ratio of stitches to rows for stockinette is well-established, at 3 sts for every 4 rows.  So we take our 80 rows, divide by 4 rows and multiply by 3 stitches, to get 60 sts that we need to fit smoothly around that armhole.

It is serendipitous for us that the numbers worked out so nicely.  But this ratio is easy to accomplish, even without doing the math, simply by picking up one st for each row 3 times, and then skipping a row.  One, two, three, skip.  One, two, three, skip.

You can just do this all the way around your armhole and I guarantee it will be close enough to the “right” number to lie nice and flat.  If you don’t do the actual math, you may want to make a note of what you get on armhole #1, so you can do exactly the same thing on armhole #2, but that’s about all you REALLY have to worry about.

But wait — what is the “right” number, according to the pattern?  After all, if we are going to use their shaping to get from point A  to point B, then we want to be in the neighborhood of the same number of sts as they have at points A and B, yes?

Oh, hey.  Look at that.  Pattern calls for 56 sts at the shoulder end.  Works for me.



So you could, from here, just start working backwards down our little checklist from above:  stockinette even for about an inch and a half, then 11 decrease rounds, and finally, an inch of seed stitch.  You’ll be close enough to what the pattern calls for to have perfectly acceptable results.  Again, babies don’t much care about tailoring, and I feel confident in saying that the new mother probably won’t be double-checking your work against the pattern.  😉

A double-check on the numbers always makes me feel better though, and is a good way to ward off math errors, so let’s do another quick calculation:  with 11 decrease rounds, at 2 sts decreased per round, you’ll lose 22 sts, which will put you at 60 – 22 = 38 sts at the cuff.  The pattern calls for 34 sts to be cast on, so yes, we’re in good shape with this plan already.

But we can go just a bit farther with the math, and end up with a slightly neater result.

We currently have 13 rounds worked even up at the shoulder end, which is more than enough to throw in one more decrease round, just to get a little closer to that 34 sts they call for down at the cuff.  You could even get two more in there, if you want to be really persnickety, and get that 34 stitches exactly.  (I’ll warn you though, there’s one good reason why you don’t want 34 exactly.  Wait till we get to the seed stitch.)

So what I actually did was this:

1)  Pick up and knit 60 sts around the armhole, starting at the underarm, and using a size 2 needle for the pickup round.  Place a marker at the underarm to mark the beginning of the round, where the sleeve “seam” would be, if we had a seam (ha ha ha!).

2)  Work 1 inch (8 rounds) even at the shoulder.

3)  Begin 12 decrease rounds, spaced every 4 rounds — BTW, the decrease round goes like this:  Knit 1, K2tog, work to last 3 sts, SSK, K1.  In other words, put a K2tog and an SSK on either side of what would be the sleeve seam.  Once this is done, it puts me at 52 rounds, or 6.5 inches.

4)  Work 2 rounds even — 54 rounds, or 6.75 inches.

5)  Work 1 inch seed stitch.  62 rounds, or exactly 7.75 inches, and then of course, bind off.

6)  Repeat steps 1-5 on other armhole.


The picture of the first finished sleeve shows an important part of how I keep track of my work.  The orange markers are clipped in every 8 rounds, or every inch, to keep track of the overall length of the sleeve.  The green markers are clipped in on every decrease round, to keep track of how many of those I’ve done, and to act as a visual reminder of when it’s about time to do the next one.  (Admittedly, decreasing every 4 rounds isn’t that hard to keep track of, but it’s a great habit to have when your project calls for decreases every 6 or 8 or 10 rounds.)

markersWhat I then do on the second sleeve is this:  I take out each marker from the first sleeve, as I reach the same spot, and use it to track the same things on the second sleeve.  This part is more of a personal quirk, than any kind of real help, I suppose, although it does keep you from having to go buy another packet of markers.

Shameless pitch:  I love these locking ring markers and I pretty much don’t use anything else.  No one paid me to say that, or gave me any for free.  They just work better than anything else I’ve tried.  I probably own about half a dozen packets of them, strewn hither and yon around my house, and in various project bags.  If you need some, and for some insane reason your LYS doesn’t carry them, you can get them here:  Clover Locking Ring Markers


But there’s just one more little nicety that I insist on throwing in here.  Seed stitch in the round goes so much nicer if you have an odd number of sts — otherwise you’ll have an annoying spot in your nice K1, P1 rhythm where you’ll have two knits or two purls side-by-side.

So on the very last round before the cuff, I did a K2tog somewhere to get down to 35 sts, and then did my inch of seed stitch.

Actually, you can see here that my seed stitch cuff flares out just a tad.  This is because, all other things being equal, seed stitch is wider than stockinette.  This wasn’t enough to worry me, on a baby garment — but if you don’t want yours to flare, just decrease more than one st on the last sleeve round, before you go into the seed stitch.  A couple more decreases ought to be sufficient; just be sure you keep it to an odd number of sts for the seed stitch.

Whoo-hoo!  sleeves taken care of, and we’re almost done!  Finishing work up next — and NO SEAMS to sew.  AWESOME.

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