I Don’t Know What It Is About My Shoulders

I mean, I get that they’re wider than clothing manufacturers expect for someone who’s my size everywhere else. It’s been years since I bought a button-down shirt because I have to choose between wearing a tent or not being able to move my arms. In fact, I pretty much never buy anything for my upper body that isn’t knit and very stretchy.

And I don’t know a whole lot about sweater construction yet. I’ve only knit a handful of sweaters for myself and they have all been from patterns I followed pretty much exactly, and only one of them had set-in sleeves, and that one I had to modify but I totally guessed and just turned out lucky. So, deciding to knit a set-in sleeve sweater with no pattern was a bit of a gamble to begin with.

It hasn’t been paying off so far. First, I tried knitting the front and back separately (which took several tries before I had something I felt kind of fit), picking up stitches around the arm and knitting the sleeve top down. I wanted a green body and black sleeves so this seemed like the simplest approach to get that.



But everything got weird and bunchy around the shoulders, so that had to be ripped out.

Then I tried knitting the sleeves bottom up, joining to the body and knitting Elizabeth Zimmermann’s seamless set-in sleeves. This would mean green shoulders instead of black, which wasn’t my preference, but I figured I’d deal as long as it fit. The approach that had worked perfectly when I knit Apocalypta was less successful this time, however.


Photo on 11-11-14 at 5.16 PM


So, I ripped it all out again and then took way too long finally putting my measurements into my customfit account and generating a pattern I could (1) work from for the shoulders and sleeves on this sweater and (2) use to knit a bunch more fingering-weight, scoop-neck pullovers, of which I would like an entire closet full someday, please and thank you. This was going to solve so many problems at once! Yay!


But even this didn’t work. I put in my measurements (I had my husband take them so they wouldn’t be distorted by me twisting around and messing up the measuring tape! We watched the videos and were pretty certain we did everything right!) and my exact gauge from the entire body of this sweater I had already knitted and blocked, not just a swatch, and I still ended up with something that needed a good 2 or 3 inches of fabric taken off the top.


Photo on 7-26-15 at 2_Fotor

Here you see one shoulder just like the pattern said and the other shoulder pinned up to more like how it actually should fit. Also my “if this fucking sweater doesn’t start cooperating soon, I swear it is becoming socks” face.


I don’t get what the problem is here at all. Given that I have a pattern made to fit my exact body, I am sure it must be something to do with the measurements I entered, but that’s as far as I can work it out. And I don’t totally know what I can do to solve the issue, aside from always knitting raglans, which seem to fit me fine. With socks, I just kept knitting them until I figured out all my little quirks and could knit a pair that fit me perfectly. But sweaters take way too much yarn and time to try that approach here, and it’s also way less comfortable to wear a sweater that doesn’t quite fit than to wear a pair of socks that don’t quite fit.


Anyway, I pulled out the seams — again — and unraveled several rows — again — and did 3-needle bind-offs because fuck binding off each side and then seaming — again — for serious.


Photo on 7-28-15 at 10_Fotor

It’s a little better this time. I guess you could say it’s better enough. There’s still a bit too much fabric in the front and I couldn’t rip out quite as much as I needed to in the back because it would have meant refiguring the bind-off for the back of the neck and a few decreases and I really didn’t want to mess around with that.

So. We are now back to the original plan for a green body and black sleeves, which I will pick up and knit top down because now that I’ve changed the shoulders, I have no idea how I would begin to knit the sleeves flat and seam them.

Wish me luck. Or wish the sweater luck, I guess, because I swear if this fucking sweater doesn’t start cooperating soon it is becoming socks.

9 thoughts on “I Don’t Know What It Is About My Shoulders

  1. The last time I tried to knit a sweater it ended up completely off. That was years ago and I’m just working up the courage to try again – the plan is to cast on in the early fall.

    The one thing I’ve gleaned since then is that the key measurement is the shoulders. Apparently once they fit right everything else is easy.

    (I know too little, too late, but I feel your pain)

    1. Good luck with your sweater! After I finish this one, I think I’m going to do some Serious Research into sweater fit. I thought I’d read enough and understood enough but I clearly just don’t.

  2. I took a sleeve cap/armhole class at Stitches South a couple of years ago. The secret is indeed in the measuring and determining the “inflection point”, the point at which you start to decrease and shape the top of the sleeve so it fits into the armhole scythe. I can’t lay my hands on the paperwork at this point, but you might check Craftsy to see if such a class is offered.

    1. Thank you! I will add that to the research list!

      I think a lot of my problem here is that my shoulders are wider AND shallower than standard design stuff assumes they will be? Most of the issues I’ve had with knitting this kind of sleeve leave the armholes way too long. I’m thinking that might be why raglans work better, since the shaping is on a slant more than the up-and-down direction of set-in sleeves. But I have never done a raglan in pieces, so who knows, maybe that sleeve shaping wouldn’t work either.

  3. I love your ‘this is going to become socks’ face.
    I have trouble fitting sweaters too. narrow back, big boobs, swimmers shoulders. sigh… I usually just make the pattern and then put the buttons in odd places to make it work – I call it a design feature!
    Make sure you post the finished pics (even if it becomes socks)!

    1. Anywhere else on my body, I’d be cool with the “it’s a design feature” approach! But I hate things that don’t fit right around my shoulders and I want a very fitted look for this sweater. I’m mostly through the first sleeve now and I think it’s going to work out. I’ll still need to make a few more adjustments before I use this pattern again tho.

  4. I have the exact problem….no shoulders, and CANNOT wear ragland sleeved anything. I think the real trick is not forcing the issue; some styles are more flattering for certain body types than others. Find the perfect something…and go with it. (The other thing you might do is deconstruct a ‘perfect’ set it sleeved sweater, knowing that it will create oodles of perfect sweaters in the future!)

    1. I actually have a dress that fits perfectly in the shoulders and has a good neckline. I tried measuring it to get some numbers for one of the attempts on this sweater but it obviously didn’t do me any good. Maybe when this is done I can lay the dress over it and see where I went wrong.

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