There are a variety of strategies used in sweater knitting patterns. Some sweaters are knit from the top down, while others are knit from the bottom up. While the difference might seem arbitrary, there are particular advantages to each type of sweater pattern.
Top-Down Sweaters Patterns
Top-down sweater patterns begin with the neckline as the cast on edge. The yoke is knit in the round with increases worked to shape the shoulders and the beginning of the chest. The sweater is knit in one piece as the sleeve stitches are set aside on a stitch-holder and then picked back up after the rest of the body is knit in the round. Alternatively, you can work the front and back separately, knitting back and forth, allowing for adjustments at the waistline and armpits.
One of the advantages of knitting top-down is that you can try the sweater on as you go. That way, if you need to make adjustments to the fit, you can do so as you work on the project. The other major bonus of top-down sweaters is that there is little-to-no finishing involved. Conversely, because the seams aren’t sewn or grafted, they may be less structurally sound. Also, top-down sweater projects are not good for travel, because the whole project comes in one piece.
Bottom-Up Sweater Patterns
Bottom-up sweaters, such as the Holey Moley Pullover, are cast on at the waistband, often including a few rows of ribbing to start. Bottom-up sweaters can be knit seamlessly, but more often they involve set-in sleeves that have to be seamed to the project after the front, back, and sleeves are finished separately.
Bottom-up sweaters do not allow for as much control over the fit because they cannot be tried on as the sweater is knit. There is also the potential, if you are not careful about gauge, of the pieces of the sweater not aligning properly. Bottom-up sweaters are a good option for working decorative decreases and raglan styling at the yoke. These sweater patterns are also more easily modified at the start for a custom fit.
Sweaters In the Round
Both bottom-up and top-down sweater patterns can be knit in the round. This strategy involves knitting the torso and the yoke of the sweater in one continuous loop, adding the sleeves, which can also be knit in the round, later. Knitting a sweater in the round means less finishing, because you will not have to sew side seams. Occasionally, however, a sweater knit in this method can begin to twist up on you, making it uncomfortable to wear.
You’ll be able to tell what type of sweater pattern you’re knitting by looking at the first lines of the pattern. Where does the pattern begin? If it’s hard to tell, a quick cheat is to look at how many stitches you’re asked to cast on. If it’s a high number—near or over 100 stitches—that means you’re probably starting at the lower hem and knitting from the bottom-up. For more knitting techniques and strategies, check out this helpful Knitting Glossary.
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