How to Knit a Sweater From the Top Down

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Things You'll Need

  • Yarn, approximately 1,200-1,800 yards worsted weight
  • Circular needles and double-pointed needles of the size indicated on the ball band
  • Stitch markers
  • Top-down sweater pattern
  • Darning needle
  • Ruler

Sweaters knit from the top down have several advantages over sweaters made using conventional, bottom-up construction. Top-down sweaters can be tried on as they are made, making it easy to get just the right fit. Sweaters made from the top down are usually constructed in one seamless piece, which means little or no fussy seam sewing once the sweater is finished. As well, top-down sweaters are great when the knitter is unsure of yarn quantity; if the knitter runs out of yarn, she simply makes the sweater an inch shorter or turns it into a short-sleeved rather than a long-sleeved sweater.

Cast-on the number of stitches indicated by your pattern. Knit the collar of the sweater in the round using your double pointed needles. Some patterns will ask you to pick up stitches around the neckline and knit the collar after completing the rest of the sweater.

Mark the sections that will become the front, left sleeve, back and right sleeve of the sweater by putting stitch markers at the dividing lines. There will be roughly one and a half or two times the number of stitches for the front and back as there are for each sleeve.

Work increases just inside the markers. Usually, one stitch is increased on either side of the marker for a total of eight increases worked on every increase row. Increase rows are worked every other row. Continue making increases until the front and back have the desired number of stitches. Try on the sweater by slipping all stitches onto a long piece of scrap yarn. If the stitch markers for the edges of the front and back meet easily under your arms, enough increases have been worked.

Divide the body from the sleeves. Slip the sleeve stitches onto scrap yarn. Join the front and back together by knitting in the round on these stitches only, leaving the sleeve stitches sticking out of the sides of the sweater for now. Knit the body until it is the length indicated in your pattern, or try on the sweater periodically and stop knitting when the sweater is the desired length minus the length of the hem. Knit the hem and bind off all body stitches.

Put the sleeve stitches onto your double-pointed needles. Most patterns will ask you to cast-on a few extra stitches under the arm to reduce the strain on the underarms of the sweater. Knit in the round and decrease at the rate specified in your pattern. Try on the sweater and knit the sleeves until they are the desired length minus the length of the cuff. Knit the cuff and bind off all stitches. Repeat for the second sleeve.

Sew up the small gap made by casting on additional stitches under each arm. Weave in any yarn ends. Wash your sweater according to the directions on the ball band or block the sweater according to the directions in your pattern.