Barbara Walker’s Top down, simultaneous set-in sleeve method

One method I love for top down sweaters was devised by Barbara Walker. A number of designers use the method, often giving it a new name, but I do prefer to give credit where it’s due. For the purposes of this tutorial I am using an Aran weight yarn and following directions for a pattern knitted with laceweight or 4ply/fingering weight yarn, so the pieces look chunkier, taller and wider than they should. That said, it’s also a lot easier for you to see the detail.

You start by working the Right Back Shoulder wedge, cut yarn and place on a spare needle. The piece is shaped with w&t short rows (wrap and turn for those not familiar).

Top down, simultaneous set-in sleeve - right back shoulder wedge.
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We then knit the Left Back Shoulder wedge piece to match this one, it’ll perhaps have one row more or less, as shoulders and shaping often do, but it’s close enough.

Top down, simultaneous set-in sleeve - left back shoulder wedge
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We knit a final row on across the left shoulder, cast on (purlwise and from the back of the work) our back neck stitches and knit across the right shoulder piece to join the back into one section.

Top down, simultaneous set-in sleeve - back pieces joined as one ready to work down to armhole.
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After this point, we would pick up the Right Front Shoulder wedge from the ‘seam’ of the Right Back Shoulder (cast on edge of that piece).

Top down, simultaneous set-in sleeve method 1
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The completed Right Front Shoulder wedge looks like this, you can see the shoulder seam (cast on edge) in the centre of the piece.

Top down, simultaneous set-in sleeve method 2
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We then pick up the Left Front Shoulder wedge from the cast on edge of the shoulder edge for that side.

Top down, simultaneous set-in sleeve method 3
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In this photo, I have completed the Left Front Shoulder wedge, again you can see the shoulder seam (cast on edge of the left back shoulder wedge) in the centre of that section.

Top down, simultaneous set-in sleeve method 4
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Next, we knit the left front, place a marker, pick up stitches along the shoulder edge for the left sleeve, place marker, knit the back stitches, place marker, pick up stitches along the shoulder edge for the right sleeve, place marker and knit the right front.

Top down, simultaneous set-in sleeve method 5
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As this particular top is a V neck, we’ll be increasing for the neck in the next section, as we knit down towards the underarms. We will add sleeve and body increases to ensure a smooth transition to the underarms and make sure our sleeves are wide enough to fit our arms!

This photo shows the left shoulder seam after the first neck increase and the first sleeve increases (to create an almost gathered top to each sleeve).

Top down, simultaneous set-in sleeve method 6
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As with all top down construction methods, there are opportunities to customise the fit to your body. For example we could easily add more sleeve increases in the next section for those of us with ‘muscular’ or ‘meaty’ upper arms.

We could add bust shaping short rows, after the v neck is joined and we are working in the round. Or we could consider vertical bust darts for those who need them.

If you don’t like the simple lace eyelet pattern of the Andria Tee, you could easily choose another lace pattern and ensure your stitch count works with that lace.

After the underarms and some basic shaping for the upper body, we change to larger needles. We do that because the lower body or skirt element of the Tee needs more drape, the lace is meant to fit loosely and give you some ease. Not cling to the body.

This is how the finished Tee would look using laceweight yarn double stranded and knitted as per the pattern. Photo courtesy of Knit Now Magazine and Practical Publishing.

Top down, simultaneous set-in sleeve method 7
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The abridged pattern appears in this issue of Knit Now

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