Posted by: GourmetGirl | February 4, 2015

Knitting Sleeves

Are you one of those knitters who always have too short of sleeves with your knitting projects? AND you don’t knit them longer the next time? Or take the time to figure out if you need to make them longer?

Most designers and tech editors BELIEVE that the old standard of measurements are what to follow. Yet, if you buy a ready made item: the armhole depth is longer and the sleeves are longer.

19 inch sleeve ready for bind off.

19 inch sleeve ready for bind off.

As I am on the last stretch on working a first sleeve, I am reminded of important tips when knitting sleeves. ALMOST EVERYONE needs to knit their sleeves longer than they think!

My sleeve that I am knitting is at 16.5 inches. Most patterns for a size 34 would say that is more than enough length. BUT there are other factors to take into consideration. Where is the underarm joined? At your armpit? Or an inch or two from your armpit? The starting point on your arm will make a difference in the length that makes you the happiest to wear.

Luckily, when working from the Top Down, you can try your sweater on to see what is the best length for you. But even then you might not be happy with the sleeve length!

Why? Because most people try on the sweater and measure the length by having their arm straight at their side. Do you stand that way during the day? No. What happens is you move. You sit, you stand, you pick up things, you drive your car. Unless you are posing for a photo, do you ever just stand with your arms at your sides?


When I just tried on my sweater, to test the sleeve length, at rest (arm at my side) I would seem to believe that I only needed 1 inch more to  reach my wrist. Raise my arm to be perpendicular to the floor and WOW it is about 3 inches from my wrist!

Now mind you, this is a fitted ribbed sleeve. So even after moving my arm up and down and all around, when placed back to my side, the sleeve needs to be 3 inches longer to reach my wrist. Looking at the sweater at the shoulder and the sleeve, nothing looks bunched up. The sweater looks like it should.

So, yes, I plan on knitting the sleeve 2.5 to 3 more inches – which will make the sleeve 19 inches. Plus I will take the project one step farther and try it on AGAIN before binding off. And, yes, I may knit it that extra half inch. After all, I do like when a sleeve is nice and long.

In knitting, this is not an exact science. Once getting the yarn wet to block, your sweater can grow in length and/or in width. Even special care in blocking it to the size intended can give you a larger sweater. Also, once you wear your sweater, the size can become larger. I usually knit my sweaters to 32 or 34 inches in circumference. No matter the yarn, they ALL have grown by 2 or 4 inches in circumference – even working with smaller yarn and smaller needles.sheep2

Side Note: I knit with 95- 100% natural fibers. Only allowing synthetic in a yarn’s mix for glitz or sock durability.

If you are like me, I have knitted projects I don’t like to wear for one reason or another. Most of the time because I didn’t take the time to figure out if I was making it the right length or size.

With experience, I am working on being patient. Patient to check my size, patient to work the piece longer. And as a designer, trying to give the knitter options to customize their garment to fit their body and needs.

On this pattern, I am customizing the sleeves to fit my arms – NOT the generic sizing that the tech editors want.

May YOU find the patience to make the changes with your projects, too.

Happy Knitting,




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