How to Knit a Sweater from the Bottom Up: Joining the Sleeves and Body

Hello again sweater knitters! If you’re coming to us as part of our Lopi sweater KAL, this week we’re at one of the most fun parts, but also a part that can be very confusing—joining the sleeves to the body to begin working the yoke. But soon you, too, can have your sleeves and body joined like knit-along participant Parymdk (and her Afmaeli shown above).

This is one of those things in knitting that seems really weird when you’re reading instructions, but once you actually do it, it makes sense. You’re essentially joining three tubes together—the left sleeve, the body, and then the right sleeve (it could be the right sleeve, the body, and then the left sleeve, depending on your pattern, but it’s unlikely).

Unfortunately my own sweater is not at a place where I can demonstrate this easily, so I’m referring you to the very wonderful Julia Farwell-Clay‘s video for her Welcome to the Flock cardigan. It’s knit bottom up using the same kind of construction, so it will help you get an idea of what’s happening.

For the purposes of trying to illustrate what’s happening, I’m going to pretend that we’re working with fixed circular needles. I prefer to use interchangeable needles for these projects, but it can absolutely be done with fixed circulars.

So if you’ve been following along with our progress, you knit the body and  then you knit two sleeves. You still have the sleeves on the needle, and you’ve either already put a few stitches of the sleeve on holders or your pattern is about to tell you to do that. So you knit the stitches that remain on the needle with one of the sleeves (this will most likely be your left sleeve). Once you reach the end of those stitches, you’re going to join it to the body.

Ideally you were able to leave your body stitches either on a long fixed circular or a long cord for an interchangeable set, but in case you had to move your body stitches to waste yarn, put the stitches back on a long circular needle—the longer the better right now. Once your body stitches are situated, you either have held stitches for the underarms or you’re about to do that—any place your pattern says “put x-number of stitches on waste yarn or holders,” those are your underarm stitches that we come back to in the finishing.

Using the needle that has the left sleeve stitches that you just knit, begin knitting the number of stitches listed for your size from the body. Once you’ve completed that number of stitches, or you’ve come to the underarm stitches on holders, you may need to put the a few of the next stitches on waste yarn for the underarms (your pattern will tell you how many, and this is only if it didn’t instruct you to do it before hand). You’ll then move on to knitting the right sleeve. Hopefully you have these sleeve stitches on a circular needle at this point, but if not, take a moment to do that.

Knit the right sleeve stitches, then start knitting the back body stitches. The stitches at the join may be a little bit loose right now, but that’s okay—they’ll slide together a bit more as you work the rest of the yoke, and since you’ll need to stitch up the underarms eventually, you can just sew those loose stitches a little tighter when you’re seaming that small part.

If you want another view, check out Teresa Gregorio‘s video as well!


2 thoughts on “How to Knit a Sweater from the Bottom Up: Joining the Sleeves and Body

  1. Hi, I have reintroduced myself to knitting (l am an art quilter) and am struggling with directions for the Luca baby sweater. My question is when the directions say’end on WS’ , does that mean the next row Starts on the right side or do you mean you start the next part of the design on the wrong side? I am also a bit dyslexic and this is confusing to me. Thanks for your help, truly appreciated.

    1. Hi Sandy!

      When a pattern says to “end on WS” or “end on RS” it wants you to pause working at the end of a wrong-side row or at the end of a right-side row. So yes, it means that the next row starts on the right-side of the work. Hope that helps!

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