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Designer's tools: Grading Study Group's dramatic raglans

Study Group has dramatic shaping in the raglans, tapering to just a few stitches at the neckline. That can cause some fit issues - today I'm talking about the nuts and bolts of how this pattern fits and what you can do when you're reviewing patterns with this design detail.


Stitches at the neck edge

When we knit a raglan, we have stitches at the neck edge for the front, the back, and both sleeves. If you're knitting top down, those are the stitches you cast on. If you're knitting bottom up, those are the ones you bind off.

In Study Group, there are only a handful of stitches in the sleeves at the neck, pictured in Clay. The width of those stitches, once seamed up is just 1.5 - 3 inches. That can cause problems.

Our back necks need space, too

I talk a lot about how we need room for the front of our neck in our raglans (haven't read about this from me yet? Here's my most popular article of all time).

The width of those shoulders contributes to the depth of the front and back neck. We need a minimum of one inch in the back neck, and I'm finding over time that I prefer at least an inch and a half. Without enough room in the back neck, the sweater pulls down.

When we drape those sleeve tops over our shoulders, half of their width contributes to front neck depth, and half to back neck depth. That means that without additional shaping, Study Group would only have .75" - 1.5" in the back neck.


You've got to get wider, faster

With just a few stitches at the neck, we've got to get wide fast to make room for the shoulder and upper arm. The front of the garment also needs to get wide faster.

In all raglans we get a better fit with compound shaping (shaping that is more dramatic at the top and bottom of the yoke, and more flat through the middle of the yoke). In a garment with narrow sleeves, that's absolutely critical.


Across the grade

Since there are typically more stitches at the top of the sleeve for larger sizes, we often see that the largest sizes have oddly deep necks or armholes because the designer hasn't considered the impact of the shoulder width. But it's wearable.

In contrast, the very smallest sizes may have a real problem in the back neck, where they truly don't have enough room for their bodies.


How to fix it

Just like we create front neck shaping, if we don't have enough room in the back of the neck we add shaping there too. Below, you can see that Study Group has just a few decreases at the neckline. It's a little detail and it's easy to overlook - but it elevates the finished product and ensures that your sweater will look great AND stay put.

Spot it yourself

As you evaluate patterns, look for:

  1. The back neckline appears to be crawling up the back of the neck. It may even appear to be up on the neck instead of on the back.

  2. The front neck will appear tight, even if there is shaping, because the back is pulling on it.

  3. Sweater appears to be pulled backwards.

  4. Back views show a straight line that arcs up towards the neck a little bit.

Finally, if you're evaluating a pattern in your library, use gauge and the stitch count at the top of the sleeve to determine the width of the top of the sleeve at the neckline. Divide that by two - make sure you're getting at least an inch for the back neck.

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