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Or, how to make short-row top-down sleeve caps.

This is a genius method for people who hate setting in sleeves. I don’t, I rather enjoy it, but might switch to this one for sheer convenience! There are tutorials (written and video) on the internet, but I never found all the information I needed in a single place, so I’m adding mine … along with some bitter lessons learnt (BLL) and a rather wonkily drawn rainbow of rows.


1. Measure around your bicep. Ie, let your arm hang down vertically and measure a horizontal circle round your arm just below the underarm. Add your preferred ease to this measurement. Multiply by stitch gauge to get total number of stitches to pick up = T.

 BLL: Do not be tempted to measure around the actual path of the armscye! Ie, do not measure up the shoulder, above the shoulder, down the shoulder and across the underarm. This measurement will incorporate the skeletal structure of the shoulder (a complex area of the anatomy if there ever was one!) and using this as your beginning measurement will give you a gigantic sleeve.

2. Measure the length of the horizontal BO at the bottom of the armscye and multiply by stitch gauge to convert its length to number of stitches  = UA (underarm)

3. Calculate C (cap) = T – UA

4. Divide C, as evenly as you can, into six sections. If there is a remainder, distribute it among the ‘middle’ sections. Here’s my Dahlia example to explain what I mean:

a) T = 78

b) UA = 10

c) C = 78 – 10 = 68

Dividing 68 by six  I get [11, 11, 11, 11, 11, 11]  and a remainder of 2.

So I’ll distribute the 2 stitches in the middle of the brackets to get: [11, 11, 12, 12, 11, 11]

This is all the calculating you need to do!

5. Pick up and knit stitches, using the numbers you calculated above. Specifically:

a) Pick up and knit UA stitches along the horizontal underarm BO (between blue pins)

b) Divide the rest of the armscye into six equal sections, using stitch markers or pins.

c) Pick up and knit C stitches from the rest of the armscye, distributing them as calculated in the brackets. In my example, I picked up 11 stitches between each pair of pink pins, and 12 stitches between each pair of white pins.

dahlia pickup

d) Knit one round, ending at underarm.

 6. Start short rowing.

BLL: Do not over-think this and lie awake at night wondering why they are called short rows if each is longer than the previous, and if you’re doing something wrong. They are called short rows because you’re never knitting all the stitches around the armscye. But each individual row will be longer than the previous.

Note: I’m not going into the actual mechanics of creating a smooth, invisible turning point since there are so many methods out there. When I say “turn” in the following instructions, use your favourite method for creating a turning point. I love this one.

a) Work 2/3rds of the way round the armscye, to the end of the 4th section. Turn. (Blue line)

b) Work back to the end of the second section. Turn. (Purple line)

c) Work to previous turning point, incorporate wrap, turn at the next stitch. (Pink line)

d) Working to turning point, on the other side, incorporate wrap, turn at the next stitch. (Red line)

e) Continue in this way, increasing the size of the rows by one stitch each time, till you’ve created turning points at the ends of the 5th and 1st sections.

 dahlia rows

In the diagram, the lines indicating worked rows are concentric, to fit them onto a flat picture. In real life, they are stacked on top of each other, creating a perfectly shaped sleeve cap.

 7. Start working full rows (Yellow line). Work in rounds and knit the rest of your sleeve. (Or, split at underarm and work the sleeve back and forth).

There are lots of variations on this technique – some will have you continue short rowing till the edges of the UA stitches are reached – but this one works for me. Experiment!

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