Because so many of my patterns are top-down raglans, I thought it would be beneficial to do a step-by-step tutorial for how to do the underarm divide. The underarm divide occurs when you have completed the raglan increases and it’s time to separate the sleeves and join the back and front pieces of the garment together. It can seem confusing the first time you do it, so hopefully the photo instructions below will help.
Additionally, I have updated this blog post in 2020 to include a video! Below is a video tutorial of working the underarm divide in my Audrey’s Cardigan pattern. Although my instructions are specific to this cardigan, the techniques I use are relevant to any other top-down raglan pattern:
My Original Photo tutorial:
Using my pattern “Crocus” as an example, let’s go step by step through the “Underarm Divide Row” section:
1) Direction: (RS)*k to marker, remove marker, k2, remove marker, using tapestry needle threaded with piece of scrap yarn, transfer sleeve sts onto scrap yarn…
So the first step is to knit as described to marker, then simply remove the marker knit 2, and then remove the next marker. I then put the work down, find some misc. scrap yarn and cut a piece around 20″ length. I thread it through a tapestry needle. Picking the work back up, I transfer each sleeve stitch (the series of stitches that are before the next marker) onto the scrap yarn. See pictures below:
This holds the “live” sleeve stitches until the body is done. Once the body is done, these “live” stitches are transferred to DPNs or a size 16″ circular needle and knit in the round to the cuff. Since we keep these sleeve stitches “live” it prevents any kind of seaming.
This next picture shows what it looks like when step 1 is complete and all sleeve stitches have been transferred to the piece of scrap yarn:
2) Direction: …turn work over & using the knitted cast-on method, CO 6 (8, 14, 18, 24) sts…
Step 2 is where it gets just a little tricky. Once the sleeve stitches are separated from the body (by putting the stitches on scrap yarn), a lot of top-down raglan patterns (including this one) instruct you to cast-on some underarm stitches. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- Once the raglan armhole depth has been reached, you may not have reached your desired bust measurement. So in order to make sure you get that desired bust measurement, you cast on additional stitches at the underarm
- Having stitches at the underarm gives additional room so that your arms can really move around.
When the directions say to “turn work over”, you do just that – turn it so the WS is facing you and the needle with the working yarn that was in your right hand will now be in your left hand. Some patterns may say “flip work” at this step instead of “turn work over” – it means the same thing.
Once you’ve done “the turn” you can now cast-on stitches using the knitted-on cast-on method (or some patterns use the cable cast-on method). This method of casting on allows you to cast-on stitches in the middle of your work which makes it a perfect technique for casting on underarm stitches.
As you can see from the picture above, the WS of the row is now facing you. If you are doing the knitted-on cast-on method, you insert your right needle into the first stitch on the left needle as if to knit. You go ahead and knit it, creating 1 new stitch on the right needle, but don’t pull the original stitch off of the left needle. Instead take the new stitch that is on the right needle and slip it onto the left needle. 1 stitch has been cast-on. Since it’s hard to photograph the above steps, check out my video for the knitted-on cast-on method here (or I have the cable cast-on method here).
Once all the stitches are cast on, here is what it will look like:
3) Direction: …turn work back over & remove next marker, k2 (giving the first st a tug before knitting it, to tighten it up), remove next marker…
In the above picture, I had just removed the first “next marker” and am about to “k2”, making sure I’m giving the first stitch a tug. This is the point where are you joining the back and front piece of the sweater together. Don’t worry if there seems to be a little hole or looseness at this point. When you are finished and weaving in ends you can easily tighten up any holes that may appear at the underarm
Once this step is done, you’re done! Well, at least with the first underarm. You’ll have to repeat one more time on the other side. The below picture shows what it looks like when one underarm divide has been completed for one sleeve:
Once the underarm divide row is complete you can actually try the sweater on. I’d recommend knitting a few rows after the underarm divide before you do this, just to give those cast on underarm stitches some stability. The best way to do this is to transfer all of the stitches onto a really long piece of scrap yarn. Yes, it’s kind of tedious, but it will give you a really good idea about how the yoke of the sweater will fit you. If you are not happy with how it’s fitting in the armholes you can make some adjustments:
If the armhole is too short (i.e, too tight), you can rip out the underarm divide row and work a couple more rows before you work the underarm divide. If you are okay with the body width and it’s just the length you need, then don’t work any raglan increases.
- If the armhole is too short (i.e, too tight), you can rip out the underarm divide row and work a couple more rows before you work the underarm divide. If you are okay with the body width and it’s just the length you need, then don’t work any raglan increases.
- If the armhole is too long, you can rip out the underarm divide row and a few rows above that too, then work the underarm divide row (so essentially working the underarm divide row a few rows earlier than instructed)
- If the depth of the armhole is fine but you feel the bust is too wide, you can rip out the underarm divide row and re-do casting on less stitches at the underarm
In the first two scenarios, changing the number of raglan increase rows will affect your finished bust measurement. If you wind up working more raglan increases (to create a longer armhole depth) then cast on less stitches at the underarms (this way your bust measurement won’t get too big). If you do less raglan increases (because the armhole depth was too long), then you may need to cast on more stitches at the underarm so the sweater still fits your bust.
If you ever need help on figuring out how to adjust a raglan to fit you best, feel free to shoot me an email.
I hope this tutorial helped!
Note: need help working the sleeves? Check out part 2 of this post!