Necklines and Armholes...
In this section I will try to explain how to calculate necklines and armholes. There are a lot of different ways to do this, some more complex than others, but I will try to keep it simple here. Creating patterns is a lot of work, but there is also a lot of satisfaction from doing a job well done. There is nothing more amateurish than having a sweater sit lopsided on you because each side is competing to fit your body, and this is because the armholes were not calculated properly and evenly. Also, there is a direct impact on the neckline when armholes are calculated or changed, so the two go hand in hand. You also need to measure correctly, to know how to do this and know what to measure see the "How To - Sweater Pattern" page.
I am sure you are asking yourself why necklines and armholes now. I thought it was important to understand the Magic Formula and how sleeves are constructed, then this part would be easier. A little about how I knit; I do not curve the back of the sweater's neckline just because I think it is more trouble than it is worth, and I short row only when necessary because I usually mess it up one way or another. I have not had issues with collars of any kind even though I have a flat neckline in the back. If you want to have a curved back neckline, that is totally up to you, if you do not mind the extra work.
One thing I would like to bring your attention to is the number 3. Have you ever noticed how 3 plants sitting together makes a nice arrangement? If there are 4 it looks a little weird, and 2 are not enough? That is because 3 is a symmetry that is pleasing to the eye. A lot of patterns are broken up into sets of threes, the same with architecture, art and fashion. There is a science behind it, but for the content here, I just wanted to bring it to your attention.
The first thing you need is a template of the front of the sweater pattern. As with the sleeve calculations, you need the template to keep track of your numbers and information as you figure things out.
Click on this link for a Armhole a Round Neckline Template
CALCULATING AN ARMHOLE
Armholes, like necklines can come in a variety of types and everyone has two. You can have a
sleeveless top with a band, a set in sleeve, a drop sleeve, bell or
kimono. The trick is getting them to come out even and the neckline in the middle. I will start with and get out of the way a drop sleeve, because
there is no armhole.
DROP DOWN SLEEVE ARMHOLE (no armhole):
ASSUMPTIONS: Gauge is 10 rows and 5 stitches = 1"
It took 265 rows to knit up the back of the sweater
The top of the sleeve is 16" wide (14" + 2" ease)
Since there is no armhole, what we need to figure out is where do we
mark the front and back sweater panels for the sleeve. You would think
that you need to figure out stitches since there is no armhole, but it
is actually ROWS that we need to figure. We need to know which row on
the sweater panels we need to mark for the area for the sleeve to be attached to.
- Sleeve is 16" wide x 10 rows = 160 rows total for the sleeve area on the sweater.
We mark row 185 as we knit the sweater front and back panels from the bottom up, on each side. Then when we seam up the sides, we know where to stop, then seam the shoulders and then attach the sleeves.
- The sleeve sits on ½ the front and ½ the back, 160 ÷ 2 = 80 rows.
- We need to know what number row on the sweater panel is the 80th row from the top of the shoulder, 265 - 80 = 185th.
Now on to an actual armhole...
With armholes, the good part is that there are a few things, or rules of thumb, that are always the same. They are:
1. You add the same amount of ease to the armhole as you did the rest of the garment.First
we need to measure the space from the shoulder to under the arm. To do
this you place a pencil under your arm, and then measure from the
pencil to the top of the shoulder, and that is you natural measurement
for the armhole area. You then add ease to it.
2. If you are going to add a band you take that into consideration,
which means if your band is 1.5" then you increase the size of the armhole depth the same amount, which in turn impacts the shoulder area.
If you add 1.5" all the way around the armhole then that means that the
shoulder area decreases by that same amount on each side.
3. With sleeveless tops, usually you add no more than 1" in ease
otherwise your bra will show rather than rule #1, (unless you wear a bra
that criss-crosses in the back).
4. If you have a set in sleeve, you need to add at least 2" of ease for a comfortable fit, rather than rule #1.
5. If the top will be worn when playing, like a child's top or a tennis
sweater, you need more than 2" in ease to allow for the movement,
rather than rule #1. Also, if you will wear a shirt underneath it allow
at least 2" of ease for comfort.
6. Only 1 initial bind off on each side at the beginning of the sleeve cap shaping is preferred.
7. You are reducing the difference in the number of stitches from the bust width to the back width. Not the bust "circumference", the bust width which is ½ of the circumference:
Bust Width - Back Width = Stitches for armhole & shaping 2 ÷ sides
8. Shaping is over 1.5 - 3" in length and the initial bind off is 1/2 - 1"
>>> If the stitches to bind off is 20 or less, divide by 2 and bind off 1/2 initially and then decrease 1 stitch every other row.
>>> If the stitches are 21 or more, divide by 3 and bind off 1/3 at one time in the initial bind off, decrease 1 stitch every row for next third, then decrease the rest every other row until you meet your final width.
Now, when you create the armhole, remember that many factors depend on
it and also if you have a set in sleeve, a drop down sleeve, if it is
sleeveless with a band, how much give you need depending on how it is
going to be worn and the stretch factor. As in the example for the set in
sleeve, you needed at least 2" of ease.
Some allow for stretch, because all knits stretch. They deduct
10% of the stitches at the bust width for stretch around the armholes.
Always round down. I do not do this, for me it seems to make the bust width too small, so I will omit it from me calculations. You can add this step if you prefer.
CALCULATING the ARMHOLE
I am picking numbers at random to make the calculations necessary for instructions, but trying to keep them lifelike. The numbers will change for you based on your measurements, but the process is the same.
Gauge is 10 rows and 5 stitches per 1"
Band: None. BUT if you were going to have a band you will need to increase the armhole by this amount.
Neck Width (no ease): 7"
Armhole + Ease: 5.5" + 2" = 7.5"
Hips + Ease: 40" + 2" = 42"
Bust Circumference + Ease: 34" + 2" = 36"
Bust Width: 36" ÷ 2 = 18"
Back Width (no ease): 15"
Sweater Height: 35"
There are a few ways to allocate the areas to be knitted. One way is to just split it up in three areas; the neckline and two shoulders. Also, the neckline itself is also split into three areas, the initial bind off and two sides to shape, which we will discuss under the next section, "Calculating a Neckline".
*** Remember the rule of 3's that I talked about earlier?
CALCULATIONS FOR THE ARMHOLE AND INSTRUCTIONS:
1a. Bust width - Back width = Amount to shape in stitches
Bust 18" - Back 15" = 3"1b. 3" of stitches used for shaping
3" x 5 stitches = 15 stitches total to shape with
2. The armhole is 7.5" tall
7.5" x 10 rows = 75 rows to use for shaping and complete the armhole
***You are "Shaping" 3 inches in stitches and the height of the armhole is 75 rows, but you are NOT shaping over 75 rows. Took me a minute to figure that out.
3. Stitches for decreasing ÷ 2 sides = final number of stitches used for shaping
15 ÷ 2 = 7.5 or 8 stitches
***My rule of thumb here is if it is 10 stitches and under I round up, 11 or more stitches I round down.
You would start the shaping on ??? row. The sweater is 35" in total length, 35" x stitch gauge = 35" x 10 = 350 rows total. Then you take 75 rows for the armhole from 350 = 275. You start shaping on row 275.
>>>Shaping the easy way:
It is less than 20 stitches so, I divide by 2 and bind off the first half on one row and then decrease 1 stitch every other row until none remain and continue to knit to meet the 75 row armhole calculation. 21 and over in stitches, divide into thirds, 1/3 initial bind of, 1/3 every other row, 1/3 every row.
Bind off 4 stitches, then decrease 1 stitch every other row 4 times, then knit an additional 66 rows and bind off. The last additional row is used for seaming and is not counted.Shaping the other way:
- Stitches are shaped over 1/2" to 1" wide and 1.5" - 3" long/tall.
4 stitches + 4 stitches = 8 stitches total
1 rows + (2 x 4 rows) + 66 rows = 75 rows total
- 8 stitches need to be shaped.
- 1/2" of stitches is 2.5, or 3
- 1.5" in rows is 12 rows
Bind off 3 stitches initially, then decrease 1 stitch every other row 5 times. Knit an additional 64 rows and bind off.
1 x 5 = 5 stitches
TOTAL 8 STITCHES
5 x 2 (every other row) = 10
TOTAL 11 ROWS, Close enough for me.
All you are trying to do is shape without creating steps if you can. Some people chart the armhole and neckline line by line, I do not. Some people figure out their own way to decrease, or use the Magic Formula. I know this is a little ambiguous, but with experience comes the ability to "feel" out a formula and understand what works best with what gauge yarn. For me, the thicker the yarn the fewer stitches I use in the initial bind off and that is because I do not want too much of a step to the next row, instead I want a smooth oval. Also, the thicker the yarn the more exact are my calculations as some yarn is so thick that a couple of stitches or rows can make a difference.
CALCULATING A NECKLINE
There are many, many types of necklines, square, oval, round, with collars, without collars, the ever popular v - neck. Collars can be also be round, or square like a sailors collar, you can have a shawl collar, turtle neck, cowl neck. It can be wide, slim, it can stand up like a mandarin collar. While all of them are different, the one thing they all have in common is that you need math to make them work. They also need to be wide enough and deep enough to fit over your head. My first pullover I did not take this into consideration and I got stuck! LOL.
As an FYI, necklines are anywhere from 35% to 70% of the back width, depending how high or low they are. The higher the wider it must be, so a boat neck would be 70% of the back width. A deep v - neck would be 35% of the back depth. There are different rules for different necklines, they are explained in detail with the texts I mention at the bottom of this page.
You need to keep in mind what you are going to do with the neckline, if you add a band you need to make sure and make adjustments to the shoulder area. If the band is 1", then you decrease the width of the shoulder 1" each side, 2" total, as the band sits on both sides. If you are going to add a collar, decide on the collar first, and then which neckline that works with the collar.
I will do two examples; the round neck line because it is popular and you can add collars easily to it, a band or make it into a turtle neck, and then the ever so popular v - neck. If you want to learn others, you should buy the two texts mentioned at the bottom of the page. I make sure that the neck is at least 3" deep regardless, so that I can get it over my head and there is enough depth for shaping.
SIDE NOTE: When you are calculating the neckline, the shoulder seams is the remainder of the:
Back Width - Neck Width = Shoulder Width / 2 shoulders = X
17" - 7" = 10" / 2 = 5"
As with any example that I have, we will start out with assumptions, constants, body measurements and then an exercise in shaping with math checks.
- Gauge: 5 stitches and 8 rows = 1"
- Armhole: We will use an armhole shaping from the top section, of 75 rows.
- How many rows for the sweater, let's say 265 from bottom to the top of the shoulders.
- The "round" neck usually is 40 - 50% of the back width for a round neckline.
- The neck is divided into 3 sections, the initial bind off and then each side
.....there goes that number 3 again!
- The neck can be divided in 3 equal parts, or 50% for the initial bind off and 25% each side.
- The neck can only be worked one side at a time.
- Calculate armhole shaping first, if a set in sleeve, or which row you attach a drop shoulder sleeve. You then measure from the top down to know where to start your neckline shaping.
- You will work the armhole and the neckline at the same time at some point. Depending how deep the neck is will decide whether you start shaping the neckline or the armholes first. Usually it is the armholes.
Neck width: 7"
Neck depth: 3"
Back Width: 15"
- 40 - 50% of back width of 15" = 6 to 7.5"
- 7.5" x 5 = 37.5 or 37 stitches and 6 x 5 = 30 stitches, so the neckline is somewhere between 30 to 37 stitches
OR 7" x 5 = 35 stitches wide
- 3 x 8 rows = 24 rows deep
....Either calculation works
I will use 3 equal parts for the shaping of the neck. 35 stitches ÷ 3 = 11.66. So, we have 11.66 stitches : 11.66 stitches : 11.66 stitches.
Use 11 stitches for shaping each side and put the remaining stitches in the initial bind off. 22 from 35 leaves 13 stitches for the initial bind off.
Where to start the bind off ??. We measure from the top of the shoulder down, against the armhole shaping rows. All rows are the same height, because 1 row is a row is a row.
75 rows minus 24 rows = 51
With the armhole, you take away 75 from 265 total rows, so you start shaping on row 190. For the neckline you add the additional 51 rows, which gets you to row 241 to start the neck shaping.
Sweater Body to armhole shaping 190
Additional 51 rows until the neckline shaping
Neckline of 24 rows
190 + 51 + 24 = 265 total rows
- On row 241 bind off the middle 13 stitches
- Place the left side on hold
- On the right hand side of the sweater, shape 11 stitches, sequentially reducing the amount of stitches you are binding off.
Bind of 4 stitches, then bind off 3 stitches, then bind off 2 stitches, then decrease 1 stitch twice.Then deduct 5 rows from total neckline rows of 24, work the remaining 19 rows and bind off. The effect you want is a nice rounded neckline with no steps, experience is the only way to be able to decide how to reduce stitches over rows in order to get the effect and what works best with different yarn gauges.
V - NECK LINE
MATH CHECK: 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 + 1 = 11 stitches, over 5 rows
V - necks are probably the most popular, even over round necklines. And for me they are the easiest because the Magic Formula is used to determine decreases, no estimating. You can add a shawl collar, a band or many other types of collars to it, like the round neckline. This necklines looks as good on the front as much as the back, for instance; you can make an evening top that has a boat neck front and a deep v in the back. I will just crochet 1 row on the finished neckline to keep things simple and will not count it in the calculations, since it really will not make a difference.
Click on this link for a V - Neck Template
To center the neckline in the middle of the body, if the sweater panel width has an odd amount number of stitches, make sure to bind off 1 stitch at the beginning of the neckline and if there are even stitches, bind off 2 stitches. That will help center the neckline properly. Also, to make sure the neckline fits well, the width at the top should equal the width of the neck and no more, especially with deep necklines 6" and deeper. V - necklines can also be quite deep, like for a sweater, and may start BEFORE the armhole shaping. But, if you want a wider neckline, make sure it is no more than 5" deep and you would add width to the neck width.
Gauge: 5 STITCHES & 8 ROWS = 1"
Neck Width: 6"
V - Neck Depth: 7"
Bust width: 40"/2 = 20"
Back width: 15"
Armhole Depth: 7"
Sweater Length: 38"
***Always work the last ½" to 1" in rows evenly before binding off.
ROWS & STITCHES:
Neck Width: 6" x 5 = 30 stitches
Neck Depth: 7" x 8 = 64 rows
Bust width: 20" x 5 = 100 stitches
Back width: 15" x 5 = 75 stitches
Armhole Depth: 7" x 8 = 56 rows
Sweater Length: 38" x 8 = 304 rows total for the sweater panel
By just eyeballing rows and stitches, you can see that the v - neck shaping will start BEFORE the armhole shaping because the v - neck starts 64 rows from the shoulder and the armhole is 56 rows deep. You always measure the neckline from the top of the shoulder down, after you have calculated which row the armhole shaping starts on. So, we need to first:
Total rows for length of sweater - rows for armhole = X
What we know so far:
- The neck width at the top will be 30 stitches.
- The neck depth is 64 rows, that we use to increase 30 stitches evenly.
- The last ½" to 1", all the rows are the same width = 4 to 8 rows.
- The armhole is 56 rows - 64 neck rows = - 8 rows a negative number, so we start the neck shaping 8 rows prior to armhole shaping.
64 - 8 = 56 total rows for shaping the neckline
- 304 total rows for the sweater body - 56 rows for the neck - 8 additional rows = 240, we start neckline shaping on row 240
- 304 total rows for the sweater body - 56 rows for the armhole = 248, we start armhole shaping on row 248, 8 rows AFTER we start the neck shaping.
I want to increase 30 stitches evenly over 56 rows, but remember that you have 2 sides = 30 ÷ 2 = 15 stitches each side. In addition, 30 can be divided evenly for 15 stitches each side, if it was an odd number, 31, we would bind off 1 stitch initially, leaving an even number of stitches for each side.
Since we are machine knitting, we know where the middle if our garment is because of our needle bed, at the 0 (zero) point, with hand knitting you would figure this out, but I do not go into it since this site is for machine knitters.
I know that I can only work 1/2 the neck at one time, and in this case the same with the armhole since I start shaping the armhole AFTER I start shaping the neckline.
Now, on to the math...
15 can go into 56, 3 times with leftover stitches. So, now we switch to the Magic Formula.
1. 15 can go into 56, 3 times
2. Add a 1 to the 3 = 4
3. There are 11 stitches left over
4. You minus 11 from 15 = 4
- You bind off one stitch on row 240 at the 0 point, or middle of the front panel of the sweater.
- You then bind of 1 stitch every 4th row 11 times
- You then bind off 1 stitch every 3rd row 4 times
- You then knit another 8 rows to the shoulder and bind off.
4 x 11 = 44 rows
3 x 4 = 12 rows
TOTAL 56 rows
1 x 11 = 11
1 x 4 = 4
TOTAL 15 stitches
***Remember, you are shaping the armhole at the same time, I just did not finish that part since all I wanted to show you is how to do a v - neck.
SIDE NOTE - BACK NECK SHAPING:
If you do want to shape the back neck, it is usually ½" to 1" deep at
the most. The initial bind off uses up 50% - 75% of the stitches and
then shaping the remaining stitches in 2 or 3 rows. Remember that you
need half the remaining stitches, to use for each side and that it is
much more shallow than the front. The same amount of stitches are bound
off as for the front neckline. If you want a deep back neckline then
use the same math as for the front neckline.
To learn how to make any kind of neck you want with collars, the two texts below will teach you how to do this.
"CHARTING BY THE MAGIC FORMULA" BY ALLES,
published by Country Knitting of Maine
or email her at: email@example.com
"KNITWEAR designs WORKSHOP, A comprehensive guide to hand knits"
by SHIRLEY PADEN
Buy it at AMAZON.COM