How to knit or crochet a top-down cardigan

In this third part of my presentation (and hopefully explanation) of various methods to knit or crochet a cardigan we reached my favourite technique: working top-down. You may ask why I love this method so much and I could tell you it’s due to me being lazy and impatient but most likely it is due to me being absolute genius and therefore loving the fastest, effortless, and best of all methods.

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  1. raglan crochet cardigan 2. knitted raglan cardigan 3. crochet cardigan with a round yoke in lace pattern

Advantages of top-down constructions

Remember the advantages of top-down constructions? No? No problem I will gladly repeat them: While working from the neckline to the hem in one piece, you can try the cardigan on. There will be no surprise at the end. You can alter the fit on the go, for example elongate or shorten the yoke, make the sleeves wider or narrower, decide to use a more tailored or a boxier style and so on. The second pro is, less sewing. I know, there may be people who love to sew, but I am not one of them. With the top down construction, it is possible to work the whole cardigan completely without sewing (but I must admit, I normally crochet/knit the sleeves flat, because I do not like the fit of the slightly spirally texture, if knitted/crocheted in the round).

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you see no suprises... mistakes are soooo seldom

Various methods to knit a top-down cardigan

There are for distinctly different methods to work a cardigan from the top down: the yoked cardigan, the raglan cardigan, and the cardigan with set-in sleeves (perhaps there are more methods, but these are the best known). All these methods work in crochet and knitting.

The yoked cardigan

This form of a cardigan is actually a hat :-D Ok, not a complete hat, but the way how you construct a hat is not very different from a yoke. For both – the hat and the cardigan with a yoke – you knit a circle and increase stitches over the whole width in a regular rhythm. For example, you increase every fourth row and knit/crochet three rows without increases. To achieve a round form, the increase stitches must not align above each other. If the desired armhole depth is reached, the sleeves are separated, and the body is worked. After finishing the body, you go back and knit/crochet the sleeves. Tada…
(I said ‘tada’ but both the round yoke cardigan and the raglan cardigan are often much more complicated than this simple formula. You can find top-down cardigans with a button-band which is added afterwards, with a later worked neckline, with increases which are incorporated into a lace pattern and so on.)

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on the photos you can see how a round yoke is crocheted… sadly I had to unravel it, because the wool was discontinued. The finished cardigan has also a round yoke but with an easy lace pattern.

The raglan cardigan

This construction is very similar to the yoked cardigan, only the increases align above each other at the four ‘corners’ of the cardigan. Again, you start at the neckline, but this time you must set four markers which separate the fronts, the sleeves, and the back. The increases are always directly before and after the markers. In knitting you increase 8 stitches every second row (while knitting in stockinette) and in crochet 8 stitches every row. In this way a rectangle is formed instead of a circle. The rest is the same procedure as the round yoke cardigan. This is my favourite construction, because you always know where to increase and how long. And I prefer the rectangle form of this cardigan. The round yoke can lead to an uneven form in a cardigan, where the two fronts fall open while wearing the cardigan. Because of the round yoke the middle of the cardigan seems to be longer than the sides.

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As you can see this raglan cardigan is not finished... 4 buttons are still missing

The set-in sleeve cardigan

This type of cardigan I think is better known in knitting than in crochet. Here you start with a rectangle which forms the upper part of the back. The next step is to work the upper part of the two fronts into the back rectangle. And after this you connect in one round all parts. Now the body is knitted. In crochet you work the sleeves the same way as with a raglan or yoke cardigan in knitting there is a difference. Here you pick up stitches around the armhole (in raglan and yoke construction the armhole stitches are ‘life’) and form with short rows the sleeve cap and the sleeve. This construction is more fitted and looks more like a sewn cardigan, than the other top-down constructions. (I am currently trying this method with a knitted sweater and like it so far. Perhaps I will make a complete post about this, if it fits well :-D)
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here you can see the set-in sleeve construction in crochet

Naturally there are many more top-down constructions and you can combine methods. Nevertheless, I hope I could give you a rough guide how these top-down garments are worked. The next part of this post will look at one of these methods in depth.

I hope you will all have a great and sunny week <3

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Excellent explanation of the different types of top-down projects! Although I don't like to crochet garments I love the red cardi :)

Thank you so much :-D The pink/red cardigan was a improvisation ...sadly, because I have no idea how I fitted in the increases :-D

Awesome, detailed post! This is my favorite technique too... I hate the sewing and always end up making mistakes. Thanks!

Thank youuuu <3
Me too - sewing hater:...bulky seams or too tight seams...sigh
I have a very expirienced knitting friend who constantly tells me, that top-down sweaters are without structure and that they will sag. Did you encountered such problems?

Looking at all this cute pictures makes me realize how much knitted cardigan you've got! (quite. a. lot lol). As usual I'm reading your techniques despite my very little knowledge on knitting. They all look like the same technique until I read from you guys that they are not. Thanks for sharing this.

Thank you again for your kind words and sorry that I still haven't commented on your post (but I read and liked it) I will write you tomorrow <3<3
And yes you are right... I have - ahem - some cardigans :-DDDD (And not only me... I have made some for my parents, my husband and several babys :-D I am a cardimaniac)
And beware, if you read enough of the knitting/crochet post, you will be infected :-D
As you know you have already made me sew <3

Lol,Go cardigan fan! Its already growing on me, the knitting, plus it's OK about the comments, your are always commenting on my post so it's no biggie.

Wow! I am always in awe seeing what you can do with hands and needles.

You must spend a lot on wool, no? Did you learn your skill all by yourself or did you have teachers?

Ohhh I am so sorry, I saw your beautiful heritage post, but again I had as so often migraines, so that I forgot to comment.
And with the yarn .... ahem.... I am addicted :-D I think it is good, that I currently do not earn so much, or we would live in a yarnland instead of an apartment :-DDD (I often buy it on eBay and very often at Zeeman, but it’s not always so high quality, mostly acrylic, good yarn is super expensive)
I learn to knit as a child but hated it :-D And crochet I learned through my husband. He made a cute little bag for me some years ago and I so liked it, that I wanted to learn how he made it. From there on I was hooked. The knitting I rediscovered two years ago, because my hands hurt to much from crochet. I relearned a new knitting method (combination knitting) which I like so much more than the normal western knitting.
I hope you are well and you do not melt (its super-hot here and humid)

No problem. I am glad that you've read my posts.

HaHa!! Addicted to yarn. I know some which are by far worse! :))

Yes, good yarn is very expensive, that is why I thought twice to buy some and decided against it because I probably would ruin it in trying to get started. Also, I am not so much drawn to knit or crochet as to painting. But I do admire others who can. I appreciate a lot hand made clothes. You made so many beautiful jackets.

Interesting, how you learned your skill. Never heard husbands doing it.

I am super well. Still having some days off and enjoy my time out. I do not travel much and must make the best out of my stay in Hamburg or visiting my family in Lower Saxony. I like this heat a lot! This summer is extraordinary. But the poor plants do suffer from not having enough water.

Stay well. ... Oh, have you tried something about migraines? You seem to get them regularly. You deserve some tender care:)

There is a direct connection between me knitting/crocheting so much and the migraines. I am not sure if I have already written about them to you.. (I hope I do not repeat myself) In the last 2 years I have them so frequently and I often cannot do something useful days after the attack, but a bit of knitting or crochet.
you can read more of my whining here...
And with the painting: I remember a post of yours where you included a painting which I liked very much (I hope I remember right) Painting is such a beautiful thing to do. But for me it is no hobby, means it is not relaxing. In knitting or crochet there is no pressure (for me)
And the husband <3 We know us through dancing (we worked in the same ensemble) and studied together, so we like many similar things, but he is so much more accomplished with fabric than me (but no longer with crochet, as I am obsessed with everything yarn related)
It is good to hear you are well and Hamburg is a perfect place for a holiday, so many museums and great architecture (I only was there once.. but liked it a lot)
Maybe the Hamburger Wollfabrik played a role...

Nein, du hast dich nicht wiederholt. Ich höre das zum ersten Mal. Interessant, wie du dein Hobby mit deiner Migräne in Verbindung gebracht und aus einer Not eine Tugend gemacht hast.

Migräne scheint eine seltsame Sache zu sein. Eine gute Freundin hatte über viele Jahre starke Migräne, aber als sie in ein wärmeres Klima zog, gingen die Schmerzen weg und sie hat nur noch sehr selten welche.

Vielleicht - in einem etwas metaphysischeren Sinn - zwingst du dich, an einigen Tagen im Monat zur Ruhe, die du sonst nicht bekämest, wäre da nicht deine Migräne. Ich bin Systemikerin, also sehe ich in jeder Sache auch die Resource und den Vorteil. :)

Ich meine da so eine Art Zwang zum Tun herauszuhören und das Nichtstun etwas Anrüchiges oder Inakzeptables sei. Wir Deutschen scheinen mit dem Faulheitsbegriff recht rüde aufgewachsen zu sein. ... Wohl nicht nur wir, sondern Menschen im Allgemeinen.

Muße haben ohne dass man einen triftigen Grund dafür hat, ... eine Art Aufgabe, nicht?

Jedenfalls ist es gut, dass es keine neurologische oder Ursache in deinem Gehirn hat oder sonstwie etwas Schwieriges.

Wollfabrik hier in Hamburg? Cool. Die kenne ich nicht. Vielleicht verirre ich mich dort einmal.

jaaa Wollfabrik... böser Ort, da darf ich nur mit abgezähltem Geld rein :-D
Und das mit der Migräne… ich dachte ich hätte es schon mal geschrieben, da es einer der Hauptgründe ist warum ich bei steemit schreibe, denn so richtig kontinuierlich kann ich gerade eigentlich nichts mehr machen. (Weshalb ich auch manchmal sehr verspätet kommentiere, was mir immer leid tut.)
Die Idee der Migräne auch positive Seiten abzugewinnen ist prinzipiell gut, allerdings aus der Innensicht nur schwer nachfühlbar, denn Migräne haben stellt sich zumindest für mich nicht als Ruhe dar. Vielmehr brauche ich nach der Migräne manchmal Tage um mich von selbiger zu erholen.
Und ja die Themen „Tun, Arbeit, Nutzen, Sinn und Wert“ haben für mich gerade immens Bedeutung gewonnen, da ich nämlich vielfach durch die Migräne nicht mehr selbstbestimmt „Tun“ kann. Das „Nichtstun“ ist dann ebenfalls nicht frei gewählt und auch kein „Nichtstun“ im Sinne der Muße oder Langeweile etc. sondern ein Aushalten von Schmerzen (und neurologischen Ausfallerscheinungen) das Kraft kostet.
Allerdings muss ich auch zugeben (wie ich hoffentlich auch schon mal geschrieben habe) dass ich oft sehr dickköpfig an wenig hilfreichen Glaubenssätzen festhalte…. Wie ich vermutlich im obigen Text bewiesen habe :-DDD
Also du siehst, ich bin nur der Theorie dem Systemischen sehr zugewandt, lasse mein Hirn aber recht monokausal laufen :-D

Hast du mal versucht, deine Ernährung umzustellen? Das wäre dann ja das zweite Ausschlussprinzip neben der neurologischen Sache. Und reagierst du auf Klima-Veränderungen?

Die systematische Frage ist daher: Zu welchen Zeiten tritt keine Migräne auf und was machst du unter Umständen dann richtig? Bin nicht sicher, ob du erwähnt hast, dass es hormonell bedingt sein könnte. Vielleicht hilft, eine spezielle Sorte Tee vor den Tage zu trinken.

Wenn gar nichts hilft, vermutet der Systemiker dennoch eine versteckte Resource bzw. einen verdeckten Gewinn in der Migräne:)

Ich versuche kurz deine Ansätze/Fragen zu beantworten, aber du kannst dir vorstellen, meine Antworten sind nur einige Aspekte… mehr passt hier an der Stelle aber auch nur schlecht hin, zudem steckt die Forschung zu Migräne immer noch in den Kinderschuhen.
Ganz allgemein ist Migräne immer eine neurologische Erkrankung, unabhängig ob sie vermehrt durch hormonelle Schwankungen, Stress, Schlafentzug oder irgendetwas anderes ausgelöst wird. Siehe:
Ein anderer Ansatz ist, Migräne als eine Epilepsieform zu verstehen (statt sie nur als komorbid zu betrachten. Siehe hier:
Hier auch noch ein Ansatz (und generell ein guter Blog zum Thema Migräne)

Ernährung: Es wäre so schön - einfach Milch/Gluten/Histamin/Zucker (setze ein, was gerade ‚verteufelt‘ wird) wegzulassen und dann keine Schmerzmittel mehr zu brauchen (nicht, dass ich nicht auch vegan/glutenfrei/etc. zu leben nach etlichen Jahren Migräne verbunden mit großer Hoffnung versucht hätte). Auch die Idee, die in den Medien oft wiederholt wird, dass Migräne durch bestimmte Lebensmittel-Trigger wie Schokolade oder Wein ausgelöst wird, ist leider nicht wirklich zutreffend. Aber dies ist natürlich nur eine verkürzte Antwort zu diesem Thema, falls es dich tiefer interessiert, gibt es viele gute Informationen zum Thema auf den Seiten der Schmerzklinik in Kiel.

Ich kann nach Jahren von Kopfschmerztagebüchern und Selbsterforschung sagen, dass bei mir in Bezug auf Ernährung, unregelmäßiges Essen ein Auslöser sein kann, bestimmte Lebensmittel aber eher nicht. Einzig Sekt geht gar nicht, da bekomme ich innerhalb kürzester Zeit Kopfschmerzen. Da ich aber generell nicht gerne Alkohol trinke, spielt dies für mich kaum eine Rolle.

Klimaveränderungen spielen eine Rolle, in dem Sinne, dass ich vom Reisen Migräne bekomme. Wenn ich mich irgendwo länger aufhalte, spielt das Wetter jedoch keine Rolle mehr. (Dies konnte ich austesten, da ich über 15 Jahre für‘s Unterrichten durch die Welt gefahren bin)

Hormone: jep--- spielen bei mir definitiv eine Rolle, hilft mir nur nicht weiter, da eine Hormon-Therapie die Migräne nicht beeinflusst.

Krankheitsgewinn: Bei dieser Vermutung, so wohlmeinend sie ist, muss ich immer aufpassen nicht zu ausführlich zu antworten…. Ich frage mich in solchen Momenten, ob „der Systemiker“ (was auch immer man darunter versteht) dies auch einem Menschen mit Beinbruch fragen würde oder einen Menschen mit einer Sehbehinderung? Gerade im Bereich der unsichtbaren Erkrankungen ist diese Frage recht brisant, da man diesen Krankheiten über viele Jahrhunderte hinweg abgesprochen hat, überhaupt eine Krankheit zu sein.
Und selbst wenn es einen Gewinn durch eine starke chronische Erkrankung geben könnte z.B. kurzfristig mehr Zuwendung des Partners oder ? (mir fällt da echt nicht viel ein), so wiegt dieser ‚Gewinn‘ in keinem Fall die Menge an Leid auf, die die Erkrankung mit sich bringt wie bspw. sehr starke Schmerzen, weniger Geld, keine Bestätigung durch Teilnahme am Arbeitsleben, weniger Sozialkontakte, Erkrankungen und Nebenwirkungen durch Medikamente, Verlust an Unabhängigkeit und vieles mehr.

So jetzt hat es dich erwischt :-DDD Die super lange Antwort auf deine lieb gemeinten Lösungsvorschläge. Aber wer weiß vielleicht hilft es ein bisschen weiter, denn Migräne ist ja eine sehr häufige Erkrankung die oft zu einem hohen Maß an Behinderung führt.

this is good information, as I remember those days when my mother knit a sweater on her hand for me. that was a awesome feeling

Thank you <3
I too remember this. My mother was an avid knitter when I was small. Now she loves more to paint :-D

Thank you for sharing this detailed top-down guide. This is going to be so helpful for me when I take a shot at constructing my own garments. I think I like the raglan cardigan the most too because I like the rectangular shape of it. I also like the fact that you will always know where to increase and how long. I love the pics and all of your beautiful work that is presented!! 😍

Oh yes please, I think garments from you will be awesome (you have such a good taste for colour combinations)
And thank you for the compliments :-D But writing the post yesterday was no fun, because the photos played hide and seek with me..... I normally put all my craft photos in orderly named files, but this time I could not find the things I needed and I had to copy/steal them back from my own Instagram account :-DDD (at least I know now how to do this :-D)

Aww thanks for that compliment!! ☺️

Oh boy you had to really work for these pics. Well I appreciate your hard work because the pictures help tie everything together and yours are always enjoyable!!

I was dreaming about this post last night. I like the idea that you can adjust the size and construction as you go along. I like lower necklines, especially as the front - v-necks or low boatnecks or scooped necklines - would they be possible to do? How important is tension? It took three attempts for me to get the right size needles for the correct tension with the cardigan I am knitting now. Fortunately, with big wool, it doesn't take long to knit :)

Hihiiiii - I very often dream I own a wool shop and am allowed to try out all yarns and patterns, but then I cannot decide in which order I try them out ;-DDD
Yes, it is possible to make v-neck. I only gave the very rough standard directions for knitting/crocheting top-down. If you want to make raglan cardigan with a wider neckline there are two different ways to form it. One is to cast on/add more stitches after the first rows of the neckline. This is the case with the miette cardigan (you remember the free pattern from Andi Satterlund which I made to big) Here you cast on I think 10 stitches for each front after you have knitted ca 50 rows.

The other technique is to start with a very small stitch count for the fronts and to increase them gradually. This will result in a v-neck. I only have a photo of a crochet cardigan I made with a v-neck, but the method is the same ....
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Or you can do a combination of both. This is the Ramona cardigan from Elizabeth Smith and here I started with a very small number of front stitches (I thin 2 or 3) and then gradually increased them. After some rows I cast on 5 stitches per front. (sorry the photo is not too good)
With the tension: I think it is important for the neckline and raglan set-up, so that the neckline is not too small or big and that you have a good stitch distribution for your body type (I for example make the fronts and sleeves always bigger than the back, because of my belly and thick arms) The rest you can constantly try on, so it should be easy to fit for your body.
I hope I understood your question right and was helpful :-D

PS: the knitted cardigans will get a ribbing around the neckline... I only wanted to show the increases

Ah yes - I liked the miette cardigan very much.
I am similar to you - I have a very narrow back and small shoulders, but a very large bust and it is clear that the front of anything needs to be larger than the back! (In patterns, they always seem to make them the same size). At the same time, if I knit something that is correct for my bust, it doesn't fit properly at the shoulders and the opposite if the shoulders are snug. I love the idea that you can try the garment as you are knitting it. I want to get to grips with garment construction, so that I know it will fit and look good, and then I can concentrate on making pieces with original designs - more artwork than garment :)
Thank you for the detailed explanation and pictures. I'll be having a break from Steemit in August, I want more time for knitting!

nooooooooo break???!!! noooo please
Ok, I have calmed myself down.
Naturally you are allowed to do more knitting and have a wonderful time in august :-D But know, you will be missed.
I could imagine, that Miette may be a good top-down pattern for you, because of the bust darts, which were not so nice on me. If you want to make holidays in Germany, you could try mine on :-D Andy Satterlunds garments seem to be generally designed for more bustier figures, but she also has a wide back.... I currently knit her cropped sweater for fall and I had to use the smallest size, because the back is so wide (now it fits perfect on the back, but is much too narrow on my belly :-DD)
Did you ever try to knit something with Amy Herzog’s custom fit method?
I have not... but I am curious if it really fits better...

Really inspirational photos @neumannsalva and a wonderful variety of colours :D
I would like to try an adult size 'kimono' type of cardigan like the last one of your photos with no worries about neckline decreases.

Thank youuuuuuu (especially as I searched on my computer for hours to get this photos together... they where hiding)
I also love this kimono style... I made the pattern four!!! times (and the fifth is started) :-D It is the Esme cardigan from Vicarno

You're very welcome @neumannsalva. Thank you so much for that link. It's a beautiful pattern particularly the detail on the back :D

wow, my dear !!!! you again wrote a detailed big post. I did not know that there are so many options for knitting things from top to bottom. I'll definitely try this knitting method someday :)

Thank you so much (and thank you for the resteem) And believe me... there are even more methods I did not mentioned, because I myself have not tried them out :-DDD
And I am happy you may give it a try <3

Oh, No!!!! if you write more about many methods, I'm afraid that I can not do anything :))))))

We will see..... :-DDDDD <3

This is super cute and I will try this method one day. Looks really nice.

Thank you <3 I love the top-down method and I am happy you may give it a try

I like your creations. I love knitting for baby. The colors of the yarn I love.

Thank you so much and you are right, the top-down method is super for baby clothes :-D

I love the idea of a piece you can try on as you go and also no sewing. Hiding the seams is my least favourite part of crochet!!!!

Yes, me too.... If I must sew, sometimes the parts will lay around for months till I start to sew them together. And I find seaming in knitting even more difficult and tedious...sigh

A procrastinator after my own heart!

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