Continuing my mission to simplify crochet garment design, today I want to share some common approaaches to constructing crochet sweaters. Understanding the differences in these styles was a big lightbulb moment for me as a designer and a maker and I hope it gives you that “ahhhhhh… I get it now” moment too!
Whether you are working from a pattern or designing your own, my aim is to give you an overview of 6 types of construction, what they have to offer, what challenges they pose and when you might use them. I’ve included some examples of my own designs for each category for illustration purposes.
Also, get ready for more of my special doodles! (I’m still working on my ipencil skills!)
Note that each of these styles focuses on the way the sleeve and body work together. Other than the top down yoke, they can be worked top down, bottom up or side to side. The focus here is on the shapes you need to make to create a garment.
This is far from a comprehensive list of all the approaches to construction, but outlines the most common ones I have encountered in crochet.
Many modifications can be made to each version, including to the necklines, body and sleeve shaping. The styles also all work for cardigans.
So lets get stuck in!
1. The Drop Shoulder
The drop shoulder sweater is probably the simplest construction method. Effectively, you just make a panel for the front, one for the back then two rectangles for the sleeves and seam the lot together.
Of course there are many modifications which can be made to add shape. Neck shaping for example as used in The Upsidedown Sweater.
Benifits of the Drop Shoulder construction
- Simple shapes make this an achievable project for newer crocheters
- Easy to adjust to (just change the width or length of any of the panels to fit)
- Works well any yarn but is a good style if you are looking to use chunkier yarns
- Can be worked top down, bottom up, side to sidebar even corner to corner if you’re feeling adventurous!
- Sleeves can be worked flat or – and this is my favourite bit – in the round directly from the armhole! (No sewing!)
Issues to consider with drop shoulder construction
- Can be bulky around the arms so better suited to loose fitting sweaters
- The standard drop shoulder is quite shapeless – there is no tailoring around the shoulders or body. Of course you can add this in relatively easily but that adds complexity to the design
2. Modified Drop
The Modified Drop involves adding some square shaping to the body panel to set the sleeves in a little.
This helps to address the issues with the bulk at the under arm you get with the traditional drop shoulder by setting the sleeves in and creating an underarm space
Benifits of the Modified Drop Sweater design
- The sleeve adjustments helps reduce extra bulk around the under arms as compared to the Drop Shoulder
- The shaping is still relatively simple and easy to make to measure
- Body can be worked top down bottom up or side to sidE
Issues to consider with the Modified Drop construction
- Shaping around the shoulder is still relatively crude
3. Set In Sleeves
In this type of construction you add more shaping to the body panel and create a curved end to the sleeve cap. The length of the curve should fit into the underarm hole created in the body panel.
There are a huge number of ways to vary this type of design from a very shallow set in with a shallow sleeve cap (almost overlapping with the modified drop) to a much longer sleeve cap which brings the shoulder seam much closer to the neck.
Benifits of using the Set In Sleeve method
- Great for tailored garments – you can attain beautiful close fit with set in sleeves
- This design will remove any unsightly bulk at the under arms
- It is a great way to place the sleeve seams on the shoulders and achieve structure to the garment
- Most commonly worked bottom up but can be worked top down or side to side
Issues to consider when using Set In sleeves
- This is my opinion only, but this type of shaping is probably one of the more complex ones to make (and to get those sleeve caps right if you’re designing it!!).
- You’ll need to be happy with seaming around corners with this type of design as neat seaming is critical to the look of the finished garment
The Underdog Cardigan is loose fitting but uses a shallow set in sleeve design.
The Dolman sweater uses a single piece for the front and back, building the sleeves into the body piece. It can be worked on the diagonal (batwing) or in a T shape.
Benifits of the Dolman design
- The Dolman is a super simple construction
- Can be worked top down, bottom up or side to side
- No seams at the arm holes
- Perfect for batwing sweaters
Issues to consider with Dolman sweaters
- Tailoring around the arms is limited (which is part of the design for Batwing so no issue there!)
- You will have seams along the tops of the shoulders
- This is not a design style you would use if you’re looking for something close fitting
The Free Flow Sweater uses the T-Shaped Dolman design, as does the Leaning Tower of slouch – this was the first garment I designed and is a great way to start if you’re looking to design garments (as is the drop sleeve!)
5. Raglan Sleeve
The Raglan sleeve can be made top down using a yoke or in pieces and seamed. You can read more about top down sweater design here.
A raglan sleeve is where the seam reaches from the under arm up to the neckline on the diagonal. There is a whole other world of raglan styles which I won’t address here, but raglan seams give a distinct shaping commonly seen in sporty garments.
Benifits of Raglan shaping
- When worked top down they are seamless and incredibly simple to make.
- Top down raglan can be easily adjusted to fit
- There is a huge variety to how raglan sleeves can be applied (shallow/ steep / saddle etc.)
Issues to consider with Raglan
- Creates distinct style which changes the shape of the garment from the more traditional squared shoulder look. This shaping can make shoulders look narrower.
The Rainbow Smiles Sweater uses a top down raglan construction with added v neck and back shaping on the neckline.
6. Top down Circular Yoke
Once again, you can read more about this style in my top down sweater post, but in short, this type of sweater is constructed in the round, folded and split off into seams and body at the underarm.
Benifits of top down Circular Yoke
- It is totally seamless (you’ll have gathered by now that I’m not really a fan of sewing pieces together!)
- You can adjust to fit as you work
- There is no extra fabric at the under arm if fitted well
- Allows you to create stunning alpine uninterrupted colour work and expanding pattern repeats
Issues to consider with the top down Circular Yoke
- This shaping is quite distinctive and no shoulder seams can sometimes make shoulders look rounded
The Abundance Cardigan uses a round yoke construction.
So there you have it!
Below is a little summary of the 6 styles. Which one are you going to try next?
If you’re interested in crochet design, please do pin this for later!