Notes on The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters

I’d like to answer publicly to a few queries and comments about The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters. Let me know if you have other questions!

No Male Models
The reason that there are no sweaters photographed on men is because both men’s sweaters were included in the chapter on modified-drop shoulder styles that was ultimately cut from the print version (it is available in the eBook download). I even knitted one of the sweaters out of my own handspun yarn (Weekend Retreat) to demonstrate how well the instructions work when you don’t have a “standard” size of yarn. And it looked great on the guy who modeled it!
Saddles Worked in the Wrong Direction
The saddles for the saddle-shoulder instructions are knitted from the neck outward to the shoulder edge, then the stitches are incorporated into the sleeves so that a cable or other pattern can be continuous from neck to cuff. Veronik Avery chose to knit the saddles in her Zigs & Zags in the opposite direction, aligning them with the stitches of the front and back instead. Because she knitted them in a contrasting color and stitch pattern, they are quite visible and many readers have assumed that all of the saddles are worked Veronik’s way.
Error Reported
One of the reviewers on mentioned that she found an error but she did not identify what or where it was. If you find a mistake, please, please notify me. I want to correct it!
Adjusting for Sleeveless Styles
To adjust the patterns for sleeveless styles, you’ll need to adjust the shoulder widths to allow for an edging to be added around the armholes. You may also want to work deeper back neck shaping–work the back much like the front in two sections to the base of the neck shaping.
If you want to convert the seamless yoke or raglan styles into sleeveless sweaters, you’d need to stop increasing for the sleeves and bind off the sleeve stitches before you finish all of the yoke shaping. Fortunately, you can try on the yoke as you go and determine when to do this. Then you’ll need to work the back and front(s) back in forth in rows until you reach the desired armhole depth.
To make the set-in sleeve style sleeveless, you’ll want to cast on fewer stitches for the back to allow for narrower shoulders and the desired amount of edging to be added at each armhole.
To make the saddle-shoulder style sleeveless, you’d knit the saddles to the desired shoulder width, allowing for the desired amount of edging to be added at each armhole.

48 thoughts on “Notes on The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters”

  1. Thank you for taking the time to write on how to adjust for sleeveless styles. I love your books! You do inspire me to knit, knit, knit! Nancy

  2. The book is really good!

    I bought the print version, not the ebook. Will the parts that were cut from the print version be available for download? Seems a bit hefty to buy the whole ebook too.

  3. Thank you for the tips. Now that I understand the construction I may knit my very first saddle shouldered sweater this fall!

  4. I have your other books, Ann, but as I prefer knitting top-down, this will be my sweater bible. Just wondering why the chapter on modified-drop shoulders was omitted? 🙁

  5. I’ve begun knitting the Feather and Fan Flare sweater..however, I’m now at the divide for body and sleeves and the math doesn’t work. I have 400 sts on my needles. When I mark off the dividing sts as instructed the count doesn’t work out.
    120 for back;
    82 sts on holder for rt sleeve;
    120 sts for front;
    82 sts for lft sleeve.
    However, after the 120 sts for front I have 78 sts remaining instead of the 82 called for.

    120+82+120+82 = 404…not 400

    I Have:
    120+82+120+78 = 400

    Should the pattern read:
    120+80+120+80 = 400 ?

  6. I’m trying to knit my first sweater for the round yoke children’s size. The chart doesn’t seem to be correct. CO on 59 then increase k2 m1 around gives 77 stitches not the indicated 88. Each increase round seems to be off. Am I doing something wrong?

  7. I think you are not doing the M1 increase correctly. It is worked into the horizontal strand between the stitches on the two needles so that a stitch is NOT involved in the increase. It’s illustrated on pages 256 and 257.
    If there are 59 stitches to begin with, you’ll work *k2, M1* 29 times, then end with k1. You will have worked all 59 stitches and will have increased 29 stitches for a total of 88 stitches.

  8. Figured it out thanks. I thought it was k2 then increase in the next stitch but its k1 then increase in the next stitch. So for every two stitches you end with three instead of every three you end up with four.

  9. Kay I think you forgot to increase 4 sts on the last round before you divide for the body and sleeves.

  10. Dear Ms Budd. I’m knitting my second sweater from the book but my first with raglan sleeves, and I think I must be doing something wrong – the instructions call for markers to be placed between the stitches of the back, sleeves etc. But then your’re instructed to increase each side of the marker, which effectively means increasing two stitches into the same loop. When I’ve knitted raglans before, there’s usually a seam-type stitch that you increase either side of. Am I reading it wrong?
    thank you for any help you can offer.

  11. You’re right that you increase on each side of each marker unless you designate “seam” stitches between the increases. I recommend that you work the increase by work to one stitch before the marker, increase 1 stitch, knit 1 stitch, then slip the marker, knit 1 stitch, then increase 1 stitch. This will give you two “seam” stitches.
    If you want only one “seam” stitch, work to 2 sts before the marker, increase 1 stitch, knit 1 stitch, then slip the marker and increase one stitch.

  12. I’m so sorry, it’s me again! I’m working on another one – this time an adult V-neck raglan. I’m sure I’m just not seeing it, but in the v-neck instructions I can’t find at what point you join for working in the round. You keep on increasing for the sleeves and back/fronts (56 rows in my pattern) after you’ve finished doing the neck increases (38 rows) – so at what point do you join up? Is it after doing the neck increases (ie once you have matching numbers of stitches for the fronts and backs?)

    (Incidentally, thanks to your previous pointer I have a pretty twisted stitch pattern either side of my raglan increases which I’m very pleased with.)

  13. Ack! I’m so sorry! I haven’t looked at comments in weeks.
    You join the two halves of the fronts as soon as you have the same number of stitches for the front as there are in the back.

  14. Is there an error in the book on Page 128 second line from the bottom? The number of stitches for the shoulder for the gauge 6 do not seem to increase proper across the row??



  15. The numbers are correct jdym. If you multiply the shoulder stitches by 2 (for the two shoulders) and add the number of center neck stitches from the block of numbers above, you’ll get the total number of stitches cast-on. The slight variations in the numbers of shoulder stitches is due to the differences in the center neck stitches.

  16. Ok then – thank-you. It was just that this was the only row that didn’t show consecutive increase across the line


  17. I am knitting the ‘Retro Peplum’ from your Top-Down sweater book. However, I am having problems with the instructions on page 217 – Shape Shoulder and V-Neck. I can’t figure out how to do the 6 short-rows for each side of the front while shaping the neck. You don’t say how many stitches to knit before turning. As there are only 21 stitches on each side of the front, the instructions for the short rows on the back don’t work.

  18. Dear Ann, I’m a novice sock knitter reading Getting Started Knitting Socks. please please can I tell you how frustrating your ‘example’ sock is to follow. In fact the book in general has poor layout to follow along. I started on the dpns with 40 sts as instructed – I was using this as a practice sock and it was just as well – I get to the heel flap/turn on page 28 where you describe the ‘magic’. Not magic to me, I ended up having to rip out the whole thing and start over. The problem? You didn’t clarify exactly what stitiches are worked but even worse you never on that page say “turn work'” absolutely crucial!! Not understanding why have extra stitches at the end of the first row, not being instructed to ‘turn’ I spent a long time reading and re-reading the glossary for SSK and the 1sr row trying t figure out how the last 8 sts get done. Well, they don’t as you are supposed to TURN the work. So I just SSKd t the end of that row which was completely wrong and totally messed up the next row. Thinking I was an idiot I ripped the whole thing apart. THEN I took a look at the actual sock patterns at the back of your book and sure enough, at every heel flap/turn there is the instruction to ‘turn’ as you do the centre stitches. Why would you leave that out??? It completely frustrated me and as I said, it was just as well I was doing a practice sock. The glowing reviews of your book online had me fuming. You need to be more clear – perhaps with a diagram – as the photos provided are not at all clear.

  19. Dear Anonymous,
    I’m so sorry that you found Getting Started Knitting Socks so confusing and frustrating! I can see that adding instruction to “turn work” would have been helpful. I had assumed that stating that the heel is worked in short-rows “which are nothing more than partial (“short”) rows worked on just the center stitches” and identifying the rows (Row 1, 2, 3, etc.) and identifying whether they are right side (RS) or wrong side (WS) would be clear. But I can understand how the omission of “turn work” would make it much clearer.
    My deepest apologies.

  20. Hi Ann,

    I think there may be an error in the instructions for the paired decreases in this book. I had a look at the online errata but I can’t see it noted there. The images for the ssk, sm, k2tog decreases and the k2tog, sm, ssk decreases seem to appear each with the others’ instructions.

  21. Hello Mimi.
    I’m on the road without a copy of the book with me, but keep in mind that the decreases are worked from the top down so they will appear opposite of what they would look like when worked from the bottom up.

  22. Just purchased Top-Down Sweaters. I am a new knitter who thought the cover of the book was a delight. I simply want to knit the simplest jumpers in pure wool in adult size. The book seems completely daunting to me. I do not know where to start. Could you possibly give me a simple 3 or 4 points on where to start to make said sweater.

    Susan Lambert

  23. Hi Susan,
    I can imagine that the book looks daunting!
    Start by reading the Introduction, especially “How to Use This Book” on page 8.
    If you want a simple pattern, begin with the Seamless Yoke chapter (the adult sizes begin on page 33).
    Read the instructions as you normally would but when you come to block of numbers, choose the number that corresponds to your desired finished size (listed in brown across the top of the page) and your gauge (in black along the left-hand side of each block of numbers).
    For example, if you want to knit a 42″ bust/chest circumference at a gauge of 5 stitches/inch, you’d cast on 80 stitches.
    I hope this helps!

  24. Hello
    I have just bought your book. I am knitting with sport weight and get 6 st per in and 10 rows per in. The raglan decreases seem to finish too soon and seem to be based on 8 rows per in. Do I recalculate for myself?

  25. Hello Margaret.
    Yes, the row gauge for 6 sts/inch is calculated at 8 rows/inch. I’m so sorry to hear that your row gauge doesn’t match! To compensate for your gauge of 10 rows/inch, you’ll need to work 2 extra “plain” rows (rows where you don’t work any raglan increases) for every inch of knitting.For example, if the instructions say to increase every other round, you’ll increase every 4th round two times for every 8 rounds of knitting. I hope this makes sense!

  26. Thanks for the detailed answer. I will do that. I just thought I was missing something where row guage was mentioned. Lovely to get a quick reply.

  27. Hi Ann,
    Getting Started Knitting Socks has long been my favorite knitting book, and I just bought a copy of Top Down Sweaters and I’m excited to get started! I’m working on my first sweater (ever!) and I’m already stuck on page 108. I’m using the 47.5″ instructions, which say to mark 5 sts for each sleeve. However, on the sleeve & back eyelet lace chart, the five sts for the sleeve include two YO sts. Are these YO sts meant to include a knit stitch after each YO? If not, only three of the five sleeve sts are worked in the sleeve section of the chart, leaving two sts before the marker.
    Thank you!

  28. Hi Sarah. I apologize for the confusion. Honestly, I’m confused as well so I’ve forwarded your question to the tech editor. I’ll get back to you as soon as I get a reply.

  29. Thank you very much for your response! I can be reached at the email address listed, if that is helpful. I’ll also check back here periodically. 🙂

    Thank you,

  30. Susan Woolley

    I have your book Top Down Sweaters and am trying to make the Retro peplum sweater. I’m stuck at shape shoulders page 216. Short row 1 says to work to the end of the marked center sts. I thought the 2 markers were placed and those stitches between were the back neck.? I have never done a sweater with saddle. Really want to make this sweater.

  31. Hello Susan.
    I’m sorry the instructions are confusing.

    The marked center stitches are the back neck stitches. For Short-Row 1, you’ll knit to the second marker, which indicates the boundary between the back neck stitches and the far shoulder. In essence, you’ll work the short-row shoulder shaping “outside” the two markers so that you work the back neck stitches (the stitches between the two markers) every row, but you work progressively farther towards what will become the armhole edge each row. The end result is that there are fewer rows at the armhole edges than the center back.

    I hope this helps!

  32. Deare Susan,
    As much as I love your book. The instructions are very confusing. I am trying to knit the child size raglan using the instructions on page 64 through to page 65 where it says then increase 8 sts every 4th row and then at the same time working the following number of rows after the WS set up rows. Please could you explain this further. Thank you very much. Please if you could send me a personal email. I will very much appreciate this.

  33. Hi Ann, I just purchased the Top Down Sweater book. I’m making the adult raglan pullover, size 48, 5 sts/inch (beginning on page 75). After all increases have been made I should have 356 stitches. I just cannot get this to work out. Can you tell me how many sts there should be after each section? I’m getting ready to start this sweater for the sixth time. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks

  34. Hi Ann
    I just bought your book Top Down Sweaters and find the raglan construction very unclear. This is the most important part and I can’t get it to work. Size 38 with 4 stitches indicate CO 36 st. I want to do raglan as in pict 255 , eg one middle sts. In the pattern it says to place markers after 1, 4, 26, 4,1 sts. It doesn’t say how to do the raglan. Can you please help me? If there was a plain raglan pattern in the book it would have clarified this. Do you have a pattern that I can read to understand the where to place the M1R and M1L?

    Kind regards

  35. Hello Karen.
    First, I apologize for the delay in responding to your question.
    The instructions for working the raglan increases are at the bottom of page 76:
    “Work to next marker, use the method of your choice to inc 1 st, sl m, inc 1 st; rep from * 3 more times–8 sts increased.

    If you want 1 stitch between increases along the raglan line, you need to designate that “plain” stitch before you do your first increase row.
    Therefore, the increase row will be worked as:
    “Work to 1 st before next marker, use the method of your choice to inc 1 st, k1, sl m, inc 1 st; rep from * 3 more times. In this case, you need to borrow one of the sts in each section for the raglan “plain” stitch.

    For your size of 38″ at 4 sts/inch, you’ll have markers after 1, 4, 26, 4, 1 sts. So that you don’t have an increase before the first st or after the last st, the first increase row needs to be adjusted just a bit so that the “plain” stitch for each front is actually taken from the adjacent sleeve stitches. Work it as follows (the semicolons mark the boundaries between the front, sleeve, back, other sleeve, other front):
    K1, inc 1, sl m; k1, inc 1, k2, inc 1, k1, sl m; inc 1, k25, inc 1, k1, sl m; inc 1, k2, inc 1, k1; inc 1, k1. You will have increased a total of 8 stitches (1 st for each front, 2 sts for each sleeve, and 2 sts for the back).
    Your subsequent raglan increases will be worked as follows:
    Knit to marker, inc 1, sl m, k1, *inc 1, knit to 1 st before next marker, inc 1, k1, sl m ; repeat from * 2 more times, inc 1, knit to end.
    Keep in mind that neck shaping starts after just 2 rows of the body have been worked, or on the second raglan increase row.
    I hope I’ve clarified things here; let me know if you still have questions.

  36. im confused in the raglan sweater where you actually join to working in the round. Am i missing something?

  37. Best. Book. Ever! I borrowed it from the library so often I ended up buying my own copy. So far I have knitted:
    2 steeked cardigans (OMG, the steeking was making me so worried, but it was actually easy)
    1 cabled sweater
    1 India Henley (I am working on that right now)
    The instructions are awesome and I love that it doesn’t matter how thick your yarn is, how big the sweater needs to be. Truly a book worth investing in.
    Thank you Ann!

  38. I don’t understand the numbers on the left
    Can you explain what they refer to?
    Thank you

  39. Hi Ann,

    I bought your book and I‘m working on the back of Alpine Tweed (Jared Flood). For size 44 3/4 I have 85 sts before starting the pattern. For the pattern I should have 1 selvedge st, 9 sts, 5 times 16 sts, 10 sts.

    What did I miss?


  40. Hi Lucia,
    I’m sorry you’re having trouble with Alpine Tweed.
    I think you’ve just mistaken the number of times to repeat the 16-stitch motif.
    Row 1 of the chart for your size is: k1 (selvedge), work 9 sts before the patt repeat on the chart, then work the 16-st pattern repeat 4 times (not 5 times as you wrote), then work 10 sts after the patt repeat, and end with k1 (selvedge).
    This adds up to 1+9+(16×4)+10+1
    In other words, 1+9+64+10+1 = 85.
    I hope this helps!

  41. Dear Ann,
    I am working the Alpine Tweed.
    On page 167 I am working the “Shape Armholes” I have 24 stitches on each front side and it says to “use M1 method to inc 1stitch positioned 2 stitches in from edge of every RS row 5 times and I should have 46 stitches on each side”.
    I am only adding 1 stitch per RS row 5 times so this only equals 29 stitches.
    Where are the rest of the stitches coming from?
    Thank you,

  42. Please ignore my comment.
    I should not have been knitting while tired .
    I missed the “Shape Neck” section completely.
    Thank you,

  43. I am completely confused on page 77 of the Handy Book of Top Down Sweaters. I am attempting to do a crew neck pull over. At the bottom of page 77, it says At the same time after working the fol number of rows after the WS set up row… DO WHAT??? FOR the needed number of rows.

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