Sleeve Options

As I’ve been knitting I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I want to tackle the sleeves. As I see it, I have three options, each with their pros and cons.

  1. Modified drop shoulder
  2. Set-in sleeves
  3. Raglan

If you recall, I’m modifying the sleeves so I can reduce some of the bulk. Drop shoulders always add bulk. But, on someone who has a torso that’s much bigger than their shoulders the drop shoulder is even less flattering. Why? As people get larger, their shoulders get larger at a much slower rate than their torsos.
A quick check at the CYC’s Women’s Size Charts shows that for women whose bust measurements range from 28 – 42 inches, their shoulder width only ranges from 14 – 17.5 inches. That means, while the body of their garments increased 7 inches (7 inches for one half of the body, say, just the front), their shoulders only increased half of that. The amount of additional fabric in the underarm area has doubled!!
What this means is that the larger your torso is, the more difficult it’s going to be for a drop shoulder silhouette to look good on you.
The drop shoulder has got to go.
Shoulder Shaping
In addition to modifying the sleeve, I’m also adding in some shoulder shaping. This will also help with the extra underarm fabric. Shoulder shaping mimics the actual slope of our shoulders. You’re going to get a better fit any time you can make the garment mimic your shape more closely.
OK, on to the sleeves.
Modified drop shoulder

modified drop


  • Most similar to the original design. I could even keep the shoulder saddles, which I consider a real plus.
  • Least disruptive to the cable patterning.
  • Easiest modification to execute.


  • Will still leave some extra fabric under the arm.
  • Hardest to estimate the true look of because I don’t have any sweaters that fit this way.

Set-in Sleeve

set-in sleeve


  • Best fit — will eliminate the most bulk.


  • I couldn’t retain the shoulder saddles. Well, technically I could but I think they’d look very awkward.
  • While I like the way this sleeve fits, I’m afraid it might change the overall look of the sweater.

Raglan Sleeve

raglan sleeve


  • Will eliminate some bulk
  • Fun to knit — each row gets shorter!


  • Since it’s knitted from the bottom up, I’d have to figure out how to knit the sleeves so the cables match up. While not impossible, cursing and hissy fits will certainly be likely.
  • If set-in sleeves would change the look, raglans will change the look even more.

Given all that, which way do you think I should go? Before I drew up the sketches I was strongly leaning toward the modified drop. But after looking at the sketches, I’m seriously reconsidering the set-in sleeve. Although, I keep getting stuck on that saddle shoulder. Hmm…

30 thoughts on “Sleeve Options

  1. I think the saddle shoulder is one of the crowning features of this design, along with the collar cable thing and just the cable design itself. For it to be St. Brigid (at least for people to recognize it as such), you would probably need to go with the drop shoulders.
    It may not be the most flattering design with the drop shoulders and everything – I totally agree. But I am following the pattern (though I chose the smaller size with less ease) because I think the beauty of the pattern overcomes the possible downsides of the drop shoulder design.
    I’m all for modifying patterns (I’m giving the Nantucket Jacket from IK a major makeover right now), but this is one pattern I pretty much left alone. And I’m one of those people who has a very clear hourglass figure, which the lack of shaping in this sweater does nothing for.
    So there are reasons to just leave it along or only modify it slightly…

  2. The drop shoulder is *the* reason that I have not yet knit St. Brigid. And I wasn’t confident that I would be able to do the modifications and keep the cable pattern looking good. I’m excited that you’re tackling this.
    Personally, I’m going to vote for the raglan. If you needed to interrupt the cable pattern I think that a raglan line would be the most easily justifiable interruption from a visual standpoint.

  3. I’d go with the raglan. It will look different, but you could probably work the saddle shoulders into a raglan shape… Would it be ridiculous to try knitting the sleeves down from the shoulders, as in a top-down raglan? Then the cables would match.

  4. I’m generally a big raglan fan, but I agree that it would change the look of this sweater substantially. I love the saddle shoulders, so my vote goes to the modified drop. (Jayme has a good point though… a hybrid could work, I think.)

  5. Modified drop. You said yourself it would be easiest (and need I say, 10 weeks?). Keep the lovely saddle shoulders. I’d love to see a detailed list of your mods when you’re done and back from Rhinebeck. I love St. Brigit but also hate the round neck.

  6. Whatever you choose (I’m voting for set-in, myself, though I do love the saddles), I’m totally riveted by your mods, because I’ve wanted to knit St. B. my entire knitting life…except for the boxiness.

  7. Wow. This is way beyond my comfort level.
    The saddle shoulders are so cool, you have to keep that and I think that raglan would change the shaping too much.
    I’d have to give the uneducated opinion of the modified drop.

  8. It seems like you are somewhat committed to the idea of the saddle shoulder. I would go with choice 1 or 2, if that is the case. And then I would think about how hard I wanted to work. I am rather lazy, so I would go with choice 1. You, however, don’t strike me as a lazy person.
    This was a helpful discussion shoulder and torso measurements and such. Thank you!

  9. i like the raglan schematically, but i agree–getting the cables to match up will cause several hissy fits. and that’s just the ones I’LL throw.
    the set-in sleeve might be the best in terms of both keeping the pattern intact and eliminating some of the bulk.
    PS: i just checked out the place we’re staying again. because i’m excited. :-)

  10. I vote for the modified drop and keeping the classic look of the original design, including the saddles.
    If you had more time I think you could come up with something using Marnie’s suggestion or EZ’s hybrid.

  11. I vote for set-in, because they really will be the best fit and most modern look. I wouldn’t want to be in charge of regiggering the pattern for the set in sleeves, though.
    Also, love the color. Love. I can’t wait to see what you come up with, fit wise.

  12. I think you could do a modified drop shoulder very easily. Personally, the saddles are extremely important, as is the neck. To be perfectly honest, I have never once — not even silently-to-myself as I slipped it over my head — cursed the “excess” of fabric at the underarm of St. Brigid. It’s really just not that much.
    If you’re thinking of radical changes, you might also try approaching it from a different direction — modifying another pattern that you like and that suits you with the design elements of St. Brigid. Going at it that way might be helpful.

  13. I agree with the majority–the modified drop. However, if you really want the raglan–couldn’t you do that saddle cable up the sides of the raglan? Like the Refined Raglan from IK?
    I am mostly a blind follower of patterns so I have no idea if this is even remotely possible.

  14. Excellent analysis! Lovin’ the anticipation of the fallout discussion on this! The Saddle Shoulder *is* a crowning feature, but with a little math & sweat the Raglan may fit the best… Design- So many choices!

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