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Convert a Top-Down V-Neck to a Crew, Scoop, or Square Neck

In my last blog post, I wrote about how to convert a crew, scoop, or square neck pullover to a v-neck. In this post, I will do just the opposite and take you from a v-neck to a crew, scoop, or square neck. Using this tutorial, you will be able to take an existing top-down pattern and customize it to better suit your own taste.

When knitting from the top down, you will shape the neck by first working 1-stitch increases at each neck edge, then one or more small cast-ons (commonly 2 or 3 stitches, but sometimes more), then a final large cast-on that will bridge the gap between the sides of the front and allow you to join the two sides together. However, when designing a neck from the top-down, I always start at the base of the neck with the final cast-on, then the small cast-ons, then the increases; so I design backwards from how the piece is knit.

The first thing you need to know is how many stitches you have to work with in the neck. If you’re working one of my top-down patterns, there are two ways to do this:

If there is no back neck shaping (i.e., if you cast on stitches for the entire back shoulders and neck at the same time), then you should subtract the number of shoulder stitches that you pick up for each side of the front from the total back cast-on. For instance, if you cast on 60 stitches for the back, and you pick up and knit 15 stitches for each front shoulder, that will leave you with 30 stitches for the neck.

If there IS back neck shaping, then add up the number of stitches that you increase and cast on for the back neck, or subtract the number of stitches cast on for the shoulders from the total stitches that you end up with after the back neck shaping is complete and the sides are joined.

Converting a V-Neck to a Square Neck

This is the easiest conversion to make. Simply work both sides of the front until you get to your desired neck depth, then work across the right front, cast on the total number of neck stitches needed, join the left front, and work across the left front to the end. Done!

Converting a V-Neck to a Crew or Scoop Neck

When you are working a top-down crew or scoop neck, you usually begin the neck shaping with single increases on either side, then you cast on a small number of stitches (usually 2, 3, 4, and/or 5, depending on your size and stitch gauge) over a number of right-side rows. Then you cast on a large number of stitches for the center base of the neck and join the two sides of the front.

Your gauge and the desired depth of your neck will determine how quickly the shaping needs to be completed. The larger the gauge and the shallower the neck, the more stitches you will have to cast on and the fewer single-stitch increases you will work. The finer the gauge and the deeper the neck, the more single-stitch increases you will work. However, you need to have at least some small cast-ons in order to give the base of the neck a rounded shape. If you want the shaping to be completed quickly, make your small cast-ons larger (say, 4 or 5 stitches) before casting on the final base and joining. Play with it on graph paper to find your desired look.

I’ll use a stitch gauge of 4, a row gauge of 6, and a neck stitch count of 30 for my calculations.

Step 1 – Determine Center Neck Cast-On

Once you have determined the total number of neck stitches called for in your pattern, you’re ready to begin your conversion. When working a rounded neck, whether it is a shallow crew or a deeper scoop, you will always cast on a number of stitches at the base of the neck, where you join the two front sides. In a shallower neck, this number is usually around 1/3 of the total neck stitches; in a deeper neck, it may be a smaller percentage of the total stitches. Ultimately you get to decide whether you want the base of the neck to be wide or narrow – it’s largely a style decision. For now, we’ll go with 1/3 for our calculations.

With our stitch count of 30 stitches for the neck, 1/3 gives us an even 10 stitches. You’ll obviously have to round the number up or down to work with the number of neck stitches you have. So when we have finished shaping the sides of the neck, we will cast on 10 stitches for the center of the neck.

Step 2 – Determine Side-of-Neck Stitch Counts

Next we have to determine how many stitches we have to increase and/or cast on for each side of the neck, leading up to the center cast-on. So subtract the 10 center stitches from the total 30 neck stitches and you get 20 stitches; divide that by the two sides of the neck, and you have to increase and/or cast on 10 stitches for each side.

Step 3 – Decide on Side-of-Neck Cast-Ons

How I work the side-of-neck shaping depends partly on the depth of the neck and partly on the style of the piece. The average crewneck depth ranges from 2–3.5″ (though that’s not a hard-and-fast rule), and a scoop neck is anything longer than that length.

For most shallower neck depths, you will increase a number of stitches on each side, then cast on a small number of stitches one or more times. The finer your gauge, the more stitches you will want to cast on before getting to the final center cast-on. Otherwise, if you only work increases on each side and no small cast-ons, it will take you a long time to get to your desired neck stitches, and you will lose some of the rounded shape of the neck.

Let’s assume that we will cast on 3 stitches once right before the 10-stitch base cast-on, and 2 stitches twice before that. That means you’re casting on a total of 7 stitches (3 + 2 + 2) on either side. Subtract that from the total of 10 stitches that you need to increase/cast on on either side, and you’ve got 3 stitches that you will need to increase.

Step 4 – Determine the Increase Intervals

This is where the depth of your neck comes into play. We’ve planned for the base center cast-on, and one 3-stitch and two 2-stitch cast-ons on either side. That much will take you 7 rows to complete, beginning and ending with a right-side row. Now calculate the total number of rows in your neck depth; simply multiply your desired neck depth by your row gauge and round to an odd number.

After the shoulder pick-up row, you will begin with a wrong-side row; you will end all neck shaping with a right-side row on which you cast on the center neck stitches and join the fronts. Subtract the 7 rows that it will take you to complete the cast-ons at the end of the neck shaping (or however many rows it will take you if you choose to work more or fewer small cast-ons). Unless you have a very shallow neck depth, I would recommend that you work about an inch even at the top of the neck, before beginning shaping. So at our row gauge, that would mean 6 rows (including the pick-up row), since we have to begin with the right-side pick-up row and end with a wrong-side row.

So let’s say you want a 3″ neck depth. Multiply 3″ by the row gauge of 6 to get 18 shaping rows, then round up to 19, an odd number. Subtract the 6 even rows at the beginning of the neck (pick-up row and following 5 rows) and the 7 cast-on rows at the bottom of the neck, and you’re left with 6 rows over which to increase stitches. Divide the 6 rows by the 3 stitches that we have to increase on each side, and we get a nice round 2, which means that we’ll increase 1 stitch every 2 rows, or on every right-side row between the work-even rows and the first cast-on row.

If your neck depth is 5″, you will have 31 shaping rows to work with (5″ x 6 rows per inch = 30 rows, rounded up to 31, an odd number). Subtract the 6 rows at the beginning and the 7 rows at the base from 31 and you have 18 rows in which to work the increases. You work the first increase on Row 7 (the row right after the pick-up row and 5 work-even rows), then you have 17 rows left to work the remaining 2 increases. Divide 17 by 2 and you get 8 (rounded down from 8.5). So work the next increase on the 8th row after the first increase (Row 15), then on the following 8th row (Row 23). On the next two RS rows (Rows 25 and 27), cast on 2 stitches to each neck edge. On Row 29, cast on 3 stitches to each neck edge, then on Row 31, cast on the center 10 stitches, and join the fronts.

Step 5 – Troubleshooting: Fitting Too Many Increases into Too Few Rows

While I was writing the above, I initially began by only calling for one 2-stitch cast-on on each side, which would have left me with 5 stitches to increase on each side over 8 rows, given my neck depth of 3″. Divide 8 by 5 and you get 1.6, not the nice even 2 that we got above. That means I would have had to increase 1 stitch every 1.6 rows, which would work out to 1 stitch every right-side row, with a single wrong-side increase stuck in toward the beginning of the increases. I prefer to avoid working wrong-side row increases, since increasing every row can make the fabric bunch up. So I decided to work two 2-stitch cast-ons instead of one, which enabled me to fit the increases smoothly into the available shaping rows.

So if you have a shallow neck depth or are working with a heavier weight yarn, you may need to cast on more stitches toward the base of the neck and reduce the number of increases you work so that you can complete the shaping in the depth you have to work with. You can cast on a larger number of stitches in your final center neck cast-on, but that will make the bottom of the neck broader, which will affect how it looks.

A broad center cast-on is appropriate if you want to shape the back neck (I usually figure somewhere around 80% of the total neck stitches), but it may not give you the results you’re looking for on the front. That said, there’s no reason you can’t have a broad center cast-on, larger side cast-ons, and few side increases so that all of the neck shaping is completed quickly. It’ll depend on the look you’re going for.

Using Graph Paper

You might find it easier to plot out the neck shaping on graph paper. I would recommend creating your own graph paper using your specific stitch and row gauges (use Excel or go to and follow their instructions). Make sure to label the right-side and wrong-side rows on your graph. The cast-ons and join are worked on right-side rows. Play with the shaping until you get the look that you want.


What if I’m Working from the Bottom Up, not the Top Down?

If you’re working a bottom-up pattern rather than a top-down one, you can use the same process to convert the pattern’s neck. You will be binding off and decreasing stitches instead of increasing and casting on stitches.

To determine when to begin the neck, subtract your desired neck depth from the total length from beginning of armhole to top of shoulder (including the shoulder shaping length if you have to shape the shoulders); this is the point at which you will begin your shaping. When you get to that length, work across to the stitches that you have calculated for the center base of the neck. Bind off those stitches and work to the end. You may either work both sides at the same time with separate balls of yarn, or work each side separately. Bind off the small numbers of stitches at either neck edge, then decrease 1 st the determined number of times.

For instance, if I were working bottom-up with the numbers I calculated above, I would work to the center 10 stitches, bind off those stitches, then bind off 3 stitches at each neck edge once, then 2 stitches twice. Then I would decrease 1 stitch at each neck edge on the next 3 right-side rows. Finally, I would work even until the shoulder shaping is complete. Keep in mind that you might have to begin shoulder shaping while you finish up the neck shaping.

That’s all there is to it. It’s a lot more intimidating to think about it than it is to do it.

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Further Anatomy of a Top-Down, Set-In-Sleeve Sweater: the Body and Sleeves

In my last blog posting, I explained how to work the back and front(s), to the end of the armhole shaping. In this post, I take the next two steps, which are to work the body from the armholes to the bottom edge, and to pick up and work the sleeves from the armhole to the wrist.

Working the Body

Now that your armhole shaping is complete, you will need to join the front(s) and back to work the rest of the body of the sweater. If you are working a cardigan, or a pullover with a deep neck that continues after the armhole shaping is done, you will continue to work the piece back and forth. If you are working a pullover and the neck shaping is complete, you will begin working in the round.

In either case, the first thing you need to do is transfer the back stitches to the circular needle that holds the front stitches. If you’re working a cardigan or deep-neck pullover, you need to transfer the back stitches to the left-hand end of the circular needle, then the right front stitches to that same end. The left-hand end of the needle is the opposite end from the one with the working yarn. Once you transfer the stitches, you should have the left front, back, then right front on the needle, in that order from right to left, and the yarn should be attached to the left front, ready to go. If you’re working a pullover whose neck shaping is complete, then you transfer the back stitches to the left-hand end of the circular needle; you should have the front, then back on the needle, in that order.




Once you have all the pieces on one needle, using only the ball of yarn attached to the first piece [and cutting the other ball(s)], work across the first piece, cast on the number of stitches indicated for the underarm, placing a marker in the middle of these cast-on stitches, work across the second piece and cast on the underarm stitches and place another marker in the middle of the cast-on stitches. If you’re working a completed front, the second marker will mark the beginning of the round, and you’re now ready to work in the round. If you’re working with a left and right front, work across the right front to the end. The markers you have placed will mark the sides of the sweater, and will be used for any waist and hip shaping that you do later.

Don’t join for the cardigan or the deep-neck pullover. Do join for the finished-neck pullover. Continue as instructed, working any waist or hip shaping specified, and finishing with the trim. For a deep-neck pullover, you will need to join the pieces when the neck shaping is completed. Note that for a very deep neck, you may not complete it until you have worked waist and/or hip shaping. Continue to keep track of your neck increases to make sure you complete all of them.

You may omit the waist and/or hip shaping if you prefer, change the length of the body from underarm to bind-off, and work a different trim if you’d like. If you want to try the piece on as you go, slip all the stitches onto a piece of waste yarn (removing the circular needle), and try it on. This will allow you to change where you begin the waist and hip shaping, and to shorten or lengthen the piece if you’d prefer.




Working the Sleeves

Once the body is completed, you’re ready to work the sleeves. These are worked from the top down as well. You begin picking up stitches at the center of the underarm stitches, and pick up evenly all the way around the armhole, ending back where you began. Make sure that you have the same number of stitches before the shoulder “seam” that you have after, and place a marker at the shoulder seam.




Once you have all the stitches picked up, you will join the sleeve to work in the round and begin shaping the cap of the sleeve. This is accomplished by working short rows back and forth. If you’re not familiar with short-row shaping, it is an ingenious technique whereby you work partial rows that allow you to create the curve of the cap without having to work the sleeve from the bottom up and sew it into the armhole. They create a bit of extra fabric so that the sleeve fits nicely over the shoulder and down the upper arm. The first and second short rows will take you slightly past the marker at the top of the sleeve cap, then the remaining short rows will continue the shaping down the sides of the sleeve until you reach the stitches that were cast on for the underarm. For the larger sizes, you will likely be short-rowing into those cast-on stitches. A lot of knitters are intimidated by short-row shaping, but if you following the instructions given in the Special Techniques section of the patterns, you will find that it is not difficult at all. I use what is called Japanese Short Rows because I think they are simpler than standard wrap-and-turn short rows, and I think they give a more finished look once completed. I will address the how-to of short-row shaping in my next blog post.

Once the short-row cap shaping is completed, you’re ready to work the rest of the sleeve in the round. You may change the length of the sleeve from underarm to bind-off, change the number of decreases so that the sleeve fits more tightly or loosely, and work a different trim if you’d like.




Stay tuned for more on how to work short-row shaping in my next blog post.

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Anatomy of a Top-Down Set-In Sleeve Sweater

Top-down set-in-sleeve sweaters are becoming increasingly popular, but many knitters are unfamiliar with their construction. I thought it would be helpful to explain how this type of sweater is worked, and to offer illustrations that will make it more easy to understand. This first post will be about working the back and front, and an additional post on working the body and sleeves will follow.

Working the Back

In most top-down set-in-sleeve patterns, you will begin by casting on stitches for the back of the sweater. If there won’t be any back neck shaping, then you will cast on all the stitches that you will need for the crossback (the total width of the back at the shoulders), which includes both shoulders and the neck.

If the pattern calls for back neck shaping, then you will cast on stitches for each shoulder (working with a separate ball of yarn for each shoulder), and will work the neck shaping given in the pattern. On the final row of neck shaping, you will work across the left shoulder stitches (the left shoulder as you would wear the piece is the first shoulder you work on when the right side of the back is facing you – patterns usually refer to right and left as you’re wearing the piece, not as the piece is facing you), cast on a number of stitches for the center of the neck (assuming that this is a round neck—a v-neck may not have a center stitch to cast on), then continuing with the same ball of yarn and cutting the second ball, join the right shoulder stitches and work across them to the end.

Whether you worked back neck shaping or not, you will continue to work back and forth on all the crossback stitches until you reach the length given in the pattern.

At this point, you will begin shaping the left and right armholes. This usually begins with increases worked at each armhole edge (i.e., at the beginning and end of the row) on every right-side row. Depending on the pattern, you may then follow the increases with a number of 2- or 3-stitch cast-ons. When you have completed the armhole shaping as given in the pattern, you will cut the yarn and place the completed back on waste yarn. Or if you have a spare circular needle of the same size (you can use a shorter one as long as all the stitches fit on it), you can just leave the stitches on the spare needle and start working on the front with a separate needle of the same size. (You could also use a smaller size circular needle as a holder for the back stitches, as long as you remember not to knit with it, since that would change your gauge.)




Working the Front

Once the back is completed and the stitches are placed on hold, it’s time to work the front. The pattern calls for you to pick up the front stitches from the stitches that were cast on when you first began to work the back; make sure you don’t pick up stitches from the stitches that you cast on for the armholes, nor from the back stitches on hold. If you worked neck shaping for the back neck. then you will probably be instructed to pick up 1 stitch in each of the stitches that you cast on for each shoulder. If you had no back neck shaping, but cast on stitches for the entire crossback at one time, then you will need to count in from each side (armhole) edge and place a marker to mark the end of the shoulder stitches (and the sides of the neck). For the right front, you will pick up the shoulder stitches from the side (armhole) edge to the first marker with one ball of yarn. For the left front, you will join a second ball and pick up stitches from the second marker to the armhole edge. Now you should have the front shoulder stitches on the needle, ready to work front neck shaping.

At this point, it doesn’t really matter whether you are working a pullover or a cardigan. You will be working back and forth on each side of the front until the required neck shaping is complete (where you’ll join the fronts for a pullover), or until the length at which you are to begin armhole shaping (in the case of a very deep neckline).

If you are working a shallow neckline, then you are likely to complete all the required neck shaping before beginning the armhole shaping. If you are working a pullover, you will cast on stitches for the center of the neck and join the pieces as you did for the back. If you are working a cardigan, you will continue working back and forth on the separate fronts. In either case, you will work back and forth until the required length at which you begin the armhole shaping. Then you’ll shape the armhole as you did for the back. Cut the yarn attached to the right front if you’re working split fronts.

Note that in the case of a deep neckline, the neck shaping may not be completed until well after the front and back have been joined; if that is the case, keep careful count of how many neck increases you have made. In my Basix patterns, I give you the number of stitches that you will have by the time your armhole shaping is complete; your numbers should match mine if your row gauge exactly matches mine, and your measurements exactly match mine. However, you may find that your numbers don’t match mine exactly; they might be off by a few stitches. Don’t let that worry you. If you have a slightly different row gauge from what the pattern called for, or if you measurements are slightly different from mine, that can easily cause you to work more or fewer neck increases by the time you complete the armhole shaping. The important thing is to make sure that your total number of neck increases matches mine when the neck shaping is complete.




I hope this gives you a better understanding of how a top-down set-in-sleeve sweater is put together. My next post will talk about working the body and sleeves.