No-Pattern Jumper (Part 4) – Raglan Decreases, Neck, Finishing

Raglan decreases, neck, and finishing

That’s what the final stage involves – all the parts of your jumper above your arms. It’s a lot,  but there is a very particular rhythm to it, and I find that this part goes more quickly than I expect. 


The first part of this section of your jumper is all about the raglan decreases.

It’s these triangular lines going from the arms to the neck, both at the front and the back of your jumper. Four lines in total, jutting out from where you joined your sleeves to the body of your jumper. The basic pattern to create this is, from right to left (as that how you knit – from right to left): two decreases, next to each other. One of these is on the body side of things, one on the sleeve side. The decreases happen every other row – one row is a decrease row, one is a ‘knit every stitch’ row. 

The decreases on the left of your jumper (as you’re looking at it when it’s laying flat) lean to the right, and the decreases on the right of your jumper (again, flat) lean left. The left of your jumper = front right shoulder, back left shoulder; the right of your jumper = front left shoulder, back right shoulder. It’s easiest to imagine this on the back of a jumper – or in fact, on yourself. Sit upright, and imagine you’re looking at your back. Your left armpit is further left than your neck, so to get from the one to the other you’d need stitches that head right. Your right armpit is further right than your neck, so you need stitches that head left. 

There are different ways to do these decreases, and they look different – so this is all about what you’d like your jumper to look like. In my case, I went with k2tog for the right-leaning decreases, and ssk for the left-leaning ones.

This is my basic recipe for how you work the raglan decreases. Begin at the left shoulder, on the front, at the join between sleeve and body. The first stitches you knit should be the body stitches. 

SSK the first two body stitches

Knit all the body stitches until you get to the last two stitches, K2tog those together

K2tog the first two sleeve stitches

Knit all the sleeve stitches until you get to the last two stitches – SSK those together

SSK the first two body stitches

Knit all the body stitches until you get to the last two stitches, K2tog those together

K2tog the first two sleeve stitches

Knit all the sleeve stitches until you get to the last two stitches, SSK those together

This brings you to the end of the round.

If your round starts elsewhere – at the beginning of a sleeve, perhaps – then simply join in at the right point. Sleeves begin with K2tog, Body begins with SSK.

It might be helpful to put in stitch markers (or a bit of knotted yarn that you can slide on and off) at each decrease, so you remember to do it. I don’t usually bother when it’s something like this, because the pattern the knitting creates tells me that something is going on. But be sure the mark the start of your round – it gets very confusing if you don’t!

Keep knitting your raglan pattern – one round of decreases, one round of straight knitting until you are at the point where you would like the neck of your jumper to sit – or rather, a neckband’s width below that.

Neck Divide

The neck is a tricky beast, and you might find yourself undoing what you’ve done to try something slightly different. I think it’s best to expect this! 

It’s this point we need to think about – the lowest point of the neck at the front. And to work out where you’d like this to sit, think about how thick a neckband you’re going to add to your jumper. 1 inch? 1/2 inch? 2 inches? Something else? Take the point where you want your neckband to sit, and think about where the ‘arrow point’ needs to be in order to accommodate that – how much room do you need to leave for the neckband? You measured this – have another look at your sheet. 

To work out where to start your neck work, work out the distance from your armpit to where you want your neckband to start (not end – start. Where on your jumper?). It might be easier to measure from the centre of your jumper rather than the armpit itself – follow the line of the arrow in the image above.

Imagine you’d like your neckband to start 15 cms above your armpit – that is, imagine the arrow is 15cm long. Then you need to keep your raglan decreases going for 15 cms – until the fabric you have made measures 15 cms from the point where you joint the body and the sleeves together. Don’t measure up the raglan decreases – this gives you the wrong number – but instead lay your jumper flat and measure straight up the front. 

Once you’ve reached the point where you’d like your neckband to begin, it’s time to cast off a few stitches. You’ll still continue your raglan pattern – don’t stop that, but carry on doing what you’ve been doing so far, where you have a decrease round followed by a ‘regular’ knit round. 

To cast off your neck stitches, first work out where the centre of your body is – count the stitches between raglan decreases, and find the central stitch. You’re going to cast off stitches either side of this. The amount is up to you – for a v-neck you’d cast off one stitch, for a really flat neck you’d cast off several. For an inbetween neck you could try casting off 6-8 stitches – this is where the ‘experiment until you have something you like’ part comes in. I cast off 8 in my version. If your centre falls on a stitch – ie, if your body has an uneven number of stitches – you’re best casting off an odd number of stitches (7 or 9, perhaps). If your body has even numbers and your centre falls between stitches, cast off an even number of stitches.

To do this, divide your cast off stitches in half and knit to that number in front of your middle – ie., if you’re casting off 8 stitches knit to 4 in front of your centre. Cast off your stitches, and carry on to the rest of the round as normal. 

From now on you’ll be knitting back and forth rather than in the round – purling one round, knitting the next. I find it much easier to decrease on a knit row, so I designated my ‘purl’ rows as my ‘straight’ rounds, and my knit rows as my ‘decrease’ rows.

Top of jumper

From now on you’ll be doing two things:

1. keep the raglan pattern going by alternating decrease and non-decrease rows

2. casting off more stitches along your neck band.

The way in which you do your casting off changes the shape of your neck band – the quicker you decrease the steeper your neck is. For my neck – a kind of in-between round one – I decreased evenly every other round – or rather, I cast off stitches at the beginning of each row. I’d start each row by a decrease – k2tog or p2tog, depending on what side I was on.

Gradually, your neck will widen out and start to meet your raglan decreases. In my case, that’s the point at which I knew I was done – when the neck castoffs met the decreases.

The neck – and variations – is one of those things that’s quite difficult to explain, and if you’d like to make a different neck I’d suggest you experiment with casting off at different ratios.

Neck band

The final thing to knit is your neck band. To do this, you first need to cast off all stitches that you still have on the needles. This might seem a bit pointless, but it’ll make for a neck that sits much better – if you don’t cast off the neckband will behave differently. So cast off everything.

Then find a point at the back of your neck where you’d like to start your neckband – I would suggest the back because it’ll be less visible than at the front. I went for a 2×2 ribbed neckband, same as my cuffs and hem – but this is up to you, and you can do whatever pattern you like.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind. At the back of your jumper and at the front where you cast off those initial 6/8/whatever stitches, you’ll need to pick up every stitch. But along the sides you’ll need to pick up fewer, and working out exactly how many can be tricky. I usually go with something like ‘pick up 2, miss one’, and that tends to work out, but I’m afraid you’ll only know once you’ve knitted the neckband whether you’ve picked up an appropriate amount. Pick up too few and the neckband is stretched out and weird, pick up too many (like, every stitch) and you’ll end up with a ruffled thing where you have too much fabric to accommodate.

To make your neckband, pick your stitches and begin knitting in pattern (2×2 rib in my case – k1, p1, all the way round). You might need to fudge a bit at the beginning/end of your round – you might need to lose a stitch or two or add in an additional one or 2 for your pattern to work. Carry on knitting in your desired neckband pattern until the neckband is the length you want – in my case, it’s an inch.

Then it’s time to bind off – but be sure to choose a stretchy bind off or you’ll struggle to get it over your head. My preferred bind-off is always this


There will be a few bits left to do. One is to sew up the underarm stitches – the stitches you cast off at the body and sleeves. Sow them together. Then weave in all your ends. And that’s you done.

A word of caution, and encouragement

The jumper you end up with might turn out different from what you had imagined, and there could be many reasons for this. A common one is that your gauge might be off or change while you’re knitting, and that throws all your measurements out of whack. Another could be that you don’t actually like what you’ve made – that it seemed like a good idea at the time, but that it’s too loose, or too tight, or too short, or whatever. That’s all part of the learning experience!

There are lots of ways in which you can amend your jumper without reknitting the whole thing. If your cuffs/hem are the wrong length you can just undo them and reknit them. That sort of thing. But it’s hard to advise you on this without knowing what went wrong, so let me remind you that I’m only a message away if you get stuck.

Hopefully you now understand the different parts that are involved in making a ‘no-pattern’ jumper, and what kind of thinking you need to do to get there. And hopefully this has given you the confidence to venture further afield, and to think about the structure of clothes – both ones you’ve made and once you’ve bought. How they’re constructed, and why things were done the way they were done.

Return to #SkillsFromTheHills main page

Return to No-Pattern Jumper Overview page
Return to No-Pattern Jumper Part 3

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