Creating the perfect fit in a seamless sweater often depends heavily on the neckline. If you’re working top-down, for example, and the cast-on is too loose, the neckline can ‘spread’ and become too wide. If you’re working bottom-up and your bind-off is too tight, the sweater might not go over your head. You also might prefer a wider or narrower neckline than the pattern suggests. Below we offer some tips for creating that perfect neckline – and one method for fixing a neckline that isn’t to your liking.
This tutorial includes:
- Thinking ahead – planning your neckline
- Adding structure
- Provisional cast on options
- Bottom up sweater fixes
- Top down sweater fixes
Planning ahead is the best way to get your neckline juuuuust right. It’s always easier to get something right the first time, rather than having to go back and fix it, right? So start by considering your own knitting style… Is your ribbing usually a little looser? How firm is your cast-on? Think about how these things will affect your preferred neckline before embarking on your sweater. It will be a huge help, especially if you’re knitting top-down.
When knitting a sweater from the top-down, you’ll often cast on, work the ribbing, then the yoke, etc., so the whole sweater ‘hangs’ from that cast-on. If you have a firm cast-on and it’s a smaller sweater – or you’re using a lightweight yarn – this isn’t a big deal. But if you’re working on a larger sweater or using a heavier yarn, that’s a lot of weight to hang from your cast-on. If it’s not firm enough, the stitches can start to spread; this might result in a more open neckline than you want.
One answer to this problem is adding in a little extra structure. If you’re planning ahead, you can try casting on and skipping the ribbing. Work the yoke and the rest of the sweater first. At the very end, pick up and knit one stitch in each stitch cast-on and then work the ribbing. This way the sweater ‘hangs’ from the seam where you picked up the ribbing, rather than from the cast-on. If you use this method, try the sweater on. If you find the neckline is still too wide for your liking, you can rip back to the pick-up, work a decrease round, and then work your ribbing on fewer stitches.
Hedging your bets
If you’re unsure whether the neckline will be to your liking in the end, you can always start with a provisional cast-on. (We have a provisional cast-on tutorial here and an alternative provisional cast-on method here!) Cast on using the provisional method of your choosing and skip the ribbing. Once your sweater is complete, you have some options:
- Unzip the provisional cast-on, work the ribbing, and then bind off.
- Unzip the provisional cast-on and bind-off, pick up and knit one stitch in each bound-off stitch, and then work the ribbing. (This adds a little structure.)
- Adjust the neckline stitches by working a decrease round before the ribbing.
- Adjust the bind-off round by using smaller or larger needles to get the right firmness.
Casting on provisionally and then working the neckline last is a bit fussier than just casting on and working the neckline first – but it it gives you the flexibility to adjust this critical area without too much trouble.
One of the major benefits of a bottom-up sweater is easy neckline adjustments. It isn’t too much trouble to unpick the bind-off or the ribbing and try again. If you find your neckline is too loose for your liking, you can work an extra decrease round before the ribbing, or try a tighter bind-off. If you find your sweater needs a little extra structure, you can work a bind-off before the neckline ribbing, pick up and knit one stitch in each of the bound-off stitches, and then work your ribbing. It will hold firm and prevent the neckline from stretching out too much.
Top down fixes
Making adjustments after the fact
So you’ve knit an amazing sweater, but the neckline just isn’t what you wanted it to be. If you’ve knit your sweater bottom-up, the fix is easy. But top-down? Not so much. Don’t lose hope, though! We have a few suggested fixes to get that sweater into regular wardrobe rotation! It can feel fiddly to fix the neckline after the fact, but we promise it’s worth it! You’ve put a lot of love and energy into your work of art, and it’s well worth the effort to get it just the way you like it.
Adding a bit of structure
One way to tighten up a neckline and add a bit of structure is to work a crochet chain around the inside of the sweater at the bottom of the ribbing. The crochet chain isn’t stretchy the way your knitting is at this point in the sweater, so it will hold firm.
Cutting off the ribbing and reworking the neckline
Thinking about cutting into your knitting is a bit scary, but don’t worry – this is only minor surgery! Because of the way knit stitches work, you can’t simply undo the cast-on and unravel the ribbing. (We tried it, so you don’t have to… but if you don’t believe us, go forth.) Instead, you need to insert your needle below the ribbing, cut one stitch, and take the ribbing off (described in detail below). Note that the photos show removing the ribbing on a bottom-up sweater, but all the steps are exactly the same to remove the ribbing on a top-down sweater.
- Insert a small needle through one ‘leg’ of each stitch. Make sure to keep in the same round.
- Cut one stitch and unpick the round below your needle.
- Remove the ribbing.
- Join new yarn, and you’re ready to redo that ribbing as you see fit.
Once you’ve got that ribbing off and live stitches on your needles, you can work any of the changes listed in the ‘hedging your bets’ section above. It’s as if you’ve unzipped your provisional cast-on and are ready to go!
This is also the method you would use if you knit a sweater from the bottom-up but want to add or remove length in the body or sleeves. Insert your needle above the ribbing (or wherever you want to change the length), cut, and remove the ribbing. Then you can make your length adjustments and redo that ribbing.
Looking for more helpful sweater knitting tutorials?
We love sweater knitting, so we’ve created lots of sweater knitting tutorials!
- Knitting Hack: the provisional cast-on
- Let’s knit a bottom-up sweater
- Let’s knit a colourwork sweater
- How to block a hand-knit sweater
- How to knit a garment at a different gauge
Or you can find ALL our tutorials here!