Don’t Fear the Armscye

When I first saw the word “armscye” in a pattern, I experienced a bit of knitting panic. Such a complicated-sounding word! When I found out the word just means “armhole,” I felt silly.

We knitters have this reaction all the time. We hear words that sound scary, so we just ignore them and hope we never see them again. (I feel the same about my ex-boyfriends’ names.) But what happens when you see a beautiful, gotta-have-it pattern and that scary word appears in the instructions? Gulp.

Detail Shot of Shoulder of Knitted Garment on Woman

Photo via Dovetail Designs

For a knit project such as a sweater, you need to know what an armscye is to get a good fit in the sleeves.

When you’re knitting sweaters, calculating the perfect armhole is especially important if your arms are a bit bigger or smaller not just in circumference, but also in length. What if you worked so hard to knit a beautiful sweater and then it was too loose or too tight in the arms? Or what if the sleeves fell way too long, below your wrists? You’d probably have to knit the sleeves over again with adjustments.

This can even happen with store-bought clothing. Have you ever tried on a shirt, only to feel like you can’t move your arms up and down because it’s too tight? Maybe the opposite happens, and the sleeves are so loose that you look like you’re about to spread your wings and take flight.

Woman Modeling Blue Sweater

Photo via Craftsy class The Seamless Artemisia Sweater 

The beauty of knitting your own clothing is that you can knit a custom fit that’s perfect just for your body (or a custom fit for the lucky recipient of that sweater). That alone is a good reason to be familiar with the details of calculating armscye measurements, and it will help tremendously when you’re fitting knits.

Adding sleeves to patterns

Knowing what an armscye is doesn’t just come in handy for making modifications to an existing pattern. You might also want to know about calculating an armscye if you want to add a sleeve to a pattern. For example, maybe you have a pattern for a sleeveless sweater, like this Sleeveless Cable Hoodie.

Woman Modeling Hooded Sleeveless Sweater

Photo via DoveTail Designs

You love the pattern, but want to add extra warmth to it with sleeves. If you just guess at the number of stitches and make up a pattern as you go, it’s probably going to turn out really funky. Calculating the armscye before you start knitting the sleeves will ensure that the sleeve matches up with the existing armhole.

One technique that can be super helpful in creating your own sleeves is short row shaping.

Lucky for you, Craftsy teamed up with knitwear designer Carol Feller to bring you the FREE Craftsy class Short Rows. You’ll learn four different ways to create short rows and how to incorporate them into the shaping of your sweaters — including, yep, the armscye!

Woman's Hand Indicating Sleeve of Sweater

Photo via Craftsy class Short Rows

Want to get down to the nitty gritty of calculating armscye?

What knitting terms besides “armscye” make you go running in fear?

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