My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Let’s Talk About Shoulders

As I expected, my mentioning knitting shoulder straps onto the body of a sweater prompted some comments.

Is there a formula for knitting the straps to the body? If the pattern instructions don’t explain how to do it, I sort of play it by ear. Sometimes it works out one-to-one, sometimes it doesn’t. As far as Max is concerned, I’ll let you know once I do it. ๐Ÿ™‚

And I was asked to post a photo of the technique. I’ll try. Most of my knitting is done when I’m alone, so it’s sometimes difficult for me to get good photos of techniques, but I’ll do my best.

Here’s a brief and hopefully coherent description of how it works.

You have a sleeve complete, and you’ve cast off on each side of the shoulder strap, so you have “x” number of stitches left “live” on the needle.

You have the front and the back of the sweater with the shoulder stitches on holders. Put the shoulder stitches on one side of the front on a needle. Do the same for the back. If you were to lay the pieces out flat, it’ll look something like this:


So you’ve got the shoulder strap stitches on one dpn or circular needle, the front shoulder stitches on one needle, and the back shoulder stitches on one needle.

Work across the shoulder strap stitches as you normally would for a right-side row, and work the last stitch of the strap together with the first stitch at the edge of the front shoulder, i.e., knit 2 together, or purl 2 together, depending on your pattern.

Then work across the shoulder strap stitches as you normally would for a wrong-side row, and work the last stitch of the strap together with the first stitch at the edge of the back shoulder.

And continue on until you have worked all the way up to the neck and you have no more live shoulder stitches left on the front or the back.

Does this make sense? No fair laughing at my sketch, by the way. As I said, I’ll try to post good photos when I get to that point.


Not to be outdone by Beth’s dog Bo, Geane’s kitty Damsel poses for a Mouse-a-thon cheesecake photo!


And I received some cute l’il mousies from Brigid in Brooklyn, NY. Thanks!

Lucy plays spokesmodel for Max’s sleeve:



  1. The shoulder strap technique can also be worked by beginning the strap at the neck, attaching it to front and back as you work and then knitting th sleeve down from the body of the sweater. The advantage: no fudging of stitches to match sleeve strap with front and back but the Disadvantage: then entire sweater is THERE while you are making the sleeves ….it gets pretty bulky sometimes. I think Alice Starmore has a section on this in the Fisherman Sweaters book. It may be in others also.

  2. Hi Janet — thanks for mentioning this. I’ve done a sweater this way (though which one escapes me right now). It is a bit unwieldy having the entire sweater flopping around while making sleeves — not recommended for summer knitting, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I know why Lucy likes the sleeve of Max so much, it looks like a giant MOUSE!

  4. I did St. Enda by knitting on the shoulder straps after you explained this technique when you did Fulmar. I think the biggest advantage to knitting on the straps is the lack of bulk at the shoulder seams. My DH’s St. Enda lays perfectly flat at the shoulders without the bulk of multiple seams.

    I didn’t find it cumbersome at all. I hate sewing so any technique that keeps me from sewing pieces together and I’m all for it!!!

    I really had to watch & make sure I was knitting/purling the 2 stitches at row end the right way. The first time I did this, I had bound off the shoulder stitches and it just didn’t look right. I frogged back the bind-off and worked with live stitches. It look MUCH better using live stitches.

  5. I’m doing it your way next time Wendy. Trying to knit the strap to the exact right length and then sewing both sides is a pain in the butt.

  6. You are such a great teacher Wendy! Thanks again for another informative post.

  7. Thanks for the great explanation. Your diagram really helps because I looked in A.S.’s Fisherman Sweaters book this morning and read the explanation there, but it didn’t make complete sense until I saw your diagram. As someone mentioned it is a little different since you make the sleeves first in your version, but I like it for the reasons you all gave about not having to carry around the whole bulky sweater while making the sleeves.


  8. hey Wendy,
    In order to be a ‘grammar avenger’ can you make up words, or are you limited to pre-existing ones??

    Just spurious.

  9. Wendy, one small question about knitting the shoulder strap onto the sweater body. The gauge for rows is different from the gauge for stitches. When you combine the rows of the strap with the stitches of the shoulder, do you get any pulling because of the gauge change?


  10. Thanks, Wendy, your drawings make it perfectly clear. I know you’re bored with it, but I think old Max is great.

  11. HI Wendy,

    I happento be knitting a sweater that I will use this technique in right now! I am done with the sleeves (sans flaps), back, and am working on the front now. When done with the front I will keep it and the back on holders, then I will go back to the sleeves and do the flaps on the sweater as you suggested. However, I will go ahead and calculate the stitch pick-up ratio before starting. This should be easy to do by using the row and stich gauges.

  12. Thanks Wendy for the shoulder tips… You are the cyberknit babe when it comes down to it! I have been a little apprehensive about doing Mednocino because of the saddles, but you make it so easy! Can’t wait to try this technique!

    I wish I can put mousies on Maggie’s back, but she would twitch the whole time, making the mousies do a wild ‘dancing on ecstacy’ dance on her back.

  13. I’ve done 2 sweaters like this and I’m always slightly confused about when/whether to knit or purl the last stitch – do you base the decision on what the pattern of the strap is? Last time I tried to do it like the heel flap of a sock – always knit the last stitch of each row together with the body stitch, then slip the stitch on the way back – and I didn’t get as well-matched a look as I wanted.

  14. Caroline — you’re right — it depends on the pattern of the strap.

  15. Thanks for a cogent explanation, Wendy. I’ve never done a shoulder like that before, but I’m sure I’ll get to it someday!

  16. Last year I began to knit Max with Opal-wool in metric needle size 3,5 mm. I fortunately live a two hours car drive from the Opal-manufactory and once a year a trip to Tutto-Opal where also the Regia wool is colored is a must.
    I had bought 700 g of the designed yarn for Max, there wasn’t more yarn of this color, it was a leftover of the previous season. After 2/3 of Max’s back I noticed that I already spent 250 g of the yarn and it would never be enough for the rest of the sweater.
    I did some ribbing and knitted “Frode” from Elsebeth Lavold instead.
    I’m curious how much yarn you will need for your Max, my Max swallowed a lot.

    I love sholder straps! An Aran with shoulder straps fits more perfectly and looks really professional-like. Mostly the arms of a sweater or cardigan knitted in braids or Aran style are heavy and pull down the shoulders.
    I knitted “Ragna” from Elsebeth Lavold as a coat with a shawl collar (1300 g of worsted wool, metric needle size 3,75 mm) and I can tell you: it looked shapeless without the straps, and showed no sign of elegance. Fortunately I had enough material to make shoulder straps with the typical Ragna braids, and tadaaa: I may dare to wear it.
    It’s so valuable that you share this shoulder strap trick with all knitters and give a very comprehensible explanation.
    It helps to design knitted treasuries.