Trompe L’Oeil Sleeve Caps (Part 1)

June 3, 2011 § 12 Comments

A small, but noteworthy procession filed out of the house and made its way across the sun-bathed lawn to where the big cedar cast a grateful shade.  It was headed by James, a footman, bearing a laden tray.  Following him came Thomas, another footman, with a gate-leg table.  The rear was brought up by Beach, who carried nothing, but merely lent a tone.


“Yes, your lordship.”

“Oh?” said Lord Emsworth.  “Ah? Tea, eh? Tea? Yes. Tea. Quite so. To be sure, tea. Capital.”

Summer Lightning, P.G. Wodehouse, 1929

Thank you for all the interest and encouraging comments about my new sleeve caps, which I’ve tentatively named “Trompe L’Oeil Sleeve Caps.”!  Since my last post I’ve been busy working them into a sweater and am so happy with the results:

And on Ravelry.

It’s time then for a more detailed explanation of how to work them.  Today I’ll provide an introduction to establishing the sleeve caps – we’ll call it a test tutorial, to see if it makes sense to everyone.  Once I’ve got a system worked out for the increase rate for the armhole in its entirety with which I’m 100% happy, I’ll post a more formal tutorial on a separate page on this blog.

A huge disclaimer: what follows is very long and wordy and the first time I’ve attempted to explain this.  I suspect a YouTube video might eventually be a much better teaching tool, but it’ll be a while before I can manage to put one together.  In the meantime, for the brave and impatient, I’m going to attempt it anyway. It’s really much easier to do than to describe, and your comments and feedback are very welcome.

Before we begin, you will need to get out your Montse Stanley or your Vogue Knitting guide and practice your Median, or Row Below, increases for left- and right- leaning, for purl and for knit.  I can’t seem to find this lovely increase anywhere on the internet, or in Vickie Square.  Down the line, the plan is to make a YouTube of how to work them and post it here.  It seems to me that no dedicated top-down knitter should be without this increase in his or her arsenal.  I also wouldn’t embark on this sleeve cap method unless you’re very comfortable with magic loop, as I’ll be using it in a new way.

So to begin, using a circular needle with a good long cable:

  1. Cast on sufficient stitches for one shoulder.  Generally this is somewhere between 3 and 4 inches of stitches.  You should pick a number divisible by 3.
  2. Purl across these stitches.
  3. Do three sets of RS short rows: For example, say you cast on 18 stitches, knit 12, wrap the next stitch and turn, purl a row, knit 6 stitches of next row, wrap next stitch and turn, purl a row, then knit across picking up wraps as you go.  You should end up at the narrow edge of the wedge.
  4. At this point (trust me), you should be able to slide your work down the cable, rotate it 180 degrees and be well-positioned to pick up stitches along your cast-on edge, starting at the point of the wedge.  You could in theory put your work on waste yarn, but I prefer leaving it on as the cable stabilizes the edge and makes it easier to pick up stitches.
  5. Pick up along the cast on edge the same number of stitches that you cast on to begin with.
  6. This time you will do two sets of purl side wraps and turns (there is no plain row first on this side, and yes it will be one row shorter than your first wedge, but it doesn’t appear to affect the final product in any way).  So if you cast 18 stitches, purl 12, wrap and turn the next stitch, knit a row, purl 6, wrap and turn the next stitch, knit a row and then purl across all stitches, picking up wraps as you go.

Your knitting should now resemble this:

As you can see, you should be on the wrong side of your knitting, and I’ve placed a marker before the last stitch of this row.  Now you have finished the first few rows of one shoulder (front and back) and next will begin to establish your sleeve caps.  This will involve using magic loop to help you get around the tight curve at the beginning of sleeve cap (which will magically appear at the thin point of your triangle at the left of the picture above).   But instead of working magic loop in the round, you’ll be working it back and forth with a right side and a wrong side.  I’ve never seen this anywhere else, but I’ve done it a bunch of times now, and it really does work like a charm every time!

  1. Into that last isolated stitch of that row, you’ll need to work a single left leaning increase.  Since there is no row-below to increase into, I fudge this first increase with something resembling a lifted increase.  It really doesn’t show in the final product.  So you should now have two stitches to the left of that marker.
  2. This is where things get a little funky because we are going to use magic loop to get around that corner.  So rotate your knitting 180 degrees, and pull the needle into the stitches at the top and slide the knitting that you just did down the cable, freeing the needle to use in the right hand.
  3. Perform a purl side right-leaning row below increase into the first stitch of the needle, working the stitch as well and then place a marker.  Take care to adjust the tension so that you don’t end up with ladders as you cross from one side of the work to the other, just as you would with a sock or sleeve. You should now have two stitches then a marker at the thin edge of the wedge of both top and bottom of your work.  Purl to end of row.
  4.  Flip over your work so the right side is facing.  At this point you’ll want to designate this little piece of knitting as a right or a left shoulder.  You’ll need some back neck shaping here in the form of three right side increases at the back neck edge.  If you want a right shoulder you will want to knit 1 or 2 stitches here (as you prefer), and work one increase each right side over the next three RS rows.  [If it will be a left shoulder, work until you are one or two stitches before the very end of the row, which is now directly opposite.]
  5. Knit to marker – we will skip an increase in this row just to get the stitches evenly established, slip marker, k2, rotate work 180 degrees, slide upper row of stitches onto needle, slide lower onto cable, k2, sm, knit to end.
  6. Flip over work, purl to marker, sm, perform left-leaning purl side increase into next stitch.  Purl to end of stitches on needle, rotate work, readjust cable and needles, watching tension across the gap, purl to 1 stitch before the marker, perform right-leaning purl side  row below increase into this stitch, working the stitch as well.  Slip marker and purl to end.  You should now have six stitches between your markers and congratulations, you have the beginnings of your sleeve cap!
  7. Continue as before – flip over work to RS.  Perform back neck shaping increase (f making right shoulder), knit to marker, sm, work left-leaning knit side row below increase into next stitch, knit to end, adjust needles and cables, rotate work 180%, knit to one stitch before marker, work right-leaning knit side row below increase into this stitch and work the stitch.  Slip marker, work to end.

This is it in a gigantic wordy nutshell!  At this point you will continue knit and purl side every row, right and left leaning row below increases as established (along with your neck shaping until you’ve worked all three back neck increases plus a final purl side row.  You should have 14 stitches at the top of your sleeve cap between the markers.  Your work should look something like this:

Make another, reversing back neck shaping.  You may notice some wobbly stitches and general unevenness.  So far these have blocked out beautifully for me.

Next time I’ll discuss joining your two shoulder pieces and the various options for calculating the rate of increases for your sleeve cap as your work down the yoke.  Good luck!


§ 12 Responses to Trompe L’Oeil Sleeve Caps (Part 1)

  • Mandy says:

    The increase you are speaking of and not finding with your search terms is also known as the “La-Linc” and it’s opposite La-Rinc” increases knit from the stitch below. Videos exist. See Cat Bordhi’s work
    Knitting refers to these as the KRL and KLL
    Sometimes called a lifted increase.
    Demonstrated with purl variants here

    • indiecita says:

      Hi Mandy – thank you for this. I will check out Cat Bordhi’s videos but do want to emphasize that row below/median increases are not the same as lifted increases, such as those outlined on knittinghelp. The effect is quite different – it gives a noticeable raised ridge. To provide the example of a left leaning right side increase, if you were to work a lifted increase, you would turn the work towards you and knit into the head of the stitch at the top. In a row below increase, the needle is inserted right into the middle of the stitch “V” just below the stitch you would normally knit, from the right side, and then the stitch above is worked normally.

    • MJ says:

      Mandy, thank you for sharing that info. I have used Cat’s ‘La-Linc and La-Rinc’ and think they are wonderful.

      It’s a shame that this blog topic has not been completed… that Felicity has taken her needles and wondered off into the sheep meadows, never to post here again.

      After finding Susie Meyers ‘Contiguous Method’ on Ravelry, I STRUGGLED to find info or to figure out how to do the Simultaneous Set In Sleeves. This is the most articulate info I have found so far, so I’m ecstatic to sharpen my needles and get going again.

      I absolutely LOVE Felicity’s Trompe L’Oeil Cardigan!


      • indiecita says:

        Hi MJ,
        Nope, not off in any meadows (though that does sound delightful), simply far too busy to blog. I hope my life will eventually settle down sufficiently to give me a chance to blog more, as I have lots of ideas for posts. Glad you like the cardi!


  • Mags says:

    I simply MUST find time to try this. It looks genius.

  • […] is a particularly delightful name, in my opinion, and the first part of the method is written up here. Her method seems to create an especially beautiful sleeve cap with a good fit, and I am very […]

  • […] next time I’ll try Trome L’Oeil Sleeve Caps and Madelinetosh. Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed Buying […]

  • soloenespana says:

    Thank you very much for this tutorial, very elegant 🙂

  • Elly says:

    I love this sleeve cap!! Please do a video .

  • MJ says:

    Hi Felicity,

    I am delighted to receive such a quick response. SURPRISE! Sorry about the meadows, though. Guess I need to invite you to come here and enjoy ours.

    I do have a question, if you have the time to spare me. I would like to know how to do the Row Below increase you talked about in the tutorial. If Cat’s La-Linc/La-Rinc or the KRL/KLL are incorrect, I don’t know anything better to substitute with.

    After finding your blog and the info, I’m DIEING to successfully pull off the Simultaneous Set In Sleeve and have it look at PERFECT as what you have done. I truly do LOVE your cardigan! I want my own!

    HAPPY KNITTING and CHEERS to you, too!


    • indiecita says:

      Hi again MJ 🙂
      I have to say I’m truly puzzled that the row below/median increase is not more used. I can only guess it’s because it’s very purposely *visible* and most people want invisible increases. It’s ideal for our nefarious purposes however, as it creates a fantastic fake seam. (Looks damn nice as full-fashioning around armholes and necklines too IMO)

      My very best advice would be to pick up Montse Stanley’s Knitter’s handbook, even if just from the library. Once you have that in hand I can direct you to the correct page – IIRC there’s handy diagrams. It’s truly very easy to execute – as I mention above, just poke the tip of your right needle right into the center of the V in the stitch below the next stitch on the left needle. Knit into it, and pull a loop through. It’s good to be generous with your loop and give it a little slack, otherwise the increase can become a bit hole-y. Likewise when you purl, you just insert the needle into the middle of that row-below stitch from the back and purl it. That’s the right leaning increase. The left-leaning one requires a little more gymnastics. I do it by knitting the stitch that will be increased into, leaving it on the needle, and reaching down with the needle tip to the row below to knit into that stitch. Usually I have to keep that first retained stitch in place with a fingertip. Things get a little tighter when the increases are worked every row. It helps to stretch out your knitting a bit so you can clearly see that very tiny mother stitch.

      I was chatting with a knitter yesterday who thought she’d used them in a Twist Collective pattern – Roseling in Fall 2011, along the raglan increase line, and perhaps there’s a link to a tutorial in that pattern.

      I really wanted to make a video, and maybe I will somehow manage it some day.

      I hope that helps! Just keep at it and you will achieve the sweater you want! Let me know how it goes.


      PS your meadow invitation is extremely inviting right about now 🙂

      • MJ says:

        Hello again, Felicity,

        Again, I am pleased and surprised at your quick response.

        Thank you so much for explaining the increases for me. I’m going to give them a try… they seem so very easy, despite having to hang onto stitches. BTDT regularly, so it’s not something new to me.

        I rather think I’ll be able to accomplish the set in sleeve without going to the library, which is fine with me. I’d probably have to go long and far to find the books around here (I live in the country in a County that isn’t very sophisticated).

        The name, Roseling sounds vaguely familiar. I’ll have to look the pattern up and make certain. Hopefully you are correct about the tutorial.

        I think the idea of you making a video is beyond excellent. You did a good job with the written tutorial, despite feeling it was so wordy, which I completely understand. They don’t say a picture is worth a thousand words for nothing!

        It’s a pity we live soooo far apart. I’d be willing to help you with the video just to get it out to others wishing to learn your wonderful technique. So many knitters I speak with are VERY INTERESTED in top-down, seamless, simultaneous set in sleeve construction. We would all be DELIGHTED BEYOND BELIEF to knit our own beautiful cardigans… like yours. That’s a promise!

        Pity we live so far apart, too, because of the meadows here. Our weather is nice right now… running between 65-70 F with a breeze. Lovely! I’ll bet it’s still C-C-COLD where you are. You have my complete sympathy.

        Thank you again for helping me out with the increases. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to help me. I’ll keep you posted as time allows. Seems we’re all very busy these days.

        CHEERS TO YOU!


        PS, I have a daughter named Felice. That’s pretty close, huh? Both are lovely names.

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