Simple Way to Lengthen Sleeves of a Finished Sweater

Has it ever happened to you – you make a sweater, and you like it, but as you wear it for some time you wish the sleeves (or the sweater itself) was a tad bit (or a lot) longer?

Well, it happened to me with my favourite Facile sweater. This sweater was designed for late spring – summer – early fall season, so I made the sleeves 3/4 long. I was happily wearing it through the early fall, and into the winter, but I noticed that I kept pulling the sleeves down as if I wished they were longer. And then I thought “It’s probably time to MAKE them longer”.

That would be a fairly easy task if the sweater were made in the round from the top down. I would simply undo the bind off edge at the bottom of each sleeve, attach the yarn, and make the sleeves as long as I want. 

But, if the sweater is worked in pieces that are seamed (like the Facile sweater), lengthening the sleeves becomes more complicated. One of the ways is to knit the add-ons separately and then graft them carefully to the sleeves. That requires quite a bit of seaming. If that feels intimidating, there is a “plan B” – a way to add more rows directly to the bottom of a sleeve.

This simple way has one drawback – it is not invisible. If the sleeve is worked in stockinette stitch, and the add-on is also worked in stockinette, you will see a line in the spot where the add-on was connected to the sleeve. This line can be easily concealed with a garter ridge or if you make the add-on in a different pattern (like ribbing, for example). 

If you want to lengthen the sleeves without having that line, then you will need to undo the sleeve seam, get to the open stitches (this tutorial will help with that task), pick them up, make the sleeve as long as you like, bind off stitches and seam the sleeve back.

But if there is a way to conceal the transition between the sleeve and the add-on in the stitch pattern of your sweater, we can lengthen the sleeves without undoing the seams and cutting through the fabric. We can even skip the seaming if you don’t mind working in the round.

Let’s see how it works.

HERE’S WHAT WE NEED

That’s kind of obvious, but I’ll mention it anyway – we’ll need the sweater that we want to adjust. We’ll also need the pattern we used to make that sweater. Look at the pattern and decide what stitch pattern you’ll use to make the add-on to the sleeves. 

As mentioned above, the transition between the sleeve and the add-on won’t be invisible, so it’s better to use the stitch pattern that is either different from the main pattern or can blend with it nicely. 

In the case of my sweater, I’ll adopt the main stitch pattern and will knit the add-on in a mixed pattern (garter + stockinette) to make it look a lot like the bottom of the sweater. 

Because the main pattern has elements of garter stitch in it, the transition between the sleeve and the add-on will be concealed by a garter ridge.

NEEDLES

As we don’t plan to undo the seam, we’ll need needles that allow us to work in the round, even if we decide to make the add-on seamed just like the sleeve itself.

We can work with double pointed or circular needles, and we’ll use two sets of them – one set in the size recommended in the pattern, and one set in a size that is two sizes smaller than that.  

If you choose to use circular needles, they could be either short (to match the circumference of the sleeve), or long (used with the magic loop technique).

My sweater is made with 5 mm (US size 8) needles, so I’ll use the needles in that size to make the add-on, and I’ll use 4 mm (US size 6) needles to pick up the stitches.

YARN

It’s usually a good idea to use the same yarn that the sweater is made off. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with making the bottom of the sleeves in a different colour or even different yarn. That will definitely spice up the look of the sweater.

I’m not looking for a decorative effect, so I’ll use the same yarn that I used to make the sweater.

Now, that we’ve got everything in place, let’s make those sleeves longer! 

If you are a visual learner, here’s a video tutorial that shows every step explained below.

INSTRUCTIONS

1. With the right side of the fabric facing to you, insert the tip of the smaller needle from front to back under the very bottom of the first stitch at the left side of the seam. Watch how to do it.

2. Fold the yarn leaving a small tail (around 10 cm / 4″). Place the fold on the tip of the needle, and pull the yarn through the fabric.

3. Now insert the needle from front to back under the very bottom of the next stitch.

4. Wrap the needle with the yarn, and pull the wrap through.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you pick up the number of stitches that is the same as the number of stitches you cast on to make the sleeve. 

If you use double pointed needles, divide the stitches between 3 or 4 needles. If you use a long circular needle, divide stitches in half, and pull the cord out to set up the work for the magic loop technique.

6. Now take the bigger needles and use them to make the add-on in the stitch pattern of your choice. We have two options – we can work in the round and avoid seaming, or we can work back and forth and seam the add-on later on. 

I’ll choose the second option because I want the sleeve to be consistent. If the sleeve itself is seamed, then let the add-on be seamed as well. So I’ll turn the work and knit the next row to create a garter ridge that will hide the transition between the sleeve and the add-on.

No matter which of the two options you choose, make the add-on as long as you need. To check the length, try the sweater on once in a while. 

7. When the sleeve is long enough, count the rows/rounds you’ve worked and write that number down. We’ll need it to make the second sleeve the same length as the first one. Then bind off all stitches, and cut the yarn. 

If you worked in the round, leave a short tail. If you worked back and forth, leave a tail that is long enough to make the seam (in most cases, a tail that is four times the length of the seam should be good).

8. Repeat steps 1 through 7 to lengthen the other sleeve. Then block the sleeves to even out the fabric, and weave in the tails. Before you hide the tail created when we picked up the first stitch, pull the tail to adjust the size of that stitch.

In just an hour or so, you’ve revived the sweater, and now you’ll enjoy wearing it even more because the sleeves are as long as you like them to be.

How to Lengthen Sleeves of a Finished Sweater | 10 rows a day
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