Elizabeth Zimmermann Seamless Raglan Knit-along #5

Welcome back! We are engaged, internationally, in the creation of unique but matching jerseys!

I hope to have only one more set of instructions and discussion post after this one, which deals with how to make the faux raglan seams on this seamless jersey. I had a few new thoughts about this last week if you want to check back before we start our decreases to bring the jersey – which now consists of a body piece and two sleeves – together. We will be knitting the yoke and shoulder area, before coming in finally to finish the neckline.

I am planning to depart a little from the classic Elizabeth Zimmermann instructions as I feel her neckline treatment is unattractive and dated. But you may well prefer her approach so please do follow her instructions if you want the neckline to come up high and completely enclose the smallest part of the neck.

I will be knitting a much more open necked sweater because I find that a more comfortable finish and I think it is nice to show a little bit of what you are wearing underneath – your collar or your T shirt perhaps.

Have you finished the bodice and sleeves now? Are you ready to go?

Sleeves ready?

At this point I suggest you go back to my earlier post, or to Elizabeth herself in Knitting Without Tears, and read at least one of them.

I find the Zimmermann regulation yoke too long at 1/4 of the body circumference measurement. I  suggest 1/6th instead or even 1/7th. In my case my yoke is about 5″. Check it out on your own body. Measure from the bone cup under your Adams apple to the line above the bust where your arms join your body. Or from wherever you want your neckline to end to the place where you want the sleeves to join the body of your jersey.

seamless raglan sweater
Measure where you want your arm scye/sleeve join and your neckline

The reason Mrs Z and I disagree on this is because, compared to her prototype, I want my jersey to be a different shape.

Zimmermann sweaters are relatively voluminous with high tight necklines and cuffs.

I prefer a slightly shrunken, close-fitting, petite looking item.

Maybe yours are somewhere in between. Whatever. The real value of freelancing on your jumper design and construction is that you can please yourselfSo the exact arrangement of sleeve insertion position is down to comfort in wear, style, body type and fashion. You decide.

A good, flexible sleeve, allowing the full range of movement comes up high into the armpit. In certain periods of history it joined the bodice lower down (bat wing or dolman sleeve), but many sweater patterns have quite a lot of ease in the sleeves and I feel these look old fashioned today. When Zimmermann was perfecting her design the join point for the sleeve would be rather lower than mine, going in about two inches below the underarm. You can bring it right up to zero-ease if you prefer.

Personally I don’t like the sloping shoulder associated with a tailored raglan sleeve on me, but the Elizabeth Zimmermann sweater allows a raglan “seamline”, but actually gives a nice close fit over the shoulder.

Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless raglan
Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless raglan


After you have joined your sleeves and bodice, with the correct number of stitches (8%) left on waste yarn at the underarm (shorthand: 10 stitches is usually enough), you mark the joins at four points, ie both ends of both sleeves with a sleeve marker. Decide which is the back and have a colourful or special marker for the start of the round at the back, left seam.

Now at the first, start of round marker, slip the marker, knit one, knit two together and knit to the next marker. Just before the next marker knit the last two stitches together, slip marker, knit one, knit two together and knit to the next marker. Do the same thing for marker 3 and 4. Finally knit to the start of round marker and just before you reach it knit the last two stitches together, slip marker. Now knit a whole round with no decreases.

Then repeat the above paragraph. Essentially you are decreasing eight stitches every other round. It makes a nice pattern but I find the markers essential. Mrs Z uses a safety pin in the fabric, but I prefer the markers.

Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless raglan
Decreasing to make the yoke, shoulders and neck

Keep up this pattern of decreases until you get to the length of yoke you want. For me that is four to five inches. Now the stitch at the CF is the last one you will do before you put on your border. However the back and sides need to be built up a bit, unless you want a wide boat neck.

The way we are going to do this is to knit until the half way point (middle stitch) on your sleeve. insert a new marker, and knit to the half way point on the other sleeve and use another marker. Between these points we want to do short rows, moving in two or three stitches (you decide) on each turn. I use German or Continental short rows. Mrs Z wraps the yarn which I don’t agree with. I find around six or eight short rows is sufficient to get the look I want.

You can also put more short rows before you get to the neckline – between the two back raglan seams – the odd couple will lengthen the back. I did this on the EZ Raglan I made for my husband.  I am not an expert on this, but I used my instinct for shaping and basic understanding of anatomy (the back is longer than the front) to achieve a reasonable outcome.

I may need to add that with stripes your short rows will be more obvious. But somehow, other than indicating which is the back when you are putting it on, this doesn’t seem to matter much.

I always try my jumper on at this point. The best way to do this is to thread a piece of elastic through the live stitches and try on and look in the mirror and measure to your hearts’ delight. You can use two circular needles but you need to be quite careful the stitches don’t slip off. You will soon see where there is a space that needs filling – at the back or sides of your neck – to create the neckline you want. Do any short rows where you want to build it up.

Remember you can also use the border finish (eg ribbing) to include a few additional rows at the back if you need them.

The final stage is to finish the neckline and the sleeve and bodice hems. We will do that next week.

9 Responses

  1. tracey Bos

    Thank you for explaining your methode. I have made à EZ sweater but dont like the high neck. I will certainly try this

  2. Kerry

    Thanks for the instructions, Kate, I’m on target! Today I joined up the sleeves to the bodice and have placed my markers. It’s surprisingly taxing on the brain (or maybe just my brain)! I think my stripes gave me a moment of bother, trying to make sure I had the right number of rows per colour, etc. Anyway, it’s chugging along nicely now.

    • fabrickated

      I agree Kerry that there is some brain work involved! I often have to check if I am on a decrease round or a non-decrease round. Luckily it is fairly easy to see if there is a decrease in the round before. Helene suggests using two sorts of decrease, which is correct, but I find it one too many things to remember!

  3. Kim Hood

    I’m on the body (having completed the sleeves) but am a little way from armhole depth.
    I think I like your square ‘boat’ neckline rather than one that fits too closely so I will be aiming for that eventually.

  4. Hélène

    Kate, so you don’t use any ssk for decreasing? K2 tog leans to the right whereas ssk leans to the left. I’m not sure I understand how you get symmetrical decreasing lines with your method. Thanks for explaining. xx

    • fabrickated

      Hello Helene – you are right of course! The best way to create a perfectly balanced look is to use the two different styles of decreasing. Personally I just use the knit two together as I find it acceptable and takes less brain power.

  5. Catherine

    Hi. I got stalled at the short row part because I’ve never done short rows before and I have a few questions.
    My front neckline is as high as I want it to be but it is not high enough to cover my shoulders very well. Could I do short rows beginning just before the shoulder markers (ie, leaving around 6 inches of the front on waste wool), around the back, and across the other shoulder? This would be sort of like the shaping on a flat-knit sweater. Also, do you change where the turn is on each row, ie, move it inward a few stitches to make an curve? Also, do you continue to do the raglan decreases in the short rows?
    Did you know that EZ’s daughter Meg Swanson has done an updated version of the EZ raglan sweater with more modern shaping? It’s called the Box-the-Compass phony raglan.
    I agree with Helene about the ssk/k2tog decreases. It looks nicer to have them slanting with the raglan “seam.” It’s easy enough to remember if you do the ssk at the start and k2tog at the end of each section.
    Anyway, hope you can help out with the short rows so I can finish my sweater, which otherwise is working out well.

    • fabrickated

      Hi Catherine – What you describe is exactly how it works out for me. So you are at the CF point. Knit round to the front raglan seam on the left sleeve. Now start your short rows, as you say like you are shaping a flat-knit sweater. And yes, you change the point where you do the turn coming in two or three stitches each time to make the curve. And yes you do continue to do the raglan decreases in every other short round, suggest the knit rather than purl round. I hope this helps. I know I am not great at explaining things but if you do this for six or eight short rows I think you will have a good shape. Let me know if there are any other issues and I would love to see your jersey when it is done.

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