Top Down vs. Bottom Up

Today I am thinking about the direction one knits a sweater.  It’s on my mind because I am near finished with a top down knitted cardigan and the process of knitting in that direction is not as familiar to me as knitting in the direction from the bottom to the neckline.  Also, I hear knitters exclaiming how they would never consider knitting in the direction that they are not familiar with. Seems a bit closed minded to me.

For years, in publications I followed, designers of knitwear wrote directions in a pretty prescribed formula.  Typically, for a sweater, after gauges were knitted up and a secure knowledge of stitches to the inch, rows to the inch were known, knitters would be directed to start at the bottom edge of the back section, complete it and set it aside.  Then, a knitter would knit one front side, reverse all shaping and knit the other front side and then finish by knitting the sleeves from the cuff up to the cap of the sleeve.  I, myself have knitted sweaters in this bottom/up direction for pretty near thirty years.  Not until I joined Ravelry and read some of the patterns and comments that were made there did I realize that knitwear designers of more recent times were designing sweaters to be knitted from the top down, starting at the neck’s edge, continuing in a downward direction from the yoke, shoulders, holding live stitches on each side for sleeves, and continuing to the hemline.  The idea of knitting in this direction continues to feel different for me, however I am gaining experience in this construction.

From my view, I see these advantages and disadvantages of each method.  Here are some overarching comparisons:

On Seams

Top Down – no seams.  Bottom Up – One knits in sections, therefore you need to sew them together in the end.

*Seams stabilize a knitted garment and can hide yarn ends by weaving those ends into the seams.  While seams stabilize, they add extra work in the end and need to be done neatly for the garment to hang right.  This know-how is an extra skill a knitter needs.

On Construction

Top Down – Can try on as you knit as it is knitted in one piece.  Bottom Up – Cannot try on as it is knitted in sections as described, above.

On Style

Top Down – Typically are with yokes.  Bottom Up – Variety of styles are able to be knitted.

Here are some examples of former projects knitted from the top to the bottom and as I think of them and reflect on the wearing of them, none of my thoughts ever have me going back to the direction in which I knitted the garment.

snake cable

tunic with back detail

summer hoodieThe light pink cabled top clearly has a yoke, and the orange tunic and the light blue hoodie have a very similar construction with raglan style little puffy short sleeves.

The below are knitted from the bottom up, a much more natural way for me to think of knitting only because I’ve done so much more of it:

Spring coat

rib bib

chocolate cardi with bobble collarYou can see the variety of necklines, shapes, and styles.  Each of these had sections knitted separately, then sewn or crocheted together in the end.

Even though I am more comfortable knitting in, what I perceive a more traditional methodology, I am enjoying discovering the advantages of knitting in this other direction.  What say you?