Designing patterns

Hi. I have started designing some of my own sweaters for my daughter. I use a chart with the standard measurements by age found at It tells how many inches the chest, armhole depth, wrist, upper arm circumference etc. I have a few questions though.

How do I figure out where I should start the armhole since the chart does not list a total length of garment for the age? The Back to Waist length only measures to the waist, so do you add another like 2 inches so it hits the hips? My last one I just measured a shirt for a 2 yr old and knitted that many inches before starting the armhole.

Is there a general rule for how many stitches you decrease for the armhole shaping? I did one sweater where I decreased every RS row 5 times then knit even till proper length. Another sweater I decreased only 2 times then knit straight up for a different effect.

Is there a rule for shaping the sleeves? Once you start the decreasing at the raglan edge how do you figure out how many inches to knit and how much to decrease? I’ve just winged it with the last two sweaters… one I had to take out quite a few rows because it was too long, the other worked but I had made it a little too long and it was not matching up one for one when sewing it up so I had to double up on some.

Lastly, is there a general guideline for when to start binding off in the middle for the neck in relation to the armhole? Last sweater (the blue one below) I just started like 3/4 of the way up since I wanted a straight line across the neck. It looks really nice but it seems like it could be a bit too low.

I appreciate any ideas here. I’ve been doing it myself with trial and error and writing down my patterns so I can tweak them, but I just wondered if anyone had any tips so it would make it easier for me. Here are some pictures of sweaters I have knit for my daughter. The blue cable one is completely my design. I am also designing the purple one with the lace trim.
Thanks for any help!

Here is my daughter Avery wearing another sweater I made too.

For figuring out when to start the armhole, I suggest basing the measurement off of one of your daughters pieces of clothing, as you have done. You can always adjust the length based on how long you would prefer it to be. LIke, if you know the shirt comes down to her waist, but want it slightly longer, add an inch, or so.

When figuring out how many stitches to decrease for the armhole, I always decrease however many I will need to give me the measurement from shoulder to shoulder. It depends on the gauge. Say I have 50 stitches at 5 sts/inch, that would be a 10" garment, and say the shoulder to shoulder measurement is 8 inches. I would need to decrease 1" on each side, so 5 stitches on each side, leaving me with 40 stitches, which equals 8 inches.

For shaping sleeves, you want to figure out how many rows you have to decrease in, and how many stitches you need to decrease. If you want to decrease 30 stitches over 4 inches, you first need to get the row gauge, and figure out how many rows are in 4 inches. So, lets say the row gauge is 7 rows per inch. So, 4 inches is 28 rows. You’ll be decreasing 1 stitch on each side of the piece, so divide the total number of decreased stitches in half, that means, you only need to decrease on 15 rows. It gets pretty complicated figuring out exactly how often you need to do the decreases, if you’d like I can go into further detail, but i promise, it can be complicated. This will probably give you a pretty good start.

For shaping the neck, figure out how low you want the neck to be from the top of the shoulder. Measure another one of your daughters shirts to get an idea. Also, you should know about how long the armhole is going to be. Subtract the depth of the neck from the length of the armhole… another example: Say you want a 2" neck depth, and your armhole is 5". If you subtract 2 from 5 you get 3". When your armhole measures 3" begin shaping the neck.

It looks like you’ve been doing a good job the way you’ve been doing it. If you really want to get some great information the Vogue Knitting Ultimate Knitting Book is a great resource.

Good Luck!

Thank you so much for such a detailed response! You gave me some great info. I am still a bit confused on the sleeve shaping… like you said it is complicated! I was actually just working on shaping the sleeve for the purple lace sweater I showed and I thought I had it long enough and tried to sew it on and nope, it’s not long enough! So now I have to take it apart and add a few more inches. Is there a way to measure to know if I have enough? Maybe measure from raglan seam around to the other raglan seam then measure around the armhole? Would it also work if I just picked up stitches all around the armhole and then knit the sleeve from the top down and decreased along the way making sure I calculate how many inches it should be at the wrist? Would that work?
My big problem is that my daughter is only 10 months and I am knitting sweaters for her for when she is 2 and 3 so she won’t grow out of them so fast. I can’t measure her and I only have a couple of shirts in size 2 to measure that I borrowed from my niece who is 2.
Thanks for the info and I will definitely look up that book as I really enjoy being able to make something unique. By the way, you’re not too far from me. I’m in Rhode Island and I lived in Boston for 4 years when I went to college not too long ago. I haven’t seen many people from around here on the site. Thanks again!