Stranded Knitting: Post 16, Centering Motifs



Centering Motifs (sleeves)

You know the instructions… “pick up x numbers of stitches around the armhole for the sleeve and work chart Y” or “cast on x number of stitches for the sleeve, work the rib, increase x number of stitches and work chart Y.”


If you are lucky, your designer has added “…work chart Y, beginning at stitch N”….which will center the main motif down the sleeve. If you are unlucky, you are expected to figure this out for yourself.


Here is a brief look at what I do…

Let’s say the main motif has a 16 st repeat. Here is a chart with two repeats of our fantasy motif.

For top down or rib up sleeves, you will need to mark the center stitch. Decide whether you want stitch 1(or 17, which is really the first stitch or stitch 1 of the second repeat) (the center of the ‘X’ of the OXO pattern) or stitch 9 (or 25, the second stitch 9) (the center of the ‘O’) to be your center stitch.

Then count in groups of 16 (which in our case is the stitch repeat) from your center stitch back to the beginning of the round counting your chosen central stitch as stitch 1.

What you are trying to get to is the number of stitches that do not make it into a group of 16.


For a top down sleeve, say your pattern told you to pick up 206 stitches. Your stitches should lay out like this…central underarm stitch, 102 sts on one side, central shoulder st, 102 sts on the other side.

If you count back by 16’s from the central shoulder stitch to the central underarm stitch...and including the central shoulder stitch, you should get 6 groups (96 sts) with 7 stitches left over, not counting the central underarm stitch.


The central underarm stitch should remain neutral and is usually worked in the background shade. It is on either side of this stitch that you make the decreases to shape the sleeve.


Now, if you choose stitch 9 as your central stitch, counting back from stitch 9 for 7 stitches (including stitch 9), you get stitch 3. You should begin your round with the central underarm stitch in the background shade as discussed, then stitch 3 and repeat the chart stitches as usual. Then the ‘O’ will be centered down the outside of your sleeve with stitch 9 as the central shoulder stitch.


If you choose stitch 1 (or 17) as your central stitch, counting back from stitch 17 (because it is easier than counting from stitch 1) for 7 stitches, you get stitch 11. After the underarm stitch, you should begin your round with stitch 11 and the ‘X’ will be centered down the outside of your sleeve.

For a rib up sleeve, say your pattern told you to cast on 62 stitches, work the rib, then increase to 68 stitches. Your stitches should lay out like this…central underside stitch, 33 sts on one side, central top st, 33 sts on the other side.


Similar to the top down version, the central underside stitch should remain neutral and worked in the background shade. It is on either side of this stitch that you make the increases to shape the sleeve.


Starting with the central top stitch and counting back to the beginning of the round as before...and also as before, the underside stitch remaining neutral.


After working as above, if you start with stitch 9 for a centered ‘O’, you will begin your round with the center underarm stitch, then stitch 8. If you start with stitch 16 for a centered "X", start with stitch 16.

An added bonus for checking yourself, the stitches on either side of the central underarm stitch and the central shoulder stitch should be mirror images.


I hope that was all clear. Sometimes it is not so clear for me. In those cases, I end up drawing something like this for the top down example...


(Just for the record, in my patterns, I try to either figure this out for you ...which means i draw alot of these chicken scratch things...and tell you which stitch to start with…or I explain how to do figure it out for yourself.)


As I am sure you have realized, there are plenty of opportunities to use your centering super powers when working on different types of garments. I chose “sleeves” for this series just to give you the basics of centering. A broader discussion of making sure your motifs are placed where you want them is best left for a series on designing stranded garments.


I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch.


Next time: Casting off and Weaving in ends.


We're getting close to the end, people!




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