Shoulder shaping is a brilliant solution to drooping and wrinkling sweaters. There is a common misconception that this shaping relates to shoulder slope, but it is really a hidden dart!
Shoulder Shaping: What It Does
Shoulder shaping might help if you have sloping shoulders, but what shoulder shaping really does is give a little additional shape to your armhole, and lift away that sagging bunch of fabric around your underarm. Want to see what it can do? While wearing a non-fitted garment (a tee shirt is usually excellent because they are basically shapeless), stand din front of a mirror and pinch up about three-quarters or an inch of fabric. As you do this, study what happens above your bust line, armhole, and the armhole. See how that excess fabric disappears or becomes less voluminous? You just created shoulder shaping and made a dart at your armhole, which translates throughout the upper portion of your garment.
There is the stair step method, which I do not recommend. It is a seaming nightmare, and causes excess bulk at a very visible place in your sweater.
I always do my shoulder shaping using short rows as I come to the last inch of my shoulder. You can use any of the short row methods, and it will interrupt patterning, but not in a really noticeable way. As a general rule, if given stair steps, use that to determine where to short row:
Short Rows: Working from the neck, work 14 stitches, short row, work back to neck. Work 7 stitches on the next row, short row, then work back to neck.
Pick up/Closing Short Rows (depending on method used): Work toward the shoulder either picking up the wraps or closing the short row.
Figuring Your Own Short Rows
I put my stitches on a stitch holder or waste yarn (WY) so that I can bind them off in a 3-needle bind off with the corresponding stitches of the other piece.
If no shaping is given, use this method to figure out how many stitches to work on each short row. The way I am showing this, an extra stitch is used in each short row. That way you can apply whatever method you prefer.
- Number of shoulder stitches.
- Number of rows in approximately one inch (gauge). Note, if you have a very small rows gauge (3 or 4 rows to an inch, you will likely need to do more than one inch).
- Divide number of rows (#2) in half for the number of short rows to execute.
- Divide number of stitches (#1) by short rows (#3).
If you get a non-whole number, you can work different numbers on one or more short row segments:
Shoulder Shaping: Another Way to Do It
You have probably seen ready-to-wear sweaters where the front shoulder is longer and there is no back shoulder shaping. The shoulder shaping can be shifted altogether to either the front or the back. The shaping is done over twice as many rows, so the number of stitches done in one segment is fewer.