The Incredible, Custom-fit Raglan Sweater

The Incredible, Custom-fit Raglan Sweater

A simple, fill-in-the-blanks method for making the incredible, custom-fit raglan–the sweater that is knit from the neck down in one piece, to fit anybody!

By Pamela Costello, St. Paul, Minnesota,


The incredible, custom-fit raglan is a sweater knit from the neck down in a single piece on circular needles, and it can be made to fit any size from infant to adult. It can be easily adapted to become a cardigan, crew-neck or V-neck. It can be made in any weight of yarn, using any stitch or color pattern that you desire.

This form of raglan sweater is not my original idea. I first learned of it by reading an article in Threads (“The Magic Raglan,” April, 1988, pp.28-29) written by Jean Dickinson. She, in turn, got the idea from Ida Riley Duncan’s The Complete Book of Progressive Knitting (Liveright: 1966, 1961, 1940). What I have done is express it in my own words and present it in the form of a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet. I have also added a table of estimated measurements and yarn quantities. This worksheet evolved from the several classes I taught on knitting this nifty sweater.

This worksheet will take you through the steps required to design and knit the custom-fit raglan. All you need to design a sweater is this worksheet, a pencil, a calculator, and a measuring tape. Just fill in the blanks and use your calculator to make a few simple calculations. This is not your typical knitting pattern. It is more of an unpattern–instructions for the knitter who yearns to break free from the constraints imposed by the traditional knitting pattern.


The materials needed to design and knit this sweater are:

  • Desired yarn, in amount needed (this is discussed below)
  • Circular needles, 16″ and 29″ lengths, in size appropriate for the yarn (If desired, you can also get circular needles that are two sizes smaller for the ribbing)
  • 2 markers in one color (marker A), and 4 markers in another color (marker B)
  • 2 Stitch holders (optional–you could use a piece of yarn)
  • Measuring tape
  • Calculator
  • Pencil for filling in blanks in worksheet

What kind of yarn?

This is your sweater, so choose any yarn you darn well please! Any weight, color, or fiber may be used. Multiple colors may be used in any combination. Whatever you choose, it is recommended that you don’t be a cheapskate when it comes to yarn! You are investing lots of your valuable time in your sweater, and it doesn’t make sense to spent dozens of hours on a sweater that looks cheap or wears poorly.

How much yarn?

It is impossible to calculate in advance the exact amount of yarn needed. There are simply too many variables in your knitting and in the yarn itself to make an exact calculation. However, you can make a rough estimate that will help in deciding how much yarn to buy, either by using a chart that your yarnery salesperson should have, or by using the chart that follows. In any case, always buy one more skein than you think you need, and carefully save the receipt so you can return any extra full skeins.

This chart also gives approximations of the raglan measurements for each standard size. This is provided in case it is impossible to actually measure the intended recipient of the sweater. Since people come in all different shapes, you can achieve a better custom fit by using actual measurements instead of this chart.

Standard Raglan Measurements (inches) and Yarn (yards)
chest neck raglan sleeve wrist body
2 21 9 7 8 5 6 320 370 450
4 23 9.5 8 9 5.5 7 420 500 600
6 25.5 10 8.5 10 5.5 8 510 620 750
8 27 11 9 11.5 6 9.5 620 750 900
10 28 12 10 13 6 11 660 800 960
12 30 13 10.5 14.5 7 13 790 950 1140
32 13.5 11 16 7 13.5 830 1000 1200
34 14 11.5 16.5 7 14 910 1100 1320
36 14.5 12 17 7.5 14.5 1040 1250 1500
38 15 13 17.5 7.5 15 1080 1300 1560
40 15.5 14 18 8 15.5 1120 1350 1620
42 16 15 18.5 8 16 1200 1450 1740
44 16.5 16 19 8.5 16.5 1250 1500 1800
46 17 17 19.5 8.5 17 1290 1550 1860
48 17.5 18 20 8.5 17.5 1370 1650 1980
50 18 19 20.5 9 18 1400 1700 2040
52 18.5 20 21 9.5 18.5 1500 1800 2160


The following measurements are needed:

Neck-size:_______ (measure snugly around the neck, or use an appropriate man’s collar size)

Raglan-length:_______ (measure raglan from collar to underarm, or measure a well-liked raglan sweater or sweatshirt)

Body-length:_______ (measure from underarm to desired length of sweater)

Sleeve-length:_______ (measure from underarm to desired length of sleeve)

Wrist-size:_______ (measure snugly around the wrist)

Determining gauge

Cast on twenty stitches and work in your desired stitch for about 4 inches. Carefully measure the width of your swatch. Calculate the gauge as the number of stitches divided by the width of your swatch, rounding your answer to two decimal places:

Gauge:_______ = 20 ÷ width-of-swatch:_______

Calculating the stitches around the neck

The next step is to calculate the number of stitches around neck and divide the total stitches into portions for the front and back, and for each sleeve. In these calculations, round any fractional number to the nearest number of whole stitches.

The total number of stitches is the gauge times the neck size:

Total-neck-stitches:_______ = gauge:_______ × neck-size:_______

Now divide the total up into segments:

Back-stitches:_______ = total-neck-stitches:_______ × 0.33

Sleeve-stitches:_______ = back-stitches:_______ × 0.25

Increase-stitches: 8 (this is a fixed number)

The front then gets the remainder of the stitches, which is calculated as the total stitches minus the sum of the back, two sleeves, and the 8 increase stitches:

Front-stitches:_______ = total-neck-stitches:_______ –

(back-stitches:_______ + sleeve-stitches:_______ + sleeve-stitches:_______ + 8)

After making these calculations, go back and verify that the front has more stitches than the back. If this isn’t so, move some stitches from the back to the front so that this condition is met.

The front of the neck is then divided into three parts. The right and left side of the front each get a quarter of the front stitches, and the center gets the remaining half:

Right-front-stitches:_______ = front-stitches:_______ x 0.25

Left-front-stitches:_______ = front-stitches:_______ x 0.25

Center-front-stitches:_______ = front-stitches:_______ –

(right-front-stitches:_______ + left-front-stitches:_______)

Casting on

The most complicated part of the raglan is the neck. Once you get past this part, the rest is a breeze!

If you were to simply cast on the total neck stitches in a circle, you would not be able to get the completed sweater over your head! This problem is solved by having the front of the neck dropped. To achieve this, the neck is knit as an incomplete circle, increasing one stitch on each end every other row until half of the front stitches have been added. The remaining front stitches are then cast on to complete the circle.

The four markers of the same color (called B) are used to separate the front, sleeves and back. The two markers of the other color (called A) are used to keep track of the increases of the front stitches.

The following diagram illustrates how the neck is cast on and the positioning of the markers:

                                 back-stitches + 2

                               B ----------------- B
                             /                       \
      sleeve-stitches + 2   /                         \  sleeve-stitches + 2
                           /                           \
                          B                             B
     one increase-stitch  |         RAGLAN NECK         |  one increase-stitch
                          A                             A
                          --                           --
     right-front-stitches   --                       --  left-front-stitches
                              --                   --

The neck is cast on in this order, using the larger needles:

  • 1 stitch (to build the right side of the neck front)
  • Marker A
  • 1 stitch (increase stitch)
  • Marker B
  • Sleeve-stitches:_______ + 2 increase stitches = _______
  • Marker B
  • Back-stitches:_______ + 2 increase stitches = _______
  • Marker B
  • Sleeve-stitches:_______ + 2 increase stitches = _______
  • Marker B
  • 1 stitch (increase stitch)
  • Marker A
  • 1 stitch (to build the left side of the neck front)


Now the fun part at last!

Working back and forth, increase before and after each B marker on every right side row. At the same time, increase at the beginning and end of every right side row until all the right-front and left-front neck stitches are added. The center-front stitches are then cast on all at once, completing the circle.

At this point, you may remove the two A markers and continue knitting, always increasing before and after each marker B on every other row. When the raglan equals the raglan measurement, slip the sleeve stitches on to a holder (or a piece of yarn) and remove the B markers. Add one inch of stitches under the arm. Continue knitting a straight tube (or decrease two stitches under the arms every inch or so for a more tightly-fitted sweater) until the desired body length is reached. On the final row before the ribbing, K9,K2tog. Add ribbing of your choice on smaller needles.

Slip the sleeve stitches on 16″ needles. Pick up the added stitches under the arm and knit the sleeve. Decrease one stitch at the beginning and end of the round every inch or so. Work sleeves until sleeve length (less ribbing width) is reached. On the last row, decrease to the number of stitches calculated as follows:

cuff-stitches:_______ = gauge:_______ × wrist-size:_______

Switch to smaller needles and work cuffs.

Pick up every stitch along the neck edge using smaller needles and work neck ribbing.

That’s all there is to it!

Color Variations

Let your imagination go wild! Horizontal stripes work particularly well on this type of raglan, because the stripes automatically line up across the raglan. This presents an ideal opportunity to use up yarn left over from other projects. Just make sure that all the yarn knits to about the same gauge.

Making a V-neck

To knit your raglan with a V-neck, cast on as for a crew neck, but work the neck front differently. Instead of increasing the front every other row, increase at the beginning and end of every 4 to 6 rows until all the front stitches have been added. Join and continue knitting as for a crew neck.

Making a cardigan

There are two methods for making a raglan into a cardigan:

  1. Add 6 extra stitches to the center-front of the neck when you complete the neck shaping and join. Work these 6 stitches in a seed stitch (row 1: K1P1, rep 2 times, row2: P1K1, rep 2 times, rep these two rows) to form a steek down the front of the sweater. Continue the steek all the way down through the ribbing. After the knitting is complete, sew on either side of the center of the steek with a sewing machine using a straight stitch. Then cut between the sewing lines. Fold the steek to the inside and sew it down with yarn. Add a button band, as desired.
  2. Do not join after neck is complete, but continue to work back and forth for the entire sweater, thus leaving the front open. Add button band as desired.

2 Replies to “The Incredible, Custom-fit Raglan Sweater”

  1. sigh…Jaja tak reti nak knit lagi; kalau dah pro mmg Jaja ikut petua ni & knit satu sweater for myself for a start. insyaAllah one day, insyaAllah… 🙂

    1. Heheh.. saya ada baca pengalaman Jaja mengait Knitting.. soooooo cutee!! Usually, bila dah pandai crochet, knitting pun boleh sudah.. Jaja mesti cuba tau! Memang addicted. Yes yes.. Jaja.. raglan ni memang sangat sesuai kalau nak buat sweater yang cepat cantik dan yang paling best tu.. tak perlu nak sew seam 🙂 boleh guna cricular needle sahaja dari awal sampai habis kait. And all parts are seamless.. Jaja mesti cuba ok? Ganbatte ne!

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