How To Pick Up Stitches for the Raglan Sleeve and Avoid Holes in the Underarm


Happy Sunday, dear friends! Today I decided to show you my little trick that I use to avoid holes in the underarm when picking up stitches for the raglan sleeve. When I knit my first raglan, I religiously followed the pattern instructions, which said to pick up cast on stitches in the underarm and at the end to sew small holes. I did sew the holes, but every once in awhile the sewed in holes become holes again. I struggled a lot with them and thought there had to be a way to avoid these holes altogether and not bother closing them up after you are done knitting. After experimenting I came up with the solution that I now use every single time when knitting the raglan. It never failed me once! I hope you will find it helpful as well and will get rid of these pesky underarm holes once and for all.

At first let’s see what happens when you pick up stitches the “traditional” way. Usually when you divide the body and sleeves, you are instructed to cast on x number of stitches between the front and the back. For example, the instructions would look something like this:

Body and Sleeves Separating: Work front xxx sts to marker, remove marker, place xxx sleeve sts on waste yarn, cast on 6 sts, work back xxx sts to marker, remove marker,Β place xxx sleeve sts on waste yarn, cast on 6 sts, work front xxx sts.

When you are done with the body, you usually get back to the sleeves. This is how it looks like, more or less. You can see the little “knobs” on each of 6 cast on stitch.

How To Pick Up Stitches For Raglan Sleeve Without Holes

This what usually happens next, if you follow the instructions.

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Now let’s see how we can avoid it altogether. I am going to use the yarn in the contrasting color for demonstration purposes.

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We can’t just continue working in the round as usual, because we have 8 extra sts on the needles and it will drastically change the size of the sleeve. So, we need one more step before we can continue our sleeve as usual.

After you picked up all the stitches needed, continue knitting the first round:

How To Pick Up Stitches For Raglan Sleeve Without Holes

In order to come back to the instructed 6 underarm stitches, we need to decrease all the extra sts on the next round.

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Now let’s knit a couple of rounds and take a look at the underarm:

How To Pick Up Stitches For Raglan Sleeve Without Holes

Ta-daaam! No holes! And the number of sts is exactly the same as indicated in the pattern instructions! You can use this little trick with any raglan sleeve instructions. Important to remember: there is no certain rule how many extra sts need to be picked up. The number of picked up extra sts can vary – sometimes you need 4, sometimes 5, sometimes just 2 is enough. You will have to watch your fabric and see if all the holes/gaps are closed. And always decrease all the extra sts to come to the number of sleeve sts indicated in the pattern.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments!


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  1. I pick up extra stitches as well to avoid holes. Sometimes I even knit all the picked up stitches through the backloop in the first row, that seems to get them another tiny bit tighter. I do the same on socks when I pick up stitches for the gusset.

  2. Great tip – I usually add a couple of extra stitches but never thought it would work to pick up this many – no fear from now on!

    • I am glad you found it helpful, Terri! The main rule – there are no rules πŸ™‚ The main criteria is your fabric – if you like it, then you are doing everything right.

  3. Another one of your fabulous tutorials. Girl, you should get a medal for these!

  4. Very neat, and so well thought out! I tend to just weave in the ends by the underarm and sew up the small hole as I go. But this is definitely a more seamless version!

  5. stitches for the raglan sleeve , really cool idea, you did great job dear πŸ™‚

  6. Lovely simple trick, thank you for posting. I’d never thought to pick up so many extra stitches but it definitely does the job!

  7. You are a knitting genius!
    I’m knitting a raglan sweater right now but I had started the first sleeve. I haven’t done many rows but the holes are enormous, so I’ll go back and try your way.
    Thanks for another great tutorial dear πŸ˜€

  8. I concur with the other posters, you offer great tutorials, Alina. So clearly stated – even I understood this and I’m just a fledgling knitter. πŸ™‚

  9. your tutorial was extremely well written and very clear! I took a class on finishing many years ago, and the instructor pretty much said to ignore the instructions when it came to a certain number of stitches that ‘need’ to be picked up….you must pick up the number that YOU need to accommodate your gauge (row gauge in the case of raglan sleeves…) which may or may not be what the author got! The same goes for those pesky underarm stitches (or my personal nemesis—button bands!!!!); I must admit, I’ve never picked up quite the number that you do, although I always pick up more than what the pattern states, then, dec like you do. I think I just may add a couple more pick-up stitches next time I’m doing a sleeve….yours looks so very very tidy and secure. Thanks again for the tip…..and the beautifully illustrated instructions.

    • Thank you, Steph! Oh, I love it – “to ignore the instructions when it came to a certain number of stitches that β€˜need’ to be picked up”. I so agree!! It’s just impossible to predict 100% the fabric that the knitter will get, these numbers are more like guidelines, rather than strict instructions. I think it is also important to include in the pattern the instructions for picked up stitches such as “make sure that the number of picked up sts is divisible by x”, I think it is much more useful this way.

  10. I wish I had the time to knit, at least the time to learn how to knit well;)

  11. I need to read this again when I make my next sweater. I have this problem ALL the time and it drives me crazy. Thank you for posting!

  12. HA! Why have I never thought of doing this? I am actually starting a sleeve tonight, will totally be using this technique! Thank you.

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  14. Thanks for this. I am making my first raglan and have huge gaps under the arm. Which leads me to ask, why cast on those stitches to begin with. There’s a big gap anyway, why not pick up x stitches when you get to the sleeve?

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