Wednesday, 10 September 2014

From Swatches to Sleeves

Left: pattern gauge
Right: my gauge
The Belcarra Cardigan is worked from the bottom up, starting with the back panel which then widens to incorporate the sleeves.

The 'step' method of increasing is used to shape the sleeves.

This post shows the 'step' method and discusses the use of 'extended' stitches.

Back panel & start of sleeves (42 rows)

The story so far:
  1. I crocheted swatches and decided upon my own gauge which, as you can see from the photograph (top left) has bigger stitches than the original pattern.
  2. Because my gauge was different, with larger stitches, I needed fewer stitches and rows to make the back panel the same size as the pattern schematic. (Yippee..quicker to make!)

The original pattern required approximately 48 rows of 91 stitches for the back.
At my tension it took only 40 rows of 77 sts/row.

Yellow ring marker divides two sections:
Back (40 rows)
Sleeves (2 rows)
Viewed from right side (RS) of garment

Shaping the sleeves

The sleeve rows are longer (wider) than the back panel therefore the first row of the sleeve shaping is an increase row.

This increase row is worked on the wrong side (WS) but my photographs were only taken from the right side (RS)! This pattern is symmetrical so it shouldn't matter for illustration purposes.  I hope there is no confusion because of it. Please let me know if my explanations or diagrams are unclear.

The basic increasing method used by Robyn Chachula in this pattern is to add a chain length either side of the back panel and then work into those chains for the new row.

Follow the steps from 1 to 4 below:
Increase by adding chains either side of the back section
These example figures are from the original pattern's smallest size

Here's how to do the first two rows of the sleeve shaping (after ending the back section on a RS row):
  1. (White text on photo) Continue with a chain stitch for every extra stitch that you need plus the turning chain; e.g., an increase of 16 sts requires 17 chains (16 sts + 1 turning chain for dc sts). Secure the chain with a stitch marker.
  2. (White) On the opposite end of the back's last row, at the top of the first stitch, join a new length of yarn with a slip stitch.
    Crochet a chain (ch) stitch  for every extra stitch that you need.
    The slip stitch does not count as a stitch; e.g., an increase of 16 stitches requires 16 chains. The extra 16 stitches will be worked across and into these chains.
    Fasten off this new yarn. Its job is done.
  3. (Yellow) With WS facing, return to the main working yarn, remove the stitch marker from the end of that chain and begin working the first row of the sleeves.
    In this pattern, it is a dc (sc US) height row which needs only a single turning chain so begin working from the second chain from your hook (the first chain from the hook is the turning chain).
    Work across the first row of chains, the back section and the last row of chains.
  4. (Blue) Turn and work the second row of the sleeves according to the pattern. This RS row will be tr (dc US) height.
Increase by adding chains either side of the back section
These example figures are from the original pattern's smallest size

My figures are different to the example above due to a different gauge:

There are three increase rows in this pattern to shape the first part of the sleeves. (Rows 1, 3 and 5 of the sleeve shaping section).

Making chains to extend the foundation of each increase row is known as the
"Step Method" of increasing because it creates a stepped shape.

Step increasing at the beginning of a row

Work one chain for each stitch to be added plus the number of stitches for the turning chain. (This is explained and illustrated above in Steps 1 & 3 of how to crochet the first two rows of sleeve shaping.)
Turn, and work the extra stitches into the chain and then continue on along the pre-existing previous row.
For example, to add 12 new double crochet stitches (AUS/UK) [sc US] to the beginning of the row, (if necessary join new yarn to the top of the first stitch of the row,) work 13 chain (12 sts + 1 turning ch).

Step Increasing Without Joining New Yarn

In the Belcarra Cardigan pattern, the first increases of the row did not need new yarn because the extra foundation chains were continued on from the previous row; however, the last increases of the row required a new length of yarn to create the extra foundation chains at the end.

If you do not want to join in and fasten off new lengths of yarn every time, the increases can be achieved with extended stitches.

An extended stitch is just like a regular stitch but with an extra 'extension' at the bottom. They can be worked into any other stitch to create a stitch that is a little longer than usual; e.g. an extended treble st will be slightly longer than a regular treble but not quite as tall as a double treble.

Size comparison: extended vs. regular stitches
This photo shows where extended stitches fit into the
scheme of stitch heights (Australian/UK terms*).

Extended stitches are also used and known as 'foundation stitches'.  The latter name is gaining popularity, particularly in American publications, because they are so useful in foundation rows due to their ability to stretch.

Use extended stitches to increase at the end of a row

When used to create an increase, the 'extension' plays the role of the foundation chain stitch. Instead of working a foundation chain first and then working a row of stitches into that foundation chain, one can work a row of extended stitches without a foundation chain. 

Think of an extended stitch as a foundation chain stitch and a regular stitch combined in one action. 

Step increase using extended double crochet (ext dc)
A row of 10 dc stitches is increased by 1 with an ext dc to make a total of 

11 stitches in the row. (Australian/UK terms*)

Step increase of 4 extended double crochet stitches
1 row of 10 dc + 4 ext dc = 1 row of 14 stitches
(Australian/UK terms*)

How to make an extended stitch to increase at the end of a row

  1. Wrap the yarn around the hook the same number of times as for the regular stitch;e.g. if working in treble (AUS/UK) [dc US] one normally wraps the yarn round the hook (yrh) once before inserting the hook into the work.
  2. Insert the hook into the same place as the last stitch, yrh, pull through a loop.
  3. Then, yrh, pull through the first loop on the hook. This is the stitch extension made.
  4. Complete the stitch in the usual way by pulling the yrh through two loops until one loop is remaining on the hook.
This method works for stitches of all heights. Use an extended stitch for each extra stitch required. 

Step increase using extended treble crochet  (ext tr)
A row of 10 stitches is increased by 4 ext tr for a total of 14 sts in the row.
(Australian/UK terms*)

In hindsight, I could have chosen this method for the increase rows of the sleeve shaping.

Once the three increase rows were complete, I could work evenly for a while from cuff to cuff across each row, until the neck shaping at (my) Row 60 ['Shape Right Neck' in original pattern].

Sleeve shaping and beginning of neck shaping (up to Row 69)
A new skein is joined in on the right sleeve.
White markers indicate the last stitch of each row.
Blue markers indicate the back panel width and top edge of sleeves.


ch = chain
dc = double crochet (AUS/UK)
ext dc or ex dc = extended double crochet (AUS/UK)
ext tr or ex tr = extended treble crochet (AUS/UK)
fch = foundation chain
fdc = foundation double crochet (AUS/UK)
fsc = foundation single crochet (USA)
RS = right side
sc = single crochet (USA)
st(s) = stitch(es)
tr = treble crochet (AUS/UK)
WS = wrong side
yrh = yarn round hook

extended stitch: a combination stitch which combines a chain and a stitch together (e.g., ex dc); also used as a 'foundation stitch'; e.g. foundation double crochet (fdc), foundation treble crochet (ftr) (Australian terms)

foundation stitches:  the first stitches made in a project. Like the foundations of a building, foundation stitches are the starting point of a project; usually a starting chain (also known as a foundation chain) or a ring but can also be a 'foundation row' which is taller than a chain and made of extended stitches. 

*Stitch Equivalents (AUS/UK–USA)

(AUS/UK) = (USA)
dc  = sc 
ex dc = esc 
fdc = fsc 
tr  = dc 

Links & References

Barnden, Betty, Super Finishing Techniques for Crocheters: inspiration, projects and more for finishing crochet patterns with style, first edition, ISBN-13: 978-0-312-57049-1, St. Martin's Griffin,, New York, August 2009.

This book contains general instructions on the "step increase" method; step increasing at the beginning of a row by making a chain; step increasing at the end of a row with extended stitches.

Chan, Doris, Crochet Lace Innovations: 22 Dazzling Designs in Broomstick, Hairpin, Tunisian and Exploded Lace, first edition, ISBN 978-0-307-46382-1, Potter Craft,, imprint of Crown Publishing Group,, New York, USA, 2010.

Doris Chan's book is not just a series of patterns but a detailed explanation of the theory behind her designs and construction. Patterns are presented in a graduated order according to technique.

Doris Chan distinguishes between the 'extended single crochet' (esc) and the 'foundation single crochet' (fsc)–esc stitches are worked across other stitches but the fsc stitches are made on their own either as a foundation row or after completing a stitch. Doris has variations of where to insert the hook for each fsc, and suggests that fsc stitches are useful for joining the underarm of a seamless garment.

Crochet Me, website, Interweave:

Interweave Crochet, magazine, Interweave:


  1. It really starts to look like a jumper now! Wow! :-)

    Take care

  2. Hi Jodie,

    This is amazing, your cardigan is taking shape before our eyes! It's looking great!
    Well done!!!
    Ingrid xx

  3. Thank you both for your encouragement, Anne & Ingrid. I am eager to wear it. As mentioned in an early post, the stitch pattern is very easy to follow so I can work on it wherever I am without needing the pattern instructions and it grows quickly as you can see.
    I hope you are having equal success with your projects. I am coming to visit your blogs now to take a peek!