Set-in Sleeve Calculator

A lace pullover for spring

Although raglan and yoke constructions (and even Elizabeth Zimmermann’s set-in model) are seamless, I regrettfully find them ill-fitting on my body. Like it or not, traditional set-in sleeves just fit me better. However, calculating the armhole and sleeve cap shape is time consuming and rather unwieldy for patterns with multiple sizes. This winter, I designed several garments for publication with set-in sleeves. I created an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the armscye measurement, the perimeter of the armhole. Still, the spreadsheet required tinkering here and there and was not a very good solution. When I explained my frustration to Aaron, he decided there had to be a better way. Using Jenna Wilson’s (girl from auntie) impeccably thorough armscye tutorial in Knitty as a guide,  he wrote a web application that would take in the necessary information regarding gauge and armhole shaping to produce meaningful information about sleeve cap shaping. 

The application can be found for free here.


It may seem complicated at first, but I think his Help! pop-ups explain the inputs pretty well. Here are some sample inputs, taken from the lace pullover shown above. 


By leaving the final output as the number of decreases and the number of rows remaining before the cap bind-off(s), the calculator provides the designer with enough freedom to play around with the curve of the sleeve by varying the rate of decreases. 

Set-in sleeve detail

I relied heavily upon Aaron’s calculator for this simple lace pullover. Although the body largely came to life during a fit of insomnia, the sleeves dragged on interminably in part because I ran out of yarn and needed to alternate between multiple skeins to hide the variation between dyelots. The yarn is yet more stash leftover from my Ivy League Vest, which called for far more yarn than was actually needed. 

Back view

Pattern: The vine lace stitch pattern is an easy 4-row repeat from Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns; the sleeve calculations came from Aaron’s armscye calculator 

Yarn: Harrisville Designs New England Shetland

Needles: US 8 (5.0 mm)

Side view

Since this was another stashbusting project, I’d say it was almost free! One thing is for sure: because I used a light sport weight (fingering, really) yarn on US 8 needles, the project required minimal yardage – only 570 yds for a finished bust of 36″ with 3/4-length sleeves!

 Set-in sleeve detail

This is the fifth garment I’ve knit using the calculator and every single sleeve cap has fit into its corresponding armhole flawlessly. Here are a few examples of the other garments:

Armhole details, using Aaron's armscye calculator

I hope others will find the calculator equally useful. 

Vine Lace Pullover

Perhaps it’s time to give set-in sleeves another go?

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44 comments so far

  1. barefootrooster on

    thanks for sharing this set in sleeve app. also, your lace pullover is gorgeous — and so wearable!

  2. mai on

    wow, elinor, that’s really awesome! thank you so much to you and aaron for providing that calculator for us. i love your new sweater!

  3. Susan on

    Seriously? I’m in awe. I think sleeves (and the tops of sweaters in general) are the reason I’ve never tried any serious designing – just hats and socks here and there.
    Way to go!

  4. beverlyanne on

    Amazing! I use Maggie Righetti’s formula for setting in sleeves with short row shaping directly from the armscye. But they don’t fit as perfectly as yours. Way to go Elinor and Aaron (and Jenna, who I’ve always admired).

  5. Lorette on

    Wow. That is just beautiful! Thanks for the work on the sleeve calculator. I also find that set in sleeves fit me better than anything else.

  6. paperdiva on

    very pretty Elinor! I want to make something like that :)

  7. Kristy on

    A knitter/husband team can come up with some pretty awesome things! Thank you both!

    The sweater is beautiful! It also looks like it would be very comfortable to wear.

  8. Clumsy Knitter on

    De-lurking to say thanks for the app! Also, your top looks great. That’s one of my favorite lace motifs. :)

  9. tiennie on

    That is a beautiful sweater on you! Wow! Wow also for the application! What a guy to program this for all of us to use. Thank you!

  10. kate on

    that calculator blew my mind. awesome.

    the sweater is gorgeous, too!

  11. knittinbrit on

    Thank you so much for sharing that sleeve calculator. I’m so excited to give it a try.

    It’s very generous of you!

  12. Chris on

    Which is more lovely – you or the sweater?! :) Thanks for the calculator!

  13. grumperina on

    That is such a brilliant idea! I’ll have to try out the program the next time I’m knitting set-in sleeves. The sweater looks gorgeous on you :).

  14. Bertha on

    Dude, thank you (and Aaron!) for sharing that app! So awesome! Also seriously, seriously love the sweater. It looks so lovely on you.

  15. kerry on

    Thank you for sharing this application with us and for free, no less! So kind! I look forward to using it on my next “set in” project.

  16. Claire on

    This is beautiful! I hope you share the pattern with us…and I want to try your calculator too.

  17. val on

    I just wanted to let you know there is a serious scam happening on crafting blogs on wordpress – i have just found out today my blog posts and pictures are being posted on this other site and i have now found your post on there too – please have a look for yourself – whomever is doing this is very sneeky and they have more than one url… anyway heres the link please look at it.

  18. val on

    oh my blog addy is incase you want to leave me a comment.

  19. Jackie on

    Wow! This may just be the most beautiful sweater I’ve seen in a long time. Thanks for sharing the link to the calculator.

  20. Monet on

    Elinor, I am obsessed with this sweater. You did such a beautiful job!

  21. Kellee on

    Oooooh! This is lovely!

    And I can NOT tell you how much I am in love with this calculator. It has ALREADY just fixed a problem I was having with recalculating the inset sleeves on my next project – which I always have to do to get a decent fit. Hooray! and thanks.

  22. ann on

    wow – very cool!
    thank you (and aaron!) for your hard work, and for sharing it!

  23. Liz K on

    This is the answer to my prayers. Set-in-sleeves are the most flattering for me as well, but I really struggle with the calculations. I can’t wait to use it!!!

  24. Diane on

    Beautiful sweater and thanks for the calculator. I’m going to give it a try.

  25. Rachel on

    HOORAY HOORAY HOORAY!!!! I’m SO glad that I won’t have to calculate all that stuff in my head anymore! Thanks SO much!

    Btw, that lace top you finished knitting is stunning. Thanks for the great idea. I’ve got some sock yarn that’s been languishing in my stash for far too long, and now I know exactly what I’m going to do with it!

  26. Alicia on

    Awesome! Lovely insomnia knitting ;)

  27. Sophie on

    This is soooo pretty! Thank you for sharing your tips and advice. I love it!

  28. Elinor on

    That lace sweater is gorgeous, first of all. And the sleeve cap calculator is all kinds of cool, but I’m not totally sure how to use it yet. I guess I’d have to do some designing of my own to understand it. Thanks for sharing!

  29. pamelaknits on

    New to your site. Found you via another knitting blog. Enjoying it!
    Hello Lawrence, Kansas.
    I’m a knitter from Lawrence…… at the Yarn Barn and have a very good friend that teaches classes there!

  30. lisa on

    Wow that is truly a beautiful sweater! So feminine too. Thanks for the calculator. I like set-in sleeves and this is always a chore for me as many patterns accommodate average sized arms while mine are “healthy sized” ones :)

  31. gleek on

    wow! this is such a great idea for a web app! thank you to your lovely husband :)

  32. Ann on

    The lace sweater is gorgeous & looks so good on you. It’s so amazing that a simple lace stitch can turn out such a gorgeous garment!

  33. [...] don’t think we’re ready for the Knitputer yet, do you? Unless it’s like this way to calculate set-in sleeves, that [...]

  34. mindy on

    What an awesome thing to share- thank you tons!!!

  35. Kelley on

    I love your lace sweater. It looks amazing. I like your blog and have read it for a while now…decided to say hello and again, fantastic job on the sweater.

  36. whitney on

    This is totally awesome…thanks so much for sharing! Your lace sweater looks fantastic.

  37. Beatriz on

    First time commenter…thank you and Aaron for putting together an armscye calculator. I really do prefer set-in sleeves and will likely take a class to wrap my head around the concept, shaping and numbers just to know what I’m trying to do. I’m bookmarking this calculator right now and appreciate your hard work!

  38. kristin on

    LOVE the sweater! it looks beautiful on you!thanks for the calculator too…think i’m going to take a break from my own stash knitting to try something like this : )

  39. nova on

    Oh, thanks for the application. Maybe I will give set-in sleeves a go.

  40. Brianna on

    Oh I like this, very much!

  41. Jenni on

    Oh my gosh! I’ve spent hours here in Colorado looking at pictures of B, hours being impressed with all you’ve knit and solved, and a husband who can solve knitting problems. I love it all. I better get the knitting group on my calendar again…..I need your inspiration. Totally impressed!!

  42. mel on

    I’ve been back here a few times, to read, then bookmark, and now finally to understand, and I can’t believe I haven’t left a comment yet. I’m attempting to wrap my brain around my first design w/ set-in sleeves. Many, many thanks to your husband for all his work and to you both for testing and sharing this – it’s invaluable, and incredibly generous. An awesome tool. THANK YOU!!!

  43. mary jane on

    Your husband is a god. Come to think of it you are a goddess for sharing, and such a pretty sweater.

  44. deep love on

    Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s new
    to me. Anyways, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll be
    book-marking and checking back often!

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