Shoulder and neck shaping

Bind off 6 sts at beg of next 4 (2, 2) rows, 7 sts at beg of next 2 (4, 4) rows. Bind off rem 18 (20, 22) sts for back neck.

Some patterns with straight shoulders tell you to bind off all the stitches on the last row of the back piece and don't distinguish shoulder stitches from back-neck stitches. If the instructions don't give specific numbers for shoulder stitches, look at the final line in the instructions for the front. There you should be able to find the number of stitches remaining for each shoulder after you've worked the neckline shaping.

Sometimes the shoulder and neck shaping are separated, with the shoulder shaping coming first and the neck shaping later. Simply follow the instructions as they're given, and you'll be fine.

At this point, you've completed your sweater back. You're a quarter of the way to a finished sweater, and you have a useful tool — a very accurate gauge swatch. Block the back (see Chapter 16) and have it at the ready in case you need to measure the gauge one more time.

Sloping the shoulders

If your pattern is designed with a straight shoulder and you want it to angle up slightly from shoulder edge to neck, changing your pattern is easy. Instead of binding off all the shoulder stitches at once, bind off several groups of stitches over several rows in stair-step fashion.

For an average gauge of 4 to 6 stitches an inch, three steps make a good slope. Divide the number of stitches for one shoulder by three to determine how many stitches to bind off for each shoulder step. If the number of stitches in the shoulder isn't evenly divisible by three, make the first two steps the same number of stitches and the third step at the neckline the odd one.

On a piece of graph paper, mark off enough squares in a horizontal line to represent the right shoulder and fill in the steps. (If you have enough room on your graph paper, map out enough squares to represent the back neck and both shoulders, too.) See the accompanying figure.

Original shoulder bind off

When you reach the shoulder and are ready to bind off, with the right side facing, bind off the number of stitches for the first "step" at the beginning of the next 2 rows. Then bind off the number of stitches for the second step at the beginning of the next 2 rows. Then bind off the remaining shoulder stitches at the beginning of the next 2 rows. Finally, bind off the back neck stitches.

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