First major milestone reached, the back is finished; and the back shoulder straps too, which consist of an inch of “rig and fur”, aka ridge and furrow (as the P2 K2 pattern is said to resemble the ridges of a ploughed field – a disappointingly agricultural metaphor for a nautical garment, I’ve always thought).
So overall, the sleeve is 9.5 inches from when I stopped the gusset to the point when the shoulders will join, maybe a little more if it stretches. If the gansey turns out to be a bit baggy across the chest, with dropped sleeves there’s always a danger the sleeves will sag a bit; if it’s tight, they might pinch under the arms. But there – sleeves are always a lottery.
Traditionally, the rule of thumb was to reserve about a third of the total stitches for the neck, apparently; but I find that can make for a very wide neck, too wide for me, so I stick to no more than 8 inches, give or take. (This is probably because I tend to knit bigger ganseys than traditionally was the case, I think.)
The technique I use for knitting the shoulder straps is to keep knitting back and forth across the whole width, then, when you’ve reached the point when you break for the neck, stop. Place the stitches for the back of the neck on a holder (or in my case, on some more of that handy green conifer gansey yarn left over from my last pullover). Start knitting the right shoulder strap back and forth on double-pointed needles in the “rig and fur”, and leave the stitches for the left shoulder on the same circular needle you knitted the back with for now.
When you’ve finished the right shoulder, put those stitches on another holder (i.e., yet more of that leftover yarn) and start working the left shoulder back and forth on double-pointed needles in the same way. Finally, when you reach the end of the left shoulder, put those stitches on a holder too and tuck the whole back inside the body out of the way for now, and turn your attention to finishing the front.
Getting to the shoulder straps gives you a real sense of accomplishment, like adding a steeple to a church tower. Then you’re brought sickeningly down to earth by having to start all over again on the other side…