Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fit to Flatter - or everything you know is wrong

One of the great joys of my vacation was the opportunity to take Amy Herzog's Fit to Flatter class. What a terrific learning experience! Here I am with the rest of the class at Purl Diva in Brunswick, ME.

Amy (shown here in Arm Candy, a sweater of her own design) contends that every woman struggles with her figure - not just us amples - and that we can create sweaters optimized for our particular shape (and lumpiness as the case may be). If you haven't heard about her amazing (and mega-cheap) tutorials, listen up. Amy's 10-part series of online classes teach you in a supportive and comforting way about your body and how you can best attire it. The series starts with this introduction:

This series is not about making you feel badly about what you have already knit. It is not about making you feel badly about your shape or about making you feel like you can only knit certain things, in certain yarns. In writing these tutorials, I want to help you learn basic principles for dressing the figure you have in the most flattering way possible.

Every person reading these words has fabulous assets to show off. And I’d wager that every single one of you has a thing or two that you wish would disappear forever. The fact is this: Though exercise offers a plethora of benefits, it won’t change your fundamental shape. And wearing clothes flattering to your inherent shape will do more to change the way you feel about your body than losing weight or gaining muscle will.

As knitters, we have the ultimate power to create a piece of couture perfectly suited to our figures every single time. Your hand-knits should make you look and feel like a million bucks, and not just because of the skill required to form the stitches. I want to help you get there.
I want her to help get me there, too! So we drove from Maryland to Maine for the class. The class started with a quasi-excruciating exercise: getting photographed. Amy took photos of each class participant so that we could analzye our particular figures. Here are mine:

The goal is to discover your widest point and then use that information to figure out what works best to show off your particular assets. People tend to be top-heavy, bottom-heavy, or proportional; another dimension is curvy or straight. I drove all the way to Maine for Amy to tell me what I couldn't quite figure out for myself: I'm bottom-heavy, busty, and curvy. YES. That's it exactly. And looking at these pictures, I see that my mother was right: I am indeed short-waisted.

Given this, the objective is to create sweaters that balance your widest part with the rest of your body. So, what does this mean for me? Here's what Amy suggested:

Shorten my sweaters by four to six inches. WTF? Really? Hey, I need to cover my belly! I need to hide my shape! Wrong. The answer is to stop the sweater ABOVE your largest dimension (for bottom-heavy women anyway). This means that I don't need to make everything 32-inches long. Instead, my sweaters should be 26 inches long in the front and 27 inches long in the back (I need to do one inch of short rows to give me a slightly longer back so that I'm not perpetually pulling down my sweaters - see my recent short rows entry to learn more).

I wish I had better pictures to work with, but this is the best I can do. Here are two sweaters I made in the past year, the Augusta and Diamond Yoke cardigans. Note that I'm 50 pounds thinner in the green sweater than the pink. Regardless, the pink sweater definitely shows off my waistline better because it's shorter and because it's buttoned at the waist. I am lucky to have a waist and I should show it off (no matter how much this makes me cringe). And in both cases, I need to lose the baggy shirt underneath - very unbecoming. Instead, I should wear a more form-fitting shirt  that's longer. The shirt and slacks should be the same color. Amy gave me this hint but only after loyal-reader Teresa said the same thing. Thanks, Teresa!

Make sweaters with elbow-length sleeves to emphasize the waist. Long sleeves that line up with the garment ribbing tend to underscore that horizontal line. The goal is to break it up. Elbow-length sleeves stop the horizontal line at my narrowest part, my waist. If I need warmer sleeves, I should wear a long-sleeve tee underneath. I'm still going to make long-sleeved sweaters from time to time, but I definitely want to make some shorter-sleeved garments. Great for hot flash sufferers, too!

Create sweaters with visual interest at the top of the garment. Having designs around the neckline and shoulders are more becoming on me than having the same designs at the hips. Therefore, round-yoke, fair isle garments look great because they balance out my top and bottom. Thank goodness since I spent all that time making the Handstrikket!

Avoid sweaters that have patterning at the bottom. This means I can't wear anything around the hem, including ribbing, lace edging, fair isle, etc. It's just not attractive on my hippy form.

Conclusions. So, where has all this left me? With a dysfunctional Melrose Peacoat, for one. On vacation, I finished the back and sleeves, but after the class I decided to gut the back. I cut the bottom of the sweater off and am reknitting it so that it will be 27 inches long instead of the 33 inches I had originally knit. I'm going to leave the long sleeves but I'm now contemplating the front. Amy thinks I should avoid the double breasted look with the overlapping heavy fabric and all the buttons. I'm thinking about either using the seed stitch center panel and making it button down the middle or knitting it as it was designed with a one-inch placket on one side so I don't have the overlap. Or perhaps just making a classic cardigan with narrow seed-stitch-bordered center fronts and being done with it. It's a muddle. I'm not sure how to proceed but I'm confident that I wouldn't be happy with the Melrose Peacoat on my particular form. A shame because I really like it.

And where does this leave you? This is what works for my particular lumpiness, but if you're not shaped exactly like me, none of this will help you. You need to figure out YOUR figure. I highly recommend Amy's Fit to Flatter series, and if you can get to Maine or Massachusetts to take her class, GO. You won't be disappointed.

To learn more about this particular class, read Amy's blog post. She's also teaching more classes, including one that explains how to make pattern modifications to best fit your figure - woo hoo! I would love to take this one. To learn more, check out Amy's teaching schedule.


  1. So it really helped? Thats great. I want to buy the online tutorial, though I have read it. I really wish Amy would come to California to give a class. I am glad she gave you that advice about the sweater length. The Margot I am making from Knitty does not entirely cover my stomach. Sleeves are only below the elbow. Its fun to learn new things!

  2. Hello, Julie!
    The delightful lady who works in the fabric store near me told me about your blog. WOW!
    How amazing that you have found some answers on how to fit us ladies of larger size.
    I had to chuckle at the black and white pictures. How did you get my body??? I never had such a cute white blouse! All you would have to do is put an older and grayer head on the picture and that would be me!!! LOL!
    I haven't knit a sweater in years because it takes too long because they're so BIG! And half (well more than half!) the time they don't fit right when I'm finished. I do a lot of socks- with very loose ribbing. Chubby legs of course!
    Well, after reading your blog, I may just try again on a sweater.
    Thank you so much for giving me hope!
    I want to go back and read all the earlier posts when I get a chance.
    All your sweaters look so good on you!!!

  3. Hey Pat, glad you found the blog. Who told you about it? Kathy Zimmerman, I wonder?

    Listen, if I can make sweaters that fit, you can, too - especially if you share my lumpiness! I invite you to join the journey to knitting sweaters that fit. I'll share my experiences on this blog and encourage and help you in any way I can.

    Thanks for writing and reading!

  4. Been thinking about your coat. Well if it is the double breasted look you like I guess yr out of luck. If it is the double row of buttons you like, then maybe non-overlapping fronts with some gold coloured frog closures would retain the look.

  5. Thanks so much for reading my blog, Bhavana. I'm not sure what to do... I just read an article online about how asymmetrical openings don't fit well on ample figures. Ultimately, that's what a double-breasted garment is. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Thanks again... please keep coming back!

  6. So much great here !
    Whetting my appetite to purchase those pdf's.
    I read what you say re: the green cardigan vs the fit of the pink...At one time you were thinking of the Waterlilly Rib from Curvy knits.
    Now, after the fitting workshop, would you reconsider it?

    I like it, but I could never look good in it buttoned. You seem to be able to button up and look good. t_a

  7. I like the Waterlily but I'm so short waisted... the ribbing would definitely be directly under my boobs. If I could either get a breast lift or find a truly miraculous bra, I'd certainly consider it. Fit wise, it's probably where I should be heading, but it still makes me nervous.

    From our previous discussions, I think we're shaped very differently. Boxy, longer, open cardigans work well for you... they don't for me. They leave me with a pile of fabric at my waistline and wrap around and under my giant hips. I'm going to blog more about this, hopefully today.

    Thanks, as always, for the support, girl!

  8. you look a lot thinner and much more attractive in the pink sweater. seriously you look cute as a button!