To review, I made my beloved boyfriend, Tom a sweater for Christmas. Despite my very best efforts, it ended up being huge. VERY HUGE. At least in places. Instead of reknitting it from scratch, I decided to alter it - despite the fact that every knitter I know thought I was absolutely nuts for trying. The only person who believed I was up to this task was Tom - who of course doesn't know a damn thing about knitting.
The photos below show the sweater prior to initial seaming. I should have known this sweater would be too big and too long. Look at the copious amounts of fabric in the back and the almost-tunic length.
Regardless, I kept going. Why? Because my boyfriend insisted that he MUST wear a 54-inch sweater even though we'd just bought him a 46 Long suit. He thinks he should be broader shouldered than 46 inches. I think I should wear a size 0 but all the magical thinking in the world doesn't make that happen, does it? I should have used my common sense. I should have known. My big guy isn't THAT big a guy (even if he is 6'4 and weighs 210 pounds).
So, with Christmas rapidly approaching, I finished the sweater, blocked it, and marveled at my work. You've got to admit, it's beautiful. Then I wrapped it up and hoped for the best.
Christmas morning, Tom opened his gift and dutifully tried on the fateful sweater. The good news: it fit his neckline just fine. The bad: it hung like a dress. The drop shoulders fell to his elbows. The fabric billowed in the back. The photo you see here has all the extraneous fabric pulled back and fastened with a double-pointed needle! This baby was HUGE.
Aargh... I needed a plan. The last thing I wanted to do was reknit the damn thing. God, anything but that!!! After lots of analysis and cogitation, I decided that I could alter this sweater. If the neckline hadn't fit, I'd have had to gut it. But grace of God, the neck fit just fine.
I could also alter this garment because it is a drop-sleeve sweater. The body is essentially two large rectangles attached at the shoulders with some neck shaping. The original design doesn't have armscyes (the curve put under the arms to eliminate the extraneous bunchy fabric that results from drop-shoulder sweaters) which made it much easier to alter.
So... here's how I rescued Tom's sweater:
1. I unraveled the seams and cut the sleeves off the body.
2. I realized (after a sage comment from a blog reader) that if I cut several inches off both sides of the body, that the sleeves would be too short. I cut off the sleeve ribbing, picked up the stitches, knit down two inches in plain stockinette, and then reknitted the ribbing. The photo below shows the altered sleeves.
3. Next, I shortened the sweater by cutting 1.5 inches above the ribbing, picking up the stitches, and then reknitting the ribbing.
4. Next up: fixing the width. Using black yarn, I basted in two inches on the sides of both the front and back. This represented where I would sew and steek the sweater.
5. Then I got an excellent suggestion from my own personal knitting guru, Kathy Zimmerman. She suggested I modify the bodice by making the sweater a partial drop sleeve. She recommended taking Tom's crossback measurement - the width between his shoulders - and then cutting the sweater to this measurement. This alteration makes the sweater hang better at the shoulders and eliminates some of the extraneous fabric underneath the arms. Brilliant idea. So I basted in another line on the upper back to match the width of his crossback measurement.
6. Using the sewing machine, I sewed along the black basting lines twice to ensure that the sweater pieces wouldn't unravel.
7. Then, holding my breath, I cut to the outside of the black basting line.
8. When I was finished, I had a resized sweater body. It looked better already.
9. At this point, I felt like I'd better hedge my bets, so I finished each side with a crochet chain stitch. Better safe than sorry. God forbid the thing unravels!
10. I then sewed the sleeves to the sweater and seamed up the sides. Moment of truth! For the hundreth time, I held my breath. Would it fit? Like a glove? The answer to this question is a very hearty YES!!!
11. I blocked the sweater, breathed a huge sigh of relief, and best of all, started on my Early Bird Special Cardigan.
As you can see, the biggest change in the fit is through the shoulders. The drop shoulders now fall to an appropriate length and the sleeves still fit perfectly. These alterations prove Kathy Zimmerman's theory that the secrets to a well-fitting sweater are the crossback and shoulders.
Now, all I can say is: WHEW. I'm glad it worked; I certainly could have failed miserably and ended up with a giant pile of completely usable yarn. I'm feel like I've earned a master degree in sweater alterations - and merited confidence, too. I hope you glean some wisdom from my fire drill. I hope I do, too. ;-)