Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lots of advice about sweater length

Thanks to everyone who commented on my previous post about my inability to find the just-right length for my sweaters. I received lots of advice:

Add short rows.

Many people wrote to suggest adding short rows to provide more room for the bust and belly without increasing the length of the sweaters. Amy - THE Amy of Fit to Flatter fame - writes, "You could probably get up to two inches of difference between the back and the front without too much trouble."

The goal is to insert extra fabric to make space for curves without adding overall length to the sweater. Check out Knotions Magazine's tutorial for more info; this illustrative photo comes from the tutorial.

The suggestion is to add an inch at the bustline and an inch at the front hips. This would let me make the sweater  27 inches, for example, in the back and 29 inches in the front.

I am thinking about adding an inch of short rows at the back hips to fix the way my sweaters always pitch upwards in the back. Most of this is because I have hyperlordosis, or a hypercurvature of the spine. It gives me a permanent bustle - lucky me! I'm thinking if I could add an inch in the back hips that it might move the back hem down where it belongs.

Make the sweater significantly wider.

Some folks urge additional ease. As Annie writes, "I think you need/want your sweaters as long as you've been making them. It's the clinginess at the bottom that causes Amy to think 'too long!' if you added maybe 6 more inches to the bottom back width, I believe you'd get the coverage you like and eliminate the clinginess." Jennifer agrees. She says her best-fitting sweater "skims my hips at the widest point and then goes straight down instead of hugging my hips all the way to the end."
Pat instead urges compromise. "I think the real problem starts when a sweater is long enough to start pulling in under our bellys and butts. Yeah, we just have to face the reality that compromise may be the only way to go," she says.

My response: I definitely HATE when a sweater clings under my butt and belly. This occurs especially with ribbed sweaters, so I make all my sweaters without the ribbing using hems instead. Regarding the ease, I'm making my two current sweaters a little bigger - not six inches, more like two or three - so we'll see if that helps. Here is a picture of me in the second sweater I made. I've lost 50 pounds since then, but I made this sweater to be bigger - and I'm afraid it makes me look bigger, at least from the back.

Wear a shorter sweater with a darker or matching shirt underneath.

Amy - again, THE Amy - says, "I'd recommend, with the shirt trick, ensuring that the under-shirt is the same color as your pants or a darker color. That way, the bits poking out won't be so noticeable." Robin Allen agrees.

I know this works. Nothing looks better on me than black slacks and a black shirt with a shorter sweater or a ruana on top. If I was willing to wear all-black, all the time, I'd be all set. The problem is that I'm more of a blue-jeans girl and like color. I did wear my Augusta sweater with jeans and a darker blue shirt underneath and it looked pretty good. Don't have a picture of my butt in this unfortunately, but here I am (without make up) with Kathy Zimmerman. This looks better than the patterned tee I wore previously.

Use side vents
Several knitters suggested using side vents to provide more room in the hips. I particularly like this idea for when I'm sitting down; I'm wider when seated than when standing and often could use a little more room. I've never done this in a sweater, although I appreciate the feature in my ready-to-wear clothing.


Other suggestions

Sue, who also agrees with Amy about the shorter length, makes several good suggestions, including asking a kind and honest friend whether my bifurcated belly is really that unsightly - an excellent point since we all tend to obsess about an errant body part that most people wouldn't even notice. Sue also recommends photographing myself wearing different lengths to find the optimal one and reminds me that I can lengthen a too-short sweater by picking up stitches and knitting downward, something which I've done successfully in the past.

Given all these suggestions, here is my plan:

First, I'm going to finish the Waltham and Early Bird cardigans as planned. Given that they are both highly cabled, I'd have a hard time doing short rows on either. Besides, my main objective with these sweaters is to learn how waist shaping works on my particular lumpiness. The Waltham is turning about to be a couple of inches wider than the sweaters I've made previously, so I'll be able to test whether additional ease would be good thing for me.

After I'm finished with the Waltham and Early Bird, I plan to make a relatively simple sweater that will allow me to try the short rows technique. I'm longing to make a springy or summery sweater; luckily,  I have some pretty pink Classic Elite Solstice in my stash. I'm envisioning a stockinette stitch, scooped neck, elbow-length cardigan that buttons up the front. But if I'm going to do short rows, maybe I should skip the cardigan? Hmmm... need to think about this. Regardless, my main goal will be to experiment with short rows at the bust and both front and back hips.

Now all I need to do is look for a pattern - or make one up myself. Actually, what I really need to do is finish the two complicated, uber-wooly, beautiful cardigans staring at me from my knitting basket! Then I can venture into this new venture.

Thanks again to everyone who shared their experience and advice. I really appreciate it.


  1. Great colour! Short rows in cardigans are no problem. They lengthen the centre of the cardigan evenly - so you just pick up whatever stitches you need for the bands. Look forward to seeing how that goes. Cheers, Sue

  2. Have you seen this pattern : http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/pamelia

    It's longer in front, but in a controlled, tailored way. I think it's lovely and will be beautiful in the yarn Webs has as it's sale feature on its homepage this week, Di.Ve'Autunno. I have used this yarn before and it is very soft and the colors are gorgeous. Really beautiful stuff.

  3. I really don't think you need any more length in your sweaters; I'd go shorter if I were you! Try pinning some of your sweaters to end at hipbone level and look in the mirror (or take pics) and then compare and see what you like best. And have you tried boot cut jeans rather than the tapered ones you're wearing in the photo? I think you'd look great!

  4. I thought you might like to see this sweater that I used the short row modification on for my dad. If you look at the photos full-size, you'll see it really did the trick in disguising his prominent belly.


  5. Thanks for everything, girls... I will try the short rows for sure. I've never tried on bootcut jeans, but the next time I go shopping, I will. I've worn these sames jeans for years (now you're thinking: YES. I KNOW. haha)

    Ann, I do like that Pamelia cardi... very pretty and much better than the scarf-y thing. That yarn is beautiful, too.

    And Annie, I sent you a separate message on Rav... amazing work. You need to teach me!

    Thanks for reading, you guys!