Friday, March 11, 2011

The unhappy reality of sweater lengths

I'm happy with my accomplishments as a knitter. In the past couple of years, I've learned to make sweaters with a multitude of modifications designed specifically for my body. I've spent an ungodly number of hours taking classes, reading books and magazines, teaching, blogging, and mostly just knitting knitting knitting. I've really come a long way, baby, and it really makes me happy.

But I still don't know how long to make my sweaters. I know if I want the sweater to look best from the back, I need to make it stop above the widest part of my hips. This lesson comes straight from Amy Herzog who has patiently given me this advice - over and over again. I look at this picture and I know she's right.

Another example: the backside of my Diamond Yoke Cardigan. It's the shortest sweater I've ever made and it looks the best - from the back anyway. I'm sure Amy would tell me it should be two inches shorter.

The problem is that my optimal length for the back is absolutely the worst length from the front. Like many women, I've got a belly that desperately needs to be covered but mine is even worse that usual. Ten years ago, I had a horrendous hysterectomy. The surgeon cut me vertically from the navel to the pubis and horizontally from hip to hip. The result: I have a horrible bifurcated belly looks like a sideways B - or shockingly, like someone else's butt.

I have no choice. I have to cover this thing. Have to. To do so, I need to make a sweater that's 29-30 inches long. However, to make a sweater that's most becoming to my butt, it need to be 26-27 inches long.

I asked Amy for her advice, and she suggested wearing a longer shirt beneath a shorter sweater. This approach has been mediocre at best, perhaps because I'm wearing the wrong shirt underneath. To me, the extra fabric poking out from the bottom underscores my width and draws the eye directly downward.

Amy also suggested trying one of those scarf-y sweaters that is longer in the front for more coverage. The trouble is, I hate these things. Hate them! Frankly, I don't understand why anyone likes them (but if they work for you, please, wear them in good health and I promise not to talk about you).

The bottom line (pun intended): I don't think there's any sweater length that's right for me. Nothing works. I wish I could end this posting on a happy, hopeful note, but I cannot. Sometimes reality just sucks. This is one of those times.

(Nope, the pugs aren't Moosie... just some of his many cousins.)


  1. The Diamond Yoke really looks good from the back. I don't think it needs to be any shorter than that. I think the dotted line on the green sweater is too short even in the back, but that's just my opinion.
    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.
    Sorry, I'm short and those drapey things just make me look dumpy!

  2. I've been reading your blog with interest and admiration for your determination to get the mods right for your size. I do think,though, that there's an alternative solution. 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. Good luck---and keep up the very informative blogging!

  3. I think 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.

    There's also always short rows on the front of the sweater, right? You could probably get up to 2'' of difference between the back and the front without too much trouble.

  4. I have been away from the blog and have to catch up. Me really thinks the Diamond is great in that length on you.The scarfy sweaters look funny on me and I cringe when I think of riding the metro train or hopping on an elevator in a hurry while wearing one. It's all I can do to get my entire self through the doors completely never mind yards of fiber trailing behind.Ouch!
    Hey,'ve been Big time knitting-busy!
    But there are some whispery thin gals who look fabulous in them.

  5. Are you really sure that the two layers i.e. shirt and trousers/skirt (3 if we count your under things) aren't enough to create a smooth shape over your stomach? It may be that your self consciousness is heightening your awareness of that area - have you got an IRL friend who can honestly tell you if you have a smooth line without resorting to a third layer i.e. your sweater/cardigan? Looking at your photos, I still agree with Amy about the shorter sweater length - sorry :). How about you try photographing yourself wtih a t-shirt over the top and tuck it up to various lengths and see what you think. Also - if you know a sweater to the short length and decide (after wearing it for a while and getting lots of feedback!) that it is too short - no problem, pick up and knit it down longer. Cheers, Sue

  6. I have to agree with Annie. I'm the same shape as you, with a less defined waist. I'm nearing the hem of a sweater so I tried on the sweaters I currently own to see what looks good. The best looking one is a little shorter than your green sweater. It skims my hips at the widest point and then goes straight down instead of hugging my hips all the way to the end.

  7. I second Amy's comment about wearing an undershirt either the same color or darker.

  8. Sorry by I like the scarf-y sweaters that is longer in the front for more coverage. Would you be able to tell us where you found the photos above and if the pattern is available?


  9. Sure... the blue cardigan is from Norah Gaughan Vol. 8 and the beige sweater is a free Berroco pattern. Here are the links.

    Blue -

    Tan -

    Berroco has a ton of these kinds of sweaters both free and not free. Check out