Sunday, June 19, 2011

Waltham lessons learned

My sweaters always serve as great teachers, and the Waltham Cabled Cardigan is no exception. Today I glean the lessons learned from this complicated cardi.

Avoid 1/3/1 cables.

My biggest stitching challenge was definitely the 1/3/1 cables. These little monsters, which are worked with  two cable needles, offer another order of difficulty by twisting in opposite directions on each side of the main horseshoe cable. I spent at least two weeks of my life unknitting and reknitting these tiny banes of my existence. I'm proud that ALL of my 1/3/1 cables point in the proper direction but this only occurred because I am hellishly anal retentive. If I go the whole rest of my life and never knit these little bastards again, it will be too soon.

Use lots of buttons.

I hate cardigans that gap and gape at the button band. To make sure this didn't happen with the Waltham, I used ten buttons. Not only do they keep the sweater securely closed; they are also beautiful. I bought my authentic Norwegian pewter buttons from Nordic Fiber Arts. I love them. The motif gently mimics the horseshoe cables and the pewter looks lovely with the bright blue Ultra Alpaca.

My sleeves aren't too long. My crossback is too wide.

When I posted pics of the final cardigan, someone commented  that the sleeves are too long. I get her point, but the sleeves really aren't too long; my crossback is too wide. Look at the shoulders. Even though this is a modified drop shoulder sweater, the sweater falls off my shoulders - and the sleeves tumble down my arms. The top arrow shows my shoulder; the bottom arrows points to the shoulder seam. For a better fit, the seam should be at least a couple of inches closer to my shoulder.

Why did this happen? Because I knitted this for an 18-inch crossback. I had Tom re-measure me and he says I have a 17-inch crossback (assuming he's measuring correctly since he's never done this before). I'll be making my next sweater with a narrower crossback. I bet it fits better.

I have a higher waist than "normal."

I worked diligently on making the Waltham genuinely fit and I'm proud of my efforts. I spent a lot of energy and time figuring out the just-right waist shaping and it paid off; the sweater really does fit me better. But one thing I learned is that my waist isn't centered between my bustline and my hips like "normal" forms. Instead, my waist is higher. You can see what I mean in the dress form that Tom and I made a couple of months ago. I definitely have a waist, but it is a short and high one.

In my next sweater, I will move the waist shaping up a few inches, as shown below. This shaping will better mirror my shape and provide a better fit.

Sweater length - or let's talk about my ass AGAIN.

I've blogged multiple times about my unsuccessful quest to find the perfect sweater length (post 1, post 2, post 3). It always eludes me - and it confounded me again with the Waltham. I made this cardigan 27-inches long, shorter than previous sweaters but I suspect not short enough. Amy Herzog in Fit to Flatter says that sweaters for bottom-heavy women should end either above or well below their widest parts. The Waltham, even though I made it shorter, still ends smack-dab on my ample ass.

I think the answer may be to end the sweater before it curves around my butt. If I do this though, I will still struggle with the question, "when I'm wearing jeans, what in the heck do I wear so I can cover my belly?" I don't have a good answer for this. I initially photographed this sweater wearing all white underneath but I don't think it looks good. And I'm not going to wear black 24x7. The best look is probably to wear a skirt although I won't wear a skirt every day either. It continues to be my personal challenge.

One more thing on sweater length: I recently purchased a short scoop-necked lace sweater to use in my analysis of sweater length. This cardi is only 22 inches long and I think it looks pretty good on me. I'm going to make my next sweater this length and we'll see how it compares with the Waltham and my other sweaters.

I need short rows in the back.

This shorter sweater picture underscores a fit issue I've yet to address. I need short rows in the back of my sweaters so they don't ride up on my butt. I couldn't have really done this with the Waltham because it is so cabled, but on my next sweater, I'm going to make this mod. Short rows will also help an associated fit problem: my sweater hems are never parallel with the floor. I can't wait to make a sweater that corrects this problem. The main issue is anatomical; I have hyperlordosis, an exaggerated curvature of the spine that makes it impossible to stand completely upright and gives me a perpetual Victorian bustle (dammit). One of my uncles has this genetic abnormality, too. When he was in the Army, he was regularly dressed down by his commanding officer for not standing up straight. I completely relate.

My sweater isn't perfect - but it's more perfect than ever.

In my eternal quest to make a sweater that fits, I'm still searching for the Holy Grail. The Waltham isn't quite right - but it's a lot closer to my dream cardigan. I'm proud of my efforts and will wear this beautiful sweater with pride. As Voltaire said, perfect is the enemy of the good. My Waltham is good enough.


  1. First,t congratulations on being willing to stare your body in the eye and deal with all it's challenges. I'm not sure I could make a body form because I would actually have to look at mine up close and personal, as it were! I did have one comment. I used to work in Personal Touch for Nordstroms and dressed women on a daily basis....the purchase cardigan needs to be pulled down a tad at the back neck area. Then I think you will see less of a hike in the middle, at the bottom hem. You may still have a little bit of a hike, but the lordosis has probably meant you are sued to having the back neck up around your neck a bit higher than it should actually rest. My husband also has this issue, less workable by pulling down on a structured material like a suiting. But on a flexible material such as knitted fabrics pulling it down usually redistributes the fabric without causing issues elsewhere.

    I'm traveling right now and can't search the archives of the now defunct ample knitters group on yahoo, but the gallery there is first class and shows ample women wearing their hand knit garments. I believe a lot of the original group is now on the same named board on Ravelry. Lengthy discussions on arm holes and dropped shoulders occurred many times because while our bodies expand our skeleton does not. Most ample clothing has a big issue at the shoulder because garment designers insist on widening the shoulder when they widen the body! The shoulders will fall off and cause an attack of frumpiness in an otherwise lovely garment. I miss the women at Ample Knitters I learned a huge amount about all aspects of knitting from the skilled and very accomplished among them!

  2. I think you should wear the shorter store bought sweater a bit before you knit one that short. Personally when I wear sweaters that short, I spend the whole day yanking on the thing. Regardless of the fact that it could be the more flattering length on me, I just could not do it.

  3. Your sweater is lovely. Having read your blog through the entire process, I appreciate your concerns and analysis. Heres the thing - it is a great sweater. WOuld it be the same if it were 8 or 10 inches shorter? My feeling is - my ass is wide, where my sweater hits will not make it thinner. Perhaps it is the multiple horizontals with the store-bought sweater and top, but . . . I think you look better with the longer.

  4. Ditto ...wear the longer, not the shorter cardi.
    You did a marvelous job knitting your cabled Waltham, Julie, and I admire you for going on the net and sharing so openly! I don;t have the fortitude to do that at all.
    Lessons learned many from this project.
    re: sleeve length. I see what you mean about the sleeves appearing too long because of the crossback. But...they look no longer or different than the length of the model in the book!!!!! Wear you Waltham with pride, gal, wear it with PRIDE!!!!!

  5. I think you have made a beautiful job of your Waltham cardigan and should be rightfully proud of it! I really quite like the length of it and prefer it to that of the store-bought cardigan - possibly because of the length of the top you are wearing underneath it which seems to detract from any advantage the shorter length may give you. Really, I feel that the shoulder issue is the only hiccup in your Waltham. As a previous commenter has said - wear you beautiful work with much pride!!

  6. The Waltham is beautiful on you. I am in awe of all the alterations you accomplished. What an adventure knitting is when it teaches you so much.

  7. In the cold light of analysis, the sweater isn't perfect, but it's s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r and looks really wonderful on you. This is a sweater that will get all kinds of compliments from strangers.

    Also, for your crossback, find a shirt or sweater that fits you perfectly, then measure the crossback on the shirt.

  8. Julie, you are so brave! Those cables would have done me in at the sleeve stage. As for fit, I applaud you TO THE HEAVENS for the courage and cold eye to see where you want to go next time. It looks GREAT on you, and so much better than if you had just knit to pattern. You deserve a medal!! (well, how about more yarn, anyway?) We big gals can look great, too ... and you prove that every day with your commitment to fit and fashion. Thank you for sharing with us.


  9. I, too, like the longer sweater on you - the shorter version stops at the wrong spot. But I think the current Waltham is a bit long. And I agree with your idea of short rows in the back. I think the sweater I like the best is the Ditto!! It looks really really great on you!!! I love it! I've noticed that thinner, more fluid fabrics look much better on our larger selves - is it because it 'flows' over the lumps & bumps??? I would love your spread sheet on your sizing up of the Ditto - I want one just like yours!!!

  10. I think your Waltham is gorgeous and looks good on you! I would shorten it a few inches, though, which would be an easy fix. I agree with Amy Herzog - sweaters should end above the butt curve or waaaaayyyy below it, not dangerously close to the widest point. I love how you added more buttons, too!

    As for the shorter (purchased) cardi you're wearing: I like the length, and the short over long look, but that shirt you're wearing underneath doesn't do you any favors. I would try a shirt in a shade closer to the cardi, or matching/tonal top and bottom under it, or try that cardi over a flowy dress.

  11. Thank you everyone for your advice, insight, and recommendations. I appreciate the input and support very much!

    Sharon, if you email me at, I'll send you the Ditto spreadsheet. I've lost 50 pounds since I made that sweater so now it's too big! Oh well, I guess this is a good problem to have.

  12. Your Waltham is beautiful,so be proud. You can probably reblock just the back to get it a bit longer, but I agree with Elizaduckie that the issue may be partly due to a curve in the upper back, or just that you put on a little weight up there too,, so try blocking the upper back a little bit with a steam iron, and seeing if that doesn't make it parallel.

    I think the short sweater idea shouldn't be discarded, but throw out the teeshirt! A slightly longer top under the sweater, maybe 2-3" longer than the sweater would cover your belly, and lengthen the overall look. That long top cuts you in 3rds. If the top was in the same color as your pants, or in a different color but in the same tonal
    range, it would probably slim you down

    OIn the next sweater, pay attention to the cross back, but also to the shoulder width. with all that ribbing and cable, the shoulder line may be stretching on Waltham, and could easily be stabilized with a row of firm crochet along the edge of the seam (inside) or bt sewing some twill tape (inside, by hand) to the seam. Its a heavy sweater, and it may just be pulling itsel down...most purchased sweaters are stabilized in this way...for a reason!

  13. May I just say how awesome it is to read and watch as you navigate issues of styling and fit with handknits? Thanks so much for sharing your copious notes and photos. I'm especially learning a lot from your stellar graphic illustrations that show just how and where the shoulder/bust/waist/hip alterations fall. Thanks!