Saturday, August 27, 2011

One way to widen hips on a sweater

Francesca, knitter extraordinaire and a devoted member of the Knitting at Large Rav group, yesterday posted pictures of her amazing Skara Brae in Autumn. Isn't this absolutely gorgeous?

Twist Collective, the pattern publisher, describes Stephanie van der Linden's Skara Brae as "Gansey-influenced, with the traveling stitches and attention to detail of finely made stockings." I describe it as classic and stunning. 

Francesca wisely started knitting this top-down pullover according to her bust measurement, so it will fit well above the waist. But like me, she she has a bottom-heavy form. She knows that the pattern's prescribed fit (shown in the schematic below) won't work because she needs five or six additional inches through the hips.
Francesca isn't shaped like a shoe box so her sweater shouldn't be either. Francesca's Skara Brae will look best if it mimics her figure. Her sweater should be shaped more like this:

Francesca asked me what she should do. You know me... I always have an opinion (or perhaps it's a suggestion?). My approach: for this particular sweater, I'd insert some additional purl stitches in the ribbing on the sides of the pullover.

Let's assume Francesca needs five additional inches through the hips and that her gauge is 4.25 stitches per inch.This means she needs to add an additional 22 stitches throughout the bottom of the sweater. How did I get this number? I multiplied the inches needed by the gauge, or 5 x 4.25 = 21.25, and then rounded up to 22.

Now let's figure out how many stitches should go on the front and how many should go on the back. This is an easy calculation. Divide the 22 stitches in half and you get (obviously) 11 stitches. Eleven additional stitches need to go on the front, and 11 need to go on the back. With me so far?

Next, let's figure out how many stitches should go in each quadrant, meaning both sides of the front and both sides of the back. This is easy: 11 stitches divided by 2 is 5.5. But let's not split hairs. We can't knit half stitches, so let's just round up. We'll put 6 stitches on one side and 6 on the other on both the front and back.

At this point, Francesca has two choices. She could put all these increase stitches on the side seams and be done with it, but that won't fit terribly well. If you read this blog, you know I've tried this approach and what I ended up with is a little triangle on the side. I had to surgically remove this appendage from my Waltham!

What works better is to add the increases as darts like I did with the Petrea and the Undertoad. This allows you to create four increases areas rather than two. It also provides a great fit that mimics princess seaming.

The only problem with the Skara Brae is that if you insert a consecutive line of increases in a single line, you'll end up with a gusset. The following shows the ribbing pattern used in the Skara Brae:

If you add purl increases on top of each other, you end up with a wedge of purl fabric that breaks the ribbing.

What would be better, I think, is to spread the purls out so that they're not stacked on top of each other but instead get distributed throughout the fabric. This reduces the degradation of the ribbing. In the example below, I added two purl stitches to a rib and staggered the increases. This will give the sweater a balanced look.

Here's another way to look at the same thing. The little red dots don't show up well, but what they say is +2P, or plus two purl stitches (as previously discussed, the extra purl stitches are added to the beginning and end of the rib). This diagram shows the placement of the 24 stitches and corresponding widening of the sweater.

Ta da! That shows how I'd do five or six inches to the bottom of the sweater. Does this make sense? Do you have any questions? Would you approach this differently? Leave a comment and we'll discuss!


  1. You have a gift for explaining things! I love the visual of the abbreviated stitches lined up as the sweater! Wow! I saw right away how it would look in my mind. Thanks, for that. I will store this info for future use.

  2. This sort of discussion is SO HELPFUL! I love all the little diagrams and explanations of how and why to add increases the way you did. I just found your blog when you first started explaining how you modified your Undertoad and I feel like I'm learning a lot from you already! I was inspired by your Undertoad to actually knit from my measurements (a novel concept, right?) for the sweater I'm currently working on. I'm so excited to see how it will come out!

    Thanks for writing!!!

  3. I see this sweater is top-down, but if you were trying to make 'hip modifications' on a bottom-up sweater, would you need to put stitch markers on the extra purls so you can take them out later?

    (Genius, by the way, but I think we've already assumed that.)

  4. Skara Brae is so pretty -- I remember admiring it when it was first released.

    I'm learning so much from your blog -- thank you for the effort you put into it!

  5. Fabulous post, Julie. You do make it sound so easy! The pattern beautiful, too, but I'd never make it...I'm enough of a square without emphasizing it so dramatically down my torso! I think this look would work well on a man's sweater, or I'd love to see the cable pattern "sideways" at the waist, like more of a belt.