Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to analyze a schematic - part 1

Several loyal Knitting at Large Rav group members want to know:
  • Where do you start when you want to make a sweater?
  • How can you tell if a pattern will work for your body? 
  • How do you pick the right size? 
  • How do you figure out which mods you need to make?
The answer to all these questions: Analyze the schematic.

So what is a schematic?

For knitters, it's a sweater blueprint. The schematic shows you the garment shape and gives you measurements for every section of the sweater. Designers typically place schematics on the last page of a pattern.

As an analogy, think about building a building - or a tower. Do you think you could build the Eiffel Tower without a blueprint?

Of course not. You'd need a map, a plan. You'd need to know every dimension of single thing so that when you're finished, it all fits together perfectly.

Your sweater works the same way. You need a map, a plan. You need to know every dimension of single thing so that when you're finished, it all fits together perfectly - and fits you perfectly, too.

Schematics show the shape of the garment.

Let's start with this. Without negativity or judgement, think about drawing an outline of your torso. Are you curvy? Wider in the hips? Round in the middle?

With that basic shape in your head, now look at the garment shape on the schematic. The bottom line is that the shape of your sweater should match the shape of your body. But this doesn't usually happen, especially for ample women. Here's a typical shoebox-shaped sweater schematic.

But what if you're not a rectangle? What if you're more triangular? For example, let's assume you need a 53-inch finished bust measurement. Oh good, this pattern offers this size, so you slave away on it for months. It looks great - except that you have 56-inch hips and the sweater is too tight below the waist. Now you're just a knitting Goldilocks. One part is too big and another part is too small and only one part - the bustline - fits just right.

Given that you need a sweater with a 53-inch bust and 56-inch hips, shouldn't your sweater be shaped more like this? Where both your bust AND your more ample hips have room?
The answer, of course, is yes. So your task now is to make the schematic and the resulting sweater match your particular body. Welcome. You have just entered the Twilight Zone (of knitting mods)!

Caveat knitter!

If the pattern doesn't include a schematic, you shouldn't be knitting it. Well, that's an overstatement. If you're making a baby sweater, you probably don't need a schematic. But you cannot make an ample sweater that fits without one. All bodies come in vastly different shapes and sizes, but this is even more true for larger women. As women gain weight or get older, their bodies bulge, move, and grow in all sorts of unfortunate ways! A schematic let's you make a sweater customized to your own body.

(Beware of designers who do not provide schematics. In my experience, Knitting Pure and Simple patterns do NOT offer schematics, and some patterns from Sirdar don't either. They may offer perfectly lovely designs but if you don't know the dimensions, you can't alter the pattern.)

That's all I have time for today. Next time, I'll talk about making adjustments to the schematic so that you can alter your sweater for the perfect fit.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Let's try this again, without all my typos!

    Great start to a fabulous topic!

    I remember when I first started knitting, I thought schematics were just extraneous junk, so I tossed them all out. No kidding! It didn't take long for me to figure out they were my best friend ... as important or even more important than the pattern directions themselves.

    Now, before I even decide to knit something, I check out the schematic to see if it's something that's flattering, can be adjusted to *be* flattering, or just not for me at all.


  3. Thanks for this post.
    I recently bought a pattern that described it as having a schematic. So I downloaded.
    All there was to the 'schematic' was an outline of the shape of the numbers, no dimensions at all..just a drawing of the shape of the back!!!!

    One thing I would LOVE to see addressed on the blog, Julie, is 'chart reading'.
    I have books which do not explain such things as red outlines encompassing part s of the charts. They don't explain when they are to be observed or how to fit the into what one is doing...and so many charted patterns have those outlines, yet don't explain what they are for or where they are to be is just taken for granted and..I just do not know. I bought these 'how to read charts' books for just those reasons, but really do not see it included.The stitches are easy to figure out! The repeats are the kicker.
    I'd love to see a post or 2 on that in the future if you feel inspired....or on charts in general since most of your own knitting and pattern recommendations now has involved chart reading.

  4. Great post!!!
    See, you need to write a book and explain all these knitting technicalities that most of us don't understand.
    It's one thing to read and knit from a pattern, but understanding the HOW and WHY makes you a knitter with OPTIONS. Most of us don't take the time to dig that deeply.
    Thank you, Julie for doing the work for us!!!

  5. Excellent post, Julie. I will say that on a few occasions where I've really loved the pattern but there was no schematic (Debbie Bliss, argh!), I've actually roughed out my own schematic by taking the stitch counts and dividing by the gauge. It's an extra step, but when I really wanted to knit the pattern, it worked okay.

  6. ditto weaverpat. t_a

  7. How different is an schematic for flat knitting and Knitting in the round? I'm making a sweater in the round and I can not get the correct gauge, I'm thinking I'll have to modify all of the sts counts and measurements.

    1. In principle, it should be the same... it's all about your measurements and knitting to gauge...