Thursday, November 24, 2011

Placement of body shaping and darts

Earlier this month, I wrote about upsizing the Gnarled Oak. I plotted out a revised schematic customized just for my measurements and figured out stitch counts throughout the sweater body. As shown in the image below, my plan is to cast on for 72 inches, knit 2 inches of ribbing, decrease down to 62.5 inches over 14.5 inches of length, knit two inches, and then divide for the armholes. (See the previous post to learn more.) Then I'll follow the pattern as written for the largest bust size because I know the sweater will fit me as written above the armholes.

Next step: I convert my schematic to show stitch and row counts rather than inches. I multiply the width measurements by the stitch gauge of 6, and the row measurements by the row gauge of 7.5. Note that I rounded up the bust stitch count by one stitch to get an even number.

So, here is my game plan:
  • Cast on 432 stitches
  • Knit 15 rows of ribbing
  • Start the decreases and decrease 56 stitches over 109 rows (I got this number by I subtracting 376 from 432 to get 56 stitches)
  • Knit 15 rows of stockinette
  • Divide for the underarms and go back to following the pattern for the largest size
A quick note about row gauge: for patterns such as this, I knit to length measurements rather than counting rows. If my row gauge is off a little, I don't worry about it because I know I'm knitting the correct lengths. For example, I will knit the center body until it's 14.5 inches long whether or not that 109 rows (which it should be if my gauge is spot on).

Now let's figure out where those decreases should go. We essentially are creating a concave quadrilateral (just had to throw that in to make it sound much more complicated than is necessary!)

The Gnarled Oak is knitted all in one piece from the hem to the underarms; therefore, this schematic shows full stitch counts for the entire sweater body. But we don't want to put all our decreases in one place, right? You'd end up with a single 56-stitch wedge in the garment.

Alternately, we could do the decreases in two places at the side seams, decreasing 28 stitches on each side:

But this isn't the optimal placement for shaping. Take a look at my Waltham which uses side seam placement. I ended up with those ridiculous little triangles at the sides and the sweater didn't fit optimally either.

The best choice is to spread the decreases over four wedges and to place these wedges a third of the way in from the side seams. (Some knitters prefer to put the decreases a quarter of the way in from the sides instead.) I refer to these as princess darts because they resemble princess-seamed shaping in sewing.

So, to put these darts in one-third of the way from the sides, I do the following math:
  • Total width of garment: 72 inches
  • Half width of garment: 36 inches
  • Half width of garment divided by 3 (or times 33%): 12 inches
I would insert my darts 12 inches in from each side seam on both the front and the back, or 72 stitches from each side (stitch gauge of 6 times 12 inches = 72 stitches).

With princess darts, you get a terrific fit - or at least I do. I used this shaping for both my Under Toad and the Carnation Pink and got a whole lot closer to my optimal sweater shape.

Okay, so now what do we do? Calculate the decreases. And that's just what we'll talk about next time: MORE MATH. Plus a bunch of online or app calculators that can run the numbers for you, thank goodness.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


  1. Thanks for a great clear explanation about the darts- I will use them for sure on my next sweater!

  2. Thanks Julie! Im looking forward to the apps I hope their are for android devices to.

  3. Posts like this are so helpful! I've yet to knit a sweater but when I see you do these customizations it makes it seem less daunting because you explain it so well. Thank you!

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