Thursday, December 27, 2012

How to Knit a Sweater that Fits - Part 3

Welcome to the third installment of my How to Knit a Sweater that Fits. In the first post, we discussed taking accurate measurements and then using them to create a schematic of your body. In the second installment, we talked about how selecting sweaters that best match your shape lead to a better fit. Today I'm going to show you how I use my body schematic to create an optimal sweater schematic, one that I now use over and over regardless of the pattern I make.

First, take a look at my personal body schematic. The measurements are on a graphic below, but I want to show you the silhouette of my body. Before we go further, let me point out that I'm not shaped like most people. I have a complicated body shape-wise and have to do complicated shaping to accommodate it. Getting a correct fit for most of you will require far less effort.

So what do you do after you have this body schematic? You then figure out how much ease you want in your sweater. Ease, as you likely know, is a matter of great debate and personal preference. After a lot of trial and error, I've discovered that I prefer two inches at my bustline and four at my waist and hips. YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. 

Some knitters (especially skinny ones) prefer zero ease or even negative ease, especially at the upper bust. In my humble opinion, this works fine for women who don't have curves (aka lumps, bumps, sags, and the like). I think larger bodies need more ease. As Dottie, my knitting pal and long-time Knitting at Large supporter, pointed out, ease should exponentially increase as the body increases. Let me explain. Assume that a 36-inch sweater includes two inches of ease, or a ratio of .05 (2 divided by 36 is .05). The way most patterns are written, the ease for a 56-inch size will be two inches, too. Dottie and I contend, however, that the ease on a 56-inch sweater should instead be the same ratio (.05 in this case) rather than the same measurement. Therefore,  the ease for the larger size should be 2.8 inches (56 multiplied by .05 equals 2.8). I would then round up to three inches.

Regardless, you'll need to figure out how much ease you prefer. Try measuring a sweater or T-shirt that fits you well. A woven fabric won't work as well because the fabric is so different from a knitted fabric, so avoid blouses, etc. After you've knitted a couple of garments, you'll learn more about your ease preferences. Beware creating the equivalent of the big green trash bag - baggy sweaters often don't make the best of your body. Even if you want an unstructured garment, you will likely still want some parts of the sweater to fit well (for example, the shoulders and torso).

Below you'll see my optimal sweater schematic based on my ease preferences. You can see my body in light turquoise and the shape of the sweater around it. Welcome to my holy grail. This image provides a road map for every single thing I'll ever make. Of course, I need a back and a sleeve to go along with it, so I've posted them below, too.

There are a variety of reasons why you should undertake a similar task. First, you  never have to measure again (unless you gain or lose weight). Second, you eliminate mystery from your knitting; you no longer need to worry about whether a sleeve is too long or a sweater is too short.  With this accurate road map, you know EXACTLY how wide or long a particular sweater section needs to be.

Best of all, you can now knit almost anything to fit you, within reason anyway. I have a 60-inch finished bust size and I'm comfortable looking at sweaters that are at least 50 inches because I know which adjustments I'll need to make. As an example, take the Ravine pullover I'm going to make for the Knit Picks KAL (the schematic is shown below). The numbers in black show the measurements for the largest size, which is 52 inches. The measurements in red show the measurements I need to use to make the sweater fit me.

I want to point out a couple of things. First, note that the bust, waist, and hip measurements are significantly larger than what is provided in the pattern. That makes sense - I'm making a bigger garment. But there are some measurements that are identical - the sleeve depth, for example - and some which are smaller, such as the sleeve length. I've told you 400 times that sizes don't matter and this schematic shows exactly why. It doesn't matter what the uber-talented Glenna C says in terms of sizing. I can keep her beautiful design and make the sweater fit me, too.

Observant readers of this post will note that my back and front sweater schematics above are not identical. I'll explain this next time, and then we'll discuss how to take your optimal sweater schematic and turn it into an actual sweater.

Friday, December 21, 2012


The dude next door has a digital clock out on his patio that counts down how many days there are until Christmas. Not sure if he's trying to keep track of shopping days or if he wants to drive little children out of their minds, but the device freaks Moosie OUT whenever we walk by it. Moose isn't used to fat, little men  being at his eye level.

I'm not counting down until Christmas - no, I've got my eye on the Knitting at Large Knit Picks KAL which starts January 5. I'm all set! My box of Celestial Blue KP yarn showed up this week much to my delight. I'm using Knit Picks' cashmere blend Capra to make GlennaC's Ravine.

Some girls are planning on casting on on Christmas Day and I think I'll join them. After Tom and I open our presents, we'll be settling down for a long winter's nap followed by a ham dinner. As Martha says, it's a good thing. Just ask Moosie.

I am taking off next week and should have time to post a two-part article with Knit Picks' designer, Kerin Dimeler Laurence. I'll also be detailing the next step in knitting a sweater that fits, and will show you the beautiful present I'm getting from the beloved boyfriend (I picked it out so I know what's coming).

Regardless of your own personal countdown, be it to Christmas or our KAL, I pray it will be stress-free. If nothing else, the world didn't end today so it's all up from here. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Back to work

After spending a couple of weeks horsing around with crocheted scarves and miniature Aran sweater ornaments, I'm back to the Cardinal Cardigan AKA the Chickadee. I'm knitting the sleeves round and round and round. And round!

One interesting thing about this sweater is that it is neither a round yoke nor a raglan - it's both. After knitting the yoke in the round and working a set of short rows, you then transition to raglan decreases as you approach the underarm. An interesting technique.

I definitely missed my Christmas deadline this year, but hopefully I'll be able to wear this cutie next year. I'm hightailing it now hoping to finish the Cardinal before the start of the Knitting at Large Knit Picks KAL  January 5.  

Now's the time to get ready. Have you picked out your Knit Picks plus-size pattern and/or yarn for this big event? I've finally decided that I am going to make GlennaC's beautiful new cabled pullover, Ravine

I'm using the luxurious Knit Picks Capra, a DK/worsted cashmere/merino blend in Celestial. I worked on the swatch the other night. Isn't this gorgeous? It's so soft, I keep petting it! Plus the stitch definition is crisp - just look at those cables. I can't wait to make this sweater.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A very Aran Christmas

Isn't this darling? Definitely cutest Christmas ornament I’ve ever made! Hilary and Jamie, who recently traveled to Iceland, are the lucky recipients. They regaled me with stories of Icelandic sheep so hopefully this will help them remember their trip fondly.

The original pattern comes with a very high, very thin turtleneck. I decided to turn it down and hem it inside the neckline for a more traditional look.

Debbie Bliss donated this adorable pattern to Save the Children UK. I’m not sure I have this quite right, but December 14 is Jumper Day in the UK (?) and organization wants folks to create a sweater and then donate one pound? Something like that. I’m in the States and apparently clueless.
The Guardian published this pattern which you can download from this link. The website features two other Debbie Bliss sweater ornaments, too. If you're looking for a quick, little present, this one's for you.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

How to knit a sweater that fits - Part 2

Thank you for waiting, my patient friends. Our class on how to knit a sweater that fits continues.

The last time we met, I showed you how to make a schematic of your body using your ACCURATE measurements. Many of you took the plunge and made your very own. Today we're going to talk about one of the most important aspects of knitting attractive, well-fitting sweaters: pattern selection. While there are no right or wrong sweaters for any body type, some designs work better than others. Let's use your schematic to help you see which designs will work best for you.

First, let's start with some analysis. Put on your thinking cap and spend a few minutes contemplating the following questions. Your task is to conscious about what you think you know about your shape.

What do I think I look like? What have I carried around in my brain about my body for the past few decades? What did your mother tell you over and over again about the way you looked? What does your partner say? Whatever those comments were, were they accurate? Or are you replaying tapes from your childhood that are neither helpful or right? For example, my mother was 5'9, weighed 120 pounds, and was flat as a board. I was the exact opposite of Mom bodywise and she never tired of telling me how my body was unacceptable because it wasn't like hers. My body was unacceptable - it was just different! But I bring her bias to my body every day (I'm working on this though).

What do I usually wear? Imagine going through your closet and looking at the clothing you've purchased to cover that body shape that lives in your head. Be honest. Have you bought whatever would remotely fit you? I sure did. Anything that covered the mighty derriere was good enough for me. Do you tend to buy baggy, shapeless clothes? Men's clothes? Are you trying to hide you belly, your butt, your boobs, or all of the above?

What gets me compliments? Of all the apparel you've ever owned, what fit you best? In which shirt, dress, or sweater do you get the most compliments? Why did you look best in this particular garment? For me, it was my custom-made wedding dress. It was the only thing that ever really fit me because it was made just for me. It had a form-fitting bodice and a ballgown skirt - a great look for me because I could hide the derriere and show off my waist and bustline.

After you've answered these questions, look your schematic, which is essentially a basic map of your body. What do you see? Are you proportional? Curvy? Bottom-heavy? Short-waisted? Busty? For example, this person is proportional, meaning that her bust and hips are similar widths. She has a defined waist in the center of her torso.

This knitter is proportioned very similarly, even if her measurements are different.

And this one is built more straight-up-and-down with just slightly larger hips.

The most important thing I have to tell you today is this: If you want to make a sweater that fits, then the silhouette of your sweater should mirror the silhouette of your body. Let me show you how this works.

First, look at this schematic. This knitter is bottom-heavy and curvy with a high waist.

Now ignore all the lines and measurements and just look at the silhouette of this schematic.
With this particular silhouette, we can see that a straight-sided garment will not fit well on this body. To make the hips fit, this woman would need to make a much larger sweater that would then be too baggy around her waist. While I love the Peabody by Leila Rabbe, it wouldn't be the best look for this particular knitter. It's just too straight up and down for her curvy form (at least without making some mods, but we'll discuss that down the road).

For a better fit, our knitter would look great in a trapeze style that's narrower at the bust and wider at the hips. An nice example of this kind of sweater is Deb Gemmell's Lace Frock Vest.

But the best look for our knitter would be a sweater that mirrors her curves, such as the Lia pullover by Mandie Harrington.

Now let me show you a couple of other examples using different body types. Our lucky proportional girls can wear almost anything.

For non-curvy women who are busty but not wide in the hips, or for those whose bust, waist, and hip measurements are very similar, straight-sided silhouettes are the most attractive.

Make sense? Now it's your turn. What is your silhouette? Which patterns would look best for your particular body? I'd love to see what you come up with and hear what you've learned from doing this analysis. Post your comments here or at the Knitting at Large Rav group topic on this subject.

Next time: making your personalized, optimal sweater schematic.

Friday, December 7, 2012

And the winner is...

Congratulations to the grand prize winner of Knit Picks giveaway, weaverpat aka Pat Wenger! She said she never wins but she's wrong - she just did! Pat has won any Knit Picks pattern of her choosing, the yarn to knit the design, and a free copy of "Northern Lights," a collection of delightful patterns by Kerin Dimeler-Lawrence.

I'm happy to announce the first and second prize winners who both win a copy of "Northern Lights," too. Congratulations SandeeB and AZKnitLady1!

Gotta love a quickie

Get your head out of the gutter! I'm talking about my just-finished Sashay. I crocheted this long, lovely scarf in just a week and made it 25 percent longer, too. The best thing is that although it was quick and easy, it doesn't look that way. The scarf is truly gorgeous.

The colors meld and marl (not sure that's a verb) together to make a truly extraordinary pallet of warm and cool greens and roses. I am surprised how good it looks with denim but that's lovely synchronicity since I wear it all the time. Here's a crappy picture of me in my flannel nightgown, denim vest, and Sashay. What a site.

I didn't make any modifications because I loved how it looked on the cover of the new Berroco Lodge booklet. I'm not that crazy about the rest of the patterns because they rely on color pooling - not my favorite look. But by alternating two different colorways, the completely striping disappears in the Sashay.

My only advice: unless you want to make your scarf significantly longer like I did, you should buy only three balls of each color rather than the prescribed four. Even though I extended my scarf, I still had an entire extra ball of rose and a third of green left at the end.

The pattern calls for Lodge, a new offering from Berroco, which the company describes as, "mesmerizing color transitions... punctuated with vibrant tweed flecks. The lofty wool blend is spun into a single ply and works up quickly into gorgeous stripes." The yarn is comprised of 47% nylon, 47% wool, and 6% rayon; I prefer all-natural fibers, but this combination creates warmth and softness around my sensitive neck. Berroco Lodge retails for $8.00 a skein and comes in ten lovely colorways.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How to knit a sweater that fits - Step 1

I've got a small but dedicated group of girls on the Knitting at Large site who hanker to make a sweater that really fits. Today I share some rules that I used to make my sweaters.

1. Sizes don't matter. 

I know, that makes your brain explode, but it's true. Trying to cobble together different sizes works well if you need to add an inch or two to your cardigan pattern's hip measurement. But if you're doing major resizing, you need to look at sizing as a mere suggestion. You've heard me rattle on about the uselessness of sizes before. You need to accept the unfortunate reality that sizes mean NOTHING in the knitting world. Whether the pattern says XL or 14XL, it still has no meaning. What matters is the finished garment measurements. This leads to my next rule.

2. You must have a sweater schematic. 

If a sweater pattern doesn't have a schematic, you shouldn't be knitting it. Not if you want it to fit anyway. If a pattern gives you only a bust measurement, don't make it. Just throw it away because it's useless for our purposes. The reason you need a schematic is because it provides the road map to knitting the sweater. If you don't have a schematic, it's like driving without a map or a compass from Washington, DC to Washington State on a cloudy day. You'll neither know where you're going or where you'll end up.

3. Get accurate measurements of your body. 

The operative word is ACCURATE. Don't guess. Don't fudge. If you want the sweater to fit when you're done, then you must take good measurements. Use this worksheet from the Craft Council or equivalent.

Get help with your crossback measurement which is the most important measurement of all. The crossback is the space between your shoulder bones. I learned to make sweaters based on the crossback, but Amy Herzog thinks the measurement above your bustline is an even better method. So take that one, too.

4. Make a schematic of your body.

Now that you've got your measurements, dig up a pencil and some graph paper. You're going to make a schematic of your own body so that you can visualize the modifications you'll need to make on sweater patterns. Your task: graph your measurements onto the paper.

Here is an example. Note that your body may look very different than this one. Your measurements may include fractions, too. Don't round up or down; use your specific measurements to create a map of your body.

First, draw a line down the center to represent the center of your body. Every square represents two inches. Remember that you're graphing only one side of your body; think of it as a sweater laying flat on a table. So you need to divide your bust, waist, and hip measurements in half.

Starting at the bottom with your hips, count out the number of squares to represent your hip measurement. Draw the line for your hips and write the measurement below.

Next, put a dot where your waist, bust, crossback, and shoulders should be. Then count out the squares to represent your waist measurement and draw a line; make sure the measurement is centered around the center line. Write the measurement below. Then move up and do the same for your crossback, bust, and shoulder lines. Then draw the side body lines connecting the hip, waist, and bust lines. Then draw a perpendicular line from the shoulders to the bust line and mark where your neck width would be. Ta-da! You now have a schematic of your body.

5. Analyze your schematic.

Take a look at your body shape. Are you a rectangle? An oval? An hourglass? Bottom-heavy? Whatever you are, I can promise that you don't look like a standard sweater schematic. This is the problem! Your sweater needs to match YOUR schematic. Is it any wonder sweaters don't fit when they are so different from your body? 

Next time, we'll talk about the bane of ample knitter's existence: ease.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A fantabulous Knit Picks giveaway!

I know how you all just LOVE contests and boy, do I have one for you! Just in time for the Knitting at Large Knit Picks KAL, too.

Along with our friends at Knit Picks, I am giving away these fabulous prizes:


  • Any Knit Picks pattern of your choosing
  • The yarn to knit this design
  • A free copy of "Northern Lights," a collection of delightful patterns by Kerin Dimeler-Lawrence
  • A free copy of "Northern Lights," a collection of delightful patterns by Kerin Dimeler-Lawrence
You'll love "Northern Lights," which features five gorgeous sweaters that go up to 64 or 66 inches and an adorable fair isle scarf and hat set, too. There's something for every ample woman in this book.

To qualify, simply leave a response to this post. Contest ends December 1. Good luck! And don't forget to sign up for the Knitting at Large Knit Picks KAL, too.

Cardinals update

If you're making a sweater to wear for a Christmas party December 16 and you're done with the yoke and part of a sleeve by November 16, does that mean you'll have it finished, blocked, and ready to wear? We'll soon find out!

I'm knitting away on my Cardinals cardigan, an adaptation of Ysolda Teague's Chickadee Cardi. I'm pleased with how the birds have turned out with their characteristic triangular tuft. Now they have the classic cardinals look.

The sweater uses a unique top-down construction, creating a hybrid round-yoke/raglan yoke that relies on extensive short rows to provide an excellent fit around the shoulders. After finishing the yoke, you then isolate stitches for one sleeve (leaving the rest on the original needles) and knit downward. I have knitted down to the left elbow - easy peasy thus far. (By the way, I'm showing you the back in these pictures.)

Now I'd better get cracking! I've got lots of knitting to do in the next month if I'm going to be able to wear it to my father's Christmas gathering. I'm sure lots of you are doing Christmas knitting in one form or another. Hope you're making good progess, too.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Knitting at Large Knit Picks KAL!

Today I'm thrilled to announce the Knitting at Large Knit Picks KAL!

Knit Picks is one of the few yarn companies that truly supports support of the ample knitting community. Kerin Dimeler-Laurence, Knit Picks' in-house designer, routinely offers her incredible designs in sizes up to 64 inches. To celebrate this commitment as well as the terrific patterns, join the rest Knitting at Large community in a Knit Picks KAL.

It's easy to participate:

  1. Join the Knitting at Large Knit Picks KAL group on Ravelry.
  2. Choose the Knit Picks ample garment of your choice. Check out the other sections on the Knit Picks website for additional pattern options, too.
  3. Buy your Knit Picks yarn or use some of that stash you've been storing up all these years.

Don't worry... the KAL doesn't begin until Saturday, January 5, 2013. That gives you plenty of time to finish your holiday knitting. You should also put this project on your Christmas list - maybe Santa will leave some Knit Picks yarn under your tree!

I'll be interviewing Kerin Dimeler-Laurence to learn more about her design sensibility and commitment to our community. Plus I'll be doing a great Knit Picks project giveaway soon, too where one lucky winner will win the pattern and yarn needed to make the Knit Picks pattern of her dreams! Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here are just a few of the beautiful projects you can do for the Knitting at Large Knit Picks KAL.