Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mechelle, my belle

Last month, Mechelle posted pictures of her Summer Waves Cardi. "It's a lovely pattern but although I like it with the cream blouse and leggings, I don’t feel it works with the dress that I wanted it to work for," she wrote. "SIGH. I don’t know if it is the style, colour - or me with my butch shoulders... earburning Julie as well as anyone else with any advice."

Mechelle received a lot of advice and opinions, including reassurance that the sweater was just fine as it was. But I thought the sweater was too long - and said so. "I know, go ahead everyone, throw fruit! But I think if my beloved Mechelle cropped this to her waist, she’d get the same look she has in her beauteous black shrug/red dress pic." I remembered Mechelle's beautiful makeover photographs in which she simply radiates.

A picture paints a thousand words, so I mocked up some images. "Look at this… if she cropped this, it would work much better," I said. This sweater is a classic example of Amy Herzog's Fit to Flatter. If Mechelle shortened this garment, it would emphasize her waist and take full advantage of her figure.

I thought she needed some other mods, too. "The problem with quick-and-easy top-down raglans is that the necklines don’t fit well on larger women. This neckline should be all together lower and it would fit a lot better," I explained, again showing an image to illustrate my point. The sweater rides up on Mechelle and doesn't fit correctly at the shoulders because the neckline isn't deep enough.

My prescription? Major sweater surgery. Not an easy pill to swallow, I know! But I was convinced it would work. I gave Mechelle step-by-step instructions:
  1. Cut the extra fabric off the bottom, pick up the stitches, and knit a 1-inch rib.
  2. Unravel the bottom of the sleeves and knit a couple of more inches and then knit a 1-inch rib.
  3. Find your bravery - dig deep!
  4. Figure out exactly where you want the neckline to end and then subtract a half inch.
  5. Get out the sewing machine and stitch on this line twice, about an 1/8 of an inch apart. So you’d have two lines of sewn stitches.
  6. Trim outside the outermost line.
  7. Pick up stitches and knit a half-inch rib.
  8. Block and wear to the wedding.
I continued, "You’re so close, why give up now? Learn some more lessons! If it doesn’t work, you can make that shawl. But if it does work, you will feel victorious, capable, and most of all, PRETTY. Which you are anyway. :-)"

Mechelle thoroughly considered her options and then she went for it. Our intrepid British knitter started with "the easy bits," unraveling both the sweater hem and the sleeves. She then added a few inches to the sleeves, as well as a one-inch ribbing. She knitted an identical ribbing on the bottom which helped cinch her back waist for a better fit.

Scary as those mods may seem, the difficult part came next: the neckline. I suggested she eliminate one pattern repeat of the lace and then pick up the stitches and knit a few garter stitch rows.

The next day she checked in with her pals at the Knitting at Large group. "NECKLINE DONE and I am a very happy bunny with the new neckline. What a difference an inch or two makes. Just finishing off the ends." 

I couldn't wait to see the final picture - and here it is! Isn't she lovely? The deeper neckline lets the cardi fits beautifully on her shoulders. The shorter length and longer sleeves highlight her waist and emphasize her bust line and narrower hips. And check out the matching clutch Mechelle made. It's perfect! And adorable, too - just like Mechelle.

I'm incredibly proud of Mechelle for turning her okay sweater into the just-right accompaniment for her pretty dress. All hail Mechelle, the intrepid knitter!

Do you have a so-so sweater that you'd like to make spectacular? Are you willing to test your mettle, even if it means you have to hack up your already finished piece? Want advice about your particular sweater? Let's talk! Join our growing league of intrepid knitters who have great sweaters that FIT.


  1. I find it amazing how much dressier the sweater looks with the modifications.

  2. Yikes! What a difference those mods made! It looks absolutely wonderful on her.

  3. Amazing transformation. Wish I had the wisdom to know how to alter my sweaters to look the best on me while knitting them.

  4. Well, it's obvious why you're the designer and not me....when I first started reading this and viewing the original, I thought "What is she THINKING?", but the finished product, with the same dress....stunning, just stunning. If only I could figure out how to get pictures off my phone and onto the computer, I'd give you another opportunity to work your magic. Well done, Julie

    1. I have a non-smart phone so I text the pictures to my e-mail address.

  5. I agree with Susan. The sweater was great in the first incarnation. But stunning reworked!

    I think finding the length of a top is the hardest thing for me. Where are they supposed to fall? What's the find line between way too long and way too short?

  6. Wow! I knew the arms were too short but would never have thought about SHORTENING it! but it works. Wow.

  7. MUCH better! Your mods were just what it needed! Now it is indeed stunning. Love the dress, too!