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.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Christmas knitting goes commercial

Today, as I perused Facebook, these beautiful stockings danced off the screen. I thought Knitting Daily had posted another set of free patterns, but no. These beauties are now on sale at the Sundance Catalog.

Given that these stockings are being sold retail, wouldn't you figure they were assembled by a fancy automated factory in China? Wrong. As the Tassled Flamestitch Scarf description says:
Add to your collection with a new design in our keepsake stockings, sure to become family heirlooms.  A women’s collective in Bosnia creates these wonderful woolens, hand knit in flamestitch patterns, each signed by the woman who made it. Exclusive. Sizes may vary slightly, as each is individually knitted. Approx. 7"W x 21-1/2"L. Each stocking sells for $65. 
What a steal! How much are these Bosnian artisans making on every stocking? Two bucks? Three? The real answer would be: not nearly enough.

The Sundance Catalog sells other handknits, such as this $68 sock monkey, handmade in Nepal. 

Or these cute wool bottle sweaters, stitched by those hard-working Bosnian knitters, which sell for $35 each.

The very best handknitted item is an ethnic tree skirt, again handknitted by the Bosnians, which sells for a whopping $595.

At this price, I'd definitely make my own, but I'd knit all of these items before buying them, mostly because I can. For those who will never learn to knit, these make perfect gifts. But as Sundance has proved, there's no money in knitting. In my world, knitted gifts are always acts of love, never economics. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Oh! And I finished the Hiro

I just realized you haven't seen the completed and IMHO completely fabulous Hiro! I'll be posting photos of me modeling the garment soon, but until then, here it is in all its glory.

Out to lunch

Two kind readers ask: where in the heck have you been? And how in the heck are you?

I've been out to lunch apparently but I'm fine, thanks for asking. Let me get you up to date on my knitting projects because you know no matter what I do, I'm knitting!

I've got two sweater projects underway. You're not really a devout knitter unless you're knee-deep in multiple projects - just ask my friend, Maggie who routinely works on double-digit, in-process knitting projects and still yearns  to start something else!

First on the list: my personal rework of Takoma, Julia Farwell-Clay's cowichan-inspired coat. I fell in love with this sweater at first sight, but after seeing completed projects and contemplating my personal girth and mighty derriere, I decided I should make a plainer version that makes the most of my figure. I used graphics software to  envision the sweater modifications. I changed the color, too since I'm using gold instead of the taupe in the original design. Note that I am removing all the stripes below the armpits and the center stripes on the sleeves. This should draw the eye up to the bodice and play down my way-too-ample hips.

I've finished the sleeves and really love how it looks thus far. The lightweight chunky Cascade Eco+ brings this sweater to life and makes for a very fast knit.

But one sweater isn't enough for me. I'm also working on Ysolda Teague's Chickadee Sweater from Little Red in the City. I'm going to turn the chickadees into cardinals using duplicate stitch when I'm finished. My  family is obsessed with the red birds; every time we see a pair, we're convinced that our dearly departed grandparents have come back to visit. My family will love this sweater. It will make a perfect Christmas cardigan that I can still wear all winter long, too.

I'm using Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light in Moonshadow and (appropriately) Cardinal. I cruised Etsy until I found the just-right vintage red glass buttons - they're perfect! Now all I have to do is knit. 

Have I told you lately how much I love making sweaters? Last week, I was at Joann Fabrics looking for buttons and came across a knitting book I really liked five years ago. The problem: all of the sweater patterns in that book were way too small for me and I didn't have a clue about upsizing. At the time, I dejectedly sighed and put the book back on the shelf. But when I came across thjs book last week, I realized there wasn't a single design that I couldn't re-engineer for my particular lumpiness. What an achievement! I know the rest of the world would never understand that I can now die a happy woman because I can make sweaters that fit, but perhaps you'll understand. It's incredibly difficult to knit flattering fashions that fit, but now I can do it with confidence.