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.

16 comments:

  1. Fantastic. It's interesting that some measurements are bigger, some smaller and some exactly the same. Excellent tutorial.

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  2. This exercise explains why nothing commercially made fits me, Deb! Thanks and happy new year!

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  3. This is a very good tutorial. Thanks a bunch!

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  4. I found your blog reading through fit to flatter on ravelry. It's great, thank you for such an informative tutorial. I just have one question about ease. I thought adding too much ease could make one look bigger than one is? I'm new to all this stuff (it's so exciting to know I can finally make things to fit) so please bear with me. thank you. if it helps answer my question I am 42 above the bust, 45 at the biggest point, 40 at the waist, and 45 at the hips

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    1. I think larger women need more ease - clinging doesn't work for me or most ample girls IMHO. Nor does baggy! Given the measurements you posted, you likely need less. I'd try measuring a sweater you like and figure out the ease you need from there.

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    2. Thank you for the reply. after looking through my wardrobe I must admit the clothes I love the most DO have some ease in them allowing me to feel comfortable and not self conscious. thanks again and looking forward to the next installment as well as your finished chickadee. I love the colors you chose

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    3. I am 46 above the bust and unless its for an outer garment do not usually add more than 2" to this for ease, but that sleeve depth is crucial, you just don't want to have extra "baggage" in this area more ease from the actual bustline and downward is fine
      Dottie2

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    4. it all comes back to that crossback area fitting properly
      -Dottie

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  5. I'm really loving these posts. Thank you for going into so much detail about how you modify your sweaters, it's so helpful to read along!

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  6. Add my thanks to those already here. This is the most helpful series of posts I've read in some years of reading knitting blogs. I've got limited time to knit and read about knitting and
    up until now have been too fearful of wasting time and a large amount of yarn to cast on for a sweater. Not any more! Bless you!

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  7. After finding your blog and accepting the possibility of knitting something that actually fits, I happily premiered my first sweater at Christmas dinner with friends, proof positive that everyone can look good in a well-fitted sweater, no matter what size. Not quite ready yet to completely restructure a pattern as you have here, but I'll get there.

    Thanks for sharing all your hard-earned information.

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  8. Thanks, Julie. Spot on, as usual. :-)

    Nicki

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  9. Awesome Job, Julie !!! you are so adept at using words and pictures to explain so that everyone can understand... thanks again
    Dottie

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    1. Thanks so much Julie for this 3rd segment. I look forward to making my own Optimal Schematic. Paulette.

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