Saturday, April 20, 2013

A conversation with Amy Herzog

When I started my knitting journey, I committed to going to any length to create flattering sweaters that really fit - and that's just what I did. I started by getting ten fabulous tutorials recently published by a Boston-area knitter. When she announced in 2010 that she'd be holding her first class in coastal Maine, I signed up and headed north. Amy Herzog's Fit to Flatter class was born - and it changed my life.


Fast-forward to 2013 and Amy Herzog is now a household name, at least where knitters live. Amy recently launched a truly spectacular Craftsy class, Knit to Flatter, that allows people around the world to learn in the comfort of their homes. Now she has published the accompanying "Knit to Flatter" book which offers, as the subtitle says, "The only instructions you'll ever need to knit sweaters that make you look good and feel great!" No hyperbole here.


You'll love both the class and the book. Truly. Amy helps you figure out your particular body type and then gives you concrete instructions about selecting the best sweater for your body. Her advice and approach: discover your shape, select a flattering pattern, and then knit your first sweater that really fits. The book provides 18 attractive  patterns that are designed to be easy to customize for your particular shape. Amy says that after knitting a first sweater that really fits, you will then be able to apply this knowledge to almost any other garment and consistently make well-fitting sweaters that make you look your very best.


One of the things I like best about the book is that Amy uses real women with real bodies, including some larger models. I asked Amy about particular challenges and solutions related to ample knitting.

Julie: You've met a lot of knitters nationwide teaching about sweater fitting. What have you learned in particular about larger women and their bodies?

Amy: I think the most powerful thing about seeing so many larger women, and talking with them about their sweaters, is the coalescing of several facts into a whole picture. Fact one is that larger women tend not to have larger shoulders. Fact two is that the standardized measurement chart used by the fiber industry is a straight graded scale (everything gets larger together). And Fact three is that we're so hung up on size that many women assume their size is the cause of an unhappy sweater-knitter pair.

I knew all of those things before starting the workshops, and even had thoughts about how to address them (the first two by choosing a base size that fits well in the shoulders as a starting point for a successful sweater, the third by concentrating on the much-more-important shape rather than size). But really considering them all as a (powerful, terrible) unit was hugely, sadly enlightening.

Julie: What discoveries do larger women make in your classes?

First, that their size truly isn't the important factor in whether they like a sweater. It's all about that body shape and the silhouette our figures present to others.

Second, that they can in fact look great in hand-knit sweaters--the samples I bring to class are invaluable for this. For many women, it's the first time they've ever seen themselves in a properly-fitted sweater! And that's incredibly empowering.

And finally, what modifications they need to make to ensure a perfect fit.

Julie: Which are the most important sweater mods for larger women?

The single most important consideration to start with the right "base size"--one that will fit well in the shoulders. This number is often 6'' or more smaller than what the knitter would choose based on the fullest part of their bust.

After selecting a size where the sleeve cap math and shoulders work, the focus is all on the geometry of their particular body. Do they carry their weight all in front, with a more flat backside? They may knit the back and sleeves as written, focusing on making the front of the sweater wider to accommodate them. Are they perfectly proportioned and curvy, but larger? Add inches at the hip, waist, and bust--and shape, shape, shape that sweater! It sounds intimidating, but definitely makes sense once you know your body's inherent shape.

Finally, shaping is another super important modification for larger women. All women need shaping, but larger women especially--the  body is much more flattered by something shapely than by something boxy. And we go into detail about how to achieve that look without resulting in a sweater that clings.

Two special offers for Knitting at Larger readers!

Would you like to take Amy's Craftsy class? For a limited time, Knitting at Large readers can purchase Amy's Knit to Flatter class for only $19.99! You really should take this class. Seriously. Even experienced knitters will benefit from this terrific learning opportunity.

I'm also giving away a free copy of the Knit to Flatter book! To sign up for this contest, simply leave a comment that briefly describes your biggest sweater fitting challenge. I'll pick a winner on April 30. Good luck!


62 comments:

  1. This looks like a great book. I have been looking at it since it came out. My biggest challenge is that I carry my weight in my abdomen-middle area and I am not that big in the upper area so finding something to fit both areas is a challenge or you do a lot of modifications--I'm not that fond of math. Love your blog. I've been a reader for quite a while.
    Rav ID-pprahl
    Pat Prahl

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  2. I have two challenging areas: bust and upper arms. I have knit too many sweaters that are too tight in both areas and I can't wear them.

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  3. My issues are I'm short and tubby. So petite sweaters fit my height but not my waist. I'm looking forward to this book so I can knit my own personal fitting garment! Thanks for the chance to win. Tbmccarthy on rav

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  4. My fitting areas are my very narrow slightly sloping forward shoulders vs my bust and slightly thicker waist. I have the same issues with store bought clothing. If clothes fit the bust they way too big for my shoulders.

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  5. I'm going to buy that Craftsy class. I've already benefited from Amy's blog posts. Now I'm off to show my appreciation with some $$$.

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  6. Everything Amy writes is wonderful. My challenge is not really understanding how the whole arm/neckline/bust area of a sweater really works and so being afraid of modifying for those reasons.
    Rav id shoelaceswitcher

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  7. My fitting challenge is my youngest daughter's high waist and full bust. And she's a plus size girl, so she won't wear any kind of bulky looking knit.

    greyowl60@yahoo.com

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  8. My biggest sweater fitting challenge is that I am tall and long bodied. If the sweater pattern is mainly stockinette stitch, adding length to the body and sleeves is a piece of cake. I run into a problem when the sweater has lace or cables. I often have to do some figuring out so that I can add length but make sure the body pattern still lines up correctly, like with a cable or lace.

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  9. I do have problem with upper arms and bust: how to knit the sweater that doesn't make them look bigger than they are. This book seems to be an answer:)

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  10. Oh, my! The problems I have are:I am over 55 but not a grandmother and I am looking for work, I am very short waisted, I have hips (and butt) larger than an average tape measure, I have a nice bust but also "back fat" that theoretically should be more bust, and I do not like cropped tops or short sweaters. My waist is hidden by rolls, and that is hard to deal with.

    I would LOVE to make a sweater that fits me, and looks nice, not like a man's sweater. It would be wonderful to be able to know how to modify patterns for my pleasure, not some "fashionista". Also, if I should ever lose weight (yeah, right), I would be thrilled to know how to adjust the perfect sweater again!

    This book would help me greatly.

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  11. My biggest challenge with sweaters is fitting my shoulders and upper arms. There may be a fair amount of muscle, but it is well padded and that makes for awkward fitting a lot of the time.

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  12. Hm, my shape has changed with age (not for the better), so instead of a waist, I'm pretty square shaped now. But, being under 5' tall with shorter arms than normal, it's really hard to fit sweaters that fit. This book looks like it may help me to wear sweaters again!

    Of course, first I'll have to make them!

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  13. My bust is larger than the rest of my frame, so following sizes based on bust size has always resulted in sweaters that were too large every where else. I had just decided to stop following that measurement when the book came out and affirmed my decision! I look forward to learning more from Amy.

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  14. I seem to have a common problem: my upper arms and bust line, as well as a large belly. My weight is mostly in the front. I don't know how to modify patterns for this, and I've given up knitting sweaters. I'm pretty sure this book would help me over this hurdle.

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  15. My problem is that I'm short with wide hips. Standard sizes rarely fit both my length and my hips.

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  16. My biggest sweater fitting challenge is probably my bust for hand knit sweaters. It's almost certainly my arms for commercial sweaters (I have long arms, so they always look just a bit too short but not short enough for it to look deliberate), but arm length is easy to change even for a beginning sweater knitter.

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  17. My biggest challenge is getting the length of the sleeves and sweater right. I would like to do more shaping through the body, though, too, and haven't been brave enough to do much.

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  18. I am a large woman, but the sizes I need always a lots too much room room in the boob area and not enough room in the arms for me. So unless I alter the hell out of a pattern I am left with making a sweater that fits my boob area but not my arms or belly, or they fit my belly and maybe arms but leave too much room in the boob area. I stopped knitting sweaters a while ago and while I have started a few these past 2 years, I have never finished them. I miss sweaters.

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  19. I'm working my way through Amy erzog's Craftsy class and pray that I will be successful in knitting myself a sweater. My biggest challenge seems to be getting the waist shaping in the right place. I'm optimistic that these tools may finally mean success.

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  20. I've made one sweater, and it didn't fit. As big as I am, I don't want to waste the time and money making another sweater that doesn't fit. I'd love to know how to make a sweater that fits before I start knitting it.

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  21. I have very short arms, so one of my constant challenges is getting a sleeve increase (or decrease, for top-downs) that will fit properly at the cuff as well as at the upper arm.
    Lynda in Oregon

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  22. This is great :)
    My great problem is how long should I knit the sweater ....

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  23. My biggest issue is making sweaters snug enough. I always think they will be too small and end up making them too big.

    Consuelo Stacy

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  24. I am a pear shape and have a hard time getting things to fit over my belly.

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  25. I have broad shoulders and almost no waist - and almost no hips! I'm like a football player :) So, that makes it difficult to knit sweaters with no or negative ease! I would love to win this comment!

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  26. Woot! Throwing my hat into the ring, here.

    My biggest challenge thus far is getting the back waist/hip area to fit correctly.

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  27. The upper arms are probably my biggest problems. I can make the body fit, but the armhole depth and the sleeve width itself are problems.

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  28. I always end up with it being too big. Usually starting with the shoulders then the armhole. It is very frustrating. I can buy ready made and it almost always fits. But not when I knit even when I use measurements from existing sweaters. Urgh! Thank you for asking.

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  29. my biggest issue is the armhole and sleeve width being too big because i have to make a bigger sweater based on bust size. this looks like a fabulous book!

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  30. Tishkette on RavelryApril 21, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    My arms!!! The sleeves are either too tight (latest sweater) or way too baggy (last two sweaters).

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  31. Great blog visit. Thanks so much, Julie & Amy!

    (And if you pick my comment for the book - go ahead and pick someone else. I already have - and love, love, love - the book and the crafsty class. You can't go wrong with either.)

    - Buffy

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  32. I have broad shoulders and need to add rows so my sweaters correctly hit the back of my neck. This is a great reference!
    Johalley on RAV

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  33. Well my greatest challenge is going to be to actually knit a sweater for myself. Many years ago my mother, who is a very capable knitter, offered to knit me a cardi. She measured me, took my measurements to the LYS and was told no one could have those measurements or they'd look like a gorilla. Gotta say that put me off knitting anything other than scarves for myself! But who knows, maybe there's hope.

    -coymackerel

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  34. My biggest fitting challenge is finding ways to lengthen throughout the entire sweater, not just the body and sleeves. I'm quite tall, and need to make length adjustments in every area at the right proportions.

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  35. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of this great book. I have avoided knitting sweaters due to fit issues.

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  36. My biggest challenge is length; I end up with sweaters drawing up my back and also too short sleeves.
    This is a beautiful book, and I would love to have it.

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  37. My biggest challenge is fear of the unknown. I'm always afraid of the sweater not fitting, so I choose a size that's too large "just to make sure". I'd love to know how to select the right size for my body!

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  38. I'm short and curvy, so the biggest fitting challenges for me are re-calculating increase/decrease slope rates and adding additional bust shaping.

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  39. I was a large woman before I had my son. My large bust was the main issue then. After having him, my body changed so much I felt like a stranger in it. On top of the large bust (which got larger) my hips and my lower abdomen is much bigger now. I just want to cover it all up but in an attractive way.

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  40. I have narrow shoulders and a wide rear end. anything in the store that fits my butt is huge everywhere else. This book looks like just what I need.

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  41. My most challenging sweater knitting challenge is fitting the arms correctly

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  42. My challenge in fitting is being very short, with large upper arms and shoulders that are not wide.

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  43. My biggest challenge is finding the right size to knit. I have narrow shoulders and small bust size but wider at my hips, so nothing fits me right.

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  44. My biggest challenge is to recalculate for a different kind of wool than that one given in the discription...

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  45. My biggest challenge is sleeves. Everything is large but my arms are not proportionately large with the rest of my body. arm holes are always extremely large for me.

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  46. The Tomato Sweater. I knit it 3 times and finally just gave it away. Then, I found Amy :) My biggest challenge was the way I visualized my body. And math...

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  47. My biggest cardigan sweater fitting challenge is either finding or knitting a cardigan that fits in the bust without gaping when it's buttoned shut. I think Amy's book would be really helpful in showing me how to confidently modify sweater patterns. Thanks for the chance to win!

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  48. My biggest challenge is making something flattering to my tummy, which isn't in the greatest shape after two kids have had their way with it!

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  49. My biggest challenge is making something that isn't too fitted but doesn't hang like a sack! Always either too big or too small. I'll need to learn to fit things over my bust AND my shoulders.....

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  50. My shoulders and bust can be a challenge. I'd really like to learn how to add or adjust bust darts.

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  51. My challenge can be trying to find a small enough size as I am a petite person

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  52. Getting the waist shaping to hit at the right spot is a challenge for me. The way they're written in patterns is usually too high for me. Figuring out how to change the placement of the shaping has greatly improved the fit of my sweaters.

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  53. I've been reading this book from the library and NEED it to help my sweaters fit better. Hope I win.

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  54. I usually knit just a rectangle body, and I have to learn how to do waist shaping and perhaps I should look into bust darts as well! Sweaters tend to ride up in the front and sag in the back.

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  55. I need them to fit well on the bust.

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  56. Making the shoulders small enough but the hips large enough and not having it have a really weird shape. My email is vjferguson@comcast.net

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  57. I'm short, and I'm also short-waisted. I have a larger than average bustline, so knitting something to flatter isn't something I've been able to accomplish yet. This book could really help!

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  58. I am petite all over, so my biggest problems are sleeves being too long and bust being too billowy.

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  59. I have not completed a sweater for myself in decades. I've knitted plenty of accessories, just no garments. I am just not happy with my size, so every sweater I knit for myself makes me look even larger. I guess I will have to confront taking measurements and doing the math if I'm ever getting out of this rut!

    However, I just got this book from the library and am reading through it with hope. Thanks so much for sponsoring this giveaway.

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  60. I'm quite tall and nearly always lengthen sweaters, but often forget to buy extra yarn at the time and then have to hunt for the same dye lot!
    lindarumsey on Ravelry

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  61. Just found out about your blog in my LYS. I'm not thin and it's been difficult finding patterns that are written larger. Love all your info!

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  62. My bustline is large, but my arm circumference is not! It is really frustrating to work with patterns that have been enlarged arithmetically, as the arms are often huge. I made one sweater over three times, mostly because I loved the RED Noro yarn I bought while on vacation in Hawaii and I couldn't bear to stuff it in a closet and forget about it! There's got to be an easier way...

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