Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Directions in waist shaping

I'm working on my first Custom Fit pattern as part of the Knitting at Large Custom Fit KAL. Although the KAL started in December, I'm late to the gate like a lot of others because of the demands of the holidays. But no worry - it's ongoing. (I'd you'd like to knit along with us, check out this Ravelry page).

I'm working on a vest of my own design. It's going to be a scoop-necked cardigan vest that buttons up the front and features a large three-color fair isle motif across the bust and upper back. Here's a very general mockup (oh, how I wish I could draw).

I'm calling it the Springbrook Vest after my high school and its team colors, navy and medium blue. My intention is to wear this with jeans and a chambray shirt. If I end up loving it, maybe I'll add some sleeves at the end and make it a cardi. We'll see.

My yarn: Berroco Blackstone Tweed in Narrangasset, Denim, and Foggy. Comprised of wool, mohair, and angora, this Aran-weight tweed softens with wear and develops a halo. A little shimmering fuzziness should be nice in a fair isle design, I think.

The garment, like most of Amy Herzog's designs, is knit from the bottom up with side seams and set-in sleeves (if I were going to have sleeves). I cast on and started up the back.

My welcome surprise is that the pattern called for a waist-shaping technique I've not used before. Instead of doing two decreases at the princess seams like I've usually done, the pattern called for four. Below, I've outlined where the decreases appear since it's hard to see with the dark yarn.

I will be very interested to see how this effects the fit. It makes sense to me intellectually; anything you can do to turn a flat, two-dimensional rectangle into a three-dimensional tube is a good thing. The additional waist shaping makes the garment even more 3-D and eliminates extraneous fabric at the waist, too. (For those who don't know me, I have a mighty derriere and a narrower waist, and therefore have to do significant waist shaping on everything I make).

I have discovered one thing that I will do differently in the future though. The Custom Fit pattern calls for the decreases to be made outside of the markers (you can see two of the four in the image above). With this technique, the decrease lines go out towards the seams. Unfortunately, the decrease lines also drive the eye outward to the hips - not an optimal look for me.

In the future, I will knit the decreases inside the markers. This brings the decrease line in towards the waistline, drawing the eye in, which  is a better choice for me because it emphasizes my narrower waist.

I used this technique with Julia Farwell Clay's Bartok Tunic. As you can see here, the decrease lines point in, and then at the waist, point outwards I to accommodate my bust line. This emphasizes my curves.

If I had done the decreases outside the markers, the sweater would have looked like this. See how it draws the eye outwards, making me look even wider? (Of course, this mock-up is exaggerated so the look in real life would have been more subtle, but the effect would have benn the same.)

To conclude, my advice thus far about Custom Fit patterns is to learn everything you can from the techniques provided and then apply your own knowledge and experience. The Custom Fit support team instructs knitters to "trust the elves" that make the patterns. This makes me uncomfortable, especially since I have a much more complicated body to fit than anyone on their team, I'd bet. I've knit over a dozen sweaters for my body - at this point, I'm the real expert on fitting sweaters to my body. So my philosophy is to trust but verify. This way, you take what you need and leave the rest. For me, this means I got the innovative technique to do four sets of decreases instead of just two. Really great stuff.


  1. You know tons about shaping. Maybe you should have been one of the elves. Two lines of shaping, very interesting. I was just reading my CF pattern and will get my needles out and get started soon. Your design is lovely.

  2. Makes sense that the elf you trust most is your very own self :)

  3. I'm also a little uncomfortable with the "trust the elves" motto so I'm really looking forward to hearing more about your experience with Custom Fit.