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Updates for all!

The last sun-splashed days of summer are slipping by here in New England, complete with leaves falling and chilly nights. I’m soaking up knitting on the patio as often as humanly possible, which makes for good knitting progress but pretty mediocre updates here. So I have a bunch of updates to share with you today! To make the inevitable list less boring, read through to the end to get a chance to win some yummy yarn!

The first updates are to our Maker plans.

We got lots of great feedback right off the bat about the new Maker plans — thank you so much for all of your honest and thoughtful comments, and your patience as we worked to make these plans better match what you want from CustomFit. Thanks to your feedback, the plans have now changed!


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(From left to right: Screenshots of Maker Central, the recipes page, and the designs page.)

We definitely heard that people were interested both in:

  • Allowing everyone to knit all of the designs we build into the site, and
  • The Maker plans being a way to purchase patterns at a discount.

So, here are the new details for the maker plans:

  • All Makers will still get exclusive access to Maker Central
  • All Makers will still get free access to (all) AHD recipes

And the pattern details are now:

  • At $4.99/month, Makers now get 8 patterns per year (placed automatically in your account on the original Maker Plus dates), plus one free sweater credit at sign-up
  • At $7.99/month, those at the Maker Plus level will now enjoy unlimited patterns. (Please note that this is intended for personal and individual knitter use only.)

Everyone at any level (Basic, Maker, and Maker Plus) will have access both to the currently-featured designs and the full design archive. See the ever-growing list of sweaters that are built into the site on our designs page.

We hope you like the new Maker terms! We’re all really, really excited about CustomFit, the changes we have planned, and are definitely working very hard to make the site even better. Please also know that we’re also a tech startup in our first year, and CustomFit (at this point) is pretty far from being able to pay for itself. This means two things, really: First, thanks for your continued patience and support, and for inviting us along on your sweater journeys. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you. Second, the best way you can help all of the fun CustomFit improvements happen is to tell others about the site, and become a Maker yourself if you’re so inclined.

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Second on the update front: Where’s Amy going to be this fall?

If I’m distracted from updates in general, I’m downright lousy about letting you all know where I’ll be, and when! Here’s a quick list of where I’ll be over the next couple of months:

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Third and finally, on the update front: My SSKAL sweater.

Despite plenty of knitting this summer, my poor SSKAL tank has languished!

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In fact… even though I’m still really excited about the concept (relaxed fit, casual silk tank with a mesh front), I’m clearly running out of hot, summer days on which to implement this whole wardrobe plan. So I’ve been thinking:

What if I added some sleeves?

I have the yarn, they’ll be quick to whip up in Stockinette, and will give me a piece I can wear further into the coming season. On the other hand, they change my original vision. So I thought I should ask you!

Should I keep the tank as originally envisioned, or make it into a sweater with sleeves? Which would you wear more?

Please leave a comment letting me know which option you’re more excited to see by Thursday August 28. On Friday, August 29, we’ll draw a random number out of a hat and send someone a fall sweater sampler pack:

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This is just a collection of one hank each of a number of different sweater yarns, to play around with. They range from fingering to bulky, include a variety of fibers and constructions, and should offer lots of fun sweater daydreams. Swatch them up and see what you think! Included are one hank each of: Rowan Felted Tweed Aran, Harrisville Designs WATERshed, Shibui linen, Blue Sky Alpacas Techno, Quince and Co Tern, and Green Mountain Spinnery Alpaca Elegance.

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on what I should do with my sweater – and stay tuned later this week to see who won, and my first fall design release!

CustomFit Makers and Fall Festival KAL

Update, August 25:

Before you read this post, check out this update to the Maker program. Based on your feedback, we changed the way the Maker plans work! We’re happy to give you the CustomFit experience you want to have. Read more about your options for using CustomFit here.

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As of today, there’s a new way of using CustomFit.

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I’ve wanted for awhile now to to create a special island of CustomFit support, inspiration, and ideas. A way to partner with hand knitters to come along on their sweater journey in a fuller way. We’ve captured this partnership in the notion of a “maker”.

You can get full details here, but here’s a quick low-down:

  • Makers get credits auto-deposited to their account throughout the year. Each credit is good for one sweater – be it an Amy design, a classic, a custom, or any of the exciting things we’ll roll out over the next few months.
  • Makers get access to the full design archive – any of my designs (or anyone else’s!) that go into the site will always and forever be available to makers. (Basic account holders will only be able to make designs in the currently-featured set.)
  • Makers get lots of support. All of my recipes will be free for our makers to download, and they’ll also get access to a special “Maker Central” portion of the site with stitch pattern ideas and inspiration, special tips, and great sweater ideas.

We’ve added 5 new designs to the site, just for makers:

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And more will be added continuously, including some this week! (Note: The set of ‘featured designs’, which are available to everyone, will rotate every month or so.)

We can’t wait to work with our makers to bring a whole new slew of Happy Sweater Faces into the world. Join us here.

And boy, do we have the perfect way to kick off your maker journey:

Fall Festival KAL

While I’m definitely a year-round sweater kind of girl, there’s something incredibly special about fall knitting. We’re experiencing those first tastes of super-crisp weather here in New England – the kind where you reach for just a tiny bit of wool first thing in the morning to take the chill off.

Our thoughts are turning to the upcoming festival season: caramel apples and artichoke french, new yarns from our favorite local and independent producers, perfect layering pieces for cold days.

The Fall Festival Sweater KAL will take place from August 15 – November 15, and will work like our previous KALs: We’ll get started swatching and dreaming today, and give ourselves until November 15 to finish our sweaters.

Take a dive in your stash and find a gorgeous woolly wool, or recreate a favorite store-bought fall sweater. Just like with Cardipalooza and the Summer Sweater KAL, keep an eye on the blog for posts about what we’re knitting, how to wear your finished summer sweaters, and prizes once we finish up!

What am I knitting, do you ask? Well… that’s a good question.

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Hey, I never claimed to have an easy time making decisions when it comes to yarn!

The ins & outs of necklines

Teaching is absolutely one of my most favoritest things on the planet, but a long teaching weekend definitely requires some adjusting on the other end! Routines have been disrupted, the inbox gets unspeakable, and everything feels just a little bit on the crazy side for a few days once I’m back home.

(The nice news on that front is that while I have some local events, I’m not truly traveling again until my own retreat. Over a month of “regular life”! It feels unspeakably luxurious.)

Today, I wanted to get back into a more regular routine and share a little bit about one of the questions I get most often in my classes:

How does one work a (fill in the blank) neckline?

Though it may not seem like it:


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The answer is actually pretty simple! When it comes to removing those neckline stitches, there are relatively few actual neck shapes:

  • Vee necklines are the simplest, and remove the neck stitches evenly over the entire length of the neckline. Typical depths range between 1” (2.5 cm) above and 2” (5 cm) below armhole shaping.
  • Round necklines remove the neck stitches in three distinct areas: A BO section in the center, then two different rates of decrease. Typical depths range from around 3 – 3.5” (7.5 – 9 cm) for a crew neck and anywhere over 5” (12.5 cm) for a scoop.
    • All round necklines bind off between 40 – 55% of the neckline stitches.
    • Crew necklines then decrease half of the remaining stitches every row, and the rest every RS row.
    • Scoop necks decrease half of the remaining stitches every RS row, and the rest every 4th or 6th row.
  • Square necklines bind off all stitches at once. Typical depths range between 5 – 8” (12.5 – 21 cm).
  • Boat necklines bind off all but about 1” (2.5 cm) of stitches in the initial neck row, and then decrease at each end of every row or every RS row a few times. I prefer a typical depth of around 2” (5 cm) to ensure the boat neck ends just under my collarbone.

So if there are only four basic neck shapes, and many more things we think of as ‘necklines’, what gives? The answer lies in what you do with the neckline when you work the edging.

  • Round necklines form the basis for tons of different neckline shapes.
    • Turtlenecks are built off of crew necklines, and are between 7 – 9” (18 – 23 cm) in height. Thornes is a great example:
      thornes-final-2
    • Cowl necks are built off of scoop necklines, and are typically worked for 8 – 12” (20.5 – 30.5 cm) or more, depending on how luscious you want that cowl. The Trimmings cowl is 12” (30.5 cm):
      trimmings-cowl
    • Wide collars are also built off of crew necklines, whether on a cardigan or a pullover. Simply pick up stitches and then work for as long as desired. The collar on Tucci is around 8” (20.5 cm):
      tucci-second-pass-8
    • Finally, hoods are also built off of crew necklines. The simplest way to knit a hood is to pick up around the neck opening, knit until you clear your own head, then split your stitches between two needles and join them with a 3-needle bind-off. I worked a bit more shaping, but followed that basic procedure, for the hood on Dorica:
      Dorica-2
  • Vee necklines are the underlying shape for those shawl collars we love so much. A full description of the procedure is beyond this post (and will be coming soon!), but in short, the shawl part of the collar is shaped with short rows, to make the center back neckline twice as deep as the front edges of the neckline:
    shawl-collar
  • Finally, boat necklines are a great option if you want a slightly unusual twist on a more classic neckline, whether it’s a turtleneck, wide collar, or something else. These necklines were all worked like a variation above, but off of a boat neck shape instead of the usual:
    wintry-mix courant-turtle Holloway-1_medium2

And there you have it! Most of the necklines you’d like to make, demystified. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little spin around neckline design-land, and that it helps you both with the patterns you’re modifying by hand, and with the patterns you’re creating using CustomFit.

And on the CustomFit note – in conjunction with our next KAL announcement, we’ve got some SUPER exciting developments to share with you. So check back this weekend – and until then, happy knitting!

(Photo credits for this post: Knit to Flatterphotos courtesy Karen Pearson; Cornsilk, Trimmings, and Wintry Mix photos courtesy splityarn; Thornes, Courant, Alta, and Tucci courtesy Jonathan Herzog and/or me.)

Wrapping up the Summer Sweater KAL

Lauren here! It feels like summer just got here, yet fall is almost around the corner! Some days I’m convinced that fall is in the air, and other days I’m sweltering under 95 degree weather (no, we don’t have air conditioning, and yes, I keep knitting anyway).

Summer Sweater KAL

August is halfway over, and our Summer Sweater Knit-A-Long is wrapping up. I’m excited to note we’ll be announcing our next KAL this week, and it’s a good one. Have you finished a summer sweater, shell, or tank? We’d love to see what you’ve made!

I’ve posted already about my first finished “sweater” for this KAL. I still haven’t altered the final length, but I’m leaning towards that course of action. Though it may be a bit of a pain to have to weave in still more ends, I think it will be worth it in the end!

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And of course, I’m still working away on the Effervescent Cardigan knock-off that I’ve mentioned in a few previous posts. I’ve had to frog much more on this sweater than I’m used to — which I suppose is what happens when you forsake endless expanses of stockinette for more complex stitch patterns! There’s no way it will be finished by the end of the KAL — there’s more than a front and a half to go, plus the finishing — but I think it will be a fabulous sweater to wear no matter when it’s finished! Don’t worry, I’ll share it here on the blog when I’m done. I’ve got some extra special buttons I’m excited to use.

Amy would love to share her finished summer sweater, but she didn’t quite make it. She’s been too busy knitting these other sweaters…

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… which are designs to be released over the next several months. Though she managed to finish four (!) sweaters during the SSKAL, this is the sad state of the one she knit for herself:

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But once it’s finished, we’ll see some photos of this one too! And keep your eyes peeled for the four sweaters above — they’ll be dropping soon.

As for Jackie, she’s living on the edge. It’s coming down to the wire for the tank she showed off in her last post, but she just may make it! Poor Jackie — she’s been at her computer all day and night working on details for the upcoming retreat. She has barely had time to knit!

Now we want to see your sweaters! We’ve opened a thread in our Ravelry group to post photos. You’ll have until August 20 to post your photo — at that time, we’ll draw a winning name. This time around, the prize is our favorite one yet.

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Six skeins of Harrisville Silk & Wool, a lovely DK weight 50/50 blend. You might want to put it good use for our next KAL, which the three of us agree is our favorite. Fire up the size 7 needles and the worsted-weight woolly wool … we’ll be back with more details soon!

Fall Festival KAL

How & Why

I’m making slow, but steady, progress on my Summer Sweater. The days here have been an odd mix of super busy (as we’ve been working on some exciting CustomFit features that you’ll be seeing over the next few months) and peacefully quiet (as long summer days out in the sticks tend to be).

I’m particularly pleased with how this one is turning out so far:

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What is it going to be, you ask? It’s a sleeveless version of an as-yet-unreleased Amy design, worked in Mrs. Crosby Hat Box. The yarn is a joy to knit with, and is creating a fantastic fabric for this top. I’m really happy with it so far.

But it’s not just the yarn that is making me happy (though it is, to be sure). This is the first sweater I’ve knit after taking Patty Lyons’ Improve Your Knitting Craftsy class. As some of you may remember, I’ve been on a quest for some time now to improve my own knitting — not only do I want to create even stitches, without rowing out, and a good fabric that doesn’t grow mysteriously, and for my gauge to stay consistent from piece to piece, and from sweater to sweater…

…I want to know why that happens, and how to control it. Even with CustomFit, I would be nervous knitting my sweaters because I wasn’t sure if my gauge was changing as I knit. Or I’d start rowing out halfway through and I didn’t know why. I didn’t have a good reason for most of my knitting technique – it was just the way I figured it out from reading Stitch N Bitch, with adjustments made here or there based on isolated tips and tricks from different classes and people.

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Patty is pretty fantastic.

Patty’s class turned out to be just what I was looking for, that I didn’t even know existed. It was revelational. (And clearly, it’s one of the reasons we asked her to teach at our retreat this year, and are so excited to share it with you all as well.) In it, Patty covers many different types of knitting techniques, and by that, I mean how you hold and move your yarn around, as well as the pros and cons of each. But perhaps even more importantly, Patty discusses the proper way to size your stitch using your needles, without distorting it or the stitches around it — regardless of which technique you use. She thoughtfully breaks down the most basic motions of knitting technique, explains what is happening, and why it’s important.

My knitting technique didn’t change drastically, but it changed fundamentally, in a way that now makes me completely confident and consistent in the formation of my stitches. And my fabric reflects that.

I strongly believe that knitting is best taught and learned in-person. While I learned a lot from the Craftsy videos, but I’m really looking forward to being in Patty’s class this September and benefitting from her being able to *look* at my technique and make individualized suggestions. That being said, I think every single knitter would benefit from what Patty teaches in this class, and if you don’t have the ability to take it with Patty in person, the Craftsy class is (significantly) better than not taking it at all.

I learned to knit from a book. Amy learned to knit from her Gram, who clearly knew what she was about, because Amy’s fabric looks machine made in the best possible way. But even Amy didn’t know why her knit fabric was so good until we really started delving into this subject over the past year. I wonder how many of us really think about our knitting in this way?

So, how did you learn to knit? Were you taught the “why” as well as the “how”? We’re really curious — please do share your knitting story with us!

Best-Laid Plans

We had the summer all mapped out, my family and I. We’d move just after school let out, and then have a couple of weeks at our new home before I left for the super-awesome Super Summer KniTogether and a visit to my family in Maine.

Nothing too close together, a busy summer for sure, but manageable too. At least, that was the theory!

The practice turned out to be somewhat different, after a problem on our sellers’ end meant that we were unexpectedly without a home for some time… …and then the move and all of the travel squished together into one big logistical blob.

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It’s all over but our time in Maine now, though, and we’re thrilled with our new digs. Everyone is looking forward to an August full of lazy summer days, unpacking, and knitting.

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(Okay, that last part might just be me.)

Because after all that, I haven’t even finished a single sweater this last month. (When was the last time that happened?!) My SSKAL tank is languishing, a different bit of lusciousness is waiting for my attention, and there are at least 5 more sweaters I want before fall.

How has your summer been, and what have you been knitting?

Summer Sweater KAL: Time for a FO!

Happy Monday! I’ve got a finished summer sweater to show off!

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Here’s my Saco Stripes and CustomFit mashup tank, knit from Quince and Co. Sparrow. After my last post, I finally got down to business and wove in those pesky ends. For those who have asked, yes, I did carry the main color up the sides! But I didn’t want to carry the contrast for 6 rows, and thus got myself into the mess of having many, many ends to weave.

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I’m quite taken with the linen, which makes a more opaque fabric than I was expecting, and feels soft in a way that is very different than wool. I don’t have much experience with non-wool fibers, but I was able to get a very consistent gauge in Sparrow, and the resulting sweater is so light and swingy.

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You can’t quite tell in these photos (and that’s on purpose!), but the tank is quite long on me — it hits just about at my widest point, also known as my booty. As Amy has taught us, this isn’t the most flattering choice for a bottom-heavy figure such as mine. It’s not a gauge problem — the tank is exactly as long as the pattern said it would be — but I do think I need to re-evaluate my CustomFit measurements and move my low-hip up a bit. It’s been a learning process for me to see where exactly I like sweaters to end, and I’m enjoying every bit of it!

It’s a toss-up at this point whether I’ll use TECHknitter’s method to remove some of the length. I’ll likely wear the tank as-is, but I know it would be more flattering if it were just a few inches shorter. If it were you, what would you do?

Here’s a link to my Ravelry project if you’d like to see some more photos!

photo (2)When I tallied the votes in my sweater poll on Friday, Effervescent won by one single vote! I’ve swatched, blocked and measured, now just need to generate my pattern. So far, I loved swatching the inventive stitch pattern on the fronts — I’m very impressed with the designer, as I never would have thought of it! I’ve yet to finish a CustomFit cardigan (though who can forget the one I struggled through during Cardipalooza?), but I think this will be the one!

Do you think I can finish before #sskal ends? I’ve got a bit under a month, but no stripey ends to weave in this time, so that’s on my side!

 

Lauren’s Summer Knitting

Oh hey! Remember me?

Things have been a little crazy at Amy Herzog Designs recently, and we’ve been quieter on this front than we’d like to be. I’ll let Amy tell that story when she returns to the land of the internet, and instead bring you an update on what I’ve been knitting this summer!

The Summer Sweater KAL is well underway. I’ve made good progress, depending on how you like to measure progress! Thanks to a few plane rides and a road trip, the two pieces of my Saco Stripes + CustomFit mashup were finished in just over a week.

… and that was nearly a month ago. Since then, I’ve been working on a few things.

1. Avoiding weaving in the ends on my #SSKAL tank.

photo 1 (1)

Exhibit A. There are 14 stripes on the front and 14 on the back. 28 ends per side, 56 ends total — and that doesn’t even include the main color! Ordinarily I love finishing work, but for some reason I haven’t been able to face it yet. Do you blame me?

2. Knitting baby sweaters.

A number of my family members and friends are bringing new babies into the world this fall. What better way to procrastinate on my own knitting than to whip up a couple of super-adorable, super-quick sweaters? I can’t let future babies, especially those born in prime sweater weather (we’re talking October and November due dates, y’all) go un-sweatered. So here’s the first and the makings of a second:

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The pattern is Small Things by Carina Spencer. I highly recommend it — so sophisticated. A good sophisticated sweater is an important part of any newborn’s wardrobe. (Actually, I think the maroon one is a 6-month size, or maybe even 9-month! I don’t have kids, so when I don’t manage to get gauge I just work on the fly, figuring it will fit a baby at some point! They grow quickly, right?)

3. Deciding what to knit for my next #SSKAL!

Here’s where I need your help. I have a couple of good ideas floating around, but I’m not sure which to pursue next. Our first contender is with some beautiful Mrs. Crosby Train Case that Amy gifted me. It’s got a gorgeous sheen to it, AND it’s my favorite color. I’m trying to decide between a CustomFit version of Berenice (for my adult self, not kid-sized), or maybe Amy’s own Afterlight. I think this yarn would be a great fit for the latter, but I am also very drawn to Berenice’s delicate styling.

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Option two is a CustomFit cardigan using the stitch pattern from the beautiful Effervescence Cardigan. The version in my head looks a little different, but I love the stitch pattern the designer used. I’m planning this using some absolutely gorgeous Sweet Fiber Cashmerino Sock I brought home from Stitches West.

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And finally, I’d like to make a lighter-weight version of my color block pullover. I have some fingering weight Swan’s Island that would make a lovely casual sweater. I’ve even knit about five and a half rows of a swatch! Or maybe I’ll go back to my Colorblock Pinterest board and see if I want to try something new with colorblocking.

Whew, that was a laundry list of options! Vote in my poll on Ravelry here — I’d love your opinion.

How’s your summer sweater coming? What else are you knitting to beat the heat?

Surreal, in two flavors

Squam was every bit as magical as I had imagined.


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It was so glorious, everything felt a little surreal. We breathed deep, and sank into peace, quiet, and the presence of fellow makers. My students were amazing, and the whole weekend was such a lovely island in time.

And then it was back to a totally different extreme. Life got surreal in its frenzy, with the last day of school and all that comes with prepping for a big move and oh my god the movers canceled and let’s hire more and did you get the teacher’s notes and when’s the closing again? and have to pack and have to pack and have to pack and WHERE’S THAT YARN I NEED THAT YARN and oh man the car just died and hey look, another home-all-day-day let’s go to the museum!


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(The boys say hi.)

And there’s a little something else going on, too.

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And through it all, because I don’t want to kill anyone, there’s been knitting.

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So that’s what’s happening here. How about in your neck of the woods?

Sweater Tech Talk: Hips and Fit

Thanks for your enthusiastic response to the Summer Sweater KAL, here and on Ravelry! I’m crazy excited to get started on my tank, but first I need to finish this:

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Luckily, the schedule at Squam seems to build in a lot of down time, so I’ll have some nice quiet hours this weekend to work on the stripes when I’m not teaching.

But before I head off for the weekend, I wanted to talk a little bit about a question I get a lot, in classes and email. Many of you might know that I recommend a smidge of negative ease in the hips. When I say so, in class, I frequently get this in response:


I’m nervous about having any negative ease in my hips. Won’t that just look too tight, or be uncomfortable?

The answer is: No, at least not in the amount that I recommend. Let’s take a closer look.

What is negative ease?

Ease refers to the difference (if any) between what your body measures and what a garment measures, somewhere on your body. The overall ease of a sweater doesn’t exist, because well-fitting sweaters fit you one way in your shoulders, another in your bust, a different way in your waist, etc.

How much do you recommend?

For an average-length sweater (i.e., one that doesn’t go below the curve of your bum), I recommend an ease range of -3” to +2”. That means the sweater will measure somewhere in between 3” smaller than your hips, and 2” larger than your hips.

What does that look like?

Let’s start with the negative end of the range. Truly, a little bit of negative ease is a really attractive look. It doesn’t look too tight, it isn’t uncomfortable to wear, it just looks like it fits:


aislinn-second-pass-5 courant-final-6 acorn-trail-3 shore-ledges-fave-1

All of these garments have between 3” of negative ease, and zero ease, in the hips. This negative ease represents far less than 10% stretch for most people, which is literally nothing when you’re talking about a hand knit fabric. And yet, this amount of negative ease is functional: It helps keep the garment in place on your hips, letting you move your arms and torso without the sweater slipping all around on your body.

Some sweaters want to look more relaxed than this, of course. If you’d like a roomier look, I’d suggest between 0” ease in the hips and just 2” of positive ease in the hips. Here’s what that looks like:


cushing-isle-3 ff-triangled-5 amy-custom-fit-1-2 nantasket-final-9

Why shouldn’t I make a sweater even roomier than that?

If you go beyond 2” of positive ease in the hips of an average-length sweater, it will float, UFO-like, outside your body. This is a fairly strong visual cue that your sweater doesn’t fit, and most people react poorly to it when they see the sweater on them. (And note: All of this goes out the window for long sweaters that go down to or past the bottom of your bum. You need positive ease in those sweaters, to ensure the garment doesn’t cup underneath your bum!)

Whatever look you prefer, to ensure that the sweater looks like it fits you well, I definitely recommend a -2” to +2” range. I hope these pictures have helped make things a little more visually clear – and that your knitting is going well and you’re excited about summer. See you on the flip side of Squam!