(I realized that I hadn’t set an end time to the little contest I’m running. All comments entered before 9am on Sunday, July 14, will be considered and the winning yarn chosen then.)

Hi, all! This week on Fashion Friday, we’re talking about the bust line. And why the chances are good that you don’t actually need short row darts. First, an illustration of what happens when a busty woman puts on a sweater sized properly for her shoulders:

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When you stretch knit fabric width-wise, it shrinks lengthwise. And when someone busty wears a sweater properly sized for her shoulders, there isn’t quite enough fabric to fully cover the bust (sometimes by a long shot). That’s okaaaaay, kind of, because knit fabric stretches beautifully. But stretching the fabric width-wise (over the bust) shrinks it length-wise.

Producing the lovely little rounded scoop over your stomach, here:

ff-bust-2

Super awesome, right? (NOT.)

The standard bust dart solution is to use short rows just under the apex of the bust to create an even hem on the bottom.

In most cases, I think this is the wrong choice. Let me explain.

Short rows are, fundamentally, a length solution: They add length to one part of a sweater.
But busts are typically width problems: The bust is wider than the rest of the woman.

Short rows will cause the hem to lay even, but the bust is still stretching the sweater all out of whack in the bust. If you’re using fabric with some drape to it, you’ll see through the fabric of the sweater because it’s stretching so much. (You can kind of see it in the blue sweater, above.)

A width solution, matching the width problem, is to add extra stitches to the front of the sweater, from the waist leading up to the bust, until the sweater’s front has sufficient width to cover the wearer’s bust. I call these vertical darts.

  • They’re easier to work than short rows: If you’re already working waist shaping on princess seam lines, you simply work additional increase rows on the front fo the sweater.
  • They’re less visible than short rows: For most people anyway, increases are naturally more discreet than wraps, and more importantly their placement is less eye-catching since it is further away from the fullest point of the bust.
  • They produce a more natural look: The fabric of the sweater is suddenly shaped like your body. Full stop. End of story. Rather than “Okay, well, you’re going to stretch it out, but that’s okay, because I’m going to add length so that when you stretch it out the bottom of the sweater is fine.” For a width problem, short rows are basically a kluge!

The extra stitches at the bust must be removed closer to the top of the shoulder. In most cases I prefer removing them in the neckline, but I know many women who have had success removing them the same way they added–decreases going up to the shoulder line. It’s your choice.

This kind of bust dart is beautiful. It completely eliminates the stretching problem:

ff-bust-5

ff-bust-3

It does produce something of a blocking challenge–you’re blocking 3-d fabric, so you’ll need to put some paper towels under there to hold up the fabric! But the results are well worth it. A sweater that fits, because the fabric is shaped like you.

Nothin’ better.

ff-bust-4

(Oh, and J. says “hi” too!)

Now, the title of this past was why you “probably” didn’t need short rows. For some women, there actually is a length issue. I find that knitwear can easily cover a 2” difference in length with no modification. But if your front length (distance from shoulder to hem) is more than 2” different than your back length, you might consider a short row dart. I do occasionally see this body in class, but nowhere near as frequently as I see a straight-up busty figure. (For reference, I have no length difference, because my bum and my bust cancel each other out, length-wise.)

Happy Friday! And I’ll see you on Sunday for the results of the contest–and maybe a new design!