Fashion Friday: The Easy Win.

It seems as though sweater weather is just about upon us here in New England. The house is chilly when I wake up in the morning, and the air has that wonderfully crisp, clean quality of fall. It makes me want to pull out my hand knits.

For the past… well, forever, I’ve been talking a lot (a lot) about how to get a sweater that’s 100% perfect for you in every way. I’m passionate about it. Passionate enough, even, to essentially do the work for you.

But I don’t think I’ve talked enough about how easy sweater knitting can be. Sure, perfection takes thought, and has a lovely result. But I think I’ve let perfection be the enemy of the good, for some knitters.

It’s not necessary for the sweater to be perfect for it to be great. Sometimes, you just want to knit. So let’s talk about that.

There is one single, utterly easy step to getting a sweater that is great: Choose a size to fit your shoulders. Or at least to get close to it. This is tremendously important for all of us. I don’t think I’ve ever shown you, here, what happens when I choose a sweater size based on my full bust?

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It’s a nice sweater, and gloriously soft, but it’s a bit big, eh? (Details: Delish, from the book.)

This sweater has just one inch of positive ease in my bust. I know! I know.

The first sweater I ever knit, which I immediately gave away, looked like this. The second sweater I ever knit, I chose to make a size that fit my shoulders. I made no other modifications. I still wear it today.

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Let me say that again: No modifications. I knit the pattern as written. I just chose a better size for my shoulders. Would I tweak this, if I were doing it again today? Sure. I’d fiddle with the shaping, make it longer… …my standard set of mods for every sweater, now. But that’s not really necessary.

As is, this sweater is really really great. (Details: Isla, by Kim Hargreaves.)

Let me show you a few more sweaters knit as written, okay? The first is Eunny Jang’s Tangled Yoke Cardigan. I chose an even smaller size on this one, to better fit my shoulders. But again: No modifications.

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It looks great, right? I still wear it today. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good.

However.

If I can get you to do two things, I’d urge you to: (a) Pick a good size, and (b) Choose a pattern with waist shaping in the body of the sweater, rather at the side seam. That’s it! Just choose a slightly different pattern. Here’s why:

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This is Trimmings, in the same size as the Tangled Yoke. The only difference is the way the shaping is worked into the sweater. See the little flare I’m getting on the tangled yoke, above? And the extra fabric in the small of my back? Not a problem here.

Waist shaping done in the body of your sweater pieces removes the fabric where you get smaller, resulting in a more flattering fit. This sweater looks pretty great on me. And you know what? No modifications.

One more, and then I’ll urge you to get started on your next (first?) sweater: I want to show you a direct comparison to the Delish cardigan, above, following these two guidelines. This is New Towne, which is similar to Delish in many ways, chosen in an appropriate size for me. The pattern is written with waist shaping the way I prefer it. And it’s knit with no modifications.

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Here’s a side-by-side with Delish:


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It’s utterly amazing what very small choices can do for the wearability of your hand-knits, even if you don’t want to think about a single mod. Are modifications great? Sure, I think so. Are they strictly necessary for a great, wearable sweater?

Not always, by a long shot.

So whether you want an easy and great win, or to work for perfection: Get knitting! Sweater weather is almost here.

Comments

  1. M-C says

    Excellent point Amy. Some people are liberated by the thought that they can modify to suit themselves. But the majority seems to just get tangled into knots :-). Since sweaters stretch to some extent, this would also be my first choice of how to get a lot closer to what you want/need.

  2. says

    Yes! It took me a couple of years of knitting too-big sweaters before I realized that my shoulders are super narrow (and sloped!) and my bust is much larger, so following the bust-size + ease suggestion meant that nothing would fit right at the shoulder/neck and sweaters would just look enormous on me.

    I really love Trimmings on you!

  3. Donna says

    Such good information! I’m learning so much as I’m knitting Squared and planning V-neck mods.

  4. Susan aka Buttonband says

    Thank you for discussing shaping in the body of the sweater instead of the sides. It was eye opening to see the differences in the pictures. When I knit Kim Hargreaves Salina,although I love the sweater and wear it all the time, it bugged me that it flared at the sides. I have always wanted to knit another one, and now I know how to make it work.

    • Amy says

      Absolutely! Kim’s designs tend to be lovely and simple, and just the simple act of moving her existing waist shaping in would make a huge difference, I think.

  5. rachel says

    great piece of advice! what a world of difference between those two sweaters. The only problem I can see is that when choosing patterns, especially digitally, it is sometimes hard to tell where the shaping is, just from pictures. Is it appropriate to ask the designers how the sweater is shaped before you buy a pattern?

  6. Carol says

    But how do you know if the pattern uses shaping in the body rather than the sides without buying the pattern first?

    • stashdragon says

      This is why I still prefer to use patterns from books or magazines, as I can look at them in the library or bookshop first and evaluate before deciding to buy. But in the long run, it’s best to take charge of your knitting and learn to modify: if a pattern you like has shaping at the sides, move it to the body. That’s the first modification I ever learned (other than straightforward shortening or lengthening), and it’s made a wonderful difference!

  7. stashdragon says

    Since most pattern sizes are designated by bust size, how does one determine how big the shoulders are in a given pattern? In other words, when I see “to fit 34 bust”, how can I know what size of shoulder that pattern assumes? If the pattern has a decent schematic (and too many patterns have none at all), can I pick my size according to the shoulder width shown on the schematic, adjusting other dimensions as necessary?

  8. Connie says

    What a compelling blog post, Amy. I am so close to being convinced I could make a sweater. I’ve made 3 and only one — the first one I made — fits me well. And I’ve ripped out two that were finished or nearly so because they looked so terrible on me. I just love how you are guiding me slowly back to trying another sweater. Thanks!

  9. Julie says

    Wow! This post was eye-opening for me. I thought I didn’t have to worry about the sizing of cardigans as much as pullovers. Was I wrong.

    I have the same question as Stashdragon: how to pick the right size in a pattern that doesn’t have a schematic and is written for full bust measurements? I’ve just started reading your book; should we use the full bust measurement that is closest to our high bust/upper torso measurement?

  10. Serena O. says

    Sounds like you need a friend who hates seaming, but loves button bands, that you can trade skills with. Not always easy to find someone like that.
    I know, sometimes the allure of something knew is simply too strong. Or startitis sets in. That would be why my knitting basket has ufo’s.

  11. Cathy says

    Amy, this is just one more reinforcing bit of info that you have given me (Craftsy and your book being the others) about fit. I could not figure out why my sweaters were turning out like your first photo…not bad but not really the fit I wanted. When I began to choose a size based on my high bust measurement, even with no other mods, the sweater would fit. Thank you for all you are doing for the knitting community. I really was ready to give up knitting garments thinking it was me. Now I can’t knit sweaters fast enough!

  12. Ruth Anne says

    A picture IS worth a thousand words. Thanks for such informative, useful info and making it so easy to understand. I look forward to your posts every week.

  13. says

    This post inspired me to cast on for my first sweater. I was too caught up in trying to figure out how to make my perfect sweater, so I never started on a sweater. After reading this post, I realized that I can knit a sweater (and learn about modifications as I go). I gave myself permission to be able to enjoy a sweater that may not be perfect, but is still good. So I cast on over the weekend & am almost finished with both sleeves. I did make some modifications to this pattern (sleeve length, sweater body length, and the neck).

    Having said that, I am dreaming of the day your app is available to all! :-)

  14. says

    Also, I LOVE that you post pictures to show what you’re talking about! I look at the pictures and “get” it much better than I do when I just read the words. Thank you!