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.

FF: Dalriada

Happy Friday! This week, we’re tackling a couple of topics near and dear to many of the women in my classes, through the design I’ve just released: Dalriada. (If you want a copy of Dalriada of your very own, by the way, you can buy it here.)

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One of the major activities of my classes (both in person and online) is a personalized body shape analysis. It’s impossible to tell someone’s body shape directly from their measurements, so we spend time taking pictures and then drawing on them. One of my favorite moments during this process is the identification of your narrowest point, when viewed from the front.

It’s my favorite because it’s the cause of so very many “Wow, I look great!” moments. For many busty women (and some others, too!) the narrowest point of their torso is directly under the bust. This surprises a lot of women, especially bustier figures who feel as though their chests and their tummies are inseparable. Seeing this beautiful, curvaceous spot can be both pleasing and confusing:

  • Pleasing, because it’s beautiful and curvaceous and a wonderful feature to highlight…
  • …and confusing, because how do you highlight it? This spot isn’t your waist, so shaping for it doesn’t make a ton of sense. And it comes with some risks, since clothing that’s too tight here, and then more voluminous underneath, is unflattering for a lot of women.

Dalriada directly highlights this lovely figure feature.

  • The slip-stitch rib band circles the torso part-way through the bust increases.
  • Your actual waist shaping occurs below it, avoiding the “I’m expecting!” look.
  • The sweater still curves out to accommodate your bust.
  • And the band calls attention to a narrow, attractive point on your body, effectively separating your bust and your tummy in the bargain.

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This separation works, by the way, even if you’re not especially busty:

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One potential downfall of a band like this is the torso-shortening that might happen if the band continued unbroken all the way around your torso. (Remember the visual principle of shortening the appearance of some part of your body by breaking it up into different vertical chunks?)

Dalraida side-steps this neatly by breaking up that under-bust band with larger blocks of texture that reach from the very top of the sweater all the way to the bottom.

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This combination of under-bust detail and long, vertical panels

  • Highlights a narrow, lovely part of your figure,
  • Separates your bust and your tummy, and
  • Lengthens your entire torso.

Pretty magic, huh? Read more about the visual elements at play, and modifications ideas for various body shapes on Dalriada’s main pattern page.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s Fashion Friday! I’d love to hear about your favorite sweaters with interesting details, and I hope you have a great weekend.

FF: From Scratch

It’s no secret that I’m passionate about helping women feel stunning in their clothing.

I live for that moment when someone comes up to me, clearly loving the way they look. I’m thrilled that so many of you are telling me that Knit to Flatterand the classes (in person and online) and the blog are helping you love the way you look, it makes me glow.

But I have to say.

There’s a limit to how far modifications can get you. I don’t mean that in a negative way, because modifications can definitely get you really, really far. But as the very first batch of CustomFit sweaters come into the universe, it’s clear that from scratch? Is better.

So this week for Fashion Friday, let’s look at Jackie and her CustomFit sweater. Jackie’s style desires are:

  • She’d like to look curvy: Increase the apparent size of her bust, decrease the apparent size of her waist.
  • She likes simpler, tailored pieces without a lot of ornamentation.
  • She wants them wearable. Both in terms of style (smart casual), and in terms of practicality (she has little kids). Nothing too tight, nothing too demanding, nothing too delicate.

Given those desires, her fit issues are:

  • The combination of broad shoulders and a smaller bust. She’d like her shoulders to be comfortable in her clothing, without bagginess in the bust. This is a pervasive issue for Jackie in pre-designed clothing.<
  • A fundamentally straighter shape, all around. She just doesn’t have a ton of variation in inches (hip/waist/bust) to play with, to create the appearance of those curves. (Particularly if she wants to be able to eat a big lunch without it showing.)
  • She has a long torso, and long arms. When knitting pre-designed clothing, she’s constantly adding inches everywhere.

So let’s be clear about one thing: Modifications can help. We have lots of compelling photographic evidence of Jackie looking great in (modified) hand knits.

But she’s never had a sweater she likes quite as much as this one.

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Pattern: CustomFit. Average fit, 3/4 sleeves, low hip length, V neck.
Yarn: Woolen Rabbit Frolic, in color “Blue Moon”.
Size: Jackie’s. Everywhere.

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Let’s start by talking about Jackie’s first fit issue: The combination of broader shoulders and a smaller bust. Jackie’s upper torso is a couple of inches larger than her bust, which you can kind of see here. It’s very, very tough, even when I’m the one doing the modifications for her, to get a fit that feels comfortable in the shoulders and is snug through the bust. It requires a fair bit of math, and at some point you start wondering why you aren’t just redesigning the whole thing.

CustomFit treats shoulders and bust differently, and figures out how to match them both.

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And it figures out how to insert shaping so that Jackie’s curves are maximized.

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And it does all of that, with the right length, with the right arms, with the right amount of ease, with the right everything, without Jackie ever having to take a single note or make a single calculation or change a single thing. It was built, from scratch, for her body, instead of retrofitted.

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Jackie has been signing this sweater’s praises to me for weeks now, and I finally understand.

This is the easiest sweater she’s ever knit.

FF: Hem length

This week on Fashion Friday, we tackle a question that came up last week: sweater length.

The length of your sweater can make an incredible difference; several of you noticed last week the length difference between Squared and Triangled:

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Unfortunately, there are no hard-and fast guidelines like there were for sleeves. What’s going on, body-wise, at the four different hem lengths varies a lot from woman to woman. (It’s my hope, for future Fashion Fridays, to show these same lengths on other shapes–but for now, let’s start with me.)

There are four main length “ranges” for a sweater.

The high hip length:

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This sweater length tends to maximize the apparent length of your legs. When I wear this length of sweater (that’s the Holloway sample from the bookby the way), I usually do so with a skirt. Wearing a high-hip sweater with jeans, for me, spoils the illusion of legs that go forever, because my waist-to-hip length is so long.

That said, I personally love this length with skirts and it’s a fairly frequent flyer in my wardrobe.

The mid hip length:

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This is my go-to, recommended sweater length for just about everyone. It lengthens your legs a bit, but most importantly it tends to break you up unevenly, from head-to-toe, in terms of the vertical “blocks” you’re wearing. Uneven ratios of length are more interesting to look at than equal parts, and this sweater length tends to be flattering for that reason.

It also tends to break up the expanse of bum, which is good if you’re trying to minimize yours. (This sweater is Afterlight; again the sample.)

The low hip length:

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This is another frequent flyer in my wardrobe. It shortens the legs/lengthens the torso, a bit, and I definitely don’t need that… …but is also a comfortable length, practically-speaking. When I reach up over my head, or sit down, I don’t need to be concerned about where the hem of the sweater is going.

(Speaking of, that worked against me in this photoshoot. This sweater typically hits right at the bottom of my zipper. But just before the photo was taken, I was reaching up high to fiddle with the camera… and neglected to pull the sweater back down. Sigh. So try to imagine it an inch lower, or take a gander at Triangled, above–which is the same length.)

This sweater is my own version of Stoker by Caro Sheridan.

The Tunic-length:

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This is actually a sweater dress, folded to tunic-length, because I do not own a single example of this sweater length. Tunic length sweaters shorten the legs a bit, and generally exaggerate (or create) a long torso line. Great for someone who is short-torsoed (no matter what their height), but less of a favorite in this house.

And there you have it! The difference in length between the top and the bottom is just about 6”, but what a world of difference it makes, eh?

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What’s your favorite sweater length?

FF Case Study: Triangled

If you want to knit sweaters you love to wear, you must accept this:

Nobody, not even the designer, should blindly knit the pattern as written.

Truly. Nobody is truly Miss “Average” in every way, and everybody benefits from a little thought (and perhaps some tweaking) to the original pattern. When considering a pattern, think about

  • Fit! Obviously, the sweater has to fit. But that’s not all.
  • Style! Whether you like the elements in a sweater or want to tweak them. Whether most of it’s perfect, except the one thing. Or whether it’s exactly like your favorite sweater.
  • Whether or not you’ll actually wear it, day to day. (And whether or not wearing it regularly is even important to you!)

This Fashion Friday, let’s step through a case study of a sweater I modified for my own wardrobe and preferences: The Squared cardigan.

When the bookcame out, I had some of my most trusted sample knitters work up a few of the book sweaters to my own body’s needs, and this was one of them. The book’s sample is actually in my size, so excitingly, we can do a real comparison!

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There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this sweater on me… it preserves the balance of my shape, the fit (though in the “relaxed” category) is fine, the lines it paints are okay…

…but it’s not a stunner, either. And let’s be clear: The problem does not lie in the size. This sweater fits me well, right down to the bust darts.

Squared was designed especially for curvy-waisted proportional figures. The elbow sleeves, curved cabled check motifs, and symmetry between the neckline edge and the hem edge all accentuate a waist that’s nipped in at the sides:

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And that’s just not me. Further, a square neckline isn’t going to get a ton of play in my wardrobe: It doesn’t play nicely with my staple camisoles, it mirrors the square lines of my shoulders just a bit too much. So when I thought about how I’d make Squared my own, my mind immediately went to a V neckline instead of the square of the original. (Hence my nickname for this sweater: Triangled.)

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This is what a relaxed-fit sweater looks like in my wardrobe. It has to be shaped, in this case quite aggressively, or thanks to my very athletic frame I just look like a vaguely imposing refrigerator box.

(Aside: I so admire those women who can do the slouchy, oversized look and somehow have it read “willowy”, or “feminine”, or “just threw on a men’s shirt!”. When I wear that stuff, I look… blobular.)

When I modified the pattern, I added enough bust darts to result in an inch or so of positive ease even in the bust. All over, this sweater has tons of room to move around. It’s the most oversized item I’ve ever knit myself, by far. And yet, I don’t feel boxy. I feel… hugged. Which is good, right now.

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I’ll give you the details on Monday, but for those who aren’t interested in the nitty-gritty, remember: Everyone needs to make changes to the pattern to get sweaters they love to wear.

Your body, your wardrobe, your needs, are not wrong.

They’re 100% right. And when the sweater works with you, nirvana ensues.

FF: Choosing the right size

Sweater knitting and suit shopping have something in common: If a sweater doesn’t fit your shoulders, it will never ever look good. But sweater patterns are sized by the bust, not the shoulders. So how do you ensure a proper fit?

The answer begins with understanding why sweaters are sized by the bust. It actually couldn’t be any other way, because for many constructions it’s unclear what the “shoulder” measurement might be. Set-in sleeves (contiguous or traditional) could size by the distance from sleeve seam to sleeve seam (also known as the sweater’s “cross chest”)…

…but what about yokes? raglans? Sideways all-in-one piece?

Every sweater construction has a bust circumference, though. And here’s the thing:

No matter what your size, all hand knit sweater patterns are created for the same body shape. (Let’s call her “Miss Average”.) Designers use the Craft Yarn Council of America charts, or some close variation on them. The measurements in those charts depict the same shape woman, regardless of size.

Here’s the final kicker:

Miss Average’s bust is a good indicator of her shoulders.

Her bust and shoulders are tightly linked. So when a sweater fits her in the bust, it fits her in the shoulders as well, without any modifications required. This is not true for many, many women.

So how do you pick a size, if not by your bust, when patterns are sized by bust? The answer is your upper torso circumference:

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Your torso circumference is the “bust” measurement that closely matches your shoulders. So you should use your upper torso circumference, instead of your full bust, when choosing a “bust circumference” size.

For some women, this won’t make much difference. For busty women, you’ll be choosing a size smaller than your bust (sometimes by a fair amount). For broad-shouldered, smaller-busted women, you’ll be choosing a size larger than your bust. When choosing a size, you have three basic fit options. Let’s look at an example of each, on my frame. For reference, my upper torso circumference is 38” and my full bust is 41”.

  • A snug fit will fit fairly close to your body. The armholes will be a bit smaller, and the shoulder fit more figure-conscious. Achieve it by selecting a bust size 0 – 1” larger than your upper torso circumference. Here’s what it looks like, in a sweater:

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    (This sweater is a size 38”, exactly matching my 38” torso circumference.)

  • An average fit is just that: Average. It’s comfortable, will fit your shoulders but not super-tightly. Achieve it by selecting a bust size 1 – 2” larger than your upper torso circumference. Here’s what it looks like, in a sweater:

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    (This sweater is a size 39.5”, 1.5” larger than my torso circumference.)

  • A relaxed fit will still fit (the shoulder seams won’t be down on your arms), but it will give you plenty of space in the armholes and chest for a few layers. Achieve it by selecting a bust size 2 – 3” larger than your upper torso circumference. Here’s what it looks like, in a sweater:

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    (This sweater is a size 40.5”, 2.5” larger than my torso circumference.)

To get a great fit in your shoulders, here’s how to select a sweater size:

  1. First, take your own upper torso circumference. Place the measuring tape as high in your armpit as it will go, pull it pretty snugly, put your arms to your side, and breathe normally.
  2. Next, decide on the fit you want. Average? Snug? Relaxed? Add the appropriate amount of ease to your upper torso circumference.
  3. Look at the finished bust circumferences of the pattern. Find the one closest to your result from Step 2. This is your base size.
  4. Compare the other measurements for that base size against your own body to determine what modifications you’ll need to make. For example, if everything works aside from the full bust vs. your own full bust (because you’re a busty figure), you will add an inch or more of bust darts to the front of the sweater. If everything works aside from the hip, because you have larger or smaller hips, that’s an adjustment you can make to the cast-on stitches. And so on.

And there you have it! If you choose your sweater size in this way, you’ll achieve a great fit in the shoulders, and be well on your way to a fantastically-fitting sweater. You might need to make some modifications, but by and large it’s far easier to tweak the waist and hip fit, rather than to try and fix shoulders that are fundamentally wrong.

How close in size are your favorite sweaters to your upper torso circumference? Had any sweater disasters? Let’s talk in the comments! And happy Friday!

Fashion Friday, Pattern Release: Nantasket

It feels appropriate to end this week with a more hopeful, onward-looking message than I began it. So for this Fashion Friday, I’m offering up a new pattern: Nantasket.

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(Models and photo credit both go to a combination of Jackie and myself. Pattern: Nantasket. For the impatient? Go ahead and buy now for US$7.)

Nantasket is the result of some designer start-itis. It was the first string of incredibly hot days this summer, and I started thinking about summertime wardrobe essentials. The things you pull out of the closet and throw on every day, on your way to the beach or the office. Or on your way to the beach from the office:

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I was sick of the wool on my needles, sick of the weather, and sick of the one little summer cardigan in my closet. I thought about what makes a summer tank a daily wardrobe choice, played around with the delicious Classic Elite Firefly, and Nantasket was born. I’ll save all of the nitty-gritty details for the pattern page, and focus on the fashion in this post:

  • The fabric is exceptional. The Firefly produces something soft and fluid. It goes perfectly with crisp shorts, faded denim, breezy (woven) linen, and would pair well with suiting too, if you’re corporately-inclined:
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  • Let’s be honest: This is an extremely simple, minimum-fuss tank that isn’t likely to prompt very many “Did you knit that?” queries. The detailing is simple and streamlined. It’s a subtle but great showcase for your knitting skill, because it’ll fit seamlessly into your daily life.
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  • It’s a great layering piece. Whether over a crisp button-down, like above, or over another tank, Nantasket is going to look great blended with/under/on top of your other favorites.
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We styled Nantasket two ways: With my favorite button-down shirt and a jeans skirt, and with a fabulous summer shorts/tank outfit. (Not pictured: Jackie’s amazing mile-high espadrilles, because who really wants to wear those on the beach?) I love the way the pullover version made my button-down/skirt outfit look more pulled together without adding any bulk. The fabric moved with my clothing, and I felt elegant rather than blanketed. I also really liked that the cardigan version looked great when layered over long sleeves, but equally good over another tank. It unified Jackie’s bright tank top and crisp shorts, without looking awkward.

I hope you love the sweater, and can imagine ways it might fit into your wardrobe. If you’re willing, I’d love if you’d share with us: How would you wear Nantasket? What makes something a summer wardrobe staple, for you?

FF: Why you (probably) don’t need short rows

(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:

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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:

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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.

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(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!

FF: Why Bottom-Up

I hope that everyone who celebrates had a fabulous 4th of July. (I sure did!)

For this Fashion Friday, I wanted to talk a little bit about why the first release of CustomFit. I’ve gotten a few comments already about top-down raglans and whether CustomFit will produce them:

I knit top-down raglans. Will CustomFit work for me?
CustomFit works for everyone. But although we plan to change this in the future, it currently produces bottom-up patterns. You can choose between a pieced or (mostly) seamless construction. (Mostly seamless means the sweater is knit in the round to the armholes, then back-and-forth to the shoulders. The tops of the shoulders are seamed, and sleeves are worked top-down in the round. This produces a set-in-sleeve fit with only a few inches of simple seaming.)

Since I get a round of groans in every class when I suggest knitting a “pieced” sweater (whether you sew in the sleeves or pick them up and work top-down), I am absolutely, positively aware of how unpopular this garment construction is. A whole new generation of garment knitters have been brought into the sweater knitting fold with top-down raglans, and are loathe to switch.

Why that is, I don’t know exactly? But I think it probably has to do with the set-in construction seeming… daunting. There’s the seaming, maybe. Or short row sleeve caps, which are not exactly a simple-seeming alternative. There’s the apparent unpredictability of all of it: You don’t see whether your sweater works out until it’s finished. And emotionally, I think set-in-sleeves just feel so fussy and fashiony. What could be more attractive than the exact opposite of that?

I suspect that to anyone who was not brought to knitting specifically as a way to make clothing, it just seems… hard. Pointlessly hard.

…well, hard is relative, but it’s certainly not pointless. There are actually reasons for this fussy madness, and they relate directly to what CustomFit is trying to do. So let’s talk about the reason that trumps all others. I’ll start by talking about pieced sweaters, and revisit my “mostly seamless” option at the end.

A pieced, set-in-sleeve construction is the easiest to modify across all body types.

The importance of this cannot be overstated. If I want to produce software that will result in a perfectly-fitting garment for all women who come to use it, I must (must) start with a pieced construction. Here’s why. A well-fitting sweater will fit the wearer in the bust, cross-chest/shoulders, and sleeves. In a pieced construction, you have many degrees of freedom to achieve a good fit in those 3 areas fairly independently. I’ve marked them in green, here:

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  1. Fitting the bust can be done by measuring it and multiplying it by your stitch gauge.
  2. Fitting the cross-chest can be easily achieved no matter how widely different the shoulders and bust are, because you can bind off many stitches if necessary.
  3. The bicep may be calculated independently of the shoulders and/or bust.

All of this is possible because the sleeve cap is where they all come together, and it can be solved for (largely) independently. The length of the bit marked in red must be the same length as the total armhole length (front and back) on the body. But while there are a few restrictions on how to shape the cap, as a designer (or a piece of software) you have lots of opportunity to make that length long or short, to match the body. And as long as they are the same length, the armhole and the sleeve cap can be done entirely differently.

Let’s contrast that with a typical top-down raglan construction:

FF-Raglan-Schematic

It’s not that these sweaters are bad. They’re not. In fact, for those bodies they fit well, they’re pretty fantastic! The problem is that the red line here represents your opportunity, as a designer, to change the bust, cross-chest, and bicep–and you can’t fiddle with one without affecting the others.

There are a few things you can do. If you need a deeper armhole, you can increase every 3rd row instead of every other row. You could make the rate of body increase (the inside of the red line) slightly different than the rate of the sleeve increase (the outside of the red line)… but only slightly different. Try to get too fancy, and your fabric is going to pucker. Fundamentally, the way you make the bust larger is to make the sleeves larger and the armhole deeper. Period.

So if top-down raglans work for you, that’s completely and utterly awesome. But know that they don’t work (can’t work, even) for a large class of bodies. CustomFit has to work for every body. So it will start with a set-in sleeve construction, to give me the freedom I need to fit any woman’s shoulders, bust, and arms perfectly.

Thanks for sticking with me this far! A couple of more points.

  • A sweater that’s worn is always better than a sweater that sits in a basket awaiting seaming. This is why I’m offering the mostly seamless construction option. The math is fundamentally the same, and I have the same amount of freedom between those three crucial body points. But when you’re done with the sweater, you’re done! No seaming required except in the middle, and then only for the shoulders.
  • If you’re reluctant to knit a sweater this way because there is no security blanket of trying on the sweater as you go, fear not. CustomFit largely eliminates the need for that fear. It takes your body, and your gauge, and does all of the math for you. This results in a perfect fit without a single try-on.

I know that last one is hard to believe, because we’ve all gotten it so very wrong on at least one occasion. (Me too, by the way!). But I offer up the following as evidence:

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This is a version of The Flutter Pullover, from the bookbut with a different neckline to better accommodate my body’s needs. It fits pretty well, right?

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Here’s the cool thing about this sweater: I didn’t knit it. I had a few samples of book sweaters worked up to wear to classes and events, and this was one of them. Essentially, I gave my awesome sample knitter my measurements and gauge, and off she went. No try-ons, no eyeballing as I went.

It can work, I promise. And I hope that even if up until now you’ve been a die-hard top-down-raglan knitter, you’ll give another construction style a try.

FF: A perfect fit

Knit to Flatteris all about steering you through the process of creating sweaters you love to wear. I recommend starting by choosing a size to fit your shoulders, and then modifying the rest of the sweater.

There are several reasons for this, all aimed at making life easier for the knitter:

  • If the sweater doesn’t fit in the shoulders, it looks ill-fitting. Period.
  • Sleeve cap math (or math for the shoulders generally) is the hardest to modify of all the maths you might change up.
  • Modifications to the front of the sweater (or the back of the sweater) don’t necessarily have to affect any other piece–often, you can knit 3 out of 4 pieces as written in the pattern or with minor changes like length. Then, tackle the last piece once you’re comfortable with everything else.
  • Wouldn’t most of us rather divide once than deal with the Pythagorean Theorem several times?

For most knitters, choosing a sweater size based on your upper torso (the total circumference of your torso above the bust, instead of at the fullest point) is the only thing required to get a great fit in the shoulders. But of course, like everything else considered across all of humanity, there are exceptions.

Jackie (who you’ll be seeing a lot of around here since she’s now helping me run AHD behind the scenes) just so happens to be one of those outliers: Her shoulders are broad, and her torso is much smaller. Choosing a size based on her upper torso instead of her bust results in a much better fit than she’d gotten before…

…but hanging around me rubs off, apparently, because “a much better fit” doesn’t seem so great once you’ve seen perfect. You know? Case in point: Minx.

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Overall this tank is great on Jackie–she modeled it when I was sending snapshots to my editor–but the cross-chest (width of the sweater after all armhole decreases are complete) is juuuust a bit too narrow. The picture above shows the way the tank looks after an hour or so of wearing it.

In Jackie’s case, sweaters that fit her upper torso, bicep, and bust result in a cross-chest that’s just a little too narrow. Reworking the armhole decreases (literally, just doing fewer of them) result in a much nicer fit. Here’s Jackie’s own Minx:

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See how the armholes are just ever so slightly more where they should be? Perfection. (Photo credit Caro Sheridan.) Though Jackie has reported no problems in the sweaters she’s altered in this way, doing so is slightly risky. Here’s a short list of all of the changes to a sweater that will affect the sleeve cap calculations:

  • Bicep changes
  • Cross-chest changes (e.g. by altering the number of armhole decreases)
  • Armhole depth changes
  • Major row gauge changes vs. the pattern’s

Essentially, when you change one of these sweater elements you’re changing the length of either the armhole side or the sleeve cap side of where some complicated connecting needs to happen.

I’ll be doing a fuller post on sleeve cap mods (and their ins and outs) soon, but in the short run: What do I recommend as a short cut to perfect sweaters for those knitters who require these mods? Well, I think your best bet is to use this fabulous armscye calculator. Here’s how it can be used: Put in all of the information as written in the pattern except what you’re changing, where you should put the new info. (For example, if you’re enlarging the bicep, put in everything as written except the max stitch count. Substitute your own stitch count there.) The calculator will give you a number of decreases over a number of rows in the “curved” portion of the sleeve cap.

You can then either fudge it, draw it out on knitter’s graph paper, or some combination of the two, to figure out how often to decrease when you’re knitting the cap.

Is it as easy as recalculating waist shaping? No… but it’s not that much harder, either. And isn’t sweater perfection worth it?