FF: From Scratch, III

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a “From Scratch” post here on Fashion Fridays! Unintentionally so – things have gotten super out of hand lately, and we’re far, far behind in sharing all of the wonderful sweaters people have been making with CustomFit. (Want to see the first two posts? here’s Jackie’s sweater, and here’s Kim’s.)

CustomFit is aaaallllmost ready to be opened up to the great wide world, so I wanted to take this Fashion Friday to spotlight Keri’s wonderful, amazing, fabulous sweater.

I’ll start by talking about Keri’s most pressing fit issue, which is getting a sweater that fits all of her, all at the same time.


Pattern: CustomFit. Average fit cardigan, 3/4 sleeves, mid hip length, V neck.
Yarn: Briar Rose Fibers Fourth of July. Colorway? Blue-green, and purchased at Rhinebeck. (I’m so honored when people use such special yarn for their CustomFit sweaters.)
Size: Keri’s. Everywhere.

Keri is the star of this story, because she’s lovely. But shaping is the star of her sweater, and I really want to talk about how important it is. It might not be clear from that beautiful front picture up there, but Keri has some fit challenges. In her words:

I’d honestly given up on knitting sweaters for myself, as I could never get the fit I wanted.

Why? Well, Keri is curvy, in the way that I typically mean that: her waist really scoops in beautifully on the sides.


And she’s curvy, in the way others sometimes mean that, which is to say busty. Further, she has slimmer hips and small arms.

Larger bust + slimmer hips and shoulders + slimmer arms + curvy waist = substantial modifications when knitting patterns designed for “Ms. Average”.

Even if she chooses a size to fit her shoulders, the hips, waist, and bust would likely all require at least some modification. And is there anyone who really jumps for joy when they think about figuring out how to add bust darts to a pattern? Other than me, I mean?


But CustomFit knows how to fit all of you. So Keri’s sweater pattern didn’t need modifications. There was no scary “bust dart” piece, no “gotta change that waist shaping” section, no “will this work?” bit. She just knit the pattern, which had one set of numbers (hers), and got a great sweater.


That fits perfectly, everywhere, without a single change. It was built, from scratch, for her body, instead of retrofitted.

It’s still so amazing to me that the best sweaters are also the easiest sweaters. I’m thrilled with the way Keri’s sweater turned out. And she is too. Here’s what she said:

This process has changed how I feel about knitting sweaters for myself. Thank you so much. This is my favourite sweater, and the only sweater I have that fits. Now I’m planning multiple sweaters, even fitting pullovers. CustomFit showed me how worthwhile it is to do the modifications, and it was so easy!

The other thing I found fascinating was when I was swatching, I was choosing the fabric I thought the yarn wanted to be, rather than trying to see if I could get it to match a pre-existing pattern. This meant I really got to show off some beautiful stash yarn that I’d been saving for the ‘right’ project.

We are so, so excited about sharing these sweaters with you. The CustomFit pattern is up on Ravelry, our preview users are making sweaters like mad, and we’re almost ready to share CustomFit with the world.

So stay tuned! And have a great and yarn-filled weekend!

Fashion Friday: Coastal Maine

I’ve said, before, that I think fashion should serve us, rather than the other way around. I think style should be something that we define for ourselves personally, shaped by our own needs and lifestyle. If something doesn’t work for you, don’t do it! If you love something, do it! Whether or not it “follows the rules”.

(I am so not the “what not to wear” lady.)

This Fashion Friday, I have some sweaters to share with you. But more importantly, they came from my own personal sense of style and I wanted to share a bit about that with you, too.

I grew up in Mid-Coast Maine, and spent nearly all of my childhood either exploring the woods, combing the beach for sand dollars, or scrambling around on a boat. There’s something very special about this place, and I never really appreciated it until I left. (Isn’t that always the way?)


When I was ready to plan the first make. wear. love. retreat, I knew I wanted to share the small part of Maine where I come from with all of the retreat attendees. We chose the Sebasco Harbor Resort as our location, and I designed three special sweaters using some of my very favorite yarns.

These sweaters grew out of my own personal style, which was heavily influenced by the kinds of clothes I saw growing up. Clothing here can be stylish or not… but stylish or not, everything here is practical. Nothing too fussy, nothing too uncomfortable. You should be able to walk on the beach, or hike in the woods, or go out on a boat in it. We have a lot of sweaters, because it’s cold here for 9 months out of the year. (Some would say 12.)

Together, these three sweaters form The Sebasco Collection, which you can purchase for $15.00 from my Ravelry store. You can also purchase each design individually for $7.00.

Here’s my inspiration for each.

Birch Bark is the “fanciest” of the three sweaters, and is inspired by the fact that here, you can walk through the woods even “in town”. (Translation for those ‘from away': “In town” is when you leave where you live, and go somewhere with a store.)


It’s comfortable, functional, and pretty. The yarn (Woolen Rabbit Frolic, in color “Autumn Aster”) is the same: gorgeous color depth, but a nice solid hand that will wear well, and that takes to cabling beautifully.


Cushman is my pick for those beach evenings in Maine, when the sun is setting in a riot of pink and you’re frantically racing for that last sand dollar.


As Jackie can attest, I’ll run barefoot on the beach even in late September… but bare arms is a different story. Even in July, things can get a bit chilly and you need a layer!

I love how the gorgeous String Theory Blue Faced Sport works with the easy, unpretentious texture pattern of this cardigan. The yarn is a dream, and the cardigan is pure Maine. Classic, interesting, and clean all at the same time.


Shore Ledges is special to me, because it’s what I dreamed up while remembering all of the sunny days I spent out in a boat on the water, as a kid. All of my mom’s many brothers and her father were fishermen, and I spent a lot of time on the water. I love being on the water, and miss it tremendously.


It’s usually 5 – 10 degrees colder out there, and breezier. You want something to snuggle up in, something cozy and soft and warm. Between the long, slightly-belled sleeves, and the incredible fabric, this sweater is the next best thing to feeling the waves beneath your feet. (That fabric is thanks to the incredible Merino Silk DK from Indigodragonfly. The drape, the softness, the strength, and the color are exquisite.)


I was so thrilled by the reception to these sweaters at the retreat. The samples got lots of love, and I can’t wait to see my own little stamp of Maine out in the sweater wild.

I tried something different with this pattern release, as well. Since CustomFit is almost out in the wild, I decided to include a “CustomFit recipe” in each of the patterns. These instructions will give you your own version of these three sweaters, but in your size, gauge, and yarn. (With no math!)

I miss living in Maine, and come back here every chance I get. I’ve been wearing the sweaters at home, though, and they give me a wonderful reminder of the place I love most.

FF: Practical Applications

I have to say, I look forward to Fashion Fridays all week long. I just love doing them. But sometimes, I think using only the materials at hand (a.k.a. me) must get a little monotonous for all of you. (What if you aren’t a proportional, straight, athletic sort of figure?)

Enter the lovely Linda, who wrote to me some time ago offering herself up as a Fashion Friday contributor. (I’d love to make an occasional series of these posts, by the way, so please let me know if you’d be interested in participating.) Linda is based in London, where she’s just opened a shop focusing on hand-glazed, ethically sourced British yarns. And this week, she shares her own experience in creating a version of Relax that works perfectly for her.

A while back Amy sent out a call for people to take part in her Fashion Fridays posts and I realised this would be a great way to get myself thinking more critically about what I knit and possible modifications to flatter, so got in touch.

(Linda’s comments will be in quotes throughout.)

Linda wanted to knit Relax for herself:


I love this sweater, it looks comfortable and cozy (and I’ll admit that I’m a huge fan of Dolman sleeves). Linda, approaching it with a thoughtful eye, knew she’d have to make some changes:

I think most of us have a fairly decent idea of what looks good on us… and we definitely know when something doesn’t! From past experience I instinctively knew that if I knit my Relax to the specified length it would be unflattering but couldn’t really say why.

Here’s Linda in her final selected length (left), and the original (right):


I love the shorter length on her. Linda does too – here’s what she has to say about it:

It wasn’t until I was mocking the photo up for this post and I started putting my ‘Knit to Flatter’ hat on that I realised the longer length not only emphasised my, shall we say ‘curvesome’, butt and gave no indication of the waist above, but the line across the hips at that point also made it seem wider AND a bit dowdy!

I didn’t think “dowdy” when I looked at the pictures, but I do think Linda’s curves shine through more readily with the shorter length. I notice the dolman sleeve line (which, flatteringly, lands at Linda’s waist) a lot more with the shorter length, which draws the eye up. On the right, my eye is drawn down toward the leg rather than up toward the neck. It’s a little more apparent when Linda raises her arms to the side:


I think Linda’s Relax looks great on her, and I love the thought she put into creating something she loves. (The difference between the two sweaters really highlights how large a difference sweater length can make, too!) There’s one more ingredient to Linda achieving the perfect sweater for her: The fabric.

Like many of us, Linda was substituting yarn for her Relax. Here’s what she has to say about that process:

A big consideration was also what yarn blend to use, as how a yarn drapes and moves can make a huge difference in boxier designs like this one. I decided to follow Ririko’s lead and chose my BFL/Silk mix, Islington, as the high silk content gives ample drape and therefore hugs into the waist a bit, keeping it from looking too boxy and adding weight to my frame.

So there you have it! Two very small, thoughtful changes (length and fiber) result in an utterly and completely wearable wardrobe staple.

Which is sweater knitting at its finest, basically. Many, many heartfelt thanks to Linda for so generously sharing her own experience; I hope to hear from more of you! (And for those of you who are fans of her yarn, pssst! She’s offering 10% off to folks who join her newsletter.)

I’d love to hear from all of you, too: Have you ever had the experience of making yourself a sweater and just knowing, instinctively, that you wanted to make a tweak? What was it?

Happy Friday!

FF: From Scratch, II

Happy Friday! You all responded so very well to our first CustomFit sweater post, and the beta-tester sweaters popping up everywhere are so amazing, that I thought I’d make something of a regular series of these “From Scratch” profiles.

So this week for Fashion Friday, let’s look at Kim and her CustomFit sweater. I asked Kim to tell me a little bit about her style desires, fit issues, and her sweater. Her comments are in quotes throughout this post.

Kim’s style desires, in her words, are:

  • “I want to look longer and more balanced. Less round and squat.”
  • “I have a shape. I want to enhance the curves I have.” (Amy here, going on record as saying that Kim actually has a gorgeous shape, rather than just “a” shape!)
  • “I like and look best in simple shapes with something special and a little different. Touches of ornamentation that highlight the piece.”
  • “If it’s not comfortable, I won’t wear it. I need fabrics and shapes that can be dressed up for professional events and teaching, but that I can wear in my small town.”
  • “And I want sweaters that make others want to knit sweaters! When it looks right on me, others believe it’s possible for them too.” (Amy here again: I love this. Kim is such a wonderful sweater ambassador, and it feels so amazing to wear a sweater you love.)

Given those desires, Kim’s fit issues are:

  • Her shoulders are “…relatively narrow compared to width of [my] bust. The whole width of my torso at bust level is visually significantly wider than the rest of my torso.”
  • [I have a] “…long torso, short legs and short arms.”
  • [I’m] “…plus sized AND petite, requiring rapid and drastic shaping in order to show any shape at all.”

Kim went on to add that “it’s really the alternating and extreme narrow/wide/narrow/wide/narrow curvature of my body. It’s curvy, but not smoothly and they aren’t easy curves to knit for.”

Now, Kim is another case of “modifications really help“. She’s got a whole whack of sweaters that look great. And yet…

And yet…

This sweater is better.


Pattern: CustomFit. Relaxed fit, 3/4 sleeves, mid hip length, V neck.
Yarn: Indigodragonfly Merino Sock. Colorway? Special, one of a kind, as fabulous as Kim.
Size: Kim’s. Everywhere.


So let’s start by talking about shaping, which is Kim’s most challenging issue. Working waist and bust shaping independently on the front and the back of the sweater go a really long way toward sweater nirvana…

…but as it turns out, when you need to shape more than ~every 4th row in one place? The fabric starts to bias and look a little strange.

CustomFit handles this by placing additional dart lines whenever shaping every 4th row isn’t enough. For Kim’s sweater, she needed double lines of darts for the shaping. So CustomFit figured that out, and put them in.


It handles bust, shoulders, armholes, and biceps independently. So Kim gets a great fit everywhere.


Again, CustomFit knows how to fit all of you. So Kim’s sweater fits perfectly, everywhere, without Kim 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.

It’s still so amazing to me that the best sweaters are also the easiest sweaters. I’m thrilled with the way Kim’s sweater turned out.

  • I love that even though the fit is relaxed and it’s clearly not tight anywhere, Kim’s curves shine through.
  • I love that Kim looks comfortable in all of these pictures. She glows.
  • I love that Kim didn’t need to change anything, or fiddle, or stress about everything working. She just knit.

Kim loves it too. She wanted me to add her thoughts on the sweater, so I’ll share them with you here:


[Here’s] what I noticed when I first tried on the finished sweater that has NEVER happened before:

The fronts fall straight down, exactly where they’re supposed to fall. Even with modifications, there’s always a bit more of a “split” at the widest part of my hip (high hip). Not here.

The front shaping exactly follows the curve of my body. It’s looser fitting, but you can see the curves! It gives me a waist from all angles. Not just the back.

Sleeves: I finally understand how sleeves are supposed to fit. These follow the shape of my arm, but aren’t too tight and aren’t too loose. The shoulder sits at my shoulder.

I’m not sure it’s possible to be more thrilled with a sweater, but I bet Kim will try. Like many of the beta-testers, she’s already cast on for her next CustomFit sweater.


We are so, so excited about sharing these sweaters with you. Until the next installment in the “From Scratch” series, which will be 2 weeks from now, keep an eye out on Rav for the customfit pattern (which we expect to be adding soon), and don’t forget that if you want be among the first users, you should join the newsletter.

Have a great and yarn-filled weekend!

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.

aug-2013-ff-easy-10 aug-2013-ff-easy-11 aug-2013-ff-easy-12

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.


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:

aug-2013-ff-easy-1 aug-2013-ff-easy-13

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.)


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.


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


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.



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.


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


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.


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


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.




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:


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:


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:


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:


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!


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:


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.)


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.

ff-triangled-7 ff-triangled-9 ff-triangled-8 ff-triangled-6

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:


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:


    (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:


    (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:


    (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!