Make It Fit! (or, No, I’m NOT Wearing My Mother’s Sweater)

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Let’s face it: almost none of us are “sample size”. Standards are set for each “size” in the knitwear industry so that there is just that: a standard. If every designer out there had to create a pattern to fit every single one of us, I’m fairly certain they would all quit.

So we have a choice. We can knit sweaters, hoping they kind of fit. Or we can learn to make modifications to the patterns to make them fit us. The first one is the hardest. And often there is ripping out. I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent the equivalent of weeks on sweaters that never get worn because they look like crap on. Shoulders are halfway down my upper arm. If it fits my bust, it’s tight across my hips. If it fits my hips, it’s baggy from the waist up.

I’m done.

So I’m on a mission to make sure every sweater I knit from now on fits. Fits the body I have now.

To help me, I’ve been reading some resources:

I started with Sandi Wiseheart’s SweaterWise. This was a workshop, with chapters emailed every few weeks, and worksheets and spreadsheets with formulas to make a completely customized sweater. The Wheatgrass Truffle cardigan is the sample pattern used in this course.

Amy Herzog’s Fit to Flatter series: This is an excellent resource available free as blog posts, or for $10 US, you can buy the series as a PDF. Amy goes through a series of exercises that give you a better sense of what your body actually looks like, what is generally flattering for your shape and how to modify all sweaters to make them fit you better. Yes, one of the exercises involves dressing in close-fitting clothing, photographing your whole body and marking up the photographs to really understand your shape. But it really helps. I found out I’m not top-heavy, as I’ve believed my whole life…but actually proportional. Which is not at all what I would have thought of my body shape. And my waist/narrowest part? Not even close to where I thought it was!

Ysolda Teague’s Little Red in the City: The entire first half of this book is all about how to make sweaters that fit you well. Measuring yourself and how to transpose those measurements onto a pattern is key, and Ysolda takes you through those steps. My only criticism is that although she tells you to look at the measurements in the schematics of a pattern to determine which size will actually fit you best, and where to make adjustments…but there are no measurements on the schematics in the patterns in this book. So there is a bit of guesswork for those of us who are visual people. (It’s not too difficult, and if anyone is planning to knit Cria, I can help you with that).

So what makes a good fit?

1) Having a realistic view of your body shape, and choosing styles that suit that shape. Everyone has at least one element of their body that they hate. Time to get over that, and working with it.

2) Taking accurate measurements. All three of the above resources talk about how to do that. a) have an accurate measuring tape available (I have a cloth one I bought for $1 at Fabricland that I only use for measuring myself…my knitting tapes get stretched and tossed and I’m pretty sure they’re way out of wack). And although all three resources have some similar elements they ask you to measure, Amy and Ysolda go into more detail…both provide measuring charts and detailed instructions.

If you have someone available to help you, you’re likely to get more accurate measurements.

What I’m doing: I’ve decided that every time I knit a new sweater, I’m remeasuring my body, and labelling the chart with a) the date and b) what sweater I’m measuring for.

3) Determine how much ease, and where that ease should be. Sweaters look best when they fit well in the shoulders, with minimal ease. Equally important is a good fit through your bust. Not tight, but you can get away with 0 ease or even a little negative ease. In actual fact, the largest part of your bust is only the largest for a short amount of your knitting. You may want more ease through your waist and hips.

If you have a sweater that fits you well, it’s definitely worth measuring the sweater itself and comparing those measurements to your body measurements. Where do you prefer more ease? Where does a closer fit flatter you most? Consider keeping a fit notebook or spreadsheet that keeps track of those measurements.

4) The fabric itself. This is where swatching comes in. All the measuring and modifications in the world won’t matter if you don’t take your swatch into consideration. And if you knit a swatch that doesn’t match the gauge for the pattern, but you prefer the fabric, there’s nothing to say you can’t make modifications to the pattern based on the new gauge. It’s extra work, but consider this: you will be putting 20+ hours of your life into knitting this sweater. You want it to be right.  You want it to fit you and be made of a fabric you’re going to love to wear.





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