guest authored by Amy Herzog
This week, Amy Herzog joins me for an informative post about modifying and creating your perfect sweater. As an accomplished designer with more than 40 published patterns in both books and magazines, Amy has dedicated her design career to building the perfect sweater and can be found teaching her Fit to Flatter method at various shows and conventions around the world. Recently, she launched Custom Fit, a web-based design platform that helps you create your perfect sweater from the ground up.
Sweaters may not be the most technically difficult projects out there (if you can cast on, bind off, increase, and decrease, you can make one,) but they’re arguably the most intimidating. We’re often afraid that we’ll spend so much money and time on a single project, only to end up with a garment that gets relegated to a shelf.
The good news is, it’s possible to demystify the whole process and feel good about the modifications you’re making—without having to try the sweater on in the process! All sweaters, no matter how they’re constructed, are essentially 3 cylinders joined together at the top with some math:
The shoulders are the single most important part of sweater-fitting, and the good news is that if you start by selecting a size that fits the shoulders well, the rest of your modifications will be pretty simple. (They’ll also be worked in essentially the same way no matter what the construction style is – a definite bonus since they’ll be second nature by the time you knit your third sweater!) As you can see below, shoulder fit makes a big difference:
Sweaters are sized for the fullest part of the bust, though. So how to pick a bust circumference that will fit your shoulders well? Essentially, you need to figure out a circumference on your own body that “matches” your shoulders, but can be treated as if it were your full bust for size selection. I call it the “upper torso”:
Measure the circumference of the very top of your torso, in your armpits. On me, this looks like a high bust – but for those broad-shouldered, smaller-busted figures out there, take note! It’s really important to ensure that the measuring tape is as high in your armpits as it can possibly go since you’re essentially trying to measure those shoulders.
Add some ease to this number, based on what kind of fit you like in the shoulders, and select the the closest finished bust circumference to the result, without going below your actual upper torso.
• For a close fit, add between 0 – 1’’ (0 – 2.5 cm) to your upper torso.
• For an average fit, add between 1 – 2’’ (2.5 – 5 cm) to your upper torso.
• For a relaxed fit, add between 2 – 3’’ (5 – 7.5 cm) to your upper torso.
Voila! You’ve now selected a size that will fit your shoulders well, and you can forget about adjusting the pattern in this area. Of course, that still leaves the rest of the sweater! Don’t worry, the rest of the sweater is easy-peasy. The key is to recognize that the widths on the front and back of the sweater at the bust, waist, and hips don’t need to be the same. There’s no magic in those pattern numbers! And you can make them what you need to be.
Here’s an example of my own “base size”, with the numbers that are incorrect for my figure crossed out and corrected:
Once you’ve selected your own base size you can do the same thing! Compare your body’s own measurements to the measurements of the base size, and then disregard any stitch (or row) counts in the pattern that are wrong for you, substituting your own instead.
For example, I need some extra width in the front of my sweater, to accommodate my larger bustline. I’ll use the pattern’s stitch count at the front waist, since it fits me well. But instead of going to the pattern’s stitch count for the bust, I’ll add enough stitches to make a 22’’ (58 cm) front instead of the written 19’’ (46.5 cm) front. This might mean I need to work 8 increase rows, for example, instead of 2 as written in the pattern.
To determine what your own widths should be, I recommend the following ease ranges for bust, waist, and hip:
• The garment’s finished bust circumference should be within -2’’ to +2’’ of your own (that’s -5 to +5 cm). If your sweater is tighter than 2’’ of negative ease, you’ll have problems with the front of your sweater riding up at the hem as the knit stretches to accommodate you! And 2’’ of positive ease in the bust is a pretty slouchy and relaxed feel, when worn.
• The garment’s finished waist circumference should definitely be larger than your own, by at least 2’’ (5 cm).
• The garment’s finished hip circumference for an average-length sweater should be within the same range as the bust: -2’’ to +2’’ (-5 to +5 cm). A smidge of negative ease in the hips won’t feel tight, but it will help the garment anchor itself properly. There’s a reason we use ribbing in the hips! (Longer sweaters that reach below your bum need to have substantial positive ease in the hips. I recommend 4 – 6’’ (10 – 12.5 cm). This helps them stay nicely away from your body as you move.)
Correcting any measurements that are wrong in your base size represents your modification list – with no try-ons required!
With the right approach and understanding, calculating what parts to edit and modify from a sweater pattern you like can result in a garment you love to wear. The next step in sweater modification is to build your own pattern from the ground up—join us in next week’s follow-up blog with Amy Herzog to discuss her newest project, Custom Fit, which takes the work out of custom sweater construction. (Think of it as hiring an architect to design your dream garment!)