Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tweaking patterns.

Since there's nothing new to report here (the baby is still ornery, I'm still working on the Mystery Knit), I thought I'd discuss a subject that came up in the comments yesterday. Namely, making sweaters flattering when you've got an actual figure.

It really doesn't matter, for the most part, if your boobies are bigger or your backside is bigger, or if they're both big. The point is, if you're built like a female, most traditionally shaped sweaters fit like sacks. Because, really, they aren't shaped.

The easiest way to deal with that, is to put in some waist shaping. Even pulling in the waist an inch, and then expanding it back out, is enough to make you look like there's a figure in there. It doesn't even count as fitting the sweater - with that small bit of shaping, considering knitting stretches, you don't have to sweat the exact fit much at all. Just decrease a couple stitches at each side seam, knit straight for an inch or so, then increase back to the original cast-on.

For instance: say you're casting on 100 stitches for the front of a sweater, at 5 stitches to the inch. Cast on, knit about an inch, decrease a stitch at each side, knit another inch, decrease another inch at each side, knit another inch, decrease another inch at each side. You've now decreased the FRONT of the sweater a half inch at each side. Knit an inch or so plain, then reverse the shaping; increase a stitch at each side, knit an inch... until you're back to your original stitch count. Do the same on the back, and you'll have taken in your sweater two inches at the waist, and emphasised boobs and backside and waist quite efficiently. (This is assuming it's a pattern that's knit straight up from cast-on to arm pits, before you tweaked it.) Easy to do, and makes a big difference.

Even easier (if you've got a feel for it), is to substitute yarns. If it's something like wool to start with, replace the pure wool with something that's got more drape to it; an alpaca-wool blend if you need something warm, or a cotton-wool blend for something cooler. The sweater may hang a bit lower, but it will drape over your figure more, showing the fact that you HAVE a figure. It's always easy to knock an inch off the hem if you have to. (Keep in mind that if the sweater has a low neckline to begin with, the yarn substitution will make the sweater hang MUCH lower than you indended - this works best for crew necks or high scoop necks.)

Of course, the easiest thing of all to do is not re-invent the wheel, but to choose a sweater pattern with waist shaping in the first place. White Lies Designs is the best place I know of, on line, to get these types of patterns; the designer is a plus-sized lady herself, and knows all about showing off her waist. You are guaranteed to look like a girl in her designs.

Big Girl Knits, the book by Amy Singer and Jillian Moreno, is also a great source. Even if you aren't particularly big, it's got a lot of great information about choosing patterns that are flattering for you, and altering existing patterns so you look better in them (not just adding a waist, but bust darts and short-row shaping, as well). If I had more time (my life's motto) to knit stuff for myself, I'd have done five or six of the designs out of the book for myself; many of them are flattering to ANY woman with a curvy figure, plus size or not.

Design books are also very good for learning about waist shaping and bust darts; there are a lot of complex ways to do them, and I've only described the most rudimentary system here. "Designing Knitwear" by Deborah Newton is an excellent book, and lately I've been reading up on sewing patterns; clothing is clothing. (Okay, you have to allow for the stretch of knit fabric, but many people SEW knits.)

I'd say the biggest thing is to quit thinking traditional knits, and start looking at the newer knitwear styles; not automatically the stuff that will only be in style for a season, but classic, fitted styles you can wear for years.


Fancy Pants said...

I just recently purchased "Designing Knitwear" and haven't had a chance to really look at it yet but, since you recommended it, I'm going to pore over it tonight. You are pretty spot on for knitting book recommendations (and knitting in general). I love that you recommended White Lies. I love her stuff. It's so feminine and beautiful. If only I had time to knit for myself....I have a nasty habit of giving away everything I knit so, even if I started out knitting for myself, I'd probably end up giving it away anyway. Get your knittin' on, lady. And thanks for the prolific blog posting. I always know I can check into your blog and get a good dose of entertainment from the exploits of the baby and Sekhmet, as well as gain some good knitting knowledge. I hope you are feeling better and having a wonderful day!

Sheepish Annie said...

I've been knitting a sweater which has no shaping. And it came out big despite careful swatching so I look like I'm wearing a big blue sack. A few decreases would have taken care of that nicely...maybe next time!

Bells said...

oh good post Julie. Very timely. Jejune and I are going to look at doing some shaping in Mariah - so thanks!

Louiz said...

Thanks Julie, I'm going to print this out and keep it with my books!

Cam-ee said...

Heh, shows how shortsighted you can be. I was all fussed about short rows and so forth!

Thank you for this!

LauraLili said...

I've done two cardigans from Rowan recently, and have been impressed by the waist shaping. With an hourglass figure that I didn't know I had (no one was more surprised than me when I got measured up for my wedding dress!) I now understand why so many knits look so appalling on - no waist!

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

Please excuse a comment completely unrelated to your (very interesting as always) post, but I have a dyeing question. I'm slowly gathering up my courage to try making some pretty yarns, but, being a cheapskate, I was planning to try it on super-cheap-somewhat-scratchy yarn while I'm first getting the hang of it. But then I remembered that you've posted some pictures showing the exact same dyes on two different yarns, and getting quite different results. So what do you think - would I really be saving money by starting with cheap yarn, or would I still have to experiment all over again when I started using the expensive one? I don't really trust my own color sense, and I'm not really good at visualizing whether particular color combinations will look good together unless I can actually see them. So I was hoping the cheap yarns would at least give me an idea whether any given color combination was worth trying. Hmmm, but then what would I do with all the scratchy, cheap dyed yarn...? Advice please, if you would be so kind! Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

I am actually working on a sweater now that has that same shaping. I was wondering why.