As a little girl I played with paper dolls. I liked Betsy McCall. I’d sit on my bedroom floor, legs wide, hunched over the magazine with safety scissors that were never quite sharp enough or pointed enough. My little hands were too clumsy to do a neat job, and there would be white bits clinging to the edges. Sometimes I’d cut too close, ruining the illusion once the clothes were on. Worse, was when I’d lop off one of the folding tabs that held the clothes on the doll, or even one of the doll’s hands. You can see why I did not grow up to be a surgeon. Paper dolls were easy. Nice and flat, and the clothes easy to change. When I graduated to Barbies, I gathered scraps of velvet and ribbon from Christmas ball crafts to make clothes for them. But they never fit, because Barbie is not a paper doll
Nor are we. We’re not Barbie either, thank heavens, but we do share one feature with her. We’re both three-dimensional. You know this, of course, just as I knew it two when I made those Barbie clothes that didn’t fit. But knowing and understanding the implications are very different.
In the Custom Fit Sweater class we’ve been doing in Club Crazy for Ewe, a number of knitters have been concerned about their sweater’s fit. As the fabric grows on the needles, it seemed too big. When they took it off the needles and pinned it out, I’m happy to report that it was exactly the size the pattern said it should be. What’s up with that? Are our eyes playing tricks on us?
Kinda, yeah. It’s that whole paper doll thing. When we look in the mirror, we see our body’s width. But our sweater back, spread out, is much wider than that width we see in the mirror because we're not paper dolls. We have depth. The fabric we’re knitting has to cover not only the width we see in the mirror, but half way around our body’s depth as well.
I’ve been doing sweaters a long time, and I’ve learned to trust the pattern generally, but I still verify. It's a scary thing knitting a sweater and all the while worrying that it will be too big or too small. The fear around fit is real, and for knitters who don't make sweaters, fit is the primary reason why they don't. The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to help make sure your sweaters will fit you just as you like them.
Get a solid set of body measurements- those that correspond to the decision points of a sweater. Things like full bust and upper bust (especially important if you’re busty), armhole depth, bicep circumference, and your preferred sweater length and sleeve length. And more.
Figure out how much ease you like in your sweaters. This is a very personal decision but you’ll find it by measuring sweaters that fit you the way you like them to fit.
Choose the right size-- Choose the size that fits you the way you like - based on your measurements and ease preferences
Swatch accurately - make a big swatch and do it when you‘re relaxed and in the place where you do most of your knitting.
Wash and dry your swatch --Do it the way you plan to wash and dry your finished sweater (I’m guilty of skipping this step, but skip it at your own risk)
Adjust the pattern as needed. Using your measurement information, adjust the pattern to suit your body and your preferences. It’s not as hard as it sounds, and you can definitely do it.
Check your gauge against your swatch as you go. Sometimes we loosen or tighten up as we go. If that’s you, maybe start with a sleeve and check your gauge there. Best to know if your gauge has changed on a small piece than on the back
All this stuff about measurements and ease and swatching - it’s all doable. If you would like to get focused help doing it, take a look at Club Crazy for Ewe. We’re focused on helping you build confidence as you knit sweaters you’re proud to wear - sweaters that fit and look great - sweaters finished with professional polish. Every time. You can do it. We’re here to help.
Build a handknit wardrobe you can’t wait to wear. I can’t wait to help you.
Until then, I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table, or around our virtual table.
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