Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Getting It To Fit

Still knitting and spinning for the sweater which is beginning to acquire the moniker of "Dark Denim Sweater". The actual pattern has no name, just a number. The second sleeve is finished. Looks just like the first so I won't bother with a picture. On to the back piece now. And some spinning.

It's getting to be like a film clip download where the viewing begins before the download is complete. Sometimes the film progresses faster than the download and the film must stop and wait for the download to get further ahead. I started knitting before I had the spinning complete and my knitting is progressing faster than the spinning can keep pace. It won't be long before the knitting has to stop and wait for the spinning to move forward.

In the meantime Lorraine left this question in my comments:

Lorraine said...
Absolutely love the yarn and the beginnings of the sweater. I notice that your sweaters usually fit beautifully. Do you alter patterns to fit in advance or are you just genetically lucky enough to have the right figure to get sweaters to fit as written?

I suppose it would be a little of both Lorriane, and then some. My proportions are pretty average. Both now, and when I was heavier, my bust/waist/hips remain relatively normal in relation to each other. If I gain in one place I tend to gain all over. So, yes, patterns do tend to fit me "right off the rack".

Of course one has to choose the right size in the first place, and that is where some knitters go wrong. You can't just assume blindly that you will always be a "small" or a "size 36" or whatever the case may be. I always look at the measurements the finished garment is supposed to be and choose according to my preferred fit. I've learned over time how much "fitting ease" I am comfortable with, and I'm getting better at determining an appropriate "design ease" depending on the style of the sweater, the weight of the knitted fabric, it's drape and so on. If I already have a sweater in a similar style and weight that fits just right, I take the measurements from that. I also use previous disasters as a learning tool!

And then there is the gauge swatch. Nearly every knitter hates to knit them, but they tell you oh, so much and should not be skipped. A gauge swatch not only tells you if you are getting the correct number of stitches per inch, (being off just 1/4 of a stitch over 4" can have a drastic effect on fit if you are using a bulky yarn) but also how the finished "fabric" will perform. For instance, does it drape correctly? "Getting gauge" is not the only thing that is important. You may be able to squeeze a knitting worsted into a pattern for sportsweight by using a ridiculously small needle, but are you going to be happy with the stiff-as-a-board fabric? It's a good idea to take your finished gauge swatch and launder it in the same fashion that you will launder the finished garment. If it is going to go all loosy-goosy and stretch out of shape (sometimes a problem with Superwash yarns), or perhaps shrink, fuzz, or fade, wouldn't you rather know about this before spending all that time and money to knit the garment in the first place?

Sometimes I do alter patterns to fit better. I'll occasionally add waist shaping where there wasn't any, deepen a V-neck, lengthen or add width to sleeves, etc. Occasionally I realize that what I love about a particular commercial pattern is one significant detail and I then incorporate that feature into another design that I like the fit of.

If you can, try on early and often --- it'll save hours and hours of fruitless knitting. In the end, it's still a crap shoot. You win some, you lose some. But when I lose I rip out the offender and try to learn from my mistakes.


AlisonH said...

Even my circular shawls--swatching is necessary. I didn't think so, till one of my test knitters presented me with a tightly-knit cape rather than a nice wide circle. That'll teach me (and did).

Dave said...

Oh, dear. That last "crap shoot" comment really scares me, especially from an experienced knitter like yourself. I guess that's why I knit socks. :-)

Marlene said...

Not to worry Dave, the likelihood of getting a winner increases with each attempt. Honestly, if a person puts together all of the suggestions I mentioned their chances of having a successful fit are pretty darn good. I'd say 100%, but there may be some unknown variables I am not currently aware of.

Of course to gain experience knitting and fitting sweaters you will have to knit sweaters. When in doubt, TRY it ON early and rip if necessary.

Maggie Ann said...

I love your gift of teaching and giving excellent tutorials Marlene. =) would that I had your talent!