Monday, April 14, 2014

Knitting a Sweater and Tips to Achieve a Custom Fit

I love my new Spring Lily sweater!  It has wonderful texture with bobbles on top of bobbles and more bobbles and when you look at it you know immediately that it was hand knit which makes it a perfect knitting project.

If you are like most knitters you probably have had the experience of knitting a sweater only to find that it doesn't fit whether it's too long, too wide, too short, or too tall.  So how can you knit a sweater and be sure that it will fit you?  The answer to that question entirely depends upon whether or not you are willing to take a few extra steps before you cast-on.  I'm going to share with you the steps that I take in advance of casting on to achieve a custom fit with any sweater pattern.   

Knitting Tips To Achieve a Custom Fit:

Step 1.  Always knit a gauge swatch and wash and block it.  You will need an accurate gauge swatch to know how many stitches per inch you are knitting in order to calculate (using basic math) a custom fit.

Step 2.  Find a garment in your closet or your friends closet that fits you the way that you want your new sweater to fit.  You are then going to use this garment as a "template" which means that you will sketch the garment on a piece of paper along with all critical measurements (i.e. the length, width, shoulders, neckline, sleeves, etc.).

Step 3.  Ignore the pattern instructions for size.  For example, if the pattern instructions tell you to cast-on 150 stitches for a size 38" sweater you will ignore that instruction.  Instead, you will look at your sketch and using basic math and your gauge swatch you will calculate the number of stitches to cast-on. So if your template indicates that you want the bottom of your sweater to be 18 inches across you will calculate how many stitches it will take to knit 18 inches based on your gauge swatch (i.e, multiply the number of stitches per inch by the number of inches you want) to determine the number of stitches to cast-on.  You will mainly use the "pattern instructions" for overall guidance as to the style of stitches used and for how long, the techniques used for shaping, and finishing instructions, etc.  But for any increases, decreases, or number of stitches to cast-on you will ignore the pattern instructions and instead use your template calculations.  It is always helpful to read over the entire pattern instructions before you begin so you have an idea of the sweater construction.

Step 4.  Periodically take your project off the needles using waste yarn and do a "fitting."  The fitting process will help you make any adjusts to your increases and/or decreases based on how the garment actually fits.

Step 5.  Always wash and block your knitting before doing any finishing work (i.e. before seaming together pieces, etc.).  After pressing out as much water as you can, use your template measurements to gently ease the individual wet pieces into the desired size/shape and leave until completely dry.  Seam together as per pattern instructions.

I know this seems like a lot of things to do but for the amount of work and money that goes into knitting a sweater you want it to fit well and by following these steps you are more likely to have a sweater that will indeed fit!

Particulars:  Lily designed by Marnie MacLean (Twist Collective); US 6 needles (circular and straight); 6 skeins Amy Butler Belle Organic dk by Rowan (50% wool / 50% cotton).  I more or less knit the 2XS size up to the point where the yoke and sleeves are joined.  However, after joining the yoke rather than follow the pattern decreases I adjusted my decreases based on "fitting" which means I took the garment off the needles and adjusted the decreases as needed.  See above tips for more guidance on how I achieved a custom fit.

And Now a Mishmash of Things that I am Enjoying this Spring ~

Spring Lollipops!  I love these seasonal treats that I find at William and Sonoma.  They are a wonderful combination of sweet and acidic and I wish they were available all year round.

Homemade bagels with wild Maine Blueberry jam and freshly brewed Stumptown Coffee yum yum yum. For the bagels I used King Arthur Flour's free on-line Baby Bagel recipe and because I did not have "high Gluten" flour I simply added a tablespoon of Gluten for each cup of All Purpose Flour that I used.  You can find Gluten in most health food stores.

And lastly my morning hikes with Simcha watching the clouds roll in from the Malibu coastline.

Until next time be well and love well and I hope that your Spring will be filled with beautiful color, a sense of renewal, and lots of seasonal treats.