Sunday, October 01, 2006

Where I Went Wrong: A Cautionary Tale

Several people have asked me questions about choosing a size when knitting the Simple Knitted Bodice. I decided to go back and take another careful look at the pattern and try to determine what went wrong. Hopefully, this will be helpful to other people who are planning to make this sweater, especially those who decide to make it in Silky Wool. This is going to get very technical, so if you're with me at the end, pat yourself on the back and go pour a nice big glass of Shiraz.

I looked at the schematic again, and now I realize that my gauge was off. I knit the size small, which says it's for a 32-34 inch bust. (Possibly TMI: I have about a 33.5 inch bust.) The finished bust measurement for that size, on the schematic, is 33.5 inches. I ended up with a finished bust of 35.5 inches, which falls between a small and a medium. No wonder it's too big.

But here's the thing. This sweater is definitely sized generously. If you want a sexy, fitted sweater -- as pictured on the model -- you are going to need to know your own bust measurement, look at the finished bust measurements on the schematic, understand a little about the miracle of negative ease, and choose your size accordingly. Conventional wisdom (otherwise known as The Knitter's Companion) suggests that the knitter should allow five to ten percent negative ease to achieve a body-hugging fit. Assuming an actual bust measurement of 34 inches, that's two to three inches of negative ease.

For a person with a 34 inch bust, the size small provides only half an inch of negative ease. That's not nearly enough to provide a close fit for that size, especially in a yarn that grows with wear, as a 100% silk yarn does. For a 32 inch bust, you've got a whole inch and a half of positive ease, which isn't fitted at all. The gal with the 34 inch bust should knit something between the extra-small and small. Since my gauge was a little off on the large side, if I had knit the extra-small, I'd probably have been right on the money.

Another thing you should note about the schematic ... it suggests that the waist panel will measure as wide as the bust. Not so. It is knit on much smaller needles. My finished waist measurement is nearly two inches smaller than the bust. This is a good thing, if you want a nice, tailored look.

If you plan to use Silky Wool, I have the following advice. The stated gauge for the pattern in stockinette is 20 sts/4 inches. The recommended gauge for the yarn is smaller, 22 sts/4 inches. If you knit the Silky Wool to the larger gauge, it will be very drapey. I recommend swatching with the yarn with different sized needles until you get a fabric that you like. Then wash and block your swatch and let it dry. You would not believe how much my sweater grew when wet. Think, airplane hangar cozy.

Now determine your gauge for the swatch that pleases you. Multiply your gauge by the number of inches that you want your finished bust to be -- to make this easy, choose a number represented on the schematic. Then look at the stitch counts in the pattern for the point just before you join the fronts of the sweater and start knitting in the round. Find the number that is closest to your answer above, and that is the size you should knit. Alternatively, you could pick the finished bust measurement you want, if it is not represented in the pattern, consider your gauge, and then redo all the maths. You may then begin to wonder why you bought the pattern, but you will end up with a sweater that fits.

My final piece of advice is this. Try it on as you go. This is the beauty of knitting sweaters from the top down, so take advantage of it! More importantly, don't ignore what you see in the mirror. If it seems too big or too small when you try it on, rip or keep increasing as needed. Don't assume it will block to measurements. Learn from my mistakes.

Whew! I hope I haven't scared anyone off from this pattern. It really is fun and easy, and could be a first sweater. You just need to be thoughtful about your size selection if you really want to be happy with it. Now I need a big glass of Shiraz.


Blogger msubulldog said...

I think that was a very clear explanation of what went wrong and how to (hopefully) ensure a nice fitting garment. Hopefully it will work for me sometime! *grin*

12:49 AM  
Blogger Yarngirl said...

Excellent advice - thank you very much for posting that!

6:48 AM  
Blogger Terby said...

Thanks for the info - I have the yarn, I have been swatching. Glad you posted this.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Liz K. said...

Great post with info that all knitters need when determining whether to knit a sweater. It is this kind of collective knowledge that makes blogging so useful to knitters.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Sourire11 said...

Thanks for all of the advice!

9:23 AM  
Blogger Lolly said...

"Cautionary Tale" - that is so Colin ;)

Great advice too, L! Thanks.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Bitterknitter said...

Thank you, Laura! You answered all the niggling questions I had floating around in my mind (I'm planning to knit a SKB for a friend, maybe one for me, eventually:-))


10:34 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Good tips and advice!

10:57 AM  
Blogger Kate A. said...

Thanks for posting this! It's invaluable when you're facing making all these decisions without having worked through the pattern to see where the key points are (I was wondering about the size on that lace panel....) and I think you've finally convinced me to actually bother washing my swatch (for the first time!). You rock! Now enjoy that shiraz....

12:26 PM  
Blogger Mama Urchin said...

Thanks for explaining that so clearly. I know this info will help me.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

very sage advice. I probably should have listened to advice such as this because right about now I'm looking like a stuffed sausage in my close to completed tank top. It's a stretchy yarn (think fixation) and they knit the stretched size with negative ease. so relaxed, it's something like 20% negative ease! scary.

Anyway, I still think the SKB looks great on you and the color is really wow.

3:46 PM  
Blogger amy said...

Very excellent advice. I've been considering the sweater (in the recommended yarn, no less), so thanks for the post!

10:53 PM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

It wasn't hard to stay with you at all -- very clear explanation! I'm awarding myself a glass of wine anyway.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Cara said...

Hi! Just wanted to let you know that this submission made it into this month's Yarnival! You can view the issue on my blog. Thanks for submitting! Have a GREAT DAY!

11:10 AM  

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