Thursday, October 4, 2012

the issue of ease, part 2

So, seeing how much latitude is available with respect to ease, there are two questions to be answered before you start that garment.
  • How much ease do you want in the sweater you are making?
  • How do you work with the pattern to get it?
Here is what you will do to answer these questions and produce a sweater that fits the way you want.
  1. Find the size you would normally knit. (If you don't know, measure yourself around the widest part of your bust. In standard sizes, S = 32–34; M = 36–38; L = 40–42; 1X = 44–46; 2X = 48–50. For other sizes, extrapolate from this: for hips, add 2" to every number.) Let's assume you have a 41" bust, which makes you a L.
  2. Find the finished measurement for that size.  Let's assume it's 45". Now hold a tape measure at your bust at 45" and see how it feels. If you love it, then knit that size: you are done! But if you don't love how it will fit, then do the following steps.
  3. Go to another garment of the same style (and it doesn't have to be a sweater)--one whose fit you like--and measure its circumference, then try it on to remind yourself how it fits on your body. (Please see the bullets below where I discuss this step further.) Once you are sure of the bust measurement you want, record it.
  4. Let's assume the circumference you like is a little smaller than the pattern's. What can you do? Because there is usually 4" difference between sizes, this would mean the L is 45" and the M is 41". You have a 41" bust, so you would get 0 ease if you knit the M. But if knit a L front and a M back, you'd get a finished circumference of 43", which might be exactly what you want! So do it!
  5. On the other hand, let's assume the circumference you like is a little larger than the pattern's. You could get more ease if you knit a 1X front and a L back. (You might notice that I prefer to put the larger size in the front--because this is how we are shaped.) So do that!
There is more to say about step 3.
  • I'm saying bust, but (as you read yesterday) if the garment is longer we work with the hip measurement.
  • By style, I'm referring to what you might think of as armhole style: set-in sleeve, raglan, drop shoulder. How something is shaped to fit the armhole has a huge bearing on the amount of ease it needs (as you saw in yesterday's post).
  • Some folks say they don't have a garment whose fit they like. Okay. Try on something you don't like, preferably something too big around the bust! Pinch it to see how much smaller should it be.
  • If the thing you are measuring is a light blouse or fine T-shirt, please appreciate that your knit garment will be a heavier fabric and might need 1" more ease.
So, let's assume you finished steps 1–2 and can confidently knit your size. Congratulations! You are done. You need read no further.

But what if you've done the work of steps 1–5 and now know you need to blend sizes. Do not fear! This blending of sizes is something I find myself doing a lot--even when I knit from my own patterns. Why? Because some of my patterns are 10 years old, and 10 years ago styles were looser. Now that I want a closer-to-the-body fit, I find myself knitting M fronts and S backs a lot.

Is it as simple as it sounds? Well . . . no . . . not quite (and when is anything ever as simple as it sounds?!?).

For one thing, working a different size for the front and back doesn't work for a drop shoulder (or most kinds of modular knitting). But the drop shoulder is a style that is better knit with a lot of ease, so chances are you could just knit your size anyway!(And the same could be said for most modular knitting.)

If you are making a set-in sleeve or raglan--the styles we are more fond of--the blending of sizes does work. You might have to fiddle numbers (for the shoulder width of the set-in sleeve, for the armhole decreases for the raglan, for the underarm bind-off for both), but this should not be a stretch.
  • For the set-in sleeve, decrease to the shoulder width that fits your shoulders.
  • For the raglan, you might have to slow down your armhole decreases on the smaller piece--so your armhole is not too short on that side. To slow down decreases, just skip a few decrease rows. (I don't love the raglan, because it is not flattering on many of us and is difficult to make fit. So maybe the first time you do this should be with a set-in sleeve?)
  • For either the set-in sleeve or raglan, there will be an armhole bind-off: bind off the number of stitches for the size sleeve you are making. (For example, if the armhole bind-off is 5 stitches for the M and 7 stitches for the L, then bind off 5 stitches for both.)
  • For the set-in sleeve or raglan, you will have to decide which size sleeve you want (L or M?). Make the armhole depth and sleeve for that size, binding off the number of stitches from the previous bullet at each underarm.
If you are someone who just wants to knit the pattern (and is afraid to deviate), then please consider the following.

There's probably nothing more important to your knitting than having it fit properly: doing this work will ensure that.

This kind of work is very good for your brain: you will be a healthier version of yourself for doing it.

Knitting is extraordinarily flexible! If you goof up a little, chances are the knitting will forgive you.

Fear and knitting  are two words that should never occur in the same sentence!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

the issue of ease, part 1

There is much misunderstanding about ease: is it included in the pattern? how much does a sweater need? Here is my answer to both of these.

  1. Ease is included in the pattern (and reflected in the finished measurements). BUT different designers like different amounts of ease, different styles require different amounts of ease, and the amount of ease we like changes over time (as styles and our bodies change). So there's lots more to understand and consider.
  2. How much ease a sweater needs is a function of the designer's preference plus the style of sweater plus the weight of yarn. What follows are guidelines that designers usually follow.
By fine yarns, I mean 21 or more stitches to 4"; by medium yarns, I mean 18–20 stitches to 4"; by heavy yarns, I mean 17 or fewer stitches to 4".
By fitted styles, I mean set-in sleeve or close-fitting raglan: for non-fitted styles, I mean loose raglan or drop-shoulder.

Each explanation is an and/or, meaning it could be one or all of the suggestions offered.

We say bust because that's usually the fullest part of the body being covered. But if the sweater is longer and your hips are fuller (which standard sizes say is the norm), then ease is added to hips. And if your tummy is bigger than your bust, then ease is added to that measurement.

The measurement should be taken at the fullest part of your bust or tummy or hips. (It is a common misunderstanding to think it is taken under the bust.)
  • very close fit  = bust + 0" or less  for fine yarns, for fitted styles, for garments that won't be worn over another, for stretchy stitch patterns (This is also called negative ease.)
  • close fit = bust + 0–2"  for fine or medium weight yarns, for fitted styles, for garments that may not be worn over another
  • standard ease = bust + 2–4"  for fine or medium weight yarns, for fitted styles, for garments that may be worn over another
  • loose fit = bust + 4–6"  for medium weight or heavy yarns, for non-fitted styles, for garments that may be worn over another
  • over-sized = bust + 6" or more  for heavy yarns, for non-fitted styles, for garments that may be worn over another
Ease is added to each size within the standard sizes you see at the back of your knitting book or magazine. But consider that each size covers a range of possibilities: for example, a medium is 36–38". So if you are at the smaller end of your size range, you'll have more ease between your body and the finished sweater: if you are at the larger end of your size, you'll have less ease between your body and the finished sweater. And if you have a 39" bust measurement according to the chart you are neither a medium nor a large! What to do about all this will be discussed in tomorrow's post.
Obviously, there is a lot of latitude for how much ease should be added. So designers work with their personal preferences. I, for example, prefer more ease rather than less: given a set-in sleeve in a fine yarn, I'd go with standard ease rather than close fit when either of these choices would be perfectly appropriate. Why? Because in high school I was a tiny thing with HUGE BOOBS that I wanted to hide. And I am now an older girl (over 60) who thinks close-fitting clothes not so age appropriate. If you are younger and never wanted to hide your body under a tent, then you may find my styles a little loose. What to do about this will also be discussed in tomorrow's post.

So for now, this is what ease means and how it is usually applied. Check in tomorrow to read how to work with it to ensure you knit a garment that fits the way you want.