When you knit, and you have narrow shoulders, and a not large waist, and large breasts, you have some options available to you in obtaining the "perfect size":
- You can short row bust darts into the sweater.
- You can alter the finished size of the sweater by knitting different sizes at different points in the project (kind of like grading from one size to another in a sewing pattern). Effectively your sweater becomes a mash up of 2 or more sizes.
- You can alter your gauge to gain inches in bust circumference (but it will increase the circumference by the same proportion everywhere else in the garment too). I have a whole theory about this (see below).
- You can do some combination of all of the above but, man, that's complicated.
Each of these solutions requires math. On the plus side, the math is extremely pragmatic and is limited to division, multiplication, addition and subtraction. If you can understand what you're trying to accomplish conceptually, I'm almost certain you have the math skills to work out the specifics. On the down side, you really do have to understand what you're trying to accomplish conceptually.
My point is, don't fear the math. If you want to be afraid, I recommend fearing the required three-dimensional thinking skills and the need to understand the properties of your yarn (and your knitting relationship with it). The math is just the grunt mechanism you use to sort those things out. (Did I just diss math?)
You'll recall this series is not about teaching knitting because a) I'm not skilled enough at this point and b) so many people have done it so well in so many ways that are entirely available and free that it's crazy for me to try to add to that pantheon. However, this series is about directing one to the appropriate resources. It is also about guiding the knitter (new or rusty) in creating garments that optimally a) suit and then b) fit her frame. I sense, and this is where you're in luck if you have a shape that resembles mine in some way, my focus will be on creating garments that fit me well . Don't misunderstand, the principles are universal so the theory is that you will benefit regardless of how our bodies differ (if I do a good job, that is).
Apropos of this:
A) Re: Short Rows for shaping - There's awesome info on how to do this via Fit Your Knits and the free Short Rows mini-class, both offered on Craftsy. Short rows are a complex topic not only because of the technique(s) you use to make them, but because of the myriad sorts of shaping they produce and their many potential applications. I suggest that you pay and sign up for Fit Your Knits (taught by the talented Stefanie Japel) because it is almost certain to improve your ability to knit sweaters that fit your shape well (whatever shape that is) but also because the application of short rows - as they pertain to bust darts in a sweater - is discussed in some detail. This includes the conceptual work you need to understand and the math that accompanies it.
B) Re: Mashing up sizes: This "technique" is very specific to whatever pattern you choose but, for someone of my shape, a small in shoulders, neck, arms and waist - grading to the medium in bust (starting under the armhole i.e. at the upper chest) - can often do the trick. The thing you need to figure out is where, specifically, to make the increases and how to make them without screwing up the design if, for example, there are things like cables or other stitch patterns to consider. I've learned most about this by discussing potential mash up options with the designers of the sweaters I've knit or by reading the feedback of others on Ravelry / asking my awesome knitting friends for help.
C) Re: Altering size with gauge: Do read these posts about gauge, in case you want to know the probable impact of knitting out of gauge by accident, or more to the point ON PURPOSE. It's super easy to add 3 or even 6 inches to the circumference of a sweater, even without trying and by following all of the pattern instructions - except for matching the instructed gauge.
Last night I knit a gauge swatch using 2 different needle sizes (lots of info on this out there) and blocked it (lots of info on this too) to determine that: Yes indeed, I knit loosely.
Moreover, I finally get why my gauge swatches haven't been so useful, to date. I suspect it's because I start off knitting (relatively) tightly till I find my groove and then things start to relax. This time, I swatched in the suggested needle size US8, seemed to get gauge, then moved on to a US7, in which I also seemed to get gauge, went back to the US8 - and my gauge was a whole stitch per inch looser than the first US8 swatch. It's because I found a rhythm, on that second US8 swatch, that I just hadn't found on the first.
As it happens, my US7 swatch is still very slightly looser than the proposed pattern horizontal gauge of 4.5 stitches per inch. I'm getting 4.3 stitches to the inch. (Note that vertical gauge is less concerning to me in this pattern because I can add rows to add length as necessary.) What this means, and I did spend a lot of time working this out with math, is that I'm likely going to find a bit more give in my version of this sweater, on a US7 needle, than the pattern dimensions suggest, but not enough to make the requisite difference in the bust.
For the most part, I'm a size small in the Chuck. In the bust, not quite.
The thing about this pattern is that the bust dimension between each size is 4" - that's not a small span. Add this to my aim for 3" of negative ease and I've got some sorting to do.
Let's not delve into the boring mathy details, but if I knit the whole thing in a size small, it's going to be too tight in the bust by 1.25" (and that's after it stretches by 3 inches of negative ease). The extra 1.25" is the difference between a sexy-style, tight sweater and one that's simply too small / pulls in the cables. Alas, if I knit the small everywhere but the bust, and then the medium in the bust, the finished size (once I've factored in the negative ease) will be 3" larger than I'd like.
To recap - in case you're zoning on the general principles (and who can blame you):
- My gauge swatch told me that I need to size down a needle to get almost, but not quite, the pattern dimensions.
- It also told me that my sweater, knit in US7 needles, will still be a bit bigger than the pattern dimensions suggest.
- The pattern told me the actual size of each circumference dimension.
- My preference (based on my shape, my attitude, and what I know of the design/designer) determined the amount of ease I will aim for and the type of yarn I will choose to encourage that ease to drape optimally on my body.
In case you're curious, it took me about 3 hours to figure all of this out. (And about 2 hours to write this post.)
But don't despair! I sorted it relatively easily by a) carefully reviewing the pattern instructions and then b) emailing the pattern designer to confirm the following:
- Short rows (A) are not a good idea if I want to retain the symmetry of the cables.
- Size mash up (B) is probably my best bet - as long as I can achieve the desired size by knitting the medium in the bust. (See above for why I can't.)
- The alteration of size, very slightly, given my gauge (C) isn't germane. This won't influence sizing enough to warrant either striving for perfect pattern gauge, or avoiding it. Note: I have deliberately avoided going down to a US6 to get pattern gauge (potentially) because that may screw with the kind of ease I can achieve and the nature of the stitch. I have talked about this in more detail here.
BTW, what's the number of stitches I'll require (according to my math and gauge) to do this?: 6.
Yup. 6 extra stitches, added at the armholes, should give me that 1.25" in bust circumference I'm looking for.
Now only time will tell if I've done my figuring correctly.
I bring you this tome of a post to hit the point home: I suggest you spend 4 hours figuring out the stitch numbers that accord with your actual dimensions so that you don't have to spend 20 hours ripping out stitches or (worse still) so that you don't knit an entire garment that's not quite right for your body.
I wonder if there's anyone still reading at this point. I sure hope so.
Thoughts or feelings?