Saturday, May 4, 2013

Summer Series: A Picture Tells A Thousand Measurements

I'm not gonna lie. This is the biggest and most complex pattern rescale that I've ever done. I mean, I might as well have just thought up a garment and written down the instructions because I ended up turning this:

In truth, this is half of the pattern instructions for the full garment...
into 11 pages of this:

Kristin's version of a garment long since in the public domain...
You've gotta appreciate how I included the photo in my reworked version of the pattern!

BTW, I do realize that starting this pattern from scratch is well beyond my current drafting abilities - but, in the name of hyperbole, sometimes you've just got to be glib.

Let me recap what I did:
  • I decided to use the a new gauge (one that I could get on my needle size of choice and which would facilitate customizing this knit to my shape), not the one the pattern recommends.
  •  Then I carefully considered how I wanted this to fit (with 0 to slightly positive ease, in order to maximize the jacket-effect):
There are actually several additional pages of this scribble - those showing the dimensions for size 34 that the original pattern provides, and those showing my modified requirements which I'm calling (unsurprisingly) "the modified 34".
  •  In order to keep my focus (which really started to waver as I freaked out many times over the 5 days and numerous hours that it took for me to work this out), I wrote myself instructions on writing the instructions:

  • My express goal was to do all of the thinking (aka fitting) before I started to knit because, really, those are two entirely different activities.  It took a long time because I wasn't merely changing one element (the fabric, based on gauge - which in and of itself changes the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the garment) but two inter-related elements (the fabric, based on gauge AND the proportions, via stitch count, of just about every part of this jacket to, theoretically, accommodate my body shape exactly). It also took a long time because I had to quadruple check every measurement. And yes, I found errors in my original math.
  • But let me tell you, it didn't start to get seriously scary until I redrafted the sleeves:
  • I have to give a HUGE thank you to knitter and teacher extraordinaire, Alexandra V. She sent me a template on how to do all of the insane non-Euclidian geometry  - a 7-freakin' page template! - which turns this piece (about the theory of sleeve drafting) into something one can actualize. I should clarify that the reason I could make use of this template in this instance (A actually sent it to me when I was making the last sleeve-modified sweater but I couldn't make heads or tails of it at that point) is because I redrafted this entire pattern and, as such, I have ready access to the numerous pieces of data one requires in order to use the template. 
  • My point is, unless your pattern gives you extremely detailed instructions (which vintage patterns never do), you're going to have to deconstruct it to determine the following key pieces of info: the height of the armhole (not the length you speculate, but the length gauge is actually going to provide), the width of the initial bind off in inches and stitches, the width of the decrease in inches, one half of the upper sleeve width desired, the initial bind off number of stitches for the sleeve... You've got to be pretty close to your (as yet unknitted) pattern to know these things or to determine them. And this is just the jumping off point! The thinking comes next.
  • Once you determine all of these things, you can't go off-road in the knitting. In fact, your only job at that point, is to follow the instructions (and to have a glass of wine).
People, this was really hard work. Harder work than I like, truth be told, but I am apparently incapable of doing anything without customizing it. As much as I TRULY just want to get going (with a tweak here or there), how can I knowingly spend 100 hours making a jacket that will be a little too big in the waist and then too small in the bust and perhaps too wide in the shoulders and, worst of all, too long in the armhole (giving a droopy, untailored profile to a totally tailored garment).

This is a tailored suit jacket. Sure, it's one wherein I'm making the fabric - rather than molding it over my body (as one does when one sews) - and that adds a lot of extra work up front. Once I've made the fabric, there's no going back (unless I want to rip it all out, which I seriously do not).

Alas, one doesn't know, until one spends the 100 hours (on top of the 30 already spent on the math), if said math is actually correct and if the jacket will fit to the degree of precision that the planning warrants. That's the joy of being a novice.

But damn straight, I will have learned something.


  1. I have to say (and I really don't photograph my notes on a regular basis! :-)), if this works, I will think I am the cat's ass. Until then, I have to hope for the best. But, makes you feel less alone in your maths, yes?

    1. I'd feel like the cat's ass just for getting that far. I do feel less alone, but also that I'm trying to crack the 2x table whilst you are doing the kind of math that unlocks the secrets of the universe!

  2. Ooooh, I'm not sure I've had enough coffee this morning to even contemplate the amount of math you've done. But after seeing your orange sweater in person, I think it's worth it for the impeccable fit you get. Awesome that you've made your revisions "official" by adding the photo in - also, in future years it will help you remember exactly what pattern this was, I bet.

    1. I made those notes and I don't have enough caffeine in my system to follow them until midday :-) I know - the photo makes it like a real pattern. I felt so smart when I added it in.

  3. This is amazing! The systematic neatness of your notes is beautiful to behold. My notes look like a madman's they're all scribbled on scraps, spare envelopes, and make little to no sense. I then try to neaten them up by putting in evernote...
    Anyway, this is amazing, and could you please do this for my Peabody sweater?? Haha.
    That sleeve template sounds really great, I would love to have a gander at that considering I might have to tackle that for my Peabody too.

    So yeah, your notes= WOW.

    1. Oooh, you sure know how to flatter me! Nothing like saying my notes are well organized to make me love you :-) The great thing is that YOU can do this for your Peabody sweater and you'll think you're the sassiest thing ever, once you do. But if you want to talk about any elements of your alterations, email me... I'll ask Alexandra if she minds my sharing the document with others who ask.