#KnitPetiteProject: Is a valuable change affected in “petiting” a knit? Let’s examine some real life examples.

Our last post where we went over the results of the second #KnitPetiteProject survey.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

This month we’re going to be getting practical: looking at how our knits currently fit our bodies, deciding how we feel about that fit, assessing what we want to change through fit “diagnosis”, and beginning to consider approaches to petiting our knits for our bodies.

One of the (many!) motivations I had for beginning the #KnitPetiteProject was the simple fact that I, as a petite knitwear designer, happen to be the person who often models my design sample for the pattern photos.

A point of fact: I do NOT alter the design sample to fit me. I knit it straight from the pattern which, in my case at least, is usually based on the CYC numbers we spoke so much about in the last few months.

So, what effect does that have?

Well, I’m in the position to show you a few instances where I, as a 5’1″ person, wore either the very same item, or the same pattern in the same size knit by another person. That is because the size I’m asked to knit for publications also happens my own size, at least, according to the bust circumference.

Before we take a look at the examples below, I think it’s important to note that we’re looking at these pictures from a body positive, non-judgmental standpoint. Any differences in fit are intended to be viewed through the lens of how the same garment can look different/the same on two different bodies.  This is not an exercise in accusing CYC or anyone who uses it (me included!) as nefarious failures. And it’s important to keep in mind that there are of course a plethora of other ways, outside of height, that the bodies you’ll see below differ from each other.

I hope you enter into this examination with a critical eye and thoughtful, instructive spirit to begin thinking about how things fit YOU, how YOU feel about that fit, and what steps YOU’D like to take next to alter that fit with us in the KnitPetiteProject over the next few months.

For each example, I’ve added a note at the bottom about how I would petite the knit for my own body if I wanted to bring the garment in line, size-wise, with what the numbers in the CYC sizing guide dictate.

Writer’s Top

This design is intended to have nearly-elbow length sleeves, with a relaxed fit and gentle drape.

I don’t have the absolutely height for the Knitscene model on the right, but what I hope you can see is the difference in a couple of lengths between the model and I.

Look at the sleeve length on me (on the left): they are just a tiny bit longer than designed for. The consequence is that they have a very small wrinkle above my elbow from where I’ve moved my arms. On the model, the sleeve length is closer to the intended, designed-for length.

What I think you may also be able to see is the width of the neckline. I personally know that I have sloping shoulders, so you can see the difference in shoulder shape between the model and I.

NOTE: The shape of your shoulders, like many other fine points of fit, is something that certainly effects how clothes look on your body.  My personal experience is that I had no real knowledge of the slope and shape of my shoulders until I started looking more deeply into fit a few years ago. I hope that bringing up this point helps you to realize two things: there’s NOTHING wrong with your shape, and that there may be aspects of your body shape that you have never considered before, but do indeed have an effect on the way clothes look on your body.

What would I do to petite this knit for my body? I would consider shortening the sleeves by about 0.5″ and narrowing the neckline opening. With the side-to-side construction and relaxed fit, this would be relatively easy to do. Narrowing the shoulders, and even adjusting the width of the back to be narrower than the front, would be quite simple math. I would be concerned, however, not to narrow it TOO much, as that would pull the side seams backwards, and that’s not a look I’d want to go for.

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Image on right copyright Harper Point Photography / Interweave

Thrysos

A top down yoked blouse, Thrysos demonstrates a fit issue that was raised again and again by participants in the fit survey last month: yoke depth.

I designed this sweater with a lacy yoke. It was intended to be a layering piece, since the top part would be open work (that said, this is yet another area where taste and style are subjective; you can wear anything any way you want!)

The intention of the design was for the lace section to end at the sleeve depth; that is to say, the lace should not extended far down onto the wearer’s chest. The Knit Picks model on the left has a fit demonstrative of what I was designing for. The fit of the design on me (at the right), shows just how low that yoke reaches on a body that has an armhole depth measurement that is shorter than designed for.

In this particular case, I do not like the way the top fits me, and so do not wear it. My evaluation of the fit is that it is poor. This example demonstrates how the designer herself can be designed-out of the fit of a garment because she measures significantly differently than the sizing charts from which she works, even though she knit the design in her size, directly from the pattern.

What I hope you take away from this example is that petite fit and vertical sizing issues are valid concerns that are sometimes more complex than simply “make it shorter”. I also hope you take away an appreciation that while it’s valuable to know the size (usually listed as bust size) of the model and the size she is wearing, it is also valuable to know, or at least consider, that the model you’re looking at may have very different vertical measurements than you do, and to plan and prepare accordingly. We’ll get into those plans in May and June!

What would I do to petite this knit for my body? I’d have to redo what might be relatively complex math1 to shorten the yoke length. This would require a reassessment of 1) the length of yoke I need, 2) row gauge and how that effects the lace repeats, 3) the width of the neckline either through a total math re-do or trying to make it one size smaller,  4) and ensure I end up with the correct circumference at the sleeve separations.

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Photo on left copyright Knit Picks

Lady Bat

This pattern is intended to have a very drapey, over-sized fit. The two examples below demonstrate how fit, style, and taste are a moving target and quite subjective! Because the style of this garment is over-sized, it’s pretty easy to argue that the fit is perfectly fine/flattering/awesome on all three individuals, regardless of height.

In the first example below you’ll see the same garment on me and on Holla Knits’ model Kristen (who is around 5’5″). The difference in height is only about 4″.

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Photo on left courtesy of Holla Knits

And below is an image of the same pattern in the same size, but knit by a different person. I wrote a post about this comparison way back in 2013.

Looking at these two images, you need to know: the person on the left is 10″ taller than the person on the right. I ask you: could you tell? Did the garment give you any clues to that information? Or did you presume the individuals were of similar height, or had knit totally different sizes?

With such an over-sized fit, that drapey look is achieved for both individuals regardless of height, though to slightly different effect.

What would I do to petite this knit for my body? In this case, I’m pretty happy with the vertical fit and the amount of drape. If I wanted it less drapey, the side-to-side construction would allow me to make it shorter relatively simply. Another consideration about my own body and the CYC chart sizes is my hip circumference. As this isn’t a vertical measurement I won’t go in to it too much here, but that circumference dictates a lot of size decisions in this design and because I have wider hips, the top can’t be pulled down as low as it could on someone whose hip circumference matches, or is smaller than, the sizing chart numbers.

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Image on left copyright Michelle of My So-Called Handmade Life

Beach House

I designed this pattern to hit approximately at the waist in the front, and dip down about 2″ in the back. It is also designed with a suggested 3″ of positive ease because I wanted it to be something loose and summery.

In the image below you see the very same garment modeled on people of two different heights: there’s me on the left at 5’1″, and my pal Leah on the right at about 5’9″.

As in the Lady Bat example, the looseness and airiness of the design gives a good degree of leeway in regards to style, fit, and taste – all subjective, of course! You’ll also note that Leah, on the right, is wearing the top over a shirt, whereas I on the left have it over a bathing suit.

All that said, the top very clearly hits me on my body at a much lower point than Leah on her body. My hair is covering it a bit, but I think you can also see that the width across the shoulders on me is a bit wider, dipping down just a touch past the prominent bone on my shoulder.

Let’s assume you like the way this design looks on Leah. And let’s say you saw the image of it on me. Would you believe it was the very same garment? Would you alter your plans for knitting the garment?

What would I do to petite this knit for my body? Personal preference-wise, I’m quite happy with the way this fits me. But, if I wanted to bring this in line with how it would fit the body it’s designed for with the CYC measurements, I would have to consider 1) shortening the body length, which in this case is simple to do, 2) decide just how I would narrow the shoulders. as this knit has no shaping through the body and the mesh on the front would make it a bit bothersome and visible to add in bust short rows upon choosing a smaller size to knit.

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Photo on right courtesy of Holla Knits

Geo Delight

I designed this pattern to be a relaxed, open-front piece you could easily throw on over a casual outfit for an extra layer of texture, colour, and warmth. I intended about 5″ of positive ease based on bust circumference.

The image below shows you the same garment on two people of different heights. I’m 5’1″, and the model Laura (at the left) is 5’9″.

To reveal my own bias, I just really have a soft-spot for this design, so I subjectively believe the design fits both wearers.

That said, you can objectively see that the front length and the textured area around the shoulders ends at a different part of the body on each person. Of value to our discussion is the question: would you prefer one fit over the other? Consider the impact the model has upon the formation of your opinion and expectations of a design.

I hope ALL of this helps you feel that there is NOTHING wrong with your body, and that all of this reveals the incredible intricacies we have to navigate in the complex system that is clothing design and creation.

What would I do to petite this knit for my body? Again, I’m pretty happy with the fit as-is, but if I wanted to bring this more in alignment with shoulder widths catered to in the CYC numbers, I would have to consider 1) tactics for narrowing the shoulders which cascade consequences for design elements such as the mesh and the colourwork on the back, 2) shortening the textured top section, which wouldn’t be difficult to achieve, 3) possibly reduce the width of the neckline ribbing, as it rides up my neck and covers the front of my torso more than the body it’s assumed to cover. (Incidentally, I happen to really like the look of how the neckline rides up my neck, but, that’s a point of taste!)

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Photo on left courtesy of Holla Knits

Stay Tuned…

I’ll be posting some feedback from a brief interview I had with Kathleen Cheetham, creator of the line of sewing patterns Petite Plus, in the coming weeks. For now, you can “meet” her through this Craftsy class video.

Question

When selecting a sweater pattern to knit for yourself, do you find that you’re attracted by the official pattern photo, or a photo of the design on an individual knitter?

Resources

1 I’ve footnoted this because I want to emphasize that I said relatively complex math. I know there’s loads of you out there laughing at the idea that the division and multiplication involved in this is complex, but I hope you can appreciate that more work and moving parts are involved here than, say, simply removing 1″ of stockinette.

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#KnitPetiteProject: Is a valuable change affected in “petiting” a knit? Let’s examine some real life examples.

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