#KnitPetiteProject: Math, (im)modifiable design features, and your personal taste

Our last post where we looked at hallmarks of a design you can modify.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

The #KnitPetiteProject now has a Ravelry group. Join us!

Get out those sweater patterns again, because it’s week 3 of our very practical look at modifying for our personal petite-ness!

In June, we’re focusing on tactics to petite your knits, always keeping in mind:

  • comparing petite measurements to “regular” CYC charts
  • “diagnosing” fit issues (posts in May)
  • deciding how we feel about fit (post from June 6)
  • determining tools to alter fit to our liking
  • learning to identify patterns that work for our taste and/or are easily modifiable
  • and very importantly, considering how we differ from a general sizing chart so we have a set of general rules to consider before we begin knitting a pattern1

I’ve selected Winter Doldrums from Knitty to act as my example for this set of practical posts; I suggest that you follow along with your own selected pattern, and talk about it in the #KnitPetiteProject Ravelry group here

Math, (im)modifiable design features, and your personal taste

Everyone should be able to wear whatever their heart desires regardless of what “rules” might say. I don’t want oppressive social ideals to dictate what we do or don’t create and wrap around our bodies.

YOU decide what to wear and the limits of your interest, energy, style, talents, and circumstances.

So, where do petite fitting modifications come in?


I made a case for the importance of math and swatching last week, and I’m going to lean even more heavily on it this week. Please understand that I do NOT love math, and problem-solving those numbers takes me longer than it does for (probably) most other people. But math is foundational to getting you the results you want when modifying patterns, whether that design is super simple or pretty complex.

What follows below is a bit of math that I would choose to do in modifying the design Winter Doldrums to my personal petite-ness.

Mods I want to consider

  • shorten yoke depth by about 1.5″ to accommodate for my shorter arm depth measurement
  • narrow the yoke area to create a closer fit in the upper back and shoulders
  • take some ease out of the waist area (simply for my personal, stylistic tastes)
Petite-ing Tactics

My bust is 35″, and I picked size 32″ based on that measurement; I’m happy with 32″ because I like a more snug fit, and picking 32 brings the size closer to my “frame” measurement of 31″ (at my upper torso. Remember, that’s one of the tips to getting something to fit your frame/shoulders).

Even though this pattern is knit from the bottom up, I’ll start my math mods at the yoke. I’m starting here because the yoke is where most of the changes need to happen, and it’s where those changes will get tricky because of the alterations I’ll have to make to the colourwork.

I want to see how big around the sweater will be at that upper torso measurement; looking though, I see that there’s 80 sts at the top of the bust shaping, which works out to 32″ in the 4.5 sts and 6 rows/1″ gauge. Lovely! I can proceed with that part as is.

When I add in the sleeves for the upper arms, that’s 144 sts, which works out to 14 repeats of the colourwork chart.

Where this gets a bit tricky is in the shortening of the yoke. The beautiful colourwork will have to change to accommodate my removal of about 1.5″ of armhole depth. That works out to about 9 rounds. But, how to do this?

I can see about 5 rounds that I can try to eliminate; 2 of these 5 rows are in the solid MC area with no shaping, so that’s easy. The other 3 rounds would have to chop off some of the colourwork. This is where a swatch comes in handy!

As you’ve noticed, however, I still have 4 extra rounds in the sweater to remove! I suppose I could also choose to remove an entire section of colourwork entirely, but that also significantly changes the look of the sweater.

Alternatively, I could try a smaller gauge, but that would involve an incredible amount of reverse engineering for this sweater – really, it would be re-designing the whole thing!

So, let’s assume that I remove one of the colourwork sections entirely, and have achieved my yoke goals with the gauge as-is.

How about that waist measurement and placement?

Here, some issues of taste come in: if I’m keeping the bust at about 3″ of negative ease, it might look more cohesive if I did something similar to the waist (plus, I prefer negative ease in a sweater anyhow).

So removing 3″ means removing an extra 13 (or so) stitches. Simple enough in theory, as this is the main colour section and I just have to evenly space those decreases throughout the already-established set of 5 decrease rounds which each remove 4 stitches (so, it would be advisable to make that a decrease of 12 stitches instead of 13, since 12 divides very neatly by 4). Voila!

Or is it voila?

Another consideration that many petite folks need to make is where that waist is being placed. Do I have to move it up?

All signs point to yes: I already know that this design used the CYC sizing charts, and those charts put the back waist length at a full 2″ longer than my own measurement. I can confirm this by looking at the length from the hips to the waist; the pattern asks me to knit to 7″, then work 20 rounds (that is, 3″) of decreases to the waist. That puts the waist at 10″ in from the bottom hem. Double checking from the schematic, I see that the body to the armpits is 17″, and measuring on my own body puts that length at just below my bum. A bit longer than I’d like!

So ultimately there’s evidence that shows I should take 2″ of length out of the body. It’s a good thing that Winter Doldrums has a relatively detailed schematic! Remember: that diagram is a very good tool for guiding your modifications!

Where to take out those 2″ of body length? In our gauge that works out to 12 rounds, which over those 17″ of length (which is 102 rounds) is pretty easy to sprinkle evenly throughout (every 8 rounds or so).

I want it to be evenly spread because removing it all from the bottom will send me into the waist decreases too soon, and possibly give a bit of a pointy look to the bottom of the sweater. This works for me because while I have a shorter waist than patterns and clothing assume that I do, I’m pretty proportional. Always follow the rules your body dictates, because your body rules!

(Im)modifiable design features

Nothing is im-modifiable. But, some things may require so much modification that they become unrecognizable as the same design, or you may consider them far too much time investment for your ultimate FO. Reverse-engineering a design may be too much work.

You saw from the example above that there’s quite a few decisions I had to make and re-working I had to do; I essentially have to re-engineer that lovely sweater using the detailed info it gave me, the knowledge I have about designing (ease, where to put it, ways to smoothly add/remove stitches), and the rules dictated by my own body shape and style preferences.

You’ll note that I didn’t even mention bust darts, though many people would prefer to have added them in. Fortunately for me, Winter Doldrums is a sweater that I could (relatively easily) experiment with as-I-go because all the frogging could happen before the intense colourwork.

The question for you is how you can negotiate all the variables of petite-ing a design, including your own interest, energy, knowledge, and time investment available to apply to the modification, as well as just how much it is you have to modify.


your knowledge x (your desire for this FO)your assessment of what your body needs in the modification of the design

And all you mathematically inclined folks out there are laughing right now, because you know this formula looks very silly indeed. But you get my meaning, right? 😉

As you see, there isn’t a tidy answer to what is im-modifiable. It’s essentially up to how much work you want to put into reverse-engineering a design. But, we did go over hallmarks of a design that you can modify earlier this month, which includes notes regarding sweater construction and design elements and their “strengths” and “weaknesses” in regards to modification.

It’s significant to note that if you decide to jump into detailed reverse engineering (or modifying!) of a sweater, there’s a number of places you can go for help:

some LYSes can lend a hand, and may be able to give you private lessons or point you to a knitting teacher who you can hire for help

if you know what needs to be modified, but need help learning a technique, YouTube is a great place for videos (or if you learn better through reading the wonderful Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt is incredibly thorough)

Ravelry is filled with forums and friendly folks who can help; you may be able to find help in the Techniques or Patterns board

and particularly, the #KnitPetiteProject Ravelry group. We’re here specifically to be a support community for petite folks and fit issues! Please join us!

If you have any takeaway from this post it’s this: petite mods can be quite complex. We can educate ourselves and learn all sort of tactics and apply all those modifications, but I think there is a strong argument to be made within the knitting world for petite patterns.


Would you take an online course to learn more about gauge, knitting math, and reverse-engineering a sweater pattern?


1 Amy Herzog refers to this as well in her excellent Craftsy class, Knit to Flatter. She clarifies and defines “Miss Average”, and states that while you will differ from Miss Average, you’ll “always differ in the same way”, so getting your numbers is a big and important first step.

#KnitPetiteProject: Math, (im)modifiable design features, and your personal taste

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