#KnitPetiteProject: Sharing the Workbook +KAL Survey Results

Our last post where we looked at practical sewing resources for knitters.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

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

Please answer this very brief survey to determine the future of the #KPP!

…youtube video coming soon…

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Workbook + KAL survey! I’m keeping the survey link live because I want to give everyone an opportunity to share their thoughts.

As of the writing of this post (July 21, 2017) we’ve had 116 respondents. Here’s how the questions break down:

Would you be interested in purchasing a knitting book that helped you understand your petite fit, select + modify patterns AND provide you with basic sweater patterns that are petite sized?

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I’m happy to say that 81% of those who replied (that’s 94 people!) want to see this book happen.

This is encouraging! I’m so pleased that the #KnitPetiteProject resonates with our knitting community. As I mentioned above, I’ll be keeping the survey open. At this time, I have to reflect on these numbers and figure out the best way to move forward – 116 people is a number too low to base an entire print book publication on, but there are some other fun ideas I have circulating! You’ll hear from me over the next few weeks about this. 🙂

Would you participate in a KAL where you choose a sweater and work with the #KnitPetiteProject community to alter the fit for your petite needs?

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A full 50% of respondents (that’s 58 people!) are keen on a KAL. That’s a great number of us, so let’s do this thing!

Here’s what you need to know about the KAL:

  • choose a sweater you’d like to knit (consider consulting some of the earlier posts in the KPP to help guide your choices!)
  • gather all the materials you need to complete this sweater
  • meet in this thread on the #KnitPetiteProject Ravelry Group! Let us know about your project and what you’d like to modify
  • this KAL is open-ended; there’s no firm finishing date. You set your own goals and work at your own pace
The KAL will begin on September 1

Please feel free to start talking about making your sweater choices and sharing your yarn search in the thread right away!

What suggestions do you have for the #KnitPetiteProject?

And as always, I want to make sure the #KPP is responding to your needs and interests. Here’s some of what folks have had to say.

  • Cardigan
  • Keep up your great work! It’s a real inspiration and great to read in depth because of all your excellent research. Thank you so much.
  • Because I have sewn my clothes for many years I suspect I have an advantage in getting sweaters to fit, although I have certainly made my share of mistakes in knitting sweaters. Certainly suggestions about how to plan alterations — and the order in which to make adjustments — would be very useful. (I understand adjustments for a petite and slender individual, but not for heavier or buxom women)
  • Discussion on adjusting ease to make patterns more versatile
  • I’m not sure if this has been covered, but including information about yarn weight and what types (silhouettes, constructions, etc) of sweaters work best in which yarn weights would be helpful.
  • Cardigans! They’re always so big and bulky and don’t fit my petite frame well
  • As a lefty knitter I typically don’t purchase books that would need to be read in a mirror to apply to me, but I’d certainly participate in a KAL to learn about these kinds of alterations!
  • None, so far so good.
  • ?
  • a project gallery of petite-modified FOs
  • Don’t forget plus size petite!
  • A basic cardi or pull over with details about how to shorten the waist, adjust the bust, and account for sway-back or narrow shoulders!
  • Make sure the section on bust enlargement is pretty detailed! As a petite person, I’m so done with not being able to find a way to modify pattern to accommodate my considerable boobage without the breast area spreading to the back because of the lack of real estate in the front! And it’s even worst when you have to work the modifications while not distorting a pattern, such as with cables or special stitches.
  • I love this idea! thanks so much for reaching out =D
  • Sadly, right now, I have no time. So no KAL. Otherwise I would like to know that the book covered shoulder, upper back & bust area extensively. I have broad back & shoulders but not much bust.
  • love the workbook and KAL idea, i hope it happens!
  • I love these ideas – thank you!
  • That being petite doesn’t mean being small. but differently proportioned and working with that notion (like me: short torso and arms but regular width shoulders)
  • No real suggestions but I await the results, being extremely short waisted, so I think any advice you have will be greatly useful for me. Good luck!
  • Include a focus on ease, both ease for fit (allow the body to move freely) and design ease. I’ve often altered mainstream patterns a bit too much because they pattern weren’t written to distinguish the various margins included in the stitch counts.
  • Those of us who learned to sew as teens have a good basis for making alterations. The book/patterns would have to offer something special and different — going beyond what one can achieve with, say, Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit. Why doesn’t that meet the need?
  • make sure there are plus sizes. Not all petite folks are skinny
  • Advice for altering sweater fit would be really useful! Especially for shoulders/armscrye
  • Would there be videos and suggestions for knitting different petite body sizes?
  • narrow shoulder adjustments as well as length
  • I want to explain my “maybe” answer, because the workbook does sound interesting. You said the workbook would go up to “a plus size”. I am 4′ 10″ and a size 2X. Due to mobility issues, I need to wear any top that goes over my head (pullovers, T-shirts, etc.) at least one size bigger (sometimes 2 sizes, depending on the pattern). People come in a wide range of sizes. While smaller than average sizes are necessary for thin petites, please do not ignore the other end of the spectrum. The workbook does sound interesting, but if you limit the sizes to ignore plus size petites, it would be useless for me.
  • I’m still catching up on all the posts, videos, etc., so no specific suggestions, but would love to participate in a KAL!
  • Just that the pattern designers would realize not every one is short and thin. Most of us are more full bodied but still want a fashionable look.
  • Necklines and sleeve width at the armhole are the hardest for me to calculate. Sometimes I’m lucky but mostly I’m frustrated
  • Make patterns easy for yarn substitution.
  • Include petite plus sizes
  • I can’t think of any suggestions at the moment, but am really enjoying learning more about fit and how to achieve the fit I would like.
  • Define petite. Short? & wide? or just tiny sizes?

Question

Will YOU be joining the KAL on September 1? Share your sweater plans in the thread!

#KnitPetiteProject: Sharing the Workbook +KAL Survey Results

#KnitPetiteProject: Practical Sewing Resources for Knitters

Our last post where we looked at how sizing is different in sewing than knitting.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

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

NEW #KNITPETITEPROJECT SURVEY! Please answer this very brief survey to determine the future of the #KPP!

This post is one that I hope we can add to on a continuing basis with suggestions from the #KnitPetiteProject community.

Here, I’ll list a few sewing resources that are helpful for knitters. If you have any suggestions to add, please let me know by replying to this post.

Dressform

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This is my own duct tape dressform in action!

Dressforms are useful in a number of ways. You can buy one that’s adjustable and use it to help get an idea of shape, to model your WIP and/or FO, and to generally represent your shape if you’re thinking about fitting issues.

I personally chose to make my own dressform; the advantage to this is that your dressform will be your exact shape, and so can also act as an objective visualization of your actual torso shape and proportions. Making your own dressform also saves a lot of money.

A disadvantage to making your own dressform is the time and energy involved, as well as the fact that it’s hard to pin into the form; your pins get all goopy with tape! But, that’s more of a sewist’s problem than a knitters.

This video below shows you how you can make your own duct tape dressform.

 

Fit for Real People

I’ve been singing the praises of this book over the course of the #KnitPetiteProject; it gives you a great sense of fitting diagnosing and techniques to alter it. While these techniques are for sewing certain aspects remain true for knitters. This book also has the Body Graph which, like the personalized dressform, is a great tool to help you get objective about your shape and thus be more clear on what fit you’re looking for and how to get there.


Robin Hunter is a knitting designer with a wonderful blog that is a rich resource for the petite knitter. A regular feature includes interviews with knitting designers, where many have answered the very important question, “How did you determine your size range?”
You can check that out here.

And even though her blog is named “How to become a Professional Knitter”, it holds great tips, tutorials, and practical info for some of the topics we’ve been looking at in the #KnitPetiteProject including taking tricky measurements, why sizing systems don’t seem to represent petite folks in knitwear, and how to do things like recalculate sleeve caps.

Robin is also one of us petite folks; I’m so pleased she’s been kind enough to answer a few questions for the #KPP.

#KPP: Much of the advice I’ve found for selecting a size to fit your frame is to pick the bust circumference that matches your torso (upper bust) measurement. This advice intends to give the knitter something that will fit their shoulders, which is very important in a sweater.

Many #KnitPetiteProject survey respondents stressed that they “always have to shorten the sleeve cap/depth” for their sweaters.

RH ANSWER: Before I answer the questions below I’d like to mention that my background is in custom clothing, not from a fashion school where the focus is on industrial garment making for the retail market. Consequently my knowledge and approach is very different from many other designers. I’ve taken pattern drafting classes where the goal was to create a pattern for a specific individual with a more couture style approach. I’ve been a student in tailoring classes with an emphasis on proper fit specifically targeting women. Those classes used Italian tailoring methods adapted from traditional menswear techniques. I’ve also done dressmaking with a custom clothier where we produced samples of specific techniques not used in the retail market and we were expected to produce garments using challenging fabrics. The consequence of a custom clothing education means I think more about the body and its relationship to the garment. I think of the flat pattern shape as a starting point to achieve correct fit and expect to make small incremental steps after the pattern is created to accommodate the process of moving from a flat pattern to a three dimensional body.

#KPP QUESTION: As sleeve cap math is very involved, how should a petite person proceed in choosing a size to fit their shoulders?

RH ANSWER: Many people have told me sleeve caps are difficult, but I think the old adage “it’s easy when you know how”applies here. Knitting takes advantage of the simplification of the sleeve and the sleeve cap being reduced to a one piece symmetrical style due to the stretch of the fabric. It’s very different from the two piece fitted and curved sleeve shape for woven fabrics. That sleeve has a cap which differs at the front and back to accommodate the shape of the upper arm. Knitters are creating both the fabric and the shaping at the same time. This is what gets them into trouble. In the sewing world no one considers this to be a difficult task because they work with a real size pattern which has a line in the sleeve cap to fold out extra length and a corresponding line on the torso to make the same adjustment. Having a full scale visual really helps when developing the mental representations required to make alterations. When I teach knitters to do this, I teach it visually by using real size knitter’s graph paper in the same gauge that they are getting on their swatch. It’s a two-step process for the knitter. First get the flat pattern right and then transfer the information into stitches and rows. The knitter doesn’t have a way of choosing a pattern size to fix this. They need to learn how to do it once and then transfer that knowledge for alteration to every pattern they knit, knowing they will have to adjust the sleeve cap for length. In my case, I know my preferred armhole depth for a set in sleeve is 6.5 inches. Armed with that knowledge I can look at the schematic for my size, compare and adjust accordingly. I explain the process on my blog here. Once a knitter develops a set of key garment measurements this becomes much easier. BTW I have come across knitters who catch onto these concepts very easily without a sewing or pattern drafting background.

#KPP QUESTION: Is taking the torso measurement the best approach, as it is for regular sizes?

RH ANSWER: I agree with this advice as it’s certainly a better starting point than the full bust measurement where cup size comes into play. Having said that, it is only a starting point. Most patterns will still be too long in length even if the shoulder width is correct. Where I think this is failing for knitters is in the understanding of relationships of the parts of the body. The phrase “standard sizing” seems to have taken on a different definition than the one which I learned to understand in my custom garment background. It appears that knitters today think standard sizing is hard data which equals real life body sizing. My understanding of standard sizing is that it is the sizing of a specific retailer, designer, or pattern company. The relationships of the measurements are based on a specific fit model who could be very different than you. Bodies vary in size and shape much more than is commonly recognized by novice garment makers. Pattern alterations are three dimensional in nature but we are fooled by the flat pattern making system in our early learning stages. Knitters are even more challenged because they don’t work with full size individual pattern pieces. The final confusion comes from that single schematic which does not reflect the actual proportions of all of the sizes. It’s normally based on the smallest size and would change in significant ways proportionally if you drew the largest size to scale.

For a sample comparison of real world sizing (me) to the Craft council standards please see this post.

#KPP QUESTION: Is there any special information or instructions you can recommend a petite knitter should consider in addition to this?

RH ANSWER: I think knitters need to spend time looking carefully at the schematic provided. I’ve often had questions which make it clear they look at the photo and ignore the details provided on the schematic. I’ve worked with knitters in my classes who are totally focused on body measurements before they understand the concepts behind ease and how it is impacted by the hand of the fabric you are creating. To get around this, as you are building knowledge, it really helps to start measuring garments instead of your body. You can even use one which doesn’t fit the way you want by pinning it and using the resulting measurements. When you finish a garment which doesn’t live up to your expectations don’t just move onto the next one and hope for the best. Use pins to mark where it should be different and start taking notes. What weight yarn did you use? Does the fabric drape or is it stiff. Most importantly measure it. What length would you prefer? How deep is the sleeve cap and should it be shortened? Where should you make waist shaping decreases and increases. Keep in mind you will learn the most from trial and error. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from moving forward.

#KPP QUESTION: Another challenge for petite women is that sizing standards assume our bodies are longer than they may actually be; we then have to make any horizontal (and vertical!) modifications in a truncated amount of space, compared to a regular-height knitter.

Do you have any tips, advice, or resources you can suggest for petite women (of all ages and weights) with these sorts of issues?

RH ANSWER: I think the most important thing is to first learn your own preferences and knit accordingly. I made this mistake many times early on. I looked at a great pattern photo, said “I want that” and plunged in without considering the details. If you’ve never worn a dolman sleeve sweater, don’t invest all the knitting time to create it before you know it will make you happy. Look at what is currently in your own closet and what you enjoy wearing. If it’s a silhouette new to you, try on a friends garment or go to a retail store and try the target style on to get a sense of what works.

If you are a petite, chances are you have already purchased clothing from a retailer who targets that segment of the clothing market. Measure those garments (especially the knits) and compare where they fit you and where they don’t. How much ease do you like? Do you prefer tailored styles or loose flowy clothing?

You can continue to use patterns but be aware what you will need to spend time on adjustments. Knitter’s graph paper is your friend. You can print it out in the correct ratio and draw your garment or a specific problem area out.

My series here may be helpful.

Finally, remember you can experiment and make changes to a pattern, there are no knitting police!

#KPP QUESTION: What sweater construction would you suggest for a petite person (particularly, one who may have to think about sleeve cap and depth?)

RH ANSWER: I know many knitters become strong defenders of one form of construction over another. I think every type has its pros and cons. Each construction method can be adjusted to work with a specific body shape. It’s important to understand first what the end goal is in terms of fit and then to secondly address the technical challenge. As an example, often well-endowed petites find top down raglans a challenge because the classic design has an increase rate which makes the armholes too deep by the time the bust is large enough. My fix is to cast on more stitches on the front to increase the size there and I cast on more stitches at the underarm to solve the circumference problem and keep armhole depth appropriate.

#KPP QUESTION: Would you suggest any sweater constructions to avoid in particular if you are petite and need to adjust sleeve depth or any other vertical measurements?

RH ANSWER: No I don’t think we need to avoid any specific construction types, for me it’s more about shapes and silhouettes which are sometimes driven by the construction. I think we need to make sure that things are proportionally correct. I suspect we petites end up suspicious of some silhouettes because we try them on in regular sizes and feel overwhelmed by the extra length and the overly wide necklines and shoulders. Once those issues are resolved I don’t see the problems being specific to construction. I do sometimes see problems with the scale of design elements. A very wide cable panel may look different in relation to the overall sweater if it’s been shortened significantly. The rectangle which is the torso of our body does become squarer in nature for shorter women. Certain stitch patterns make not work if the canvas of the body isn’t big enough to carry them. However, I do want to emphasize this should be about pleasing yourself and being comfortable in your clothing not about addressing some perceived figure flaw. I would suggest knitters focus on a specific silhouette and work on several garments in that style and construction before moving on to another one. Each project will be incrementally better and you will learn faster.

#KPP QUESTION: I love the discussion you outline in your post here:

“Most hand knitting patterns come in from 3 to about 7 sizes with no variation in length or figure type. There are many reasons for this simplification several being due to cost, publication space, the difficulty of grading each size individually, the inability to have every size test knit as well as an industry that underpays designers. So what’s a knitter to do? I’m still thinking about this. As a designer I’m considering doing patterns that would target these specific markets but the question is would you buy them?

What would you suggest a petite knitter should do?

RH ANSWER: My recommendation is the same for all knitters regardless of their fit challenges. If you want to knit garments, take the time to educate yourself on how to make changes to the pattern. Don’t just follow it blindly. One of the best things about making our own clothing is we can get exactly what we want if we are willing to invest in some trial and error experimentation.

#KPP QUESTION: What fit resources can you recommend for petite knitters? (Anything! From knitting books/videos/classes/websites to information from crafts other than knitting like sewing manuals etc…)

RH ANSWER: There are now an amazing number of easily accessible resources to help you through your journey to improve fit. If you don’t like one, just move on, another instructor might work better for you. Keep in mind different makers will have different approaches and they won’t always give you the same exact instructions. You don’t have to become a designer but understanding the processes involved will help you through making the necessary adjustments to an existing pattern. You will find lots of patterning making links on Pinterest and videos on Youtube.

As you know I have lots of resources on my blog which includes an index here.

I especially like this Peggy Sager explanation of length, circumference and depth as it relates to fit.

The first 16 minutes of this video shows the process demonstrated.

Here’s the process for drafting a sleeve cap for woven fabric. Knits are simplified because they are symmetrical.

This site has some wonderful visuals explaining fit and ease.

I can highly recommend Shirley Paden’s book Knitwear Design Workshop: A Comprehensive Guide to Handknits and her Craftsy class Handknit Garment Design. If you are math phobic just ignore the segments on the magic formula and instead plot curves and angles visually on knitter’s graph paper as I show on my blog in the Pattern Drafting posts starting here.

This post is about Deborah Newton’s method for creating a muslin for hand knitting from T-shirt fabric. It’s for plus sizes but the basics still apply to petites.

#KPP QUESTION: Do you know of any knitting designers who create patterns specifically for petite folks? (There are a few who do this for sewing, but I’ve yet to find someone who addresses the petite market in knitwear).

#RH ANSWER: I don’t. The most I’ve ever seen in a knitting pattern is in the instruction sections where the pattern will say to x inches or desired length.

I do include this in my pattern notes: All length measurements included in the instructions are suggestions only and should be customized to suit the intended wearer.

Question

Do you have any sewing resources to add to the list? Please comment on this post!

Resources

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#KnitPetiteProject: Practical Sewing Resources for Knitters

#KnitPetiteProject: How is sizing in sewing different than in knitting?

Our last post where we looked at how sewing resources can help a knitter.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

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

NEW #KNITPETITEPROJECT SURVEY! Please answer this very brief survey to determine the future of the #KPP!

The world of sewing has fantastic fitting resources that knitters can use, and we’ve already referred to a number of them in the #KnitPetiteProject.

But there’s a few important differences between knitting and sewing that you need to keep in mind when you’re delving into those sewing resources, and a number of different ways sewing can help you as a knitter.

I’ll let the great Maggie Righetti take it from here:

“There is forgiveness to knitted fabric… Forgiveness means that, unlike woven fabrics, home-knit fabrics give and take a lot. You don’t have to be nearly so exact and accurate with knit measurements as you do with gabardine or oxford cloth or crepe. The knit fabric will adjust and forgive you. Cloth won’t! Many of the shaping details that must be used with cloth simply aren’t necessary with knit fabric.” 1

After this paragraph, you may wonder why I’d point you in the direction of sewing resources since they sound so very different. It’s that difference, in fact, that makes the sewing world so much more rich with petite fitting information than the knitting world.2

Sewists using woven fabric are working with materials that are, as Righetti says, not as forgiving as us hand knitters. Woven fabrics need to be shaped much more precisely than knits do. An extra quarter inch could result in a garment that is ill-fitting with wovens. Sewists need to pay incredible amounts of attention to their own shape and the shaping of their fabric in order to achieve the fit they desire.

I point this difference out because you may encounter language or instructions within sewing resources and patterns that are different from anything you’ve seen with knitting. Knowing that sewists need to be more particular about fit because their fabrics behave differently than your handknit fabric is important.

With the caveat that: you may notice that sewists also mention “knits” or “knit fabric”. There are indeed some machine knitted fabrics with stretch and “forgiveness” that sewists work with. A good example is t shirts. If you look very closely at t shirt fabric, you may recognize the tiny shape of the stitches as miniature versions of those on your needles! Knit fabric sewing patterns usually have different types of shaping than for woven fabric because of this “forgiveness”.

Righetti goes on to highlight more differences between sewing and knitting:

patterns for knits have no seam allowance…
with knits, the back and front sections are usually the same width…
From shoulder to bottom edge, the front and back of a sweater are usually the same length…
back and front armholes are shaped identically… 3

These are just a few of the points she names. Most of these notes have to do with the much more particular shapes that have to be created for a good fit with woven fabrics. I want to mention, though, the point about seam allowances.

While knitwear designers certainly must take into account a few stitches worth of your handknit for seaming, I believe Righetti is pointing out the much more generous seam allowances that are (usually) built into a sewing pattern. This has to do with how fabric for sewing has raw edges that must be finished and sewn together.

Another important way sizing is different in sewing (particularly with wovens) is ease allowance. I’m a big fan of negative ease; we can use this in knitting. It’s that forgiveness and stretch in the knit at work. You can knit a sweater that’s several inches smaller than your actual body measurements. Try doing that with woven fabric and you won’t be able to get it over your head! So non-stretch woven fabrics will always have some positive ease, otherwise you couldn’t put on, or even move in, the garment.

But, while our lovely hand knitted fabric gives us forgiveness, that forgiveness doesn’t solve every issue. We sometimes need to employ some shaping tricks to get the knit to fit the way we want!

Vertical darts, for areas where abrupt changes in width are desired, are made on the sides of an imaginary line with decreases or increases.

Horizontal darts, for areas where special length is needed, are made with short rows.4

Maggie Righetti isn’t the only knitter who looks to sewing for tips, resources, and inspiration.

Last week I touched on how much June Hemmons Hiatt shares about sewing in her book The Principles of Knitting. The whole of chapter 24 is devoted to this topic.

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Example of a modern pattern with multiple sizes, printed on tissue paper.

In it, she discusses how you can use a sewing pattern to successfully design a hand knitted garment. If you’ve never seen or used a sewing pattern before, it may be a bit of a puzzle. They usually come in an envelope of some kind, and are printed on a tissue that you (usually) have to cut out. Each piece will have all sorts of different symbols on it that help the sewist know things like how many pieces to cut, what direction the grainline is, how big the seam allowance is, and most modern patterns come with multiple sizes all on one pattern piece.

If you’re keen to try June Hemmons Hiatt’s suggestion of designing from a sewing pattern, then there’s a few things to note:

“Sewn garments often have a greater variety of separate pieces than would typically be used for a knitted one. These may be necessary to refine the fit, introduce stylistic details, or as a means of finishing the raw edges of a woven fabric – think of princess seams, darts, peplums, and plackets. In a handknit fabric, these aspects of a design are more often done as an integral part of the construction.” 5

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Example of a vintage pattern with only one size. Note the “seam line” vs the “cutting line.

While there certainly is a number of things you need to take into account when attempting this sewing-pattern-as-handknit-design trick, there is a wonderful advantage for the petite knitter looking for a good fit: paper sewing patterns are quite easy to alter, add or remove length or width, and test out in a way that can be much less time consuming than knitting up a whole sweater, only to find the fit is off.

In a sewing pattern, once you identify the fit issue you want to tackle (narrow shoulders, broad back, short waist, extra full bust compared to frame size, etc…) you can pretty easily find free tutorials all over the internet to alter that tissue paper pattern and solve your fitting issue.

One of the sewing books I’d recommend you purchase as a knitter is Fit for Real People. We’ve talked about it before in the #KnitPetiteProject. I praised it for the information on identifying your body shape and diagnosing fit issues, as well as the really fun, cool, and informative tool of a Body Graph.

Well, I think there’s yet another thing that Fit for Real People is great for: the author’s technique of “tissue fitting”. Palmer and Alto share with you how they take the tissue of a sewing pattern and can fit it to a person before they even cut into any fabric at all! So, if you’re thinking of trying out June Hemmons Hiatt’s technique of using a sewing pattern to design a handknit, Plamer and Alto’s tissue fitting step-by-step will help you and save time!

I hope I’ve got you thinking a bit about what sewing can do for you as a knitter.

And now, there’s a special treat! We get to hear about fitting from someone trained in knitting and sewing, Jill Wolcott.


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Jill is a knitwear designer and teacher with a background in fashion design in both
sewing and knitwear. In 2000 she began teaching at FIDM in San Francisco, in topics such as technical design, product development, on line development and portfolio development. She has taught grading for plus sizes online, and created sizing standards for yarn companies.Jill-Headshot 3x4

I’m so pleased Jill has agreed to share her thoughts with us here in the #KnitPetiteProject!

Selecting a Size
#KPP QUESTION: Much of the advice I’ve found for selecting a size to fit your frame is to pick the bust circumference that matches your torso (upper bust) measurement. This advice intends to give the knitter something that is more likely to fit their shoulders, which is very important in a sweater.
Many #KnitPetiteProject survey respondents stressed that they “always have to shorten the sleeve cap/depth” for their sweaters.
JW ANSWER: Sleeve caps are definitely the least understood and often the trickiest part of a garment.  However, you can’t just adjust sleeve caps—it is an interlocking puzzle.
#KPP QUESTION: As sleeve cap math is very involved, how should a petite person proceed in choosing a size to fit their shoulders?
JW ANSWER: There is little standardization in knitting patterns, so I have no good advice. I think you should only buy patterns that give schematics and measurements, and find brands that have their sizing chart available.
The absolute crucial measurement is the shoulder width.  But no one knows this. There are lots of misconceptions about how to interpret this measurement in a garment.  Let’s just say, I’d look at that shoulder/upper chest area before I started worrying about the sleeve cap.  The adjustments made in that area will impact your sleeve cap.  It is all interlocking!
The easiest thing to remember is that the length of the sleeve cap edge (where it will be sewn into the sleeve) needs to match the armhole where it will be sewn in.  Usually, the wider the sleeve at the underarm, the lower the sleeve cap will be to accomplish this.
#KPP QUESTION: Is taking the torso measurement the best approach, as it is for regular sizes?
JW ANSWER: By torso do you mean bust?  The thing is that a well-fitting garment isn’t built on a single measurement.  Or even three or four.  We are creating a garment from scratch, and there is an assumption that all measurements are created equally, but they aren’t.  You need to know your measurements (what they aren’t isn’t important!) and then how they compare to the garment you want to make or create.  But yes, any measurement is important in any size.
#KPP QUESTION: Is there any special information or instructions you can recommend a petite knitter consider in addition to this?
JW ANSWER: This is my advice to all knitters.  Know your own measurements.  Know your measurements in relationship to known sizes.  If a regular size 10 has a 16.75” back waist, and yours is 15.5”, you know you need to shorten your top.  But you also need to know where to shorten it!  In the armhole? In the neck? In the body?  Yes, to all three. Remember all clothes are built for a mythical body.
#KPP QUESTION: Another challenge for petite women is that sizing standards assume our bodies are longer than they may actually be; we then have to make any horizontal (and vertical!) modifications in a truncated amount of space, compared to a regular-height knitter.
Do you have any tips, advice, or resources you can suggest for petite women (of all ages and weights) with these sorts of issues?
JW ANSWER: I think circumference and length get the same answer.  See my answer above!  Proportion is really important (as you probably know).  You need to be honest about what looks good on you, and what adjustments will get the proper proportion for your individual body.
#KPP QUESTION: What sweater construction would you suggest for a petite person (particularly, one who may have to think about sleeve cap depth?)
JW ANSWER: Well you could go for sleeveless, but that probably has a whole different set of problems!  I think that a sweater with good information is going to help.  But also the knitter has to be realistic.  What we are talking about is making a custom fit garment, that you are also creating the fabric for.  This is an undertaking in and of itself.  I would start with something very basic.  I would work with a sport weight yarn and I would make my best-guess changes, but I would also expect to have to try the garment out as I worked on it to see if it was working.  It likely takes three tries to get a good fit that you can rely on.  But once you know what to do, it is relatively easy to transfer that to all your future knitting.
You may need to have someone help you.  Put pins in to make adjustments.  Take photos—you are looking for clues as to where problems are.  Sometimes an adjustment for one thing exacerbates something else, so always be judicious.
The easiest adjustment to make is to slope your shoulder.  It is like taking a dart at the armhole and can get rid of some of that bunching under the arm or above the bust!
#KPP QUESTION: Would you suggest any sweater constructions to avoid if you are petite and need to adjust sleeve depth or any other vertical measurements?
JW ANSWER: I guess I’m not very happy with avoiding things as a solution.  I believe each of us should find what works for us, then work within that.  It is all about proportion, not about garment type.  I know I have a very short (square) torso, but very long legs.  The best thing for me is to not try to get the same look as someone with a different figure.  I am very critical of what looks good on me.  If I don’t care, why should anyone else?  I believe that looking good is its own reward!  It will change how you feel about yourself, and how others perceive you.
Petite Patterns in the Knitting World
#KPP QUESTION: I LOVE your text here below; this is something noted by a number of #KnitPetiteProject survey respondents: if only knitting
patterns would make note of this, like sewing patterns do!
“First, I always put “or to desired length” after giving a specific measurement to knit to so someone needing to make an adjustment will know this is where to do it.  Generally these are length measurements and they occur in places when nothing will be negatively impacted as long as any corresponding piece is likewise adjusted.”
“I’d like to add that this flexibility is one of the great things about creating your own garments.  Likewise, it is the headache of anyone who doesn’t fit the standard sizing scheme that the pattern writer (me, in this case) is using.” (Blog Post “Or to Desired Length”)
JW ANSWER: I do think that many knitting patterns do say something similar, but I believe clarity works well for everyone.
#KPP QUESTION: Do you know of any other knitting designers who add these sorts of instructions into their patterns?
JW ANSWER: Quite honestly, I don’t look at the written instructions for a lot of patterns by other designers.  I’m too caught up in what I am doing myself.  However, I am always a little horrified by the shortcuts that patterns take.  I can elaborate on this at great length!
#KPP QUESTION: Do you know of any knitting designers who create patterns specifically for petite folks? (there are a few who do this for sewing, but
I’ve yet to find someone who addresses the petite market in knitwear).
JW ANSWER: I think you might be able to find some on Ravelry, but I am not a petite person, so I must confess that I don’t look.
Teresa, what I always find interesting is that there is an assumption that only certain types of people need to make adjustments.  I think the reality is that there are very few standard-sized people and it is just that when you fall outside the “normal” it feels like you have special issues.
The fact is that until the 60s and 70s, people didn’t buy as much ready-to-wear clothing as we do now.  If they did buy RTW, they anticipated that their dressmaker or tailor would make adjustments to customize the fit.  People spent a considerably larger portion of their incomes on their clothing, had less of it, and valued fit over quantity.
Sewing and the Petite Knitter
In July, we’re looking at what the world of sewing can teach knitters about fit and sizing.
#KPP QUESTION: How is sizing in sewing different than sizing in knitting?
JW ANSWER: Theoretically it isn’t different.  I think what may be different is the willingness to understand the underlying concepts of construction and fit.  We are blessed by flexibility in our fabric, and it is often used as a substitute for fit.
#KPP QUESTION: What are some sewing resources that can help the petite knitter understand and achieve her desired fit?
JW ANSWER: I hate to keep harping on this, but if you want fit, you need to understand your body and its relationship to garments.  Most people who knit don’t know as much about garments as those who sew.  Everyone today has access to tons of information, but sorting out what is good and what is relevant is a huge challenge.
I learned to sew when I was about 8 years old.  I learned how to fit myself and others by trial and error and observation.  I took risks, made a lot of mistakes, and filed it all away. Then I learned industry construction and pattern making, which I have translated into hand-knitting garments.  This is not easy.  My patterns are priced higher than most, but I have considered a lot of things when designing them.  I have tried to make garments that are generally flattering, and that fit well through the shoulder area.  But I’m not doing custom garments.
Suggested Resources
#KPP QUESTION: The System of Grading courses you offer on your website are in-depth ways for designers and tech editors to learn more about grading.
What fit resources can you recommend for petite knitters who are interested in learning about ways to achieve their own personal fit goals? (anything! From knitting books/videos/classes/websites to information from crafts other than knitting like sewing manuals etc…)
JW ANSWER: So I would love to spend more time teaching this sort of thing, but it requires a lot of time on my part and the part of the participants.  I think the best thing to do is to learn to sew, and take a basic fitting class.  Then transfer what you learn to knits.
I believe if we would value the time we put into making things, and be willing to do it in a meaningful way, we would have fewer, better things.  But it is an investment of time and money.  I buy clothing because I don’t have time to make it!  But I am pretty ruthless about what I’ll spend my money on.
Quick solutions:  Wear colors that are flattering.  Be brutal about whether something looks good on you—but be realistic about your body as it is unlikely to radically change. Use accessories to get variety and have a small palette so you can interchange things. Try new things!  We should all spend more time trying on clothes to find what looks best (perhaps without regard to fit and without purchasing).
#KPP QUESTION: What’s next for Jill Wolcott Knits?
JW ANSWER: I’m really interested in teaching online classes.  I don’t want to go around the country teaching classes, but I’d love to do remote teaching.  I want to help people understand that clothes are transformative.  I would love to help designers and knitters value the inputs of our knitted garments so that we could enjoy the making and not always be rushing off to the next thing.  Seriously, if you are knitting a garment there are going to be dead boring times.  Allow yourself a little time off (but be very disciplined) to make something fun, then get back to the big project.
I see so many comments on project along the lines of “my gauge isn’t quite right, but I’m sure it will be fine.”  That just sounds like  a recipe for disaster—or at least disappointment.  I’m doing online Swatch Workshops which teach my secrets.  I am preparing more professional development classes (with a parallel for non-professional knitters), and I am reworking some of my patterns.
My goal with reworking the patterns is to turn them into patterns with a teaching focus. A primer if you will.  This would be perfect for KnitAlongs, but I am not really sure how to get knitters on board.
You can read Jill’s full CV here.
Check out her website for more, including tutorials and her own sizing charts and sleeve length calculator!
Other helpful resources from Jill Wolcott include:

Question

Have you ever used a sewing pattern as a guide to creating a handknit?
Resources

1 Maggie Righetti. Sweater Design in Plain English. St Martin’s Press, 1990, pg 23.

2 FYI, this is my humble opinion.

3 Maggie Righetti. Sweater Design in Plain English. St Martin’s Press, 1990, pg 26-27.

4 Ibid, pg 30.

5 June Hemmons Hiatt. Principles of Knitting. Touchstone Publishing, 2012, pg 485.

#KnitPetiteProject: How is sizing in sewing different than in knitting?

#KnitPetiteProject: How can petite sewing resources help a knitter?

Our last post where we looked at what the limits of modifications are.
The #KnitPetiteProject plan.

All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

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

NEW #KNITPETITEPROJECT SURVEY! Please answer this very brief survey to determine the future of the #KPP!

It’s a new month, and a new focus here in the #KnitPetiteProject. We’re moving from our very practical look at sizing in May and June to the topic of sewing and what it can offer the knitter.

When I first began knitting, I was not a sewist1. I was annoyed and frustrated that nearly every detailed petite-fit resource I found was for sewing. Faced with that wall of google search results I felt 1) petite fit wasn’t an issues in knitting (which I think we’ve shown isn’t true! and 2) sewing has nothing to offer me – it’s like a language I don’t understand, and certainly don’t need to understand!

But, there’s plenty of support from around the knitting world that says knowledge from sewing can help knitters: Ysolda referenced sewing resources to build her sizing chart. Interweave recently shared how some sewing tools and tips can help a knitter. June Hemmons Hiatt has a whole chapter of her book dedicated to how a knitter can use a sewing pattern to design and learn about fit! The list does indeed go on!

My hope for the posts this month is to create a knitter-to-sewist dictionary. The world of sewing has so much to offer knitters! And, you don’t have to learn everything about sewing to get value out of it for your own petite fit needs.

Today, let’s start with a wee intro on the world of sewing with some terms and gentle, beginner-friendly sewing resources that are useful for knitters.

And, there’s a treat at the end of this post. We have an interview with a petite (and petite-plus!) sewing pattern maker!

…this information can be enhanced by also working with sewing patterns. You will gain skills doing this and acquire a familiarity with the proportions and subtleties of fit in [the upper bodice area] of a garment that will provide you with a much wider scope of design possibilities.2

How can Petite Sewing Resources help knitters?

The above quote is from the inimitable June Hemmons Hiatt. Her incredibly thorough book The Principles of Knitting is on nearly any list of indispensable knitting books, including the #KnitPetiteProject’s!

She goes into great depth in Chapter 24 about the value of using sewing resources and knowledge in order to plan a design for your own sweater. And before you think that you can’t design, or just don’t want to, remember what we talked about last month: depending on the pattern, and the amount of modifications you want to make, you may just have to reverse-engineer that sweater. Which is a run-around way of saying you need to gather some designing skills to get you to your end goal.

Please don’t be intimidated! The #KPP community is here to help!3

There’s many terms that you may recognize when you look at sewing resources. Sewists and knitters share terminology like drape, ease, hem, armscye, seam allowance, and selvedge.

Sometimes there’s terms that are either quite different or entirely new-to-you in sewing resources that make things confusing or intimidating. Let’s begin our look at what the sewing world has to offer knitters with this short list of helpful terms for your foray into googling “petite fit alterations”:

apex: highest point on a rounded area. Usually refers to bust apex, which is important to know in both sewing and knitting for instances of bust circumference alterations.

Big Four: this is a term used to refer to the largest sewing companies (Simplicity, Vogue, Butterick, McCalls). This may be important to whatever you’re reading because it’s those Big Four that have used a (fairly stable) sizing system for decades. This sizing system assumes many things about your body, including a bra cup size of B. Other independent sewing companies have made a point of using a different cup size as their base (for example, Colette uses a C cup size).

darts: Knitters can also create darts in their sweaters, but the production of the dart is different for a sewist. In sewing, a dart is a fold of fabric that’s stitched down to help round out / narrow an area. Usually found at bust and waist.

grain/grainline: direction of the threads in a woven fabric. The grainline is a marking on a sewing pattern that helps you line up your pattern piece with the fabric’s grain. This is important because the direction of the grain will affect the look of the finished garment.

muslin: a “rough draft” of a garment. This is made using inexpensive fabric so that the sewist can try on the pattern and see any fitting issues before using a more expensive fashion fabric. Unfortunately, knitters can’t really create a muslin in the same way  sewists can!

princess seams: these are alternative ways to cut and sew fabric to shape a garment through a vertical seamline. These seams do the same kind of thing as a dart, but look quite different. Princess seams run from either the shoulder or the sleeve and curve down and over the bust, sometimes going all the way to the bottom hem of the garment. Because of the ways a knitter can shape their fabric, they don’t have to worry about seam lines in the same way a sewist does.

slash and spread: this is a technique for making a pattern larger in a certain area. Following particular lines, you can cut it apart and shift it out to add room where you need it.

sloper: this is a base pattern that has been made to fit a particular person’s measurements, from which the sewist can then develop other patterns and styles. This is a very important and useful tool for sewists who are interested in a perfect fit and want creative freedom. Check out the WORKBOOK idea below for a knitter’s “sloper” option!

Beginning Sewing Resources for a Knitter

  • Craftsy has a free, downloadable guide on fitting. This 24-page pdf is a gentle introduction to fitting that’s aimed at sewists, and includes info on plus and petite fitting. The plus-size section is actually sub-titled “it’s all about vertical dimension”! This is really something we can use!
    FYI: one of the reasons I included this resource is because under the Petite section they say, “The importance is not always to look taller (even if that’s not a bad thing), but to find great proportions and style.” I love that they spell out that the goal is NOT always to look taller! Phew! (sorry, it’s just a pet-peeve…)
  • Simplicity, one of the Big Four sewing companies, has their own fit guide you can access for free here.
  • This post from Craftsy goes over some petite fitting issues, and shows both the shared ground and solutions as well as the differences between sewing and knitting. Sewists can make a muslin (essentially, a “rough draft”) to rework and adjust in a quick and inexpensive way. Knitters can’t really do the same thing! But, knitters do get to work with a much more “forgiving” fabric; sewists generally have to be more particular about fit (which makes accessing their fit resources really useful for knitters!)
  • And, don’t forget about our interview earlier this year with Petite Plus sewing patternmaker Kathleen Cheetham!
  • Sewist’s blogs are a rich source for general petite info because these folks are already having conversations about practical things like petite alterations, aesthetics, and history. A great example is this post from Betsy of SBCC, our interviewee this week!
  • Just last month I references a series of posts from the lingerie designer, sewing teacher, and personal stylist Maddie. This includes an overview with general-rule modifications to petite in sewing and a couple posts on guide on length and width reductions from our interviewee this week Betsy.
  • The indie sewing designers at Colette have a handy little newsletter Snippets that sends out helpful sewing tips. Many of these tips are at a beginner or intermediate sewing level, so it’s a nice way to be introduced to sewing terms, tips, and techniques.
  • The (mostly free) online magazine Seamwork (from Colette) gives you access to loads of informative articles that will teach you about fit from the sewist’s perspective, but also about developing your own wardrobe, details about different fibres, and interesting fashion history. I’ve signed up for their newsletter and it’s a nice monthly prompt to check out the issue.
  • The Curvy Sewing Collective is a great blog resource for petite plus knitters. They get into great detail about fitting with posts about starting out a sloper, 10 things to know as a beginner, and choosing patterns to minimize adjustments.
  • We’ve already talked about Fit for Real People here in the #KPP; this book has great information on measuring yourself and identifying you own body’s shapes. The special feature I recommend this book for is the step-by-step instructions on creating a Body Graph.

Survey: the future of the #KnitPetiteProject

The survey this month for the #KnitPetiteProject asks you just a couple simple questions about some tools we can use to help each one of us on our petite fitting journey.

The first is a WORKBOOK; this would be written from a petite perspective, for petite folks.

It would include all the very practical, helpful resources, tips, tricks, and basic sweater knitting patterns that would be both already petite and built for easy modification.

fit
Seamwork, issue 28. “Our detailed fit guides will help you pick the right size and make adjustments to get the perfect fit. You can find these fit guides on the each pattern’s page in the catalog and in the PDF instructions.

It would include great tools inspired by the sewing world, like the fantastic fit guides from the indie sewing company Colette (image at the right). Over past year or so they’ve been including these guides to help sewists understand the fit the designer was aiming for, and enable simpler and more straight-forward alterations.

The new, simple sweater designs included in the workbook would already be petite sized, and would be designed specifically to be easily modified so you can essentially create your OWN knitting “sloper”. You’d have a perfectly fitting sweater with less work, and it would be something you could use over and over as a blank canvas onto which you can add whatever fun design detail or feature your heart desires!

Do you want this workbook? Let me know by clicking YES on the #KPP survey!

The other tool we can use together is an open-ended KAL. This would be based in the #KPP Ravelry group, where knitters could choose whatever sweater they like and bring their questions and advice to the community for support and encouragement. Petite knitters working together!

Do you want this KAL? Click YES on the #KPP survey!

And as always, the #KnitPetiteProject is open to comments, questions, and suggestions. Anything you want to share, just include it on your survey, too.

And now, on to a special treat for this post!


SBCC-Logo

Betsy is the talented patternmaker behind SBCC Patterns; a line of sewing patterns for petite women, with 5’1″ as the base size for her designs. I knew I had to talk to Betsy when I read that she’s a fit-obsessed perfectionist with over 10 years of experience in the fashion industry.

#KPP QUESTION: You are one of the few independent designers in either sewing or knitting who directly serves petite (including petite plus) people. I love your work and believe it is very important!
What led you to select the petite market for your patterns?

athens, ga
Betsy of SBCC

SBCC ANSWER: My original idea was to make home sewing patterns for the standard/average height female customer, as it’s second nature to me from my ready-to-wear career. However, during the development I realized that I would have to alter the patterns just to fit my petite frame. Why should I invest a ton of energy and time, and not have something that I can wear straight out? Selfish? Perhaps, but I realized that I am not alone in this problem and there are many petite sewers out there looking to make a garment without a ton of alterations.
After further investigation I found that a large section of the female population could be considered petite- a whole lot more, potentially 70%. Petite is traditionally defined as anyone short in stature but also can be considered anyone with a short torso with long legs, or short legs and a longer torso. Also, some petite fits feature narrower body widths a well. There are so many approaches that there is definitely room in the indie sewing market to cater to this group.

#KPP QUESTION: With knitting patterns, there’s been a great dearth of designs catering to petite people, resulting in petite knitters having to wear designs as-is or independently learn ways to alter the fit to suit their tastes.
What fit sacrifices does a petite person make when wearing a non-petite sized garment? What are some of the tell-tale signs that a garment (particularly tops) isn’t sized for a petite (and petite-plus) body?

SBCC ANSWER: I like to say the biggest indicator is when you choose your size and it just feel like you are a kid playing dress up. The proportions are off and you definitely don’t look like your tall friend who can wear the same thing, but it looks so much better on her.
Some of the primary fit indicators include:
• Overall body length is long
• Sleeves are long
• Armholes are too low
• Necklines are too low
• Waist level hits below the navel
• Rises and inseams are too long (pants)

There are also considerations of styling. The details of the style may appear out of proportion, like waistband heights, collars and even leg openings.

#KPP QUESTION: I love that you serve petite women of all sizes with SBCC. In general, what are some differences in your pattern sizes from “regular” pattern sizes? (ie: certain body measurements or proportions?)
Why are these differences important? (SBCC Sizing info)

SBCC ANSWER: My fit approach is intended to cover all petite bases- overall short and slightly smaller body frame. Traditionally for RTW (ready-to-wear), petite is proprietary formula of reductions based on a regular misses pattern. Each company has their own rule for how much to reduce the armhole height, reduce the total torso and inseams, to name a few points. For SBCC Patterns I develop the pattern specifically for petite so all the details are proportional from the start. I have my own base numbers that I start with and go from there.

#KPP QUESTION: You have many patterns designed for knitted fabric including the Bronx Dress, Cabernet Cardigan, Gimlet Top, and Cosmo Maxi Skirt.
Knitted fabric and hand-knitting are more “forgiving” for fit than woven fabric in that knits stretch.
As you’ve created so many pieces that are in a knit fabric the answer may be clear, but I’m curious: what, if anything, is the value in petite sizes for knit fabric?

SBCC ANSWER: Yes, I do love knits! Knit fabric is like my grown up version of Play-Doh and works great for all size ranges. I can stretch it, twist it, mold and drape it depending on the look I am going for. Knits are just so functional for an active lifestyle and very forgiving to work with. I am particularly drawn to the drapey quality of knits as I can achieve more looks that I could in a woven fabric. With knits, I can also fit a wider range of women without having to make fussy adjustments. Also, the sewing techniques used tend to yield a quick and easy project.

#KPP QUESTION: What’s next for SBCC?

SBCC ANSWER: There are always more patterns in the works, of course. I would like to be able to complete a few new summer styles, but my mind is already on fall. I have a great blazer planned that I think is really going to be a hit. Jackets are pretty much what I grew up making in the industry, so it feels really good to bring those skills to a tailored garment, just for petites.
I’m also devoting a lot of time to my business Patterngrade where I work with a lot of indie pattern designers and up-and-coming/established ready to wear designers to bring their ideas to life and in other technical capacities. It’s a heavy workload, but I always try to squeeze SBCC styles in when I can.

You can read more about Betsy and SBCC on her website, and in this interview with Kollabora, Madalynne (and another here), and Blueprints for Sewing.

Question

Have you ever accessed a sewing resources to learn more about petite fit? Were you able to use it? Why, or why not?

Resources

1 I’m using the word “sewist” throughout these #KPP posts for a couple reasons. 1) It’s pretty widely used among the sewing community, and 2) typing out the word “sew-er” ends up looking like “sewer” – that is, the place where the toilet water goes when you flush. Yuck. So, sewist it is!

2 June Hemmons Hiatt. Principles of Knitting. Touchstone Publishing, 2012, pg 481.

3 I want to create a #KnitPetiteProject workbook that will make knitting and fitting a sweater for YOUR petite body just as easy as it is for knitters of a “regular” height. Click YES on the #KPP survey if this workbook is something YOU want!

#KnitPetiteProject: How can petite sewing resources help a knitter?

#KnitPetiteProject Survey: Workbook and KAL

The #KnitPetiteProject plan.
All other #KnitPetiteProject posts.

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

SURVEY

We’re six months in to the #KnitPetiteProject, and we’ve learned so much already!
It would be great to create something we can all refer to + personalize so we can get specific and accurate about fitting for our own bodies.

Two ideas came to mind: a WORKBOOK and a KAL.

The WORKBOOK would be a print book, including all the info from #KPP, with guidance for you to get the petite fit you want, and space for you to input your own measurements and notes. In the WORKBOOK, even more detailed and specific information could be included to answer your #KPP questions like:

  • how to shorten sleeves?
  • how to fit parts of different sizes (ie: narrow shoulders and large bust)
  • how to make something small enough in circumference
  • how to alter tricky sweater parts like yokes
  • what are the strengths/weaknesses of certain sweater constructions
  • aesthetic questions, like what’s “flattering” to a petite figure?

And, ideally, the WORKBOOK would include all new, basic designs that would be sized for petite knitters. You would have sweaters of various constructions that are already petite!

The KAL would take place on the #KnitPetiteProject Ravelry group, and we could each select a design of our own choosing and come together to KAL! We’d all be there for mutual support and advice, building a space for petite knitters to get the answers they need for the fit they want.

Please fill out this short survey; by doing so, you’re playing an important part with your community of fellow petite knitters to collaboratively build knowledge on sizing issues that are of concern to us all.

These answers will be shared at the end of July (2017) and will help us move forward with the #KPP, and will guide my decision/ability to produce a WORKBOOK and/or set up a KAL (2017).

#KnitPetiteProject Survey: Workbook and KAL

#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?

Math

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.

Formula:

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

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.

Question

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

Resources

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

#KnitPetiteProject: Are there general rules we can follow for patterns we want to modify to our personal petite-ness?

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 2 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.

General Modification Rules

By now in the #KnitPetiteProject you should have a good idea of your body shape + size (using tools like a body graph, measuring our bodies, looking at sizing charts) and fit preferences.

As each of us (and each pattern we select) will be different and offer up so many variables, we have to be thoughtful about determining any general modification rules for our knitting patterns.

To arrive at this individual list of modification rules, you need to do the following:

  • have your accurate body measurements
  • compare your measurements to the major sizing charts used by knitting designers
  • understand (at least in a general way) different sweater constructions
  • check out what some general lists of petiteing tactics suggest
  • be willing to learn through doing!

Below, I’ll go over each of these steps using my selected pattern for this exercise, Winter Doldrums.

Accurate Body Measurements

We’ve gone over this a bit in the #KnitPetiteProject, particularly in February. Recently, we also discussed the value in creating a body graph.

I certainly understand the desire to have the internet hand you a perfect list of what you need to do each time you assess a sweater to knit (and I’ll give a small one below!), but I’ve noted accurate body measurements first on this list because a rundown of general rules for petites may actually set you on the wrong track and cause frustration if you aren’t already aware of your own body’s shapes and sizes.

Imagine if I had a broad back, but a short armscye depth. A “general rules for petites” might suggest something quite helpful in shortening my armscye, but would also tell me to narrow the back – that would cause some big time frogging when I realized it was super tight around my shoulders/upper back!

Comparing your Measurements to Major Sizing Charts used by Knitting Designers

This advice will give you a general sense of how your body is shaped vs. how many (but not all) patterns will assume it’s shaped.

Knitting designers use all sorts of different sizing charts; some develop their own unique charts, some purchase (relatively expensive) charts, and some use free and accessible charts that anyone can take a look at online.

If you know what chart the designer used, then that’s going to give you the most accurate info. But sometimes you just don’t have this information at hand. My suggestion is to take a peek at two of the most common (and freely accessible) charts that knitting designers use, and that we’ve talked about a lot here on the #KPP: the CYC charts, and Ysolda’s charts.

Let’s do that together using myself as an example.

womansize
Taken from CYC’s Body Measurement Chart

Here is the CYC chart, with my own measurements circled (or added in). What I hope this shows you is that any one person can have measurements spread across the sizing chart. If I were to pick the size that reflects my bust circumference (which is how patterns are most often selected), then I would be sacrificing fit in several places in my sweater, particularly around the shoulders and upper back (as I think you can see from the numbers!)

Follow the CYC’s guidelines for measuring and compare your own measurements to their chart to create your own sizing layout like I’ve done here.

Here’s Ysolda’s chart, which as you can immediately see is much more detailed than CYC’s. I’ve filled in most of my measurements, so you can see that Ysolda’s and CYC’s are both different from each other, AND different from me.

ysoldachart
Taken from Ysolda’s Sizing Chart for Knitwear Designers

It’s with this information that I can start to form my general modification rules. From this I can learn that:

  • selecting a size based on bust means I’ll likely have to consider modifying different parts of my sweater (ie: no one size is going to fit me very well)
  • both these charts don’t go small/short enough for me in the upper back/shoulder area
  • both these charts don’t go short enough in the back waist length (though Ysolda’s is only 1″ longer, whereas CYC’s is 2″ longer)
  • there are other sizing issues I’ll have to consider that aren’t necessarily petite concerns, including bust adjustments and hip circumference adjustments
Understand (at least in a general way) different sweater constructions

We touched on this last week. Hop on over to that post for a more detailed look at some examples of different sweater and sleeve constructions.

Here I want to bring your attention to the fact that with general modification rules, you have to keep in mind that some sweater constructions function in a particular way to give you the style/shape and freedom of movement you see in the photo.

For example, with the information I’ve gleaned from the charts above, I can have a general modification rule that I need to shorten the sleeve depths on my sweaters. But, if I applied this to a set-in sleeve cap without considering that I have to equally adjust the body of the sweater itself, I’d end up with a sleeve cap that’s too small and incredible frustration all around.

To use the lovely Winter Doldrums as another example: this bottom-up, in the round yoked sweater. If I wanted to achieve the relaxed look of the sweater in the pattern photo, I’d have to consider the fact that while my body measurement tells me my sleeve depth is 6″, I’ll want to add some length to that. Otherwise, the yoke will sit further up in my armpit (possibly in an uncomfortable way!) and restrain my freedom of movement.

The garment schematic of Winter Doldrums tells me that the size I chose based on my bust has a depth of 9.25″ in the yoke. Decisions! How much length do I reduce, if any at all? How will that reduction in length cascade issues throughout the rest of the yoke?

Changing the rate of shaping will effectively change the angle of the shaping, which can conform to the angles of the body of be used to create a particular silhouette. In a pattern that is written to be shaped to the natural waistline there will often be quite rapid shaping between hip and waist and more gradual shaping toward the bust. If you want to move the waistline up you will probably want to work the more gradual shaping on the bottom half. 2

In this particular case, let’s say I want to take 1.25″ from the yoke depth. I’ve picked the size based on my bust measurement; I’m happy with the 35.5″ because I’ve decided I want a bit of a relaxed fit. Because of my own personal tastes, I’d considering making the waist about 3″ smaller. But that means I have to read through the pattern and see where the waist goes; the charts above tell me that the CYC sizing chart (which I know Knitty uses!) assumes my waist is 2″ away from where it actually is on my body. That’s a BIG difference when it comes to how a sweater sits on your body!

When I make those decisions and move up to the yoke, I now have to really consider how I’ll take out that 1.25″. The gauge says it’s 6 rounds/1″. So, I need to remove about 7 rounds. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but don’t forget about the beautiful colourwork! I could try to sprinkle those removed rounds up the chart, avoiding the decrease rounds, but it would be a good idea to draw out on knitter’s graph paper what the chart will look like if I do that. I might decide it interrupts the flow too much.

Another consideration I would have to make (and one common to petites) is narrowing of the shoulders/upper back. I might be tempted to just take out one whole repeat of the colourwork, but in this gauge that ends up being almost 4″. Taking those 4″ away at the base of the colourwork, around the upper arms and shoulders, would be something you’d have to consider even before approaching the bust measurement; I’d have to think about it way down at the waist, and before I even start the sleeves!

Remember: I picked a colourwork yoke sweater to show a complicated example. Please don’t let this keep you from looking at one for yourself! This is certainly something you can work out with some math and patience. We’ll be looking more at that next week when we talk about math, (im)modifiable design features, and your own personal taste.

General lists of petiteing tactics

Warning: PLEASE read above in Accurate Body Measurements! Here, I’ve listed a few very general suggestions of what petites can consider in regards to modifying fit.

First up, a source we’ve looked at in the past, Anne Marie Soto’s article in Vogue Knitting Winter 92-93, “Petite Pizzaz”. Note: Soto is coming from a homesewing point of view (we’ll be talking more about what the world of sewing can teach knitters next month). She writes:

  • petites should consider shortening the back waist length by 1″ (2.5 cm)
  • the fullest part of the hip is 2″ (5 cm) higher, which means it’s only 7″ (18 cm) below the waist as compared to the 9″ (23 cm) for regular sizes
  • sleeves for petites should be 1.25″ (3 cm) shorter
  • the shoulder length for petites is 1/8″ (3 mm) narrower (this measurement is from the back of the neck to the protruding bone on your shoulder)

She also suggests points of style and proportion. Please note that some of the suggestions below make me uncomfortable, but I’m posting them here in the spirit of sharing and learning together, as I think it’s important to take a look at the “conventional wisdom” for petites and take it apart together:

  • avoid bulky yarns, distracting fibers, and complex patterns because they can easily “downplay” a smaller figure
  • oversized dolman sleeves, extended shoulders, wide lapels, and large patch pockets are “inherently unflattering to a diminutive figure”
  • she warns to beware of “cutesy” details that are better suited for little girls, as these details are “too frequently considered the province of petites”
  • Soto instead suggests slim silhouettes, uncluttered sweaters with long vertical lines

I hope that by now, you know the philosophy behind the #KnitPetiteProject is that this is a body positive, non-judgemental community that accepts and supports the individual tastes, styles, and fit preferences of each #KPP person. So you understand why I’ve hesitated to include that last section of suggestions from the Soto article.

Twiggy - on blog photo twiggy017.jpg
Bulky yarn sweater: a mistake for petite folks?

What do YOU think of this list? I know I’ve played with bulky yarn in the past. Here’s a photo and 2008 blog post as proof. Was that a mistake? Does it “downplay” my figure as a petite woman? I think that’s entirely a subjective point of taste.

Let’s move on to another set of guidelines, again from an expert in the sewing world.

This general list for petiteing tactics comes from the the website Madalynne, created by lingerie designer, sewing teacher, and personal stylist Maddie. She’s kindly shared this handy chart that shows how, in the sewing world, petite sizing is different from regular sizing.

Every petite woman is petite in her own, unique way and these are standard reductions but I’ve used them as guidelines when working on my own patterns or helping petite women who email me with questions.3

Here is Madalynne’s chart.

madalynnechart
This chart is property of the website Madalynne. Please note that the author herself says these are just general guidelines, and that “some critical thinking must be done when using this chart – what applies to you and where?”

And here is important information she’s shared about creating and using this chart for yourself:

  • petite clothing is designed to fit women around 5′ 3″ – 5’4″
  • Regular women’s clothing won’t fit petites because vertical measurements are shorter and would have to be altered to fit
  • Usually, changing a pattern for petites requires width reductions as well as vertical reductions, but of course that’s not always the case

Keep this chart in mind, as we’ll be talking more in depth with what the world of sewing can teach us knitters. For now, consider: does this chart reflect the comparison between your own measurements and the CYC standards?

Be willing to learn through doing

This is not the quick advice you might have been looking for! Mathematics and knowledge of your own shape and numbers is important, but also important is testing out some modifications with your own two needles, and understanding that this may require trial and error.

For example: swatching. Many folks don’t care for swatching. But it’s going to give you a lot of information. And, if you treat it as more than a gauge swatch, you can even learn things like:

  • if this is the right fibre/weight/colour for you to use
  • will stacking these decreases this close together look weird?
  • do I really dislike this technique? Am I going to really dread knitting this pattern?
  • are these needles and this yarn a good pairing?
  • what happens when I block it?
  • (and particularly for my example of Winter Doldrums): will this truncation of the colourwork look ok? How do I feel about the look?

As always, the #KnitPetiteProject is here to be as accurate, inclusive, and collaborative as possible.

Do you have some advice? Know of a source we should add to this post? Please reply here or, better yet, continue the conversation over on the #KnitPetiteProject Ravelry Group.

Question

What general list of petite modifications have you seen? Please share it on the #KnitPetiteProject Ravelry group!

Resources

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.

2 Ysolda Teague. Little Red in the City. April, 2011. pg 61

This quote is inserted here because it is a great demonstration of the information and detail given to you as a petite knitter in Ysolda’s Little Red in the City book. While there’s no specific “petite-centric” discussion, you can absolutely find many bits of information that will help you understand design-important details for modifying the fit of your sweaters. You will have to understand what you need to alter, but once you do know that (through measuring, looking at charts, and your lifetime of buying and making clothes!) Little Red is an excellent source of fitting for petite folks.

3 Madalynne. How to make a pattern Petite. July 1, 2013.

#KnitPetiteProject: Are there general rules we can follow for patterns we want to modify to our personal petite-ness?