Knitting for Plus Sizes

Banstead Pullover by Lisa Shroyer    
Banstead Pullover by Lisa Shroyer

A note from Kathleen: Since I began knitting I've noticed a common cry among plus-sized knitters: "How can we make sweaters that look good on us?" I hear you, folks, and I echo your question. I've made lots and lots of sweaters in my knitting life, and many of them became gifts because they didn't fit me correctly. Much as I love seeing those sweaters on my friends and family, I wish they would have worked out for me.

I have no waist to speak of, and at some points in my life, my "waist" had been larger than my bust! Not my favorite look, but I learned to accommodate it in my knitting by never doing waist decreases if a pattern called for them. I'm an apple shape, and waist decreases just emphasize that.

I've done modifications like this in an ad hoc way—planning them as I need them, without much education about how to do it.

That's all about to change thanks to the new book Knitting Plus by Lisa Shroyer, which is full of amazing information and patterns for us plus-sized gals. Among many other plus-size topics,  Lisa talks about different construction types and how to make modifications to fit our unique shapes.

After reading Knitting Plus, I feel like I now have the tools now to choose patterns that will be flattering on me, and to help me make changes to patterns that I'm just dying to knit, but that don't have the right proportions for my body. I particularly love Lisa's Banstead Pullover! I'm going to cast on this sweater right after I carefully analyze my measurements and the pattern schematic to see what changes I'll need to make. I'm confident now that I can make this sweater look great on me.

There's so much to learn from Knitting Plus, I thought I'd invite Lisa to Knitting Daily to tell you more about it. Here she is!

Successful Knitting for Plus Sizes

What makes one sweater different from the next? Besides surface designs, like colorwork or cables, besides design elements like a collar or wide buttonband, what are the meaningful differences? What key distinction between these two garments affects the fit, the pattern, and your ability to modify more than any other?

     The Waltham Cabled Cardigan from Knitting Plus
Waltham Cabled Cardigan
by Kathy Zimmerman
The Barton Cardigan by Marly Bird
is a seamless yoke.

The sweater's construction type.

In Knitting Plus, I lay out the five standard construction types. For our purposes, construction refers to the sleeve/body join and the related shaping in both pieces.

I don't care if a sweater is worked bottom-up or top-down, in the round or flat, as a cardigan or a pullover-the rules that govern sleeve/body join are universal. The difference between the Banstead Pullover (above right) and the Waltham Cabled Cardigan (top right) is that the first is a raglan and the second, a drop-shoulder.

If you make the sleeve of the Banstead wider, the neck opening will become larger. If you make the sleeve of the Waltham wider, you won't be able to seam the sleeve into the armhole.

Those are two very different effects, caused by the same modification to the sleeve. If you know that you generally need a wider sleeve, it will serve you greatly to know how that need integrates with all the construction types, and how to compensate for your mods.

What if you haven't gotten that far yet? You don't know if you need wider sleeves; you don't know how to choose a size to knit if you have an unusual body shape. I have lots of tips in the book for these issues and others, but here's a quick exercise I recommend once you've chosen a design to knit.

Based on your bust size, decide which size in the pattern you would typically knit. Looking at the Banstead pattern and knowing I'd like a close fit, I'd choose the size 42" bust.

Find the schematic in the pattern. Highlight all the numbers that are relevant to your chosen size.

The Banstead Pullover schematic

Get out your measuring tape and "try out" all these numbers on your actual body. For my size, the upper sleeve is 15" in circumference, so I loop a tape measure into a 15" circle and slide it up my arm to just below my armpit. How does the loop fit? Does it fit at all? Tweak the loop to a circumference that fits best and write this on the schematic.

Do this for hips (remembering to multiply the hem width by two to get the circ), with body length, sleeve length, cuff width, and any other elements that you can measure on your own body. You can then see, at a glance, if your chosen size will fit you in places besides bust circumference.

If your numbers are ranging far from the pattern numbers, you will need to know how to modify those areas, while not disrupting the fit and structural integrity of your garment.

In that way, Knitting Plus contains info that's useful for all knitters, but in this case, it's specifically geared to plus-size women. As ample knitters, we're told all the time to "figure it out," "modify it," "customize the shaping," et cetera, and I hope this book will help you finally do so successfully.

Pick up your copy of Knitting Plus today and get started knitting sweaters that fit and flatter you!

Happy knitting!

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