The Four Knitting Truths

Bertha is overcome at your comments

The Corset 9 and I would like to thank you for all the amazing and touching comments and emails. (Bertha is the strong, silent type, but she'd surely say "thank you" as well if it was her way to say anything at all.)

Several of you noted that I made my customization suggestion by working backwards from seeing the finished Corset on the Corset Gals, when in fact the challenge we face as knitters is figuring out what customizations might be needed before the entire sweater is knitted (and thus, before we have to throw a Sweater Frogging Party, complete with soothing beverages and friends to console us). Over and over again, you asked: How do I know which adjustments to make? How do I know which pattern size to choose? How do I even know which sweaters might look good on my body type?

The answer lies in what I call The Four Knitting Truths, which were hinted at in Monday's story of the mirror and illustrated in the gallery of the Corset 9 Plus Bertha. These Four Knitting Truths are the main factors you have to take into account when planning a knitted garment:

  • 1. The truth about yourself. Your REAL measurements and body type (not the measurements you fear you have, or imagine you have!).
  • 2. The truth about the pattern. Ease, style, construction, color.
  • 3. The truth about the fabric. Qualities of the yarn, stitch pattern, and how these are affected by gauge.
  • 4. The truth about your expectations and needs. What do you want your sweater to look like? What silhouettes do you prefer? Are you being realistic about what looks good on you and what doesn't?

The First Truth: Knitter, Know Thyself

Question: Are you knitting for an imaginary you, or for the REAL you? When was the last time you measured yourself? When was the last time you stood in front of a mirror and carefully (and KINDLY) evaulated the woman(or man) who stands before it?

I've built a little page on How To Measure Yourself, with photos and instuctions on how to measure the basic width measurements of bust, waist, and hip. I've also added two further dimensions for those of us who have extra curves: Buddha Belly and High Tummy. We'll do other measurements later on, such as height and arms and all that. It's good to start with a few basics, particularly since these are the ones that most patterns are based upon.

Speaking of which, I think it's time to de-mystify three things: Finished Bust Measurement, Actual Bust Measurement, and Ease.

Finished Bust Measurement

Why we care what it is: This is the main "base measurement" used in knitting patterns to denote the different sizes offered.

What it IS: A measurement of the finished GARMENT, after it is knitted, blocked, and seamed (if needed).

What it is NOT: A measurement of your exact bust size, unless you want it to be!

How to find it: Lay the completely finished (again, knitted, blocked and seamed) garment on a flat surface, right side out, front up. Pat the garment flat, without overstretching it. Measure across the bustline from side to side at the widest point–generally just under the armholes. Multiply by two (front plus back), and this is the measurement of the finished sweater.

Tricia finding her full bust measurement

Actual Bust Measurement

Why we care: This is a measure of your body, which you add/subtract ease and styling factors to, and thus determine which finished bust size to make.

What it IS: Your Full Bust Measurement, which is the circumference of your chest at its fullest/curviest/most voluptuous point.

What it is NOT: This is NOT your bra band size! It is also not your underbust measurement, nor your high bust measurement.

How to find it: Wearing the undergarments you would wear with a knitted top of the type you're intending to make, wrap a flexible tape measure around your bust. Make sure the tape lays flat, and goes only over your chest and shoulderblades, not over your arms or your cat or anything else. Wrap the tape around the biggest part of your bust. Breathe normally, and measure–do not hold your breath!

The All-Important Ease Factor

What is ease? Simply put: Ease is the extra fabric that allows space between you and your garments–space for things like moving, breathing, comfort, and extra layers of other clothing. The greater the ease in a pattern, the more fabric there is, and thus the more roomy space there is between you and your sweater. Negative ease means that there isn't any fabric to spare, that the fabric actually must stretch to cover your body. The more negative ease in a pattern, the more the fabric must stretch over a given curve.

In other words: Positive ease: loose-fitting. Negative ease: curve-hugging and clingy.

There's more to getting to know the Real You: long waist, short arms, height, shape, and so forth. We'll be examining all these in the days ahead on Knitting Daily. Think of this as an ongoing class where you get to specialize in YOU!

Weekend homework assignment! (whoo!)

How about starting a Beautiful You notebook? Start by writing down what you THINK your measurements are, before you break out the measuring tape. This information might be very enlightening after you've found out what the real you is–you might find out that you were knitting for an imaginary gal and not for your real self at all! Then check out our How To Measure Yourself page, and throw a little measuring party of your own. Oh, and there's only one rule: Absolutely NO unkind words or thoughts about your body are allowed. Remember: my grandpa says you are beautiful, and he's my grandpa, so he's gotta be right!

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? Photo coming soon of the finished Bonsai Tunic by Norah Gaughan. New to the needles: Swatching for a Sandi-sized version of the Corset Pullover! Plus, about 6 inches' worth of cables for a new design coming soon to Knitting Daily. Someone asked if this was the ONLY thing on my needles…you caught me! I am the Unfinished Objects Fairy, spreading my little stardust magic over as much casting-on and as many needle sets as possible.

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