Waist Shaping: An Overview

I’m noticing that the very mention of the term “shaping,” let alone “waist shaping,” seems to provoke some spirited discussions amongst knitters. Some folks want it, but don’t know how to do it. Some folks might want it, but are shy, thinking that it is only for the young and slender. Some folks would rather wear a live snake draped about their person than wear something that shows off their waist.

And some folks are still just trying to find their waist.

So, let’s first figure out how to incorporate waist shaping into a simple sweater. You might be surprised to find out what a little bit of shaping does for even the most ample of curves.

Waist shaping for Bertha
Assuming you are working in the round, and working from the hem upwards, you can pretty much sum up waist shaping like this: Make a tube big enough for your hips, tummy, and backside. Start decreasing down to give yourself a nice bit o’ the hourglass treatment. Work even for a bit so you can breathe. Then start increasing up so you will have enough fabric to cover The Ladies. Voila: Waist Shaping!

That’s really the whole idea. Not complicated at all, see? Take a look at the sketch provided, which is a rough schematic of Bertha (yes, to scale!). As you read the steps below, compare them to the schematic, and see if that helps you visualize the process a bit better.

We’re going to walk through the steps—WITHOUT ANY NUMBERS—to give you a nice little mental picture of how you would go about putting waist shaping in an otherwise no-shape, hem-up, boxy sweater. (We’ll do the numbers later, I promise.)

1. Cast on enough stitches at the hem to fit comfortably over your hips/behind/belly, plus whatever ease you prefer. The sweater needs to go over your widest bits, remember, so if you widest bit is your belly, make sure there are enough stitches to fit over your belly-plus-ease.

2. Knit upwards from the hem in whatever pattern pleases you until you reach the widest part of your lower torso, whatever that part may be: hips, waist, belly, or perhaps a bodacious combination of the above.

3. At the part of your body where things start to get a little smaller, start your decreases. This might be the top of your hips, the rolling landscape over your belly, or the generous curves of your backside.

4. Work decreases gradually—a couple of stitches every few rows/rounds—in order to get the stitch count down to a number that more closely resembles what you need to go around your waist (plus ease).

5. Work even for a short section, because your waist is usually not a deep V; it’s usually more like the bottom of a valley. This also allows you to breathe, which in my family is a popular sport.

6. Start increasing gradually at the same rate as you decreased earlier until you have enough stitches to comfortably fit over your bust area (plus ease).

7. Continue working the rest of the garment as written.

That’s it. (Well, some numbers would help, but we’ll get to that.) It really is that simple! From here, then, it’s not a long leap to “designing” your own well-fitting sweater!

Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What’s on Sandi’s Needles. 


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