Knitting on the Fringe
Are you a fringe knitter? I don't mean one who attaches fringe to every project that comes off his or her needles. In this case I mean one who is at the end of the "regular" size dimensions or is near but outside the boundaries of many pattern sizes.
One reason I began to knit outside the bounds of patterns, back when I made my second sweater at the tender age of 16, was because I was one size larger than the range of sizes the pattern I wanted to make offered. After years of making clothing from fabric, I finally understood the concepts of making cylindrical pieces to fit body pieces. I was not intimidated by a fabric with extra powers of elasticity and recovery, and I dove right in to design my sweater on the needles. That is to say: I made it up as I went along.
I don't suggest you take this rather drastic step. My skills at designing have improved a bit, and now I only undertake a project after I create a pretty good plan.
A Reader's Plea
At Creative Knitting, we do try to include all sizes in our pattern offerings, but once in a while we receive comments, like this one:
I absolutely love the patterns in your magazine. I look forward to receiving my next issue and planning a new project. My only complaint is that I can't make some of the patterns because the finished size is too large. You occasionally offer size XS patterns, but not very often. Usually, the finished bust measurement is 34-36. I don't mind some positive ease in my garments, but I'm afraid the finished result in most cases would be way too big. Would you consider expanding the sizes to include XS? You always seem to include XL.
Thanks very much,
Our Policy Regarding Size
We try to have each pattern written for at least five sizes. However, if we provide larger sizes, our petite readers will be disappointed. The reverse is true if we provide an XS for all patterns; our readers who want a 2XL are bound to be unhappy or think that we're intentionally discriminating against them.
Many of you have seen my picture in the magazine or in one of the casual shots I like to put into the newsletter; you know that I am not making the XS size. However, I have dear friends who have that challenge when choosing a design. Today, I will address some of the inventive ways to change pattern sizes.
Not For the Blind Follower
Bear in mind that my suggestions are not for the knitter who wants every stitch or line written out for him or her in a pattern. I consider myself an adventurous knitter, and you should have that attitude if you decide to follow my advice on this subject!
Change the Gauge
One of the simplest ways to alter the size of a design is to use a yarn different from the one suggested. Perhaps the pattern of your dreams is written for a bulky weight yarn, and you want to make a size smaller than the range written. The pattern we'll use for illustration purposes is a simple stockinette-stitch cardigan with a texture stitch at the lower edges. The pattern's bust sizes are 34 through 50. Our hypothetical knitter wants to make an XS with a 30-inch chest.
Using bulky yarn and size 10 1/2 needles, the gauge given for the design is 16 sts/22 rows per 4 inches, or 4 sts/inch. After making a large swatch with a worsted yarn and size 8 needles, I know the gauge of this yarn is 5 stitches/inch. To make a smaller sweater, I need to have 15 inches of width for the back piece, so 15 times 5 equals 75. Using the information in the pattern, I see that for the medium size, a cast-on of 76 is directed. That's one stitch more than my 75, but fine as can be! If I follow the directions for the medium size numbers of the pattern, my sweater will turn out to be exactly the 30 inches I need.
In the same way, if I want to use a double knitting (DK) yarn with 6 stitches/inch, the math is similar: 15 times 6 equals 90. I'd use the directions for the XL size (cast on 92) to achieve the width I want. The change does not stop here, however. When you are making this kind of alteration, you must use the measurements for length of the size you desire, not what is written. If you are a petite knitter, you'll want to shorten the lengths of the body, sleeve armholes and neckline to suit your body.
My petite friend Hazel nearly swooned when she first saw the book Mother-Daughter Knits by Sally Melville and her daughter, Caddy Ledbetter. The Camelot Coat is classic in its simplicity but exquisite in the details. Hazel, who has been knitting about three years, knew she could easily make the design. The only problem was that the smallest size was still too large for her petite frame. The pattern, written for a bulky yarn, was perfect when we converted it to a lovely shade of blue in Cascade 220 worsted. The pattern did not need to be rewritten; one of the other sizes was just right when Hazel changed the gauge. The coat brings rave reviews every time she wears this stunning creation!
Hold the Raglan
Please note that the suggestions above indicate no hard-and-fast rules; they are approximations. I've found that this substitution works best with traditional shaping of sweaters. If your pattern is a raglan design, the row count of your gauge is far more critical as this will influence the diagonal shaping involved with this style. Swatch like crazy before making these changes in this style! Be sure you will arrive at the same angle of decrease to achieve the desired result.
If you want to go the other direction in resizing patterns, swatching is again your finest ally. If the sweater of your dreams is made in a DK yarn and you want to make it larger, swatch it in a worsted weight yarn. With a gauge of 6 stitches/inch, the garment would be sized to 25 inches. To make it larger, you could substitute a worsted yarn with 5 stitches/inch. If the cast-on for the 2XL size is 150 sts, you would cast on 135 sts in worsted yarn to achieve a width of 27 inches. If one of the sizes begins with a cast-on close to 135, you have found your road map for success.
When making these changes, be sure to use a knitting needle size matched to the yarn you are using, not what the pattern calls for. Remember: The suggested needle size is only the beginning of your swatch making. Other considerations include the fabric you make with the combination of the specific yarn and needles. Each must meet your expectations for drape, density and hand. You might be able to achieve a given gauge for a pattern with a substitute yarn, but the resulting fabric may not be suitable or pleasant for the project at hand.