Friday, November 30, 2012

Tips and Techniques: Fit, ease, body and drape

While attending the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival (affectionately known to knitters as "Rhinebeck", for it location), I had the pleasure of attending a class by Lily Chin, knitting legend and possessor of so much knitting knowledge that she's a walking encyclopedia.

Most of the information she covered is certainly available in other locations (or in her books), but she has a knack of putting that information together, like putting puzzle pieces together to finally see the whole image.

Reviewing my notes from her class recently, I decided that a few things bear sharing.

Simply by picking out and lining up class participants in a specific order, Lily easily demonstrated the concepts of fit and drape. At one of the spectrum was a curve hugging t-shirt and on the other, a loose-hanging cardigan. When it comes to fit, the knitting industry as a few standard guidelines, although no general consensus, as anyone can tell when comparing pattern sizings.

However, I now use these fit guidelines when deciding how much ease I want my finished product to have. Ease being the extra inches of fabric added to the size of the garment over your actual body measurements.

Tight fit = -2" of ease
Close fit = 0"-1" of ease
Standard fit = +2" of ease
Loose fit = +4" of each
Oversized = +5" of ease or more

It is ease which defines the fit of your garment. For example, if your actual bust measurement is 38" and you want a tight fitting garment, following the pattern size that is closest to -2" of ease. That is to say, the size closest to having a 36" bust. But if you want a standard fit, choose the size closest to a size 40" bust.

A mistake I've made in the past was to look only at the extra inches of ease and think "That's too much!" But, as Ms. Chin explained if you're adding 2" of ease, that's 2 inches over the entire garment. Or in other words, half an inch (.5") on each side front and back. When spread out over the front and back side seams of a garment, it really doesn't seem like that much.

Back to drape. Drape can be defined as how much a fabric conforms to your shape. Does it hug your curves? Or does it fall stiffly in a straight line off your curves? Body is the opposite of drape. Heavier yarn creates a denser fabric that creates body.

Putting these all together can help you decide which size to knit. You need to consider:
  • your bust size
  • what kind of fit you want
  • the fabric size (this is where your swatch comes in)
Then find the size that is closest, according to how you want the garment to fit. Of course, these aren't the only factors. You have to consider your other measurements, like shoulder width, waist and hip width. But generally you pick the size based on bust measurements and can do any customization for other measurements from there. And the type of yarn certainly affects drape and fit. But those are topics for another day.

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