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I went to the mailbox today and it had arrived. Downton Abbey season 4. Currently, it is sitting next to the dvd player. I can’t wait for tonight.

The Goldilocks Dilemma sweater is back to where I ripped from: beginning the armhole decreases. I decided to go with an 8 inch (20) cm armhole. I think it will be loose enough even with the lymphedema.

In design terms, the initial armhole cast offs start the transition from focus on bust width to focus on cross back width. The cross back measurement is an important one because it influences everything from the armhole up. For a long time, I didn’t understand how to measure for cross back width. Hence my sweaters came out looking like a garment for the Hunchback of Notre Dame or so constricted across the back and shoulder area that they gave the term “a close fit” new meanings.

I don’t pretend to speak for everyone, I can only speak for myself. My “I really don’t want to do this” feeling about taking a tape measure to my body and finding it’s dimensions, hampered my garment knitting for a long time. I found the idea of standing in front of a mirror and measuring as appealing as sipping cod liver oil. In short, not going to happen.

For years I knit garments strictly following the numbers in the pattern for what was “my size”. The results were always less than okay. Liberation from this insanity of doing the same thing over again and expecting different results, came when I learned I didn’t have to measure my body I could measure a shirt instead.

I now have a mini museum of 3 shirts that fit me perfectly and that I no longer wear. They are used for measurement purposes only. These shirts helped me find “my size” numbers and cleared up my misunderstanding of the cross back measurement.

The cross back measurement is found simply by measuring across the top of the shirt where the shoulders join the top of the sleeves. It is the number I get when I measure from the top of one armhole to the top of the other on the back side of the garment. It’s really that simple.

Have a good weekend.

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This sweater, which I have embarked upon against all good sense, is starting to follow the child’s story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Of the story, I remember three bowls of porridge, one too hot, one too cold and one just right. I don’t remember if Goldilocks gets eaten in the end by the bears, but I do remember she was clearly trespassing on their territory. I also remember the growing sense of dread I experienced while being read the story.

That growing sense of dread is happening again.

Yesterday I was decreasing for armholes, today I am back to the first 5 inches (13)cm of the sweater. Yep, ripped it right back after I discovered I’d been working the lace panel wrong. How could I knit almost 13 inches (33) cm without noticing the mistake? In my house it’s easy.

The lace is a 16 st and 16 row pattern. Every time I got to row 11 some disaster would occur: Yarn Rascal, The Skipper, my mother, Yarn Rascal, Yarn Rascal, The Skipper. I’d hurriedly put down the knitting, deal with the disaster and go back to knitting not remembering where I was. I’d look at the chart, I’d look at my knitting, match up both and figure I was a row further than I really was.

Yesterday, for the first time, I was able to carve a chunk of uninterrupted moments to knit and that’s when I realized my mistake. I was finally able to work through the 16 rows without being disturbed and what the needles created was quite different from what I’d seen up to then. There was nothing else to do but rip back to the start of the lace panel.

While ripping I calmed myself with the thought that I wasn’t completely sure about the armhole anyway. I was dithering between making it 8 or 8.5 inches (20.5 or 21.5) cm. Since my mastectomy, I get lymphedema that comes and goes. It increases the size of my arm at the precise area where the armhole occurs. I don’t want a tight-fitting armhole. On the other hand, I don’t want one that’s too big for when I don’t have the lymphedema. I want one that’s just right. So I am in a bit of a Goldilocks dilemma…You know, I really do think the bears got her at the end. Didn’t they?

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One year ago today I was in the operating room having my mastectomy. Sleet fell the entire day, covering everything in ice. Today the sun is out and the Polar Vortex is back with its biting temperatures. Today I am knee-deep into a test knit of a Spring sweater and that is what I want to talk about.

Admittedly, I don’t often knit sweaters for me because of the Sweater Curse, but the times I do decided to try to get past the Curse I always approach the selected pattern the same way,with dread by reading through the entire thing before I select a size.

Selecting an appropriate size, they say, depends on bust size. It’s as if they think bust size is some magical number that automatically makes numbers for waist, armhole depth, cross back, sleeve length, neck width, and the length of the garment all fall into place for a nice fit. It doesn’t happen that way. In choosing a size I also need to consider how the garment is supposed to fit and how that differs from the way I want it to fit.

So I scanned the bust sizes and giggled. For my breast prosthesis I was fitted by an expert so I knew my size, but for the sheer amusement of it, I measured anyway. It’s exactly the same we fitted the prosthesis for, 40 inches. Then I scanned the pattern to see if the designer included the measurement for ease. She’s a good designer so she had. The ease was two inches. That means the sweater circumference at the bust line is 42 inches (107) cm.

The industry considers an ease of 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 )cm close-fitting. On the other hand, it calls the ease of 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10) cm roomy. So 2 inches is both a close fit and roomy. I pondered this for a minute. I didn’t want a close fit nor an overly roomy fit. I decided that since 2 inches fell into both categories it probably meant it was not too close, not too roomy, but just the right fit. Or something along the lines of the story about The Three Bears. I am going with the size 40 sweater.

Time to get the paper, pencil and calculator. Yes, if I want a sweater that fits me and my proportions, I need to work for it. The first set of numbers I write down at the top of the paper is gauge: 5 sts and 6.5 rows = 1″ (2.5) cm. The next numbers I need to know are the total length for the size I’ve chosen, the number of stitches cast on, the number of stitches increased or decreased for any waist shaping (a little giggle here too, what waist?), the number of stitches worked for the long haul up to the bust. This last number should be 21 inches (53.5) cm for the back. I got 21 by dividing the total circumference by 2.

I look at the schematic to find the length for my size is 22.25″ (57) cm. My favorite shirt that fits me perfectly is 23 inches (58.5) cm long. I consider this. 23 is my ideal length. Looking through the pattern I see it is knit in stockinette stitch and lace panels, both of which tend to grow in length and width. I decide to stay with the pattern length.

Next up, check the bust measurement to see that the stitches I need to work equals half the total circumference of the sweater. A small snafu, naturally. The cast on uses a smaller size needle than the needle size I used to get gauge. Do I really want to do the math to find the gauge and then more math to find the width of the cast on? No. So I read further hoping the pattern will solve this problem for me and it does. I need to change back to the needles I used for gauge, knit a little, then waist shaping occurs. At the end of this shaping I have 104 sts. 104 divided by my gauge of 5 = 21 inches (53.5) cm. Since I have the right amount of stitches needed after waist shaping I decided to not do the math to figure out the exact circumference of the cast on for the peplum.

Next up, rows and length, armholes and cross back measurements and why I don’t weave in ends until I am all finished.

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A productive weekend it wasn’t. I managed to rip back a good 20 rows on the Shetland Lace Baby Shawl. How many mistakes can be made on a simple, small lace pattern and garter stitch ground? I fear I am about to discover the answer.

The Skipper hates it when I rip back. It sets his teeth on edge faster than nails on a chalk board. Finally he asked me the question I was most dreading: How big is this thing going to be? Remember, this isn’t the first time I’ve ripped back, and knowing me it won’t be the last. But if I could say it was a 4 inch (10 cm ) project he would find it in him to go with the flow, or rather the herky-jerky two steps forward four steps back motion. I smiled to cover my angst, then dropped the bomb. 52 inches (132 cm). Kaboom!

When not painting trucks (yes, The Skipper built two more), or knitting and ripping back the Shetland Lace Shawl, or ice skating with Yarn Rascal, I have been in the weeds updating a vintage raglan sweater pattern. A nice looking raglan sweater is within everyone’s reach provided a few rules are followed. I was going to call them suggestions, but that word implies that if not followed things still might turn out alright. Nothing could be farther from the truth with these, so rules they shall be.

The first rule covers the raglan armhole. The raglan armhole is a full inch (2.5 cm) longer than the average armhole. If the chest size is 42 inches or greater the armhole becomes 2 inches (5 cm) longer than the normal armhole. Ignore this rule and the armpits end up level with the chin. Lately, I’ve seen a good deal of raglan baby sweaters that look exactly as I just described. The armhole needs to be made larger by at least one full inch (2.5 cm).

The second rule deals with upper arm width in the sleeve. Increase the width a full inch (1.25 to 2.5 cm) larger than a regular sleeve. Please note that the widest point of the sleeve is not at the top. As seen in the schematic below, the sleeve narrows at the top to 1 inch (2.5 cm) for babies and 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 cm) for adults. (A better and more complete schematic is coming.)

raglan schematic

The inch or so width at the top of the sleeve becomes part of the neck width calculation. Half the number of stitches gets added to the front neck depth and half to the back neck depth. Thus if the sleeve tops are 1 inch each that means 1 + 1 = 2 inches is added to the entire neck. 2 divided by 4 = .5 or a half inch from each sleeve top is given to the front and back neck measurements.

The third rule is the killer. The number of rows that make up the armholes on the front sides and the back sides of the body of the sweater must be the same number that makes up the sleeves as they decrease toward their tops. This is an absolute. No rounding off of numbers, no a little more here and a little less there. 15 rows on the body sides means 15 rows on the sleeves. X must equal X here. This rule can and has made me weep.

Another little mot is rule four. Raglan decreases are worked on RS rows only. Rule 3 + Rule 4 = migraine. The RS decreases must be worked at least 2 stitches in from each edge on sleeves and body. Two slevedge sts give a nice, neat raglan seam that runs from the base of the armhole up to the collarbone. The whole look of this style depends on that seam being neat and exactly matched on both sides.

Wednesday I hope to have a hand-drawn schematic and explain how width depends on sts and length depends on rows and why both inches / cm and st and row numbers should be included on a schematic.

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If you are only altering size and keeping all else the same (i.e. gauge and design) the next step is simple. Draw a schematic and plug in the numbers for the size selected. You can find the size ranges for baby sweaters here in a previous post of mine.‎ For now, I’ll pull up the schematic for a 3 month old.

baby 3 mos sizes schematic

On graph paper, draw the back, one front, and sleeve form from the original pattern. Now let’s figure out and put in the numbers.

The average total chest circumference for a 3 month old without clothing is 16-17″. The circumference of garments made to fit this size chest is 18.5 -21.25″.
The ease varies from 1.5 to 4.25 inches. I usually start with a 17″ chest and 3″ of ease. Or put another way, I want the sweater to be 3″ larger than the 17″ chest size before seaming. Remember we lose a 1/2 inch each side once we sew up the seams. That means the finished circumference will be 2″ larger than the chest size. It may sound like a lot but it is not. A sweater with 2″ of ease is considered to be close fitting.

The math: 17 + 3 = 20″ total circumference. This falls in the middle of the garment range for circumference. Divide the total circumference of 20″ in half to come up with the measurements for front and back. In this case 20 divided by 2 = 10″.

The back width will be knit to 10″. Enter this number on your graph below the line that represent the bottom of the sweater Back. Now, how many stitches to cast on? Our gauge was 3 stitches per inch. Multiply back width by gauge stitches. 10 x 3 = 30. Cast on 30 stitches.

Since this is a cardigan, we need to divide the Front Width measurement in half to find the width of each front. 10 divided by 2 = 5″. Each front will be 5 inches in width. How many stitches to cast on? Multiply width by stitches per inch. In this case we cast on 15 sts for each front piece.

The length range is 9.5 – 11″. Since the our circumference measurement falls in the middle between the smallest acceptable size and the largest acceptable size, let the length measurement do the same at 10″. Our row gauge was 7 rows per inch. A 10″ length multiplied by 7 rows per inch = 70 rows.

So now you should have filled in the information for length and width of the BACK and two FRONTS of the sweater. On Friday I’ll show you how to figure in a neckline when the original lacks one and we’ll complete the sleeve calculations.

The latest news here is it snowed. Yarn Rascal saw and felt snow for the first time in his life. He went nuts! He thought it was great. He ran and ran and burrowed. He likes to go under the snow. How strange. But he wouldn’t be Yarn Rascal without strange behavior.

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Sometimes “free” doesn’t fulfill all one’s expectations. Janis Joplin once sang that “freedom was just another word for nothing left to lose.” The song was Me and Bobby McGee. I hum that line often when I see yet another novice knitter in a panic over a free pattern that doesn’t meet his / her expectations. However, when the novice knitter is a pregnant woman whose due date is 2 weeks from now and she is in tears because she wanted so much to have a little knitted something made by her for her baby it breaks my heart.

After failing to knit a wee hat and then a blanket, the knitter then fell in love with a baby sweater that said it was sized for a 6 month old. The knitter, who has never knitted a sweater, was in a panic because she wanted to make something the baby could instantly use and she wanted to know how to alter the pattern for a 3 month old. Thus, her time frame was alter the pattern and knit it in 12 days, take 1 day to practice deep breathing, next day give birth. My advice was to calm down, breathe deeply, and knit a wash cloth out of soft organic cotton.

Later that day I was traveling the internet when I thought to look in on the pattern she mentioned. Cue up Me and Bobby McGee. It was a cardigan. Simple? Yes. So simple that no armhole shaping nor neck shaping was needed. The back was a square. The two fronts were rectangles. After sewing the pieces together the knitter folds the ends of the front rectangles down to form a neck opening. The sleeves were also rectangles minus any shaping. No schematic was provided.

I can’t say this enough. Free pattern or not, make sure it has a schematic. If it doesn’t, that is the first clue that something is wrong. If you still want to knit it then put away the needles and yarn, get out the graph paper, a pencil and a calculator, and create a schematic.

Ready? It’s time for knitting math.

The first thing to check is gauge. What are the number of stitches per inch? What are the number of rows per inch? Gauge is usually written like this:
12 sts and 28 rows = 4″ (10) cm.
To find the stitches per inch divide 12 by 4. Answer 3 sts per inch. Do the same with rows. Divide 28 by 4. Answer 7 rows per inch. Write these numbers at the top of the graph paper you will be using them for all other calculations.

Next step , find  the measurements of the sweater. Start with the Back. How many sts does it say to cast on? Let’s say 33 sts. How many inches is that? Divide the number of CO sts by the number of sts per inch. 33 divided by 3 = 11. The Back width of the sweater is 11 inches. Draw a line on the graph paper representing the bottom edge of the sweater. Below that line write 11″ (33 sts).

Now find the length of the Back of the sweater. To do this read through the pattern instructions. A pattern with armhole shaping will usually say knit until piece measures x inches, then break for armhole decreases. The original had no armhole shaping so it said knit until piece measures 10 inches. How many rows is that? Multiply the length by the number of rows per inch. 10 times 7 = 70 rows. On the graph paper, draw a line on each side of the bottom edge of the sweater representing the sweater’s sides. Next to one side write 10″ (70 rows).

Since the original had no neck shaping, draw a line on the graph paper representing the top of the sweater. Above this line write the same numbers that are on the bottom. In the middle of the square, write the word BACK. We now have the measurements for the back of the sweater.

Follow these instructions and find the measurements for one Front. Do the same for one sleeve.

Next week , how to alter a simple baby sweater to the size wanted.  For now, have a good weekend.

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Knitters and crocheters who are interested in knitting / crocheting baby sweaters need to know that there is no one set standard that everyone in the industry uses. A uniform sizing standard for knitted / crocheted baby clothes that is followed by knitting / crochet magazines, knitting / crochet book publishers, designers, and publishers of knitting / crochet leaflets does not exist. Each magazine, book publisher, leaflet publisher, designer, has its own in-house set of sizing numbers and they don’t agree from one to another. Some say a 3 month old baby’s chest size is 16 inches (40.5) cm. Others say it is 17 inches (43) cm. Still others say it is 18 inches (46) cm. So where do designers and publishers get their numbers from? A variety of sources: the British Standards Institution, for one, and which was last updated in 1982, Yarn Standards and Guidelines is another, The National Bureau of Standards Body Measurements, and ASTM Standards. By the way, one of the latter two was last updated in 1930. Somehow I don’t think body measurements taken during a Depression when there was little affordable food available qualifies to be called a standard. None of the standards found in any of these places agree on measurements. This is why a 3 month old baby has a chest size somewhere between 16 and 18 inches.

Some designers and publishers tend to favor the larger numbers in a size range. That means they begin with the assumption that the baby is on the bigger side of things and will design their garments accordingly. Some tend to size their garments smaller, starting with the assumption that the baby is on the smaller end of the size range. What this does to the knitter / crocheter is drive him / her nuts. In order to prevent this, I suggest you look at the schematics of the project before you begin. If they aren’t readily available look at the numbers the designer provides regarding Finished Chest Circumference. Decide whether these figures agree with what you think will fit the baby you are knitting / crocheting for. The important point here is that you, as the knitter / crocheter, need to have some idea of what an acceptable size range is for you. For that, you need to do some homework and research baby sizes. Don’t panic. I know everybody has enough to do.

I made up 5 schematics for babies from 3 months to 24 months old. Each schematic shows the variations in measurements that a knitter / crochet might find for that age. Click on the schematic to make it bigger. Print it out if you like. Use them to get an idea of the measurements you feel best fit the babies you knit / crochet for. Don’t expect that you won’t find sweater designs that are outside the range I’ve given. You probably will. But if you know what measurements you feel most comfortable with, you can then chose projects that don’t give you anxiety attacks.

I hope you find the schematics helpful. They are for the basic boxy sweater and I will explain more of why boxy sweaters are the dominate shape for baby sweaters in Wednesday’s post along with other things knitters and crocheters need to know before you pick up that pattern and are disappointed.

baby 3 mos sizes schematic

baby 6 mos sizes schematic

baby 9 mos sizes schematic

baby 18 mos sizes schematic

baby 24 mos sizes schematic

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