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I don't like knitting socks. In fact, I believe I made a rather public declaration to that effect. I don't wear 'em, have no use for 'em, no more, I'm done, finished.

I also don't like Magic Loop. It's awkward and ugly and inelegant and tough on expensive circulars. I'll never knit that way, it's useless, who needs it, case closed, over.

How can something so wrong feel so right?



I haven't knit very many sweaters, yet, only having knit about two years, or less. My first, a short sleeve t-shirt published in MagKnits, was fantastic fitting (although the finishing left something to be desired). The next item was the famous Ribby Cardi from the famous Bonne Marie and I began to think "wow - this sweater stuff is pretty easy." I still thought that even after my Knitting Olympics project - a cabled trim cardigan from the Nashua North American Designer Collection book out of their Creative Focus worsted.

But then all hell broke loose. I tried "Starsky" from Knitty and although the body was great the sleeves were ginormous. And then Rosedale United - also from Knitty - and it would fit a small elephant. I got gauge on both - but the finished results just sucked.

I THOUGHT I'd knitted the size to fit my 38" chest - but perhaps I didn't. Can you provide a primer on how to choose the correct size?


First, a crash course in choosing a sweater pattern at all. My general rule? Be really frank with yourself: you know what flatters, and what doesn't. For example, I love voluminous, flowing silhouettes, and would love to knit them - but I'm pretty sure that they'd make me look like a ship in full sail, and thus avoid them. Likewise, being fairly top-heavy steers me away from wearing plain high necklines and teeny cap sleeves (O! how I wish I could wear cap sleeves), and my lack of height makes me look twice before considering anything with large-scale motifs or in a very thick fabric. There's nothing wrong with being a process knitter (I'd put myself in the same category), but as long as you're knitting something, it's probably worth the effort to choose things that don't make you feel abysmally unattractive when worn.

On to fit. I'll go out on a limb, here: everyone looks good in fitted clothes (the main variable being whether the lines are very close to or just barely skim the body). Think of the classic drop-shouldered, generously cut sweater - amazing on athletic men and tall women with very straight silhouettes, and like swaddling clothes on everyone else. With that in mind, consider fit carefully before beginning.

Patterns are generally defined as close-fitting (with 0"-2" ease), "classic" fitting (with 3"-6" ease), and "exaggerated" or "oversized", with "ease" meaning the difference between the actual body measurement and the actual garment measurement (for sweaters, the bust circumference is usually used). Myself, I like just a little bit of ease, but you know what works best for you. Take a look at how the sweater is supposed to fit, the base fabric, the desired aesthetic - is it a drapey cowl-neck in a soft, relaxed yarn or a cozy enveloping cardigan? Leave plenty of room to let the sweater do its thing. Is it a structured jacket or funnel-neck pullover with architectural details? Make it fit closely, or those clean lines will look sloppy.

The human body, of course, is built of cylinders and cones with all kinds of odd bumps and lumps sticking out in inconvenient places. While sewn garments can take advantage of darts and complicated shaping to accommodate all those weird shapes, knitted garments are, by neccessity, almost entirely two-dimensional and symmetrical from front/back and left/right. There are a few things we can do, of course - short rows and simple shaping - but in general, the give and flex of knitted fabric creates the fit. To better understand how handknits work on the body, try reducing your own measurements to flat shapes on graph paper:

It's not perfect - the shape of the body changes even as you stand up, sit down, stretch, and breathe - but take the measurements standing up straight in your underwear (with arms fully extended), and you'll have a pretty good starting point. Hey, wait a minute, you say. That looks a lot like a pattern schematic!

Right-o. Now, you can take any given pattern and compare it against "your" schematic to spot potential problem areas. Scale it the same as your skeleton chart, of course, and butt the top of the sleeve cap wherever it needs to go (against the edge of the armscye for a set-in or dropped sleeve, with the neck for a raglan). Schematics typically aren't nearly as detailed as your body chart, but you should be able to guesstimate and extrapolate from the written instructions.

I can see here, for example, that this (totally made-up) pullover would fit well around my shoulders, but the sleeves would be really long, it would come all the way to the hip, and my waist would be totally lost in it. This is exactly why this exercise is useful - it gives you a visual, easy-to-use map that shows you, right away, the things that you may or may not want to address for a perfect fit.

But wait! you say. Even with all those fancy graphics, how do I know what fits well and what doesn't?

The answer? Knit lots and lots of garments that don't fit until you finally achieve a decent-fitting sweater (poor comfort, since you'll have been shipped off to the nuthouse long before), or the easy way: measure clothes you already own that fit you perfectly, however you define that, in the way you're aiming for. Say you're knitting a gently shaped crew-neck sweater: take one that looks great on you, pin it flat without stretching, and take some pretty detailed measurements with a rigid metal tape:

The key is to measure something that fits the way you want your project to fit. If you're knitting a loose shell, measure something comparable; likewise for a teeny little halter top (it's also best to measure knits to help you account for the way your project will stretch). Compare these measurements to your body schematic to see what measurements work on you, and then to the pattern schematic to see if you'll want to make any changes.

I encourage everyone to try this at least once - like readymade clothes, all patterns are sized for a generic set of body measurements. No one fits exactly into a "standard" size - we all have little idiosyncrasies of length and breadth. If you do this a couple of times, you'll start to be able to "see" whether a pattern will fit you well as written, just by glancing at the schematic. If you do it a few more times, you'll really have an understanding of what looks good on you and what doesn't, what fits miserably and what fits perfectly - well worth the effort, in my opinion.

I tend to prefer the beautiful, handspun, hand dyed stuff that's thick-and-thin, and I currently have an obsession with boucle. But once I have this delicious stuff in hand, I'm paralyzed with the question of what to do with it.

How do you decide what will make a good project for "bumpy" yarns? For fuzzy yarns (mohair gives me the same paralysis)? And "loopy" yarns?

Because I'm always nervous about this question, I tend to buy just one "experimental" ball of the yarn in question, and then never, ever use it. I have a small stack of single skeins of really pretty, really fun things, and no idea whatsoever what to do with them.

Any insight into how you think about projects and textured yarns would be greatly appreciated!

The Nerdy Knitter

Ahh, good question. I'm not generally one to use yarns with lots of interest - I prefer plain, workhorse yarns - but I can certainly see their appeal. I'd keep it simple: that is, when the yarn is the focus, keep it there with a very plain stitch and an even plainer shape. A simple top-down pullover in stockinette would be a great showcase for a really beautiful handspun. For novelty-ish fibers - I put eyelashes, boucles and other "textured" yarns in this category - I'd say you're on track with your single balls. A whole garment in these yarns can look kind of...well...novelty, so keep it to accessories that can provide a bit of punch against a simple outfit. Leigh Radford's One Skein> is a book that provides lots of these kinds of projects.

Mohair, on the other hand, can look really wonderful in a variety of situations. I think it looks great in simply-shaped sweaters, and that very open lace worked with mohair can be absolutely stunning. It works because the two textures - surface and structural - don't compete, they compliment.

Have you ever been to a trying-too-hard restaurant where every dish read like a laundry list of all the of-the-moment food trends? You know what I mean - "Papparadelle with duck ragu, garlic confit, Alsatian goat cheese, wilted arugula and pepper-crusted oven-dried tomatoes"? Or seen a girl wearing great jewelry, but you can't see any of it because she's wearing everything she owns all at once? Too much can be just that - too much. Let one thing shine at a time.

Part II - substituting yarns, adjusting for gauge, and making mods - tomorrow.


2 socks on 2 circs flow!!
it will be fun, and you'll avoid the sss.

I think I am going to pack up my knitting and come live at your blog.....
Living in Mexico I also have no use for socks and don't want to knit them for charity either.
Other people also don't wear socks....and ordering yarn from the US, shipping it here...paying customs and shipping, knitting the socks and then shipping them back ...makes no sense.......but I like sock yarn,it is the perfect thickness for this climate and hard wearing..... especially if it is not self striping or self patterned ; another thing I don't quite understand.....I don't see why I would want to knit just in the round and have someone else do the patterning for me .....I also don't care for knitting anything with two circular needles, especially two at the same time......and love simple yarn and if it suits my color sense and feels good , I don't even care if it is man made....especially if it is thinnish yarn.
I am really anxious....how is the jacket coming along ? Any more pictures ?
I won't mention that I am still hoping for a pattern......but am burning a bit of insence when I think of it, with wishes for extraordinary energy for you....and restfull sleep with sweet and creative dreams.......so you can carry on with all those wonderful creations.....


I know they're different, but those socks look suspiciously like some I just knit out of CTH Potluck Worsted. See for yourself:

Whatever they are, the colors are lovely.

I'm not even going to say anything about that top pic, nope nothing out of me

Two socks at once on Magic Loop is one of my favorite advantages to that method. (And Inox has really flexible cables, so I don't feel like I'm abusing my good Addis.)

And, lordy, I really love your graphics . . .

I'm thrilled that you so thoroughly and methodically answered Colleen's question! Especially the bit about measuring current garments while dreaming about future ones - exactly what I practice, and exactly the way I ensure my handknits fit the way I want them to fit :).

Glad to see that you found the "right" method for you and sock knitting. You just had to find your niche, that's all. Me? I'm all about the DPNs! Woohoo! Give me some good 5" Brittany DPNs and I'm in heaven!

I'll save my addi's for the major stuff.

heeeeee! Come over to the magic looped sock dark side Eunny!

Good talk on fitting!

There's one minor point I'd like to add to the discussion on fit: to consider what clothes might be worn underneath a garment when considering ease. For example, if I'm making a shell, I like it to fit very close and hight at the bust/underarms to prevent gaping, but for a vest, I'd want the opposite -- looser and lower -- to accomodate the shirt (and possibly tank top) underneath.

It's not normally a huge difference, but for those seeking a very close fit, it can make the difference.

Ahhh, have socks now become the delicious forbidden fruit?

Great notes on fit, Eunny. It's so generous of you to answer questions in such detail and with such web saavy graphics. I continue to be wow'ed by your blog and your knitting. Can't wait to try the cabled bind-off.

Hehe...maybe you can knit my sweaters for me and I will lovingly knit your socks for you. I wish I had your love for finishing the larger items. Variety makes the world go 'round!

Loved the fit answer! But don't you find that if you measure your arm length while holding your arm up that your sleeve ends up too short? I measure sleeve length by measuring the length from the center back neck, over the shoulder, down the arm to the wrist, with the hands held down. There is about 1-2" difference when you go over your shoulder. You haven't had this problem?

I'm really enjoying your "unraveling" posts. I appreciate that they are so thoughtful and well-written and well-illustrated! I know that this takes a lot of time, so please know that it is recognized!

In your next installment about pattern modifications, or perhaps in another post, I would like to hear your thoughts on reference books. Which ones do you turn to most often, and WHY? For example, one of my favorites is the Nancie Wiseman finishing book because it clearly outlines the pros and cons of each technique.

Thanks so much Eunny for your excellent posts. I simply adore them and keep wondering in my sleep: will Eunny publish a pattern book soon? I've already dreamed about it and it looked great!

Ah, the call of sock yarn is a siren song.

Thanks so much for the great unravelling series. I'll make much use of those diagrams.

I don't care for the 2-sock- at- one- time on magic loop mojo myself, it didn't flow for me, but have to say, I'm on the dark side with Coleen. It may not be "pretty" to some, but I get beautiful socks out of it!
Great techie section on fit and form.

That is the BEST explanation I've read on sizing to fit. Very well explained. Thank you!
I wonder if you've ever encountered "negative ease" (knitting smaller than actual body size and having it fit well due to the stretch and give of knitwear). It's new to me, but I recently heard about it. Don't know if I'm brave enough to try it yet, but I will do what you wrote: measure what ya got that fits and knit accordingly.
This is one of those D-uh! moments for me. Why didn't I think of that?
I already tried your first example: "Knit lots and lots of garments that don't fit until you finally achieve a decent-fitting sweater"
But I'm sick of looking like a tent. And we live in a warm climate. I'm ready for some figure-flattering knitwear. So many thanks for the advice!

I wish I had read your advice about sizing when I was a new knitter. Trial and error has taught me to adjust pattern sizes pretty much as you do. But I continue to monitor the size as I knit because sometimes the gauge swatch isn't the model I hope it will be. If the yarn is stretchy, the gauge swatch may be too small and light to capture that and the completed garment may end up too wide or with sleeves that are too long. Thus, if I'm knitting with something that I know will drape, I tend to choose a smaller body measure to account for the expansion in the actual garment. Do you have any foolproof way to do this? I just keep measuring as I knit, and occasionally I have to rip and start over.

Just say no to the socks! They're bad for you, they'll suck out your soul!

I see socks!!! :) I have an old schematic of the hourglass sweater I made that fits perfectly. I put it onto tracing paper and lay it out over "future" scematics to see about how they compare. I'm a very visual person!

You're so right: it makes perfect sense that if I want something to fit, I have to knit something in a size and style that's likely to fit. I have to be frank with myself, but for me (and many others?) it's really difficult to be objective about my body shape. I'm scared of stuff that fits snugly, but I'm becoming tired of wearing loose clothing so that no one, not even me, knows what shape lurks beneath them. It's a really interesting thing, body image. Speaking as someone else with a large(ish) bust, I suggest anyone trying to get to grips with this has a proper fitting for a bra. I've just discovered I've spent *years* wearing the wrong size. Mildly uncomfortable, constantly needed adjustment, contributed to bad posture... a fitting at a specialist shop is worth the money if you can find it. Even better than yarn. Now I just have to work out what styles suit me. Judged objectively. Ha.

And thank you so much for so many interesting and informative posts!

Hey, it's a girl's prerogative to change her mind. So, you just do whatever your little heart desires. As for the sweater schematic stuff - how is that you make it seem so simple? You really have a knack for breaking things down to the most basic and really making them make sense. Thanks.

You are a genius. The sweater schematic is so. cool. Seriously, tonight I'm going to measure myself. And then graph myself! Thank you.

Thank you for the great post on sizing! I have been reading your archives, and I really appreciate the all of the informative discussions you've posted. Extremely helpful!

Gorgeous socks, too. :)

Thanks for all your tips and whatnot with unraveling. Have you thought about pdf'ing these?

I have been a regular reader of your blog pretty much since you started. I really think you should write a book, you make things clear with out me feeling like an idiot.

thank you

You are an extremely articulate and talented knitter and a big THANKYOU for sharing such common sense so well!!!
Looooove your blog!

I love all the advice. I do have one question though. You mention measuring a purchased garment to see what works. Does it need to be in the same gauge as what I plan to knit? I have very few purchased sweaters and they're all in rediculously tiny gauge. So will measuring them still help me?

We will assimilate you...

I agree with several people who made comments.....you should write a bock.....but one on theory........something like what you have done lately with " Unravelling "....
You have this uncanny knack to explain and de-mystify all those scary procedures.....simple explanations to follow, that make us better knitters......a rare gift....
Hey.... " The Better Knitter " would not be a bad title......


Mexico City

I have a ton of sweater patterns I can't wait to dive into. But I'm losing weight so I'm waiting. So far I've lost 14 out of 36 pounds and I'm waiting. The good thing is that a hand knitted sweater that, to borrow your own words, "fits like a glove" is the best inspiration for losing weight I've found thusfar.

As usual your suggestions are beautifully written.

When I started reading this post, I seriously considered delurking to tell you my deeply sentimental story of becoming a magic loop convert on my second try. But no need, you have seen the light... Decided to comment anyway to thank you for your great blog. The articles on lace etc. have been wonderful, and your knitting is an inspiration. I would definitely buy a book by you ( Knitting, the Complete and Unabridged Manual by Eunny Jang, KD.)

i learn so much from your posts. you are so talented and you put so much effort into your posts. thanks so much.

i'm a dpn girl when it comes to socks. it freaks non-knitters out ;)

excuse me.

You probably heard the BWAHA HA haaaaa
laughter across the county. How unladylike of me.

pardon me.

What is that sock yarn? It (and your socks) are lovely.


Glad to see you're toe-upping it! Not a big fan of doing two together myself, but ....

How's it going?

assss fffff ghor durty

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