Saturday, March 3, 2012

Seamless Hybrid Part I (Planning)

As I mentioned in my recent posts, I'm attempting a Seamless Hybrid sweater.  My Ravelry peeps are kind of following along, so I'm going to post my steps so that they can a) follow along or b) watch the train wreck as it unfolds.  If you're not here for the knitting, feel free to come back in a few days.

So here goes (please note: I have no idea what I'm doing - copy me at your own risk):

Planning Stage:

Using my yarn and a circular needle, I knit up some swatches until I got the right fabric density/softness/etc and blocked my swatch.  I got: 18.5 sts/4" and 28 rows/4".

(Helena, if you need metric, let me know... I'm horrible for flipping back and forth between metric and imperial.  The blame can be laid entirely at the feet of those pesky Americans - they refuse to switch over to SI and they're kind of the boss of us, so we have to learn both.)

(Americans: you're not pesky.  I'm just kidding.)(Also, you're not really the boss of us.  So don't get any ideas.)

Sorry, where was I?  Oh yes.  I took out my measuring tape and measured a few things:
  • My upper bust circumference (at armpit height)
  • My bust circumference (fullest part of the bust)
  • My ribcage circumference just under my bust
  • The vertical distances between all of these imaginary horizontal lines on my torso
  • The circumference of my upper arms (at armpit height)
  • The circumference of my arm at the elbow
  • The circumference of my wrist
  • The vertical distance between wrist and elbow and then from elbow to armpit
I drew myself a little diagram of my body, showing all of these things.  Note: these are called ACTUAL BODY DIMENSIONS.  If you need a starting point, you can borrow this image from my Magic Raglan pattern (don't worry about the raglan length or collarbone - they don't apply, here):

Then, I drew up a little sketch of how I want my sweater to look.  I know that I want to make a jacket-style sweater and that it needs to have positive ease (meaning: I want it to be loose so I can wear a couple of layers underneath). To do that, I added 2" to each of my actual circumference measurements and wrote them down on a sketch of my sweater.  Note: these are called FINISHED DIMENSIONS.  I also wrote down the vertical distances (in inches) between each of those important points on the sweater (armpit, bust, ribcage, etc).

Here's the key part of your design: shaping.  If you want a non-manly sweater, you need to look at a few things.  One of them is shaping.  It is not easy to figure out how shaping works, so don't expect a magic formula that will make it all just come together for you.  (Also, I'm not a fashion designer, so I'm just fumbling around in the dark here, myself.)  Here are some key areas where you can place shaping:
  • Some increases/decreases along the side "seams" of the sweater body (because this is a seamless, there are no actual side seams, but you get the idea)
  • Some short rows at the bust area
  • Some increases/decreases to form darts at the back, under your shoulder blades
  • Some increases/decreases in the sleeves, so that they fit more snugly.  Bell sleeves can also be very feminine...
  • Some ribbing along the side seams to "snug" everything in
  • Some ribbing just under the bust, so you get an empire waist effect
  • Look through some of your favourite patterns to see where they have placed some shaping to see if you get any other ideas.
One of the problems I ALWAYS run across is that if I choose a sweater size based on my bust dimension, the sweater is too big.  My bust is 38" around, so I fall in the "Medium/Large" range.  Trouble is, my ribcage is only 32.5" around.  That's a big difference.  When I try shirts on in the store, I almost always end up buying a Small (Medium at the very biggest).  So I am going to try something with my sweater: I'm going to design it so it fits above and below the bust and the fullest part of my bust is going to get some extra fabric in the form of short rows.  I am going to ignore the measurement of my bust at its fullest point.

I'm going to try my best to explain this in writing:

I know what my upper bust measurement is and I know what the ribcage dimension is.  I've figured out that if I measure between those two lines perfectly vertically (I measure this by standing in front of a mirror and holding the tape up in my armpit so that it can hang down straight along my side), I get 6".  BUT, if I measure the distance between those SAME POINTS down the front of my *ahem* boobies, across the fullest part of my bust, that measurement becomes 7.5".   

Right.  So what? you ask.  Ok well, I know that I need to vertically add 1.5" of fabric in the front of my sweater, between my armpit line and my ribcage line.  The goal is that there will some extra fabric there to go around my boobs - this will look like a bulge when the sweater is laid flat. 

What was my row gauge again?  Right, it was 7 rows/1".   So that means that between those two points, I will have something like 42 rows of knitting I don't do any shaping.  And it means that I need to add 7 or 9 short rows in that area (for the sake of simplicity and in the spirit of not overdoing things, I'm going to stick with 7) in order to get some extra space for the girls.  One short row will go right at the fullest point of my bust.  There will be 3 above that, evenly spaced between my armpit line and my fullest bust line (one per inch)(in other words: one for every 7 regular rows). {ETA: I revised this later on, when I made a discovery about short rows: every time you perform a short row, you're actually adding TWO rows of knitting into your here for more info.}  Make sense?  Short rows are basically partial rows - they do not go all the way around the sweater body.  You sneak them in wherever you want them.  In my case, I'm going to make them run from armpit to armpit, across my bust.

Are you even still with me?

Other shaping I'm contemplating:
  • Two vertical darts in the back, starting under my shoulder blades.  I need to take it in a bit back there - all my sweaters always gape in that area.  I need to go from 176 stitches (armpit height) to 162 sts (ribcage height), so I'm going to try and take it out of the body in the back, as opposed to just on the sides.  (Kate Davies did something similar in this most amazing dress she made herself - only it is very fitted and she calls it an arse-accommodator.)  Mine is much less exaggerated - just a little taking in.
  • Some increases in the body (along the side seams), below the ribcage line, so it forms a slight A-line.
Feel free to step in here, Chris, if you think I'm barking up the wrong tree.

Decorative Stitches:

Another way to inject a feminine touch in to your sweater is to use decorative stitches (lace, cables, twisted stitches, etc) in various areas.  There are entire books dedicated to this sort of thing, so I won't get into details here.  Suffice it to say that if you want something to look more girly, it's easy to find a nice simple lace pattern that you can slip into the side "seam" area or in a panel up the middle of the back.  My yarn is variegated and has a beautiful sheen, so I think I'm going to leave it alone and just use stockinette stitch.  If you have an idea and you aren't sure how to implement it, let me know and I'll help you out.

Knitting, Phase I: Sleeves

Sleeves are a major component of the design.  Do you want bell sleeves, fitted sleeves, 3/4 sleeves?  This is something you'll have to decide (along with how many stitches you want to start with.  The Seamless Hybrid is a hem-up sweater, so you start with the cuff measurement, but you'll want to figure out how big around that upper arm needs to be and how often/where you're going to increase to get there.  EZ gives some guidelines in the form of percentages, but I've learned that these have been modified over the years to suit evolving fashions and are really just meant as a guideline.  I'm kind of ignoring them, myself.

I want long sleeves for this jacket.  I am notorious for underestimating how cold it is outside and I want to be able to pull the cuffs down over my hands if the steering wheel is cold.  I don't want any special shaping, though - just simple and easy.  In my particular case, that means casting on 42 sts (I figured that out by doing some math with my gauge and sweater schematic) with my 4.0mm needles and knitting in 2x1 rib for 4" (ALWAYS GO DOWN A NEEDLE SIZE OR TWO WHEN RIBBING - otherwise your ribbing is going to be schlumpy).  Then, switching to 5.0mm needles and knitting in stockinette, increasing every 5 or 6 rows as EZ describes in the Seamless Hybrid pattern (except I'm so lazy, I didn't even count the rows) until I got to 66 sts (which is 14" - that's the measurement I wanted for the upper arm).  Then I stopped increasing and just knit straight until the sleeve measured 22.5" in length (total).  Easy peasy.  My sleeves aren't *exactly* the same (see reference to laziness above), but you can't tell.

And guess what?  I knit the sleeves first so that they act as insurance gauge swatches.  Turns out I got just a *little* tighter when I knit them up (it didn't affect the size of the sleeves, really) and I was able to adjust my gauge number as a result.  It means that I had to go back and adjust my numbers for the body of the sweater, but I'm fine with that.  Better safe than sorry.

(to be continued...)


  1. Soooo... how about I send you all my measurements and my gauge and you do the math, send back the results, and I knit the perfect sweater pour moi? Sweater design sounds so intimidating, but I imagine it's also a lot of fun. Reading your post was fun, and now I want you to knit really fast, 'cause I can't wait to see your finished jacket.

    Congrats on the new family member!