Monday, December 3, 2012

Why are Knitters Afraid to Adjust the Fit?

Knitters and sewers differ greatly on their attitude to pattern adjustments. I have a sewing background so it is an automatic process for me to adjust anything I knit for myself to optimum fit. It is important to do this as garments that do not fit, often draw attention to the parts of our figure that we may not want others to focus on. As an example, I have short arms. Most observers do not notice that unless I wear overly long sleeves. When I buy garments I often choose 3/4 length sleeves or long sleeves that have cuffs that can be folded back. Well endowed women usually don't want clothing that stretches tightly over their bust-line because it emphasizes that feature.

So what is the difference between the two skill sets? In sewing, you take fabric, cut it into pieces that are sewn together to form the garment.  When knitting, you are creating the fabric stitch by stitch in the shape of pattern pieces which are then sewn together with more yarn, or in some cases the item can be knit in one piece, for example a top down raglan with knit in bands. In both cases you start from a flat pattern draft. The basic concepts of garment fitting are the same in both disciplines.

It is very clear to me that knitters frequently don't want to take on the challenge of fitting yet I hear many complaints about how patterns don't fit. What I have been trying to sort out is why is there such a big difference between sewers and knitters? Sewers rarely complain about pattern fit, they just accept that our bodies are all unique and that fitting adjustment will be required. So where is the disconnect for knitters?

Is it education? Sewers also learn their skills working on simple projects that don't depend on fit. In sewing classes, first projects are commonly a draw string bag or a pillow cover, then sewers move onto simple tops and skirts.

I don't think the three main learning styles are at play here. If you are a visual, auditory or tactile learner there are both knitting and sewing learning opportunities in all three areas.

Is it possible that knitters focus on skills at the expense of concepts and that sewers focus on both? I don't have an answer to this. I'm just trying to answer the question so that I can sort out how to best help students and the readers of this blog. If you have any ideas about this topic please help me by commenting on your experiences.


  1. Coud it be that with knitting it seems there is more math involved in adjusting a pattern to make it fit? We need to adjust individual stitches versus changing a line around a sewing pattern. I know it is not that simple, and tailoring can be very complicated, but there does seem to be more math involved in knitting adjustments which may scare some folks away.

  2. I have absolutely no sewing experience, and the idea of changing the pattern for fit would be terrifying. Especially since once you cut the fabric that's it. No unraveling and re doing. I adjust my knitting constantly, and I think its half the fun!
    However, I read constantly on the subject of sweater design, have attended 3 courses on the subject online and in person, and have more books on knitting than my local library. So maybe its just a matter of continued education. You can't say all sewers accept fitting adjustments while knitters do not. I know people who sew who do shy away from fit adjustment: they are still learning.
    Ditto for the knitters who "don't make sweaters."
    Another factor might be gauge, too. You can make all the adjustments you think you need but if your swatch was off guess who's going to have a sweater for an elephant.

  3. “So where is the disconnect for knitters?”
    Here are some observations that I encountered:
    - Knitting math is the big issue and must be educated. Many knitters just ignore this issue and do not understand the implications.
    - Sticking to an illusion that if the gauge is the same, pattern will automatically fit.
    - Disobeying tactile and stretch factor – let’s say in general that most fabrics for sewing do not stretch, and also in general: shaping can instantly be tried-on on body which makes sewing more predictable in process of reproduction. Knitted garments are not that predictable and not instantly available for try-on. For many knitters is beyond imagination if they have to shape something that is not tactile as a whole.
    - Missing of the “big picture”: If the pattern does not contain the picture of shaping with finished and blocked measurements & stitch count per row, lot of knitters would not be able to visualize just on base of the written pattern and would be disoriented about the right point where to make the adaptions.
    - To coordinate so many complex factors at the same time is for many knitters just too overwhelming process, which often spoils the primary interest for knitting as a process of “doing something that relax”. This double constraint is an issue in each knitting project.

  4. I come from a sewing background too, and on the courses I took adjustment was just part of the process. There are a lot of 'how to knit' classes around here but maybe because I've never felt the need to go I haven't looked into the more advanced knitting courses. I learnt it all myself, scouring through books and knitting squares, teaching myself new techniques. I think a lot of knitters just want to get stuck in and follow a pattern, and they're pleased that they've created a garment from several balls of yarn. I agree with all the other comments that it's a lot to do with the maths, and knitters need to be at a particular level (not just following instructions) to have the courage to adjust things. For me it came naturally, but I know a lot of people that have to follow a pattern stitch for stitch. I'm not sure what the fear is about either.