Monday, September 25, 2017

The Petite Interview Part 2

I really enjoyed doing an interview with Teresa Gregorio of Canary Knits this summer. It's always interesting how someone else's questions help to clarify one's own thinking on a particular topic. I'm going to put some of the interview I did back in July here on my own blog.  There's a lot to digest so this is the second of two posts.  

TG: Another challenge for petite women is that sizing standards assume our bodies are longer than they may actually be; we then have to make any horizontal (and vertical!) modifications in a truncated amount of space, compared to a regular-height knitter. Do you have any tips, advice, or resources you can suggest for petite women (of all ages and weights) with these sorts of issues?

RH: I think the most important thing is to first learn your own preferences and knit accordingly. I made this mistake many times early on. I looked at a great pattern photo, said “I want that” and plunged in without considering the details. If you’ve never worn a dolman sleeve sweater, don’t invest all the knitting time to create it before you know it will make you happy. Look at what is currently in your own closet and what you enjoy wearing. If it’s a silhouette new to you, try on a friends garment or go to a retail store and try the target style on to get a sense of what works.

If you are a petite, chances are you have already purchased clothing from a retailer who targets that segment of the clothing market. Measure those garments (especially the knits) and compare where they fit you and where they don’t. How much ease do you like? Do you prefer tailored styles or loose clothing which flows over the body?

You can continue to use patterns but be aware what you will need to spend time on adjustments. Knitter’s graph paper is your friend. You can print it out in the correct ratio and draw your garment or a specific problem area out.

My series here may be helpful.

Finally, remember you can experiment and make changes to a pattern, there are no knitting police!

TG: What sweater construction would you suggest for a petite person (particularly, one who may have to think about sleeve cap and depth?)

RH: I know many knitters become strong defenders of one form of construction over another. I think every type has its pros and cons. Each construction method can be adjusted to work with a specific body shape. It’s important to understand first what the end goal is in terms of fit and then to secondly address the technical challenges. As an example, often well-endowed petites find top down raglans a challenge because the classic design has an increase rate which makes the armholes too deep by the time the bust is large enough. My fix is to cast on more stitches on the front to increase the size there and I cast on more stitches at the underarm to solve the circumference problem and keep armhole depth appropriate.

TG: Would you suggest any sweater constructions to avoid in particular if you are petite and need to adjust sleeve depth or any other vertical measurements?

RH: No I don’t think we need to avoid any specific construction types, for me it’s more about shapes and silhouettes which are sometimes driven by the construction. I think we need to make sure that things are proportionally correct. I suspect we petites end up suspicious of some silhouettes because we try them on in regular sizes and feel overwhelmed by the extra length and the overly wide necklines and shoulders. Once those issues are resolved I don’t see the problems being specific to construction. 

I do sometimes see problems with the scale of design elements. A very wide cable panel may look different in relation to the overall sweater if it’s been shortened significantly. The rectangle which is the torso of our body does become squarer in nature for shorter women. Certain stitch patterns may not work if the canvas of the body isn’t big enough to carry them. However, I do want to emphasize this should be about pleasing yourself and being comfortable in your clothing not about addressing some perceived figure flaw. I would suggest knitters focus on a specific silhouette and work on several garments in that style and construction before moving on to another one. Each project will be incrementally better and you will learn faster.

TG: I love the discussion you outline in your post here:
“Most hand knitting patterns come in from 3 to about 7 sizes with no variation in length or figure type. There are many reasons for this simplification; several being due to cost, publication space, the difficulty of grading each size individually, the inability to have every size test knit as well as an industry that underpays designers. So what’s a knitter to do? I’m still thinking about this. As a designer I’m considering doing patterns that would target these specific markets but the question is would you buy them?” What would you suggest a petite knitter should do?

RH: My recommendation is the same for all knitters regardless of their fit challenges. If you want to knit garments, take the time to educate yourself on how to make changes to the pattern. Don’t just follow it blindly. One of the best things about making our own clothing is we can get exactly what we want if we are willing to invest in some trial and error experimentation.

TG: What fit resources can you recommend for petite knitters? (Anything! From knitting books/videos/classes/websites to information from crafts other than knitting like sewing manuals etc…)

RH: There are now an amazing number of easily accessible resources to help you through your journey to improve fit. If you don’t like one, just move on, another instructor might work better for you. Keep in mind different makers will have different approaches and they won’t always give you the same exact instructions. You don’t have to become a designer but understanding the processes involved will help you through making the necessary adjustments to an existing pattern. You will find lots of patterning making links on Pinterest and videos on Youtube.

As you know I have many resources on my blog which includes an index here.

I especially like this Peggy Sager explanation of length, circumference and depth as it relates to fit. The first 16 minutes of this video shows the process demonstrated.

Here’s the process for drafting a sleeve cap for woven fabric. Knits are simplified because they are symmetrical.

This site has some wonderful visuals explaining fit and ease.

I can highly recommend Shirley Paden’s book Knitwear Design Workshop: A Comprehensive Guide to Handknits and her Craftsy class Handknit Garment Design. If you are math phobic just ignore the segments on the magic formula and instead plot curves and angles visually on knitter’s graph paper as I show on my blog in the Pattern Drafting posts starting here.

This post is about Deborah Newton’s method for creating a muslin for hand knitting from T-shirt fabric. It’s for plus sizes but the basics still apply to petites.

TG: Do you know of any knitting designers who create patterns specifically for petite folks? (There are a few who do this for sewing, but I’ve yet to find someone who addresses the petite market in knitwear).

RH: I don’t. The most I’ve ever seen in a knitting pattern is in the instruction sections where the pattern will say to x inches or desired length. I do include this in my pattern notes: All length measurements included in the instructions are suggestions only and should be customized to suit the intended wearer.

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