Q for You: What do you modify?

Q for You: Do you modify knitting/sewing patterns?

If you read this blog, you know: I am a modifier. It’s exceptionally rare for me to sew or knit a pattern exactly as published. The other day, I got into a conversation with some friends about research a company had done about sewers and basic modifications like bust adjustments, length, etc., and they apparently found that almost nobody does that. One of the others in the conversation said, “What’s the point of making a muslin then?” To which I replied — as if I know this for certain, which I don’t — “People mostly don’t do that either.” (We can talk about the whole “wearable muslin” thing someday.) And I know from talking to so many knitters these past few years that many are loath to tamper with a pattern, even for the simplest of adjustments.

Then there are people like me who can never leave well enough alone. The first thing I do to any knitting pattern is mark all over it — crossing things out, writing in tweaks. My Knitters Graph Paper Journal (literally loved and used to tatters) is full of mod notes, redrawn charts, reworked necklines, re-sketched schematics and tweaked measurements. The first thing I look at in any schematic are the lengths of the body and sleeves, which I almost always tweak. (Sleeves are almost always too short for my arms; bodies are almost always too long for my liking.) If there’s waist shaping, I omit it. Every edging is reviewed for possible alternate treatments. Beyond that, it depends on the pattern. With sewing patterns, I’m most likely to hybridize sizes and redraw neckholes (which are almost always too gaping for me). To me, the main benefit of making my own clothes is this opportunity to customize the fit. But I know for a lot of people — maybe most people? — it’s more important to do what the pattern says and trust that it will come out correctly, if maybe not 100% perfectly fitted. There are definitely risks in tweaking, as well as rewards.

So that’s my Q for You this week: Do you modify patterns, and if so, what do you change? 


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Softness or durability?

82 thoughts on “Q for You: What do you modify?

  1. I used to be one that would never consider modifying any pattern, and figure if it didn’t fit then it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t until reading your amazing blog, and the blogs of other sewing pattern makers like Grainline Studios and Coletterie that I found the nerve to attempt pattern adjustments both in my knitting and sewing, and now I do it all of the time. For sewing patterns, it’s usually modifying between sizes and raising a neckline. For knitting patterns it’s usually shortening arm length or the length of the sweater itself. We are all shaped differently, so knowing how to do this has been very helpful and freeing! Also, there is a wealth of knowledge on the internet from like-minded people who thankfully share their experiences with fit and pattern modifications!

  2. My goodness… I’d like to know the name of that research company because I can point them to figuratively zillions of sewing bloggers who take loads of time to tweak patterns and make muslins. As a novice knitter, I am hesitant to modify anything for fear of getting in over my head. But as an experienced sewer, I’ll always muslin if it’s a “big 4” pattern or a totally new silhouette or from a pattern company that’s new to me. Regardless, I tweak the fit on nearly everything and am quite particular about shoulder widths, sleeve widths, rise shapes, etc… so I’m more like you, Karen, but only when I feel experienced enough to do it and confident in the outcome.

  3. I am 5’11” tall, nothing standard size fits me, so yes, I lengthen sleeves, body and if making yoke sweaters I add short rows to raise the back neck so I don’t choke!!

  4. Yes, I modify. The body is always too long so I tweak that. The sleeves are also always to long, so again, I shorten. I’m narrow shouldered so I also play with that and sometimes I simply want another collar or a different…something. So yes, I modify. And yes, my patterns are written all over.

  5. I always lengthen the sleeves and sometimes omit the body shaping. Right now, I’m working on a colorwork sweater (Ar Tresins) where I changed the yoke graph to make the trees standing right-side-up.

  6. I modify just about everything! With sweaters, it’s the length of the body and sleeves of course, as well as changing the positioning and rate of waist shaping. I will also often move in the shoulders. I have also started almost completely ignoring the sleeve instructions because I’ve found I like my sleeves much tighter than patterns usually dictate, especially at the forearms/cuff.

    I’m currently working on the Tambourine Cardigan from Pom Pom Quarterly, but I threw all the instructions out the window except the bobble chart. I’m making it top-down, following the principles set forward in Elizabeth Doherty’s Top-Down sweaters book, in order to achieve a better fit than I knew I would be able to with the original instructions.

  7. I’m new to knitting sweaters, but I’ve been modifying the length on sleeves and body. I’m short–5ft– so sleeves and body length are always too long. A big reason for making my own sweaters was so I could shorten the sleeves! I usually omit body shaping also.

  8. I think it comes down to confidence and an understanding of basic shaping principles – which a lot of us don’t get exposed to! I spent a lot of time teaching students about where things are ‘safe’ to adjust (without impacting other pieces). Some folks are wild to make adjustments, but haven’t thought through the consequences of the impact of those adjustments on other pieces (hello, armhole shaping and sleeve caps!). Others are too timid to try – which I totally understand, given the weeks and months you put into a knitted garment!

    I think it also comes down to the speed with which sewn pieces come together, and the relative obviousness when pieces won’t fit together – right away. As a relatively new sewist, I’m always tickled when I can draft a new neckline for a piece and sew it in the same day!

    Right now with sewing, I’m making ‘hacks’ or hybrids of my favorite pieces. And for the record, muslins have been a total life-saver as I try new skills and new patterns. (Not suprising that I’m pro-muslin – I’m FOREVER encouraging knitters to swatch! Amazing how many don’t consider swatching and blocking necessary steps in the process to making a garment.)

    • I’m sorry I haven’t taken your class. I’m a frustrated sewer that is making muslins and trying to modify them. I feel like Frankenstein. Apparently my but size and shoulder size have nothing in common. I’ve done a FBA and narrowed the shoulder but it still isn’t right. Any books or sites you would recommend?

      • Francis – It sounds like you could benefit from making a sloper – a master Francis pattern – that can guide you in modifications of future garments. Ixtle mentions this below. Wish I could recommend a book. I think KT mentioned taking a class on this from Lisle Gibbons? Best of luck – stick with it.

  9. Usually I eliminate the waist shaping. Who wants to emphasize their cupcake top?!! Sometimes the neckline is too low to suit me, so that’s adjusted too. I like bracelet length sleeves and semi-cropped lengths. So I guess it’s basically writing my own pattern. Once I figure out the measurements and settle on a pattern stitch or two then all falls in to place.

  10. I no longer sew, but I knit all the time, and absolutely I modify everything, always. I am short, narrow of shoulder, over-endowed in the bust, waistless and narrow hipped: not a standard size. All measurements are adjusted, always. I know that I look best in sweaters with well fitted shoulders and setin sleeves: no top down raglans for me, so I often totally restructure the bodice. The pattern, which I am perfectly willing to pay for (up to $10, given the circumstances) is just a jumping off point for me; in the end, I am knitting “in the spirit of…”.( Plus, I often change the gauge to something that suits the yarn on hand, so all the numbers are recalculated.)

    I print my patterns out from Ravelry and write all over them, taking notes on every change. I file all of these away in a binder for future reference, should I want to make something “in the spirit of” again

  11. I modify wherever necessary because I know what is right for me. Raglans become set in, necklines become vee or rounded square shape, waist shaping goes in, lengths of sleeves and body adjusted – even pattern repeats modified to suit my preferences. For me, the pattern design is the starting point. It’s not ready to wear (which has its own set of modifications…), it’s a “pattern” – place to begin.

  12. I have yet to muster the courage to modify! I seem to fit into standard sizes, clothes or knits alike. So I don’t feel the need to modify. But I plan to be a bit more adventurous and use patterns as a template for some ideas I have, and knit something truly personal. The only time I did this was when I turned the Flax pattern into a colorblock sweater. I had to knit most of the body flat and seam, since I used intarsia. It was an interesting experience, I clearly would love to do more of that.

  13. I don’t usually make heavy modifications, mostly because there are SO many patterns available that I’m usually able to find something pretty close to what I want to make in the first place. Typically I’ll modify sleeve length (sleeves are rarely long enough for my taste) and add waist shaping if I think a sweater needs it.
    I did make the Beekman Tavern pullover and modified the neckline to be a big cowl instead of what was already there. I love it.
    (This was featured on Knitted Bliss, too!)

    • Dear Fake Woman (ha!), That sweater is gorgeous and your cowl method is very clever. I don’t usually like cowls but this one is a beauty.

      • Haha thanks! I forgot I’d written the fake woman comment in that post until your reply :)

  14. Great question! I am a compulsive modifier! I sew and knit – I do both quite seriously – and I will not make something without modifying it to suit the needs of my body. (And my body is in mid-40s flux so my alterations have changed lately.) I am a short, narrow person with small bones, a narrow back, and proportionately large breasts. I have a true hourglass shape but I’ve thickened in the middle in the last couple of years (I’m convinced it’s temporary but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to sew or knit for my current body…) I always size for the shoulders and modify for the bust – and inevitably I need to narrow shoulders even more than the pattern drafts for. I also have to modify many of my vertical measurements because I need a very high armscye (made more necessary given my bust size), a shorter waist, and a shorter hem. I also modify design elements whenever I feel like it. No point in being creative if I’m not going to apply it :-)

  15. The more comfortable I get, the more I modify, though what I change depends on what I’m doing (sewing or knitting).

    Knitting: Socks always get modified for my preferred heel and toe and length. When I knit sweaters I always change at least the body and arm length (rarely are they the length I prefer), and often work projects at different gauges than they’re written for (often because of yarn choice), which requires further reworking of stitch counts to get the fit I want. And I’ve cover to realize that I like the back neck higher than the front, so if a pattern doesn’t include short rows or another method to make that happen, I add it in.

    Sewing: I almost always have to do an FBA and then take in the waist. I also find most armscyes way too low for me, so I often trace the armhole depth of a something a few sizes smaller to get the proper shape. I also almost always change the length, whether because I want the overall garment to have different dimensions or because I want to change the way it’s hemmed.

    Making modifications to sewing patterns is scarier for me, since if I screw it up there’s no guarantee of fixing it, which can get expensive quickly. I do make muslins, but only in a loose sense. I rarely finish them in the proper way, instead making enough of the garment to test a hypothesis and then, once I have my answer, either going back to the tissue to tweak it before cutting into my “real” fabric or just going after my real fabric with no changes. Sometimes I do then go back and finish the muslin, since I try to sew them in fabric that I like in case things work out (seems like such a waste to sew a bunch of garments destined, basically, for the garbage).

  16. I used to follow knitting patterns religiously, because I lacked knowledge and confidence to deviate from them. Also, I lacked time for experimentation. I’m retired now and am more process-oriented than results-focused, and more willing to try something that may have to be ripped back. Also, I am quick to make adjustments, especially applying techniques I think are better. Sometimes patterns are just plain WRONG, but one would not know for sure without experience.

  17. I’m petite so discovering the petite modification, where you print the sewing pattern at reduced scale, really re-sparked my love for sewing clothes. It’s the first modification I do. I guess my style is modest, I tend to always raise the neckline of any project or try to make it crew-neck somehow. I get mixed results, but it’s always fun to try!

  18. I never followed a garment knitting pattern religiously, for my first sweater I started by using thinner yarn, so I made the next size up. This garment was definitively an eye opener for me, it was a A-line sweater and after finishing it I saw that A-line sweaters don’t suit me at all.
    So for this first garment I learned how to add both bust darts and waist shapping. After this I only followed pattern directions for armscye, neckline and shoulder shaping, modifying everything else, nowadays I modify even that. My knit garments might look similar to the pattern pictures, but the way I knit them usually is very different.
    On sewing I’m not yet very comfortable making changes. I usually lower bust darts an inch or so on every garment, but other than that I usually don’t change anything. I take a look at the finished garment dimensions, and choose a size that doesn’t add excessive ease to my size, usually it’s the next size down (I don’t like the oversize style). The latest muslin I made was for a shirt pattern of one of the big sewing pattern companies, as I’m used to indie sewing patterns I wanted too give the fit and construction a try before jumping in with two feet. I found out that the construction could be made easier on some of the pieces, and that I needed to go two sizes down for the shoulder and shorten the back. When I don’t make a muslin I usually pin the pattern pieces at the appropriate seam allowances and put them against my body, just to check if the overall fit would be ok.

  19. Modifying is something I want to get better at, actually. I almost always add length to sleeves and add or subtract length to the body, depending on the style. I sometimes change neck styles.

  20. oh yes, i absolutely modify knitting patterns. (i don’t sew, but i’m seriously considering learning how.) i almost always have to lengthen the sleeves, as well as the body. i’m not as comfortable changing necklines, but there are definitely occasions when i’d like to. also, i almost always use a different yarn than the one specified, so i sometimes have the completely wrong gauge and have to re-work the numbers to make it work for me.

  21. Sewing-always! Switch necklines, sleeves,pockets. Knitting-sleeve and body length most always. I am a “fly by the seat of my needles” person. I do it as I go and usually am happy with results.

  22. If I can add something, I think whether you tend to modify also depends on the body for which you are sewing or knitting. If you have a body that’s pretty close to the ‘standard’ that patterns are made for, it’s more likely the pattern as-is will fit you fine. But if you know you have a short torso or long arms or ample chest, then the appropriate modifications are in order. So I just want to throw this other variable into it too–it’s not just confidence of crafter, but body shape that determines whether you modify.
    My unresolved issue is that a lot of knitted pullover patterns, mostly the in-the-round ones, have neck holes that are too wide/open. I always try to take the neckline higher up, but it sometimes interferes with the sweater construction. But does anyone know why that is? Once I started looking, it’s all over the place. I don’t want a winter wool sweater with an exposed neck.

  23. Yes, I almost always modify my knits, I think I feel more comfortable with this than sewing adjustments (maybe because they’re more reversible). I always lengthen bodices and sleeves (which often means more yarn than the pattern calls for :P) and I actually always add waist shaping when there isn’t, even if it’s subtle. I’ve started to alter my cast ons and bind offs too depending on how I want it to look and stretch.

  24. I have been sewing for about 3 years and I just started knitting. It has been a little frustrating because you put in a whole bunch of work and then it just doesn’t look right. I just recently completed my slopers and that changed everything!!!! Now I rely on my slopers to adjust patterns and I don’t really have to make a muslin as I know any adjustments will be minor……its a LOT more fun. As a bonus, my sloper for knits comes in useful for knitting as I can compare the knitted piece to it and get an idea of how it will fit. Thanks for your wonderful blog, I enjoy it with my coffee in the morning!

  25. The only thing I’ve ever knit and it modified (I think) was a sweater for someone across the country. And I think I haven’t made any changes to the shawl I’m working on :P
    I’ve been known to rewrite entire patterns; top down flat with raglan shapinh to bottom up in the round with a circular yoke, anyone?

  26. Always, always lengthen the sleeves and, for pants and long dresses, the length there too. I am tall with long limbs. Sewing and knitting is the only way to get a long sleeved garment that fits.

  27. After struggling to modify knitting patterns for years and never feeling I was really nailing it I had a brainwave – modify my body (i.e. loose those last 10 pounds) and knit things as written. I feel better, have more energy to knit, make a smaller size and so spend less on yarn and virtually everything fits really easily and well. I couldn’t change my height or the length of my arms/torso though so I do still play with sleeve and sweater length.

  28. I tweak everything (just about) that I make because I’m compelled. Maybe its earlier years of following patterns (in all areas of life) very carefully so they’d come out “right.” And now I have more confidence with my creating skills and want better fit, a more artsy look, a smoother finish. Exception (as mentioned by others: following a new, complex pattern that I’m not familiar with. But then again, I’ll invariably tweak some tiny thing so as not to be dominated by the pattern… ;)

  29. I totally modify everything and used to never make a muslin. I’m sloooowly training myself to make them after years of trying to trick myself that an ill-fitting ‘wearable muslin’ was worth the time and fabric to make. With knitting, I have zero compunction frogging a completely made sweater and starting over if it doesn’t fit, so I never do a test-run with knit garments (other than a swatch), and I never knit the same thing twice.

    Depending on the pattern company or silhouette, I’ll do fit adjustments (like full bust, adjusting arm/body length, armscye depth, etc.). With knitting patterns, I always swap in techniques that I prefer — like twisted rib and tubular bind-off — and I’ll almost always play around with different stitch patterns.

  30. I haven’t been sewing for a number of years, but the first mod to every project (always on a budget) was lopping off at least a 1/4 yd of fabric from the envelope info for all the shortening to follow and knowing I could jam my small size pieces more closely together. In knitting, I like sweaters to hang without clinging and have started using waist shaping to transition from my small upper to my (getting) larger lower. Even scarves and hats get modified.

  31. I’m surprised that no one does it either! I always modify patterns and with sewing I think I’ve only bought about 3 patterns in my life! Normally i just make my own patterns based on my own measurements and I’ve been sewing around 12 years now! With knitting and crochet I mainly alter size if I need too but I do t have an awful lot of experience/confidence in knitting or crochet yet to change it greatly!

  32. I think I take a pattern more as an idea or a suggestion. I typically change the yarn, the way it’s constructed (I like to knit top down or bottom up in one piece, not in separate pattern pieces). On my most current sweater in-progress I changed the base pattern to another cardigan entirely and only kept the color work chart, added a steek and changed from 3 to 4 colors in the colorwork. I’m really happy with it, my only concern is that I might run out of yarn!

  33. I always make adjustments to sleeves. I’m 5’2″ and need to shorten sleeves, hems, and pant legs – even petite. As my body matures, I’m finding that I need even more modifications. I’m finally confident enough, and experienced enough to make adjustments in my knitting without fear.

  34. I’m new to sewing and I take a class with a very experienced instructor and yes, we modify every pattern to fit me. We haven’t made a muslin but I baste all the seams, try it on and modify from there. I’m relatively tall, so we add to the waist before cutting. So far, it’s worked out great and everything fits perfectly.
    I’ve been a knitter for years and I do modify for length mostly. Everything else I pretty much follow the pattern but I can kind of tell as I’m knitting if other mods need to be made.

  35. I almost always modify sleeve length (an inch or two longer), torso length (2 inches shorter) and bust (front needs 2 inches more than back). Pants I leave the seat alone, but modify length (I like them long and have long legs and arms for a short person). Sewing, I also widen upper arm to accomodate unladylike musculature. Being able to get a garment that actually fits is one of the main reasons I sew.

  36. I’m a modifier, can’t ever do just what a pattern instructs. And I’m afraid I’m terribly judgmental of people who sew their own clothes without bothering to make fit adjustments – what’s the point of spending all that time making something and having it fit as poorly as RTW?! I’m no expert but I’m starting to feel like I know a few small alterations that virtually every sewing pattern needs to work a bit better on me – raising all waist shaping by 2.5-5cm, adding about 1cm just below armhole for more room in the bust (if not doing a proper FBA), a 1cm forward shoulder, and for dresses usually taking quite a lot out of the hips. I don’t do so much knitting, but I’m just working on a Casco Bay cardigan and I’ve put in a couple of increases across the front for extra boob room.

  37. Ha. Yes! Case in point, I just sewed Samatha Lamb’s, “West Water Tunic” (Squam), and added a placket on the mid-back! Thoughts just pop into my head when I use a pattern for handwork, and I love the process of tweaking. It makes it feel more personal to me. GREAT post. Thanks for the good read.

    • BTW, I just used my photo that shows your Field Bag for my blog post today. I love that Field Bag. I was excited to see that you also posted today :).

  38. It has been a long time since I have sewn a garment. In my knitting, I mostly modify length of sleeves (I am on the edge of petite, so most sleeves are too long) and length (I am at the age where I like some coverage in the hip area).

    I need to go back to making skirts…but I detest hemming (I guess because I would like a person to assist me with the pinning; I don’t mind the sewing bit.).

  39. Depending on the fit of a sweater, I almost always have to add short-rows for a FBA and about ½” or so to the sleeve length. I’m a tad long-waisted so I usually add about an inch to cardigans, otherwise they tend to look skimpy on me. I make these same alterations to sewing patterns. And when I knit for my husband, I have to allow for his skinny waist, broad shoulders and long arms. Socks are no different: he’s got average calves, skinny ankles but a big instep. Talk about high maintenance. ;) The good news, though, is that he loves it when I knit for him and doesn’t seem to mind that yarn comes in the mail with regularity.

  40. I make a lot of modifications to my knitting. I have a very loose relationship with patterns–sometimes I just skim the pattern for the most useful bits and improvise everything else; sometimes I rewrite or diagram the instructions based on the changes I know I want to make. Beyond that, I swap out necklines and other design details, play with fit and proportion, and use techniques I’ve learned in other places. I’ve also gotten to the point where I swatch to find the gauge that looks and feel best for the yarn and stitch pattern I’m using. If that gauge doesn’t match the pattern, then I’ll just modify the pattern to make it work for my preferred gauge.

    I make modifications in my sewing, but fewer and with less confidence. Right now, I mostly just make simple fit adjustments to sewing patterns. But I’ve only been sewing a very short amount of time compared to how long I’ve been knitting, so I have a narrower range of skills, techniques, and knowledge that I’m working with. There are some modifications that I don’t feel comfortable making and some that I don’t even think to make because they’re just not on my radar yet. And really, my confidence in making the modifications that I do at this point largely comes from the skills I’ve already developed as a knitter.

  41. Sleeves. Always too long. When is someone going to create an app where one can plug in a pattern, one’s gauge and measurements and voila!? Raglanify is awesome but……..sometimes I want a cardi or another type of sleeve. Is it already out there and I have not found it?????

  42. I’m glad you wrote this post. I think there’s two reasons knitters think this is ok: 1) we’re honestly used to stuff not fitting us perfectly – since everything is store-bought these days, I’m not sure anyone is used to having stuff actually fit us perfectly, which means we notice it less when it doesn’t. 2) This one’s more personal: it’s honestly just easier to not have to think about what to do on a pattern to make it different.

    I infrequently modify. When I do, it’s usually to account for my H cup twins or the instep of socks since most socks will be too wide for my feet.

    Recently, I modified the instructions of a shirt I’m knitting to avoid sewing together stepped bind offs in a pattern by using a short row trick I found on Pinterest.

  43. I don’t sew clothes anymore because I just couldn’t get the fit I wanted from the time invested. I modify knitting patterns all the time, however, usually because I’m working with a yarn gauge other than what the designer spec’d in the pattern. Also, it’s just more fun to change things up a bit. And knitted garments are more forgiving than sewn garments for size adjustments.

  44. i too always tweak a printed pattern. i tend to rely more on the photos of the garment and then just work it in the round so that i can adjust the fit as i go. I usually need more width at the base of sweaters and less bust shaping. This means if working from the top down I will make fewer bust measurements, decreasing so the waist is a bit higher and then work the increases for the base of the sweater faster to accommodate my wider bottom half. I will change flat knitting patterns to in the round knitting patterns almost every time. Anything that i can do to avoid seaming. Though I am an avid stitcher of garments I don’t like sewing when it comes to knitwear and therefore will adjust accordingly.

  45. I almost always modify. I prefer knitting in the round, so that’s the first mod. Sometimes I’ll change from bottom up to top down. Shorter sleeves maybe and yeah, ignore any waist shaping. Depending of course. I might also adjust for gauge or to change the size.

  46. I don’t feel experienced enough to intentionally modify patterns. I sometimes modify out of necessity because I made an error and need to figure out how to correct. Do you have a tutorial on what are and how to do the top five modifications? I learned a lot from your famous sweater tutorial–have you thought of video taping this sort of tutorial? Now that would be cool!

  47. Sewing, I draft all my patterns myself because I hate modifying existing patterns more than I hate drafting them :)

    Knitting, well, I am a sucker for pretty patterns, particularly Brooklyn Tweed. But I just look at the pretty photos and maybe copy the stitch pattern or details. Everything else I modify to match my absolute-favorite-ever sweater, which died about five years ago but which I keep around just so I can measure it whenever I need.

    All of this definitely used up a ton of fabric and yarn while I was learning.

  48. Such great input here.

    I have been dabbling in sewing on and off for about 10 years, always making and tweaking muslins. I’ve rarely actually made it to a finished garment though! I figure that it’s all learning and I’ll get there eventually. Maybe I just like the journey better?

    Anyway, I feel like it is only recently that I have started to really understand my body’s dimensions and that is absolutely the key to modifications – knowing what to modify!

    My recommendation for sewing alterations is palmer pletsch ‘fit for real people’ and for knitting is to use Amy herzog’s CustomFit (all the calculations done for you – hooray!)

    • I love that CustomFit exists and works for many, but (surprise) their algorithms don’t account for my shape. There’s always another outlier, I guess! Talking with CF’s lovely and helpful staff was the last nudge I needed to sit down and go through the numbers myself. I’m finally near the end of the first cardigan ever to fit my thick, wide, bony shoulders without a ton of sag in the torso, and it’s taken me several years of ripping back to get there.

      Yes, knowing what to modify. Nina’s remark about people not knowing how badly RTW items fit is true. Some knitting-modification advice starts with measuring a garment that fits you well. If everything you have is a poor compromise, nothing you measure will work unless you already know exactly what you’re doing. I sure didn’t.

      • (I should add, some women with broad shoulders ought to do fine with CustomFit. Jackie, who models some of their garments, has broad shoulders. But apparently mine break the bank, since I would have to feed the software false numbers….)

  49. Great question! I ALWAYS modify, now. I studied the human shape and how garments fit under a master tailor. Even 2 people the same height & weight are not shaped alike. For the best fit, and for the most comfort patterns should be tweaked for the intended wearer.

  50. I modify my knitting for gauge and yarn type / weight, sleeve and body length. For someone who is not a fan of maths, I end up doing quite a lot when knitting garments.

    In regards to sewing, I’m in the midst of a major “learn to modify patterns”jaunt. I just ordered “Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear” by Winifred Aldrich so that I my mods are more likely to turn out as planned. I find summer garments are easier to fudge, but sewing winter clothes seems to be a little more exact.

  51. I can’t sew well enough yet to modify things that I sew, but I make simple mods to knitted sweaters. I frequently add length to the body and shorten the sleeves (I like 3/4 length sleeves). I’ll also change the trims – I often substitute twisted rib for regular ribbing on a hem, because my ribbing mostly looks sloppy to me, and I hate hate hate rolling stockinette collars or cuffs of hems, so always change them to something that lays flat (often garter but maybe seed stitch). My most recent sweater, I used a different yarn so made gauge adjustments along the way. Usually, though, if a sweater doesn’t work for me I’ll just find a different pattern – there are so many gorgeous patterns out there, and the designers have much better construction and math skills than I do.

  52. I think I knit like I bake- not without making adjustments. Which is great for my baking, since I have well honed skills and I live at high altitude (Colorado) and you have to adjust anyway. But my knitting skills might be growing, but I’m not quite there yet. And my propensity to think I need to adjust is there in full force. The upside- I’ll learn, if I’m patient with myself. This week’s blog on my ins and rip-outs in knitting- http://lovelyyarnescapes.blogspot.com/2016/05/eclectic-thoughts-keeping-on.html

  53. I have only been knitting for less than a year, but right away I found that one of my favorite things to do is modify, tweak, and get in over my head with a project so that I could learn new things–to me it is one of the best parts of knitting!

  54. This blog gave me the confidence to modify. I’ve only been knitting for a couple of years and although I kept looking at patterns and thinking ‘ I wish that was longer’ or ‘ that would suit me better if it had more shape’ but I thought that I wasn’t skilled enough to go off pattern. But you seemed to make the idea so reasonable I modified my last sweater and it was very successful. My partner even made a comment about how good the fit is! This was a top down and now I am modifying a seamed sweater ( I contemplated modifying it so it was seamless but chickened out!)

    So my modifications so far have been making things longer in the body and sleeves and giving my waist more definition.

  55. I’m always modifying. The sleeves are always too long and I usually omit the fitted waist.

  56. I prefer DK to worsted weight yarn so I often do the math to change that. As I learn different techniques I substitute them like the sloped bind off which gives a nicer neckline. I’ll shorten sleeves and lengthen bodies too

  57. I made my first sewing modification in 8th grade: I was making a dress for the 8th grade dance: a chartreuse cotton blend with flocked mushrooms (yes, it was stunning!). But after modifying for my already insane-waist-to-hip ratio, I found that the front waist was pouching over what was then a flat belly. Consulted my friend’s mother, a seamstress. We ripped the side seams, cut the front of the dress in half horizontally at the waist to eliminate the excess fabric, sewed it back together and then made a mock self-belt with plastic mother-of-pearl buckle to hide the seam. I was the belle of the ball.

    Since then, I have never hesitated to modify any kind of stitches: sleeve length (shorter), hips (bigger), waist shaping or back darts because despite menopause, my waist-to-hip ratio remains hourglass at best. I’ve stuck in a couple of inches of ribbing at the backwaist of sweaters so they will have enough fabric to go over the hips but not flop around the waist, short-rows for a bust-line, etc. Enough mad arithmetic skills to adjust for gauge and different yarns.

    It’s totally okay, chicken friends. Just do it . . .

  58. I’ve knitted short-row bust darts into the last three sweaters I’ve made–one for me, one for my petite but large-busted daughter-in-law, and one for my sister. Adding that extra shaping in the bust was a big success. Took the measurements, did the math, charted the short rows and they looked great. I’ve always made length adjustments, accommodated gauge differences. I figure if you’re going to take the time to knit a garment you want to end up happy with it. And that often depends on planning well and modifying where necessary.

  59. I learned to k nit as a child and mad a few things in HS and college but haven’t really done anything for years. I returned to knitting with a vengeance this year (4 kid’s sweaters so far) and it’s like a light bulb went out. I modify everything. I got a copy of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting without Fear and it liberated me. 2 sweaters were self drafted and I made a Wallaby sweater in which I changed the yarn size. It came out great. Currently knitting a Drops pattern which I think will be the most I’ve done exactly like the pattern. Have a few ideas and they are mash ups of several patterns. I sew a bunch. Used to do custom sewing but now only sew for love and I modify everything. I believe in getting basic patterns and using them to make all kinds of styles. Example: I have an indy pattern for a girls dress that is basically a peasant top with a fancy skirt. I can lengthen the top to a dress, attach all kinds of skirts, and so on. I will most likely never buy another peasant top type pattern for girls again (and so many designs are based on this style). For myself, I do a lot of measuring and find I have to alter things for length at least (I’m short) but making the pattern up in an inexpensive fabric acts as a muslin. I’d never use a precious fabric without being sure the fit would be perfect.

  60. Oh goodness. Figure 8 here. I lengthen the body and arms, add extra waist shaping, and widen the hips by at least half if not a whole additional size. I’m slightly more reticent to mess with necks. I’ll adjust the width or depth, but not usually the shape. I also tend to prefer either a raglan or set in sleeve, so I’ll make that adjustment if necessary. Graph paper is definitely my friend.

  61. There’s a 13″ difference between my hips and my waist. I’ll knit a size up for the bottom and do custom waist/bust shaping to get to the correct size for my bust and then I shorten the armscye since I’m short between my bust point and my shoulder. My last set in sleeve sweater ended up fitting everywhere except the shoulder, so I think I need to do some sort of narrow shoulder adjustment. Then because I’ve shortened the armscye, I also have to shorten the sleeve cap or I end up with puff sleeves. I don’t knit bottom up sweaters for myself, because it’s so hard to customize fit on the upper body. I will do top-down since I can try on as I go and monkey with it as much as I need to. I will also adjust for gauge

  62. When needed, I modify for fit.

    Otherwise, I’ll modify, say, a basic v-neck sweater by doing cabled sleeves, or color-block a dress, or do the collar or closures differently, or whatnot. If I’m going to felt a piece, then I knit up large swatches in pattern, then felt them to see how much I have to add to the stitch count so that I end up with the right sized garment.

  63. Ever since I started sewing in the mid-1960’s, I’ve had to shorten the waist. At the time, I thought it was a nuisance; now I look back with nostalgia to when that was ALL I had to do! I no longer look good in fitted clothes, so I haven’t made a muslin lately except for the time I had to make a sari blouse to go to my nephew’s wedding. I do have to watch the sleeve measurements, and sometimes shorten them. As far as knitting goes, I might, if it’s a typical straight up-and-down pullover, create a bit of an A-line shape by increasing the needle size from the waist down, and I sometimes change necklines. At the moment I am more or less copying a sweater I liked in a catalogue. I am using a friend’s design for a dainty little short-sleeved v-neck cardi and turning it into a sweeping, oversized cardi with a deeper v-neck, different sleeves and pockets.

  64. I wish someone would write a book on how to modify knitting and sewing patterns for plus sizes…some patterns have the extended sizes….but a lot end at large or xl…

  65. I teach knitting and crochet. All my students know that I consider most patterns a suggestion. Lace and cables may get a bit more respect, but once you start playing,it’s hard to stop.

  66. I don’t feel confident enough to make significant changes. I do make some simple changes but since I am mathematically challenged I don’t trust what I am doing. I envy those who can look at a pattern and spot something that might work better if done another way, etc.

  67. Most of the time, when I modify a knitting pattern it is by mistake – I misread the directions, or one of my starting ingredients (yarn, needles, gauge) doesn’t match the pattern and so I have to wing it/re-math/figure out what set of numbers to follow. I am more likely to find a workaround than to undo my knitting.

    For sewing patterns, I’ll leave off a detail like the ruffly sleeve cuffs or change it to a hi-lo hem, or change the hem to a split hem. Sometimes I’ll scale the whole pattern up by a little to make the sleeves fit better. I have not tried a FBA, although I probably will some day.

    Also, I’ll do things like take a formula (like for a 7 panel gored skirt) and try it. Frankly, I’m in the crafting for the engineering/tinkering most of the time.

  68. I have started to modify my knitting after I had to frog a cardigan and sweater as they were too big for me. I knit my first yoke down sweater from a bottom up design to help me find the stitches I needed to knit the same sweater the way the pattern was written. Working too down meant I could try on as I knit plus I saved wool as I didn’t need top the recommended amount due to my alterations. I used to knit exactly as the pattern but now I have discovered why knitting didn’t fit as it should I am trying to learn more accurate ways to adjust as it really does help when something fits correctly.

    The measurements used by designers seem to have increased above my size leaving adjustments something I am going to have to continue to do. Swatching has become vital to me and it as something I used to ignore.

  69. I hardly ever work through a garment sewing endeavor without modifying. My daughter (age 2) is unusually tall, so I lengthen nearly everything I make her. I am also tall, but in particular my torso is crazy long. One of the things I love so much about sewing my clothes is that I can finally get the length/coverage I want out of garments. I haven’t done as much in the bust adjustment department, mostly because I am attracted to oversized garments where it doesn’t matter so much to adjust fit in those ways, but I am getting brave and plan to try it this year.

  70. Pingback: Q for You: Are you a process knitter or product knitter? | Fringe Association

  71. Pingback: When and why I modify – Speckledblue

  72. I always modify! Like you the arms are usually too short & being a bigger gal, I have to change waist lines & such. I also hate most necklines… either I’m falling out of the garment or slowly choked to death… but, I don’t knit(teaching myself isn’t going anywhere) but I do crochet & sew everything from clothes to toys & jewelry to home decor. I often find patterns with various design elements that I like & incorporate these into other patterns… I think of patterns more as an example of something that I can make my own by altering. If I am not familiar with a certain technique, it’s nice to have instructions to learn…

Comments are closed.