Q for You: What’s your picky fit detail?

Q for You: What's your picky fit detail?

I’m pretty sure we all have a pet peeve or two, garment-wise — the little fit detail that can make the difference between most-worn and never-worn. Last weekend, I was posting on Instagram all the gory details of how I’m nailing down the exact length of the sleeves on this vanilla cardigan. Sleeves and neck shaping are the two potential deal-breakers for me. I can’t stand a garment that shifts around on me during the day, requiring me to tug at the neckline all the time, and same goes for sleeves. I want them out of my way, which means they’re either pushed up or rolled up most of the time. If a cuff is too wide to stay put when they’re pushed up — creating that perpetual push-and-slide scenario — I might actually lose my mind. And if they puddle on my hands when they’re pulled down, I definitely will. As I said the other day, I find this matter of sleeve length just that much more important on an oversized sweater like this. I want this cardigan to be nice and slouchy; I don’t want to look (or feel) like I’m swimming in it.

For me, that difference can be like a half an inch, and even though I have a blocked swatch and correct gauge and good math and preferred dimensions and all of that, no two sweaters sit or hang on the body precisely the same way. So since this one is top-down, what I’ve done is knitted one sleeve to just before the bind-off point and blocked it. Once I put it on, it was easy to see that it’s 6 or 7 rows too long — it already covers the top of my hand even without the bind-off row, whereas I want it to hit right at my wrist bone. So I’m ripping back the sleeve to 7 rows before the cuff, redoing the ribbing, and then it should be perfect. And I won’t have to worry about being institutionalized over a sleeve! It’s an easy enough thing to nail, and worth taking a minute to get it right.

So that’s my Q for You today: What’s the make-or-break fit detail for you — whether it’s a hat, socks, sweaters, whatever — and what do you do (or do you?) to get it just so?


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33 thoughts on “Q for You: What’s your picky fit detail?

  1. My deal-breaker is big toe seams on socks. I always check before I buy and have left so many cute ones because that seam is too thick. There are so few socks without the seam, though, that mostly I just wear them inside-out.

  2. I don’t think I have a really good answer as to why sweaters will rise up and chock me. The neckline is my pet peeve. I’m always pulling it down in the front. Does anyone know why this happens. I even have the same issue with store bought tops and sweaters.

      • This is due to a rounded or broad back. There is not enough room for your back and shoulders so the garment pulls backward to steal room accommodate the width of your back.

        The back needs to be slightly wider or the back armhole slightly longer to give the space needed.

        • In my haste of joy to see the answer to my dilemma I pushed the wrong reply. Thanks anyway to Lynn.

          • This is very useful information! Most of my sweaters are top-down and the one I’m working on now has a wider front than back. I thought, apparently wrongly, that if I gave the big boobs more room, I wouldn’t have to keep pulling the sweater down. You seem to be suggesting that I add width to the BACK. (I also have a broad back.)
            Joanna Koss

  3. It’s not just the sleeves, but length in general. I’m only 5’1 1/2″ (the extra 1/2 makes a difference!) I got into designing my own garments because of that. Top down remains my favourite way to knit because of the ease of trying everything on for a good fit. It’s the method I recommend for sweater newbies. I almost always wet block work-in-progress by putting all stitches onto waste yarn and dunking everything in a bowl of water. Many stitches, including double moss stitch, gain quite a bit of length after blocking. Some yarns grow in length. Quince’s Lark grows a lot when wet, but shrinks back perfectly as it dries.
    My other obsession in getting a good fit is to avoid superwash treated yarns. OK for socks and scarves; very unpredictable for sweater knitting. Most grow when wet, but if you follow the recommendation to stick them in a dryer for a short time before laying them flat, then moulding them to create precise corners becomes impossible.

  4. My pet hates are front bands…getting them to have exactly the same amount of stitches and ‘give’… but for me it’s trial and error, I can always take it down and start again… Sue.

  5. What a good topic. I like set-in-sleeve sweaters, and I want the shoulder line to hit at the exact right spot on the shoulder — no venturing into drop-shoulder territory.

  6. For me, fit is everything so it’s hard to answer this – I won’t make something without customizing its fit in any number of ways depending on the garment. For sweaters, shoulder-fit (I have a narrow frame), bust fit (I have proportionately large breasts) and vertical dimensions (I have a short waist) are key. But each garment is its own adventure.

  7. Sleeve length can be frustrating on sweaters that aren’t top down. My shoulders and bust aren’t in the same size, so lots of adjustments are needed to make the shoulders fit. Another reason sweaters don’t get worn is if they irritate my skin. Sometimes it’s hard to know before wearing.

    • I hear you on the shoulders and chest being different measurements! My first cardigan, which I still wear constantly, practically slides right off my shoulders because it’s so big. Fortunately with knitting it often isn’t too hard to add a few stitches and then reduce them.

  8. Mysteriously I find that despite meticulous measuring and blocking, the sleeves on my sweaters tend to shrink by up to 2” after several wears and washes. I have no idea why.

    • Mine, too, on occasion. Perhaps the condensing of the stitches as it is worn (bending your elbow pushes the stitches together)? Mostly mine block back out with a good wet-block.

      • I’ll try stretching them out after the wash. I’ve actually had to do surgery and lengthen some of them.

  9. I’m the same with sleeves. I’m short and so many patterns say 18 inches for sleeves…I’m only in need of about 16 1/2 WITH ribbing. And when I knit my mom a sweater for Christmas last year she told me one of her favorite things about it was that I got the sleeves perfect for her so she didn’t feel like they were in the way. It can ruin a great sweater for me if the sleeves are too long and just look sloppy.

  10. Hips. Should be enough said, but you ask for my remedy. Generally, I knit one size larger working from bottom up (or whatever amount of stitches makes the bottom comfortable) and then decrease evenly to reach bust measurement at underarms. Oversized sweaters are less problematic and hide the hip issue. Plus I support my LYS by purchasing the amount of yarn needed for oversize.

  11. I have one for sweaters, vests- I like the back neck to sit lower than most sweaters allow for, unless it’s a shawl collar, then it’s ok. And socks have to have a wide enough toe area. Usually 12 stitches wide or even more. Both of those can drive me crazy.

  12. I have the opposite problem than most comments here–I’m tall and have long arms, and I HATE sleeves that are too short. I started sewing in junior high school and learned later to add 1″ to a long sleeve pattern. I’ve been knitting a few years and am still learning the ins and outs of fitting.

    • I’m with you! My wrists are always so cold and that’s where you loose a lot of heat in the winter. I always knit my arms 2-3 inches longer than the pattern suggests. I want them to just cover the bottom part of my hand. Glad to know I’m not alone :)
      (For reference I’m 5′ 10″ with absurdly long arms and legs, proportionately).

  13. I generally don’t like raglan cardigans because the fronts hang down diagonally behind me instead of hanging straight down in front. Imagine the button bands forming an A shape instead of being parallel lines. So I end up knitting drop-shoulder or set-in almost exclusively.

  14. Sleeve length and circumference is a huge pet peeve, as well as sweaters that pull away from my neck in the back and constantly need readjustment. At some point I will find the last bits of yarn from my Aidez cardigan, rip out the back of the neck, and add a few more rows to hopefully bring it to where it wants to be. :)
    I also have a couple of gapping cardigans and they are *so* unflattering. While I like the idea of i cord buttonbands, they make it look like I’m busting out of the thing! Yikes!
    But in the end the main adjustment I’ve had to make with every sweater is the upper arms. Usually they are too tight, compared to my ease measurement in like every pattern, so i usually go up a size or 2 so they don’t cling. It gives me the willies.
    Typing it all out like this I realize I’ve got a lot of issues. ;)

  15. My “picky-fit-detail” (<——love that) is most definitely hem length. It makes or breaks a sweater for me. I have a short torso, high waist and long legs, which would be easier if I didn't also have hips and boobs. So, long story short (<—heh) I have to get it right or I look darn geeky. This is the main reason I prefer top-down knitting.

    I also hate weak or gaping button bands. I highly recommend trying a crochet button band for anyone sharing this peeve. It might not be right for all yarns and patterns, but is a wonderful solution for some.

  16. Tightness in the upper chest. I remedy the problem by choosing a size based on that, rather than bust measurement, and then doing any necessary shaping elsewhere, depending on the pattern itself.

  17. I have to say, I’m not so keen on your use of “institutionalized” here. I’m debating posting this but you’re usually more sensitive than that in your writing so it seems worthwhile to mention it.

  18. I like mittens that fit properly. I have knit dozens of pairs, and now know how to make them the way I want them, and the way my kids want them – the cuff length, the thumb area and construction, the shape of the top… sometimes it takes more than one try, but at least when you’re frogging half a mitten it only takes 15 minutes to get it back again!

  19. Although I no longer sew, I became a really good seamstress long before I became a good knitter. One of the benefits of this is understanding how to make clothes that really fit. Almost all patterns are made to sort of generic standard dimensions, and almost none of us are standard. I think a lot of people would find it helpful to check out one of the large basic sewing books which usually devote a lot of space to altering patterns to fit, and adapt those ideas to your own knitting. (I am no longer up to date enough to have a specific recommendation, but I know they are out there).

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