Monday, May 6, 2013

Custom Fit Knit Patterns? What if.... and a Survey

I'm back!  And this is a glimpse into what has been happening in my little knitting world since I last posted (yes, gasp, 10 months ago!!).  

I wince every time I read a thread that discusses fit issues and sizing demands for knit patterns. As a tech editor, I am fully aware of the array of sizes publishers desire in order to reach the largest audience possible. And, having edited a bazillion patterns, I can practically resize/alter in my sleep. But I know this is not something that is intuitive to everyone, and most knitters would prefer to sit down and enjoy knitting a pattern that will actually fit without altering it themselves. After all, who is really 100% standard size? Certainly not me.  

So, what if.... ??? What if I took what I know about sizing and resizing and converted it to a scripting language? Could I produce custom fit knitting patterns? The answer is yes!! First, I had to figure out how to convert the formulas used in grading patterns into the scripting language - no small task since I had to learn the language. But I managed. 

So began the process of developing a web site to put it all together. Here is the basic proposal: on a web page, you view a design. Eureka!! You like it and you want to knit it! But, oh no, you have long arms or are short-waisted, or... whatever... you would need to alter the pattern. Not a problem. Go ahead and select that design. It's free to peruse.

The next step has everything to do with those 2 dirty little words in the knitting world: Gauge swatch. Ack! I know... they laugh at me and roll their eyes when I dare mention them at my LYS, but they are totally necessary to collect the data needed to customize a garment pattern. You want it to fit, right? Why not spend a little time on the front end before knitting for countless hours, only to find it doesn't fit? It's not like ready-to-wear; you can't return it after you knit it! All that wasted time and money. I sigh. We are better than that! I am well aware of the fact that many knitters don't take the time to work a gauge swatch before beginning a pattern. That's okay for most dishcloths, afghans, scarves, or shawls. Not so for fitted garments.

Meanwhile, back on the pattern page, basic pattern info indicates the yarn and needle size used in the photographed model, gauge achieved, and what, if any, variations from the original stitch gauge are acceptable. (Yes, it's possible for your gauge to vary from the design, but in order for your pattern to fit, I'll need to know exactly what YOUR gauge is!)

Choose a yarn - the same as used in the model or something similar. 

Then swatch.  You must use the same exact yarn that you will use to work the full pattern (a different color is okay, but otherwise, the.very.same.yarn).  I can't stress how critical this is. Often, comparable yarns might match stitch gauge, but not row gauge. It's important to know gauge in both directions for the yarn you are planning to use. If you intend to use a yarn that you don't own, maybe a friend has scraps in their stash that you could use (knitters are nice like that, you know). Or, you could purchase a single skein for swatching. Ultimately, instead of you having to match a pattern's gauge, the pattern will be customized to fit your gauge and measurements with the amount of ease you want.

Specific instructions are listed to work the swatch for the design, not necessarily the standard 4 inch/10 cm square. This includes pre-measuring a length of yarn. Don't skip this step! (Sorry! But another little inconvenience is necessary to calculate the right amount of yarn to make that perfect garment that will fit! And yes, your custom pattern will include your custom yarn requirements, too.) 

Work the swatch, cut the yarn, then measure the length from the cut to the pre-measured distance. The pre-measured length minus the leftover (from cut to pre-measured length) is the amount of yarn used in the swatch. Record this number somewhere.

Wash and dry the swatch in the same manner you will wash your finished garment. Again, this is critical, especially if your yarn contains plant fiber. (Ask me about cotton that lost 15% of its length when washed.) When your swatch is dry, measure carefully per the given instructions. 

If you don't like something about your swatch (how it feels, how it drapes, how the pattern stitch shows up), now is the time to choose a different yarn or needle size and start over. Tell yourself this was time well spent (it really was).

Once you are happy with your swatch, go back to the web page and enter your data on the design page. 

In this sample, it is not necessary to have waist shaping at all, and the bust and hip don't have to be the same measurement.  Sleeve can be 3/4 length, if desired. The possibilities are endless!
Then, enter your desired finished measurements as indicated on the schematic and submit.  

And finally, in a twinkling, your custom fit, totally personalized pdf pattern appears in your inbox. Ahhhh, the sweater with sleeve shaping that is properly spaced to fit you... ooooohhh, the hips and the bust both fit with just the right amount of ease. Knitting nirvana! How great it is to have a pattern that eliminates the confusion of all the numbers for the 6-8 sizes you are not interested in!

Is this for real? It can be!! But before I spend any more time on it, I need some input. Basically, I need to know I am not nuts and that this is something that would be beneficial to knitters. To that end, I have created a short survey. I hope you'll take the time to answer. The survey will remain active through 6/9/13. And I promise to report results in less than 10 months!

Thanks in advance for taking the time to respond.  And please, please, please feel free to share this link with all your knitting friends, but only respond once! 

Best,  ~~Joan

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what about a belly measurment?women has pragnesy tummy's,say above the waistline or downwards.