Designing for all body types

I design patterns that are fun to knit, but my true goal in designing is to create clothing that makes women feel powerful and sexy, and those attributes belong to ALL women

Rachel Barish
Jan 7, 2019

As we dive further into the process of grading knitting patterns, it’s important to discuss the areas of the body that need special attention. This means, instead of just applying a couple of formulas to your list of measurements from the CYC, we need to look at how the garment functions as a design, and make specific adjustments for certain parts of the body.

Part 3- Grading for all sizes

Part 1- Size inclusion is one of the most important issue facing the knitwear design community today. This craft is for ALL people of ALL sizes.

Part 2- Interpreting Sizing Information in Pattern Writing

Adjusting the yoke

Yoke-base designs are deceptively simple, however, charted colorwork designs in a yoke can be difficult to grade. The most important aspect in this type of design is having multiple charts for various sizes. I like to offer two colorwork charts for my yoke designs, one for sizes XS-1X and another for sizes 2X-5X. I add 10-20 rows of additional colorwork for the second group of sizes to add length to the yoke and room for the larger bust sizes. Since you are essentially creating a circle when working up a yoke, length is important to achieve the correct fit for the range of bust sizes. Offering two different lengths, or even giving knitters the option to stop when their desired length is achieved, will result in a much more well designed garment.

Additionally, when working up a repeated colorwork design in a yoke-based garment, you must keep in mind the stitch count for the repeat. If you want to continue your motif into the body of the sweater after sleeve separation, you must work with an integer that can be easily divided. I once (unknowingly) gave my tech editor the challenge of working with the number 19 for a chart I wanted to be worked up in the body after separating for the sleeves. This ended up creating a large challenge for ourselves, as every size had to be out of a multiple of 19, creating a much larger difference between each size than was intended. Eventually, we were able to work out a separation technique where many sizes shared the stitch body count, but additional stitches were added to the underarms to create our variety of sizes and the correct 0 inch ease fit to the bustline (more on this technique later!).

It’s important to consider these factors when it comes to colorwork in a yoke-based design. These designs are a fun and seemingly easy thing to knit, but can be quite a challenge to grade!

Shoulder shaping with short rows

One of the most common problems I have when wearing any garment, hand knit or otherwise, is having the fabric ride up in the back! This short row technique also helps with the sagging fabric around the underarms or armholes. We have the opportunity as designers to eliminate these tiny nuisances and make truly wonderful and functional garments. Adding length to the back of a garment may not always be necessary for every size, but it is helpful when designing for women with larger bust sizes, as that pull on the fabric in the front of the garment tends to change the length in the back and create discomfort under the arm.

An easy fix for this when grading a garment is to add short rows in the back! I often find when knitting up a design or creating my own, that this shaping looks the best and most subtle when done in the shoulders. You will often see this done when binding off at a shoulder seam. You can also add short rows throughout the back of a top-down garment that involves a repeated colorwork chart after separating for the sleeves. It is best to use the shoulder short row technique in traditionally shaped sweaters. Raglans do not take well to this and boxy sweaters look best when keeping their simple design lines intact.

I suggest using short rows in your shoulder shaping alongside a three needle bind off when designing bottom-up sweaters or garments with set-in sleeves! It’s an elegant and clean way to finish off a design and eliminates the need for a cumbersome shoulder seam! You only need to follow just a few steps to add this design element into your work.

  1. Find the number of shoulder stitches.
  2. Find your row gauge for one inch.
  3. Divide that number by 2 for the number of short rows you will be working.
  4. Divide number of shoulder stitches by the number of short rows.
  5. If you get a crazy number, round up to the next whole number, and you’re ready to get started!

It can truly be as simple as that, and adding this type of design element can elevate your design to the next level. Now let’s explore one more technique to help round out your grading knowledge!

Underarm stitches

It can be difficult to achieve a full range of sizes when you’re working up a colorwork design. As previously stated, adding underarm stitches to the garment can help you achieve a variety of sizes, add width to the bustline and overall achieve the fit you’re looking for! When I want my garments to have a loose or flouncy sleeve and a fitted bust, instead of creating a HUGE yoke and making the knitter work an unnecessary amount of stitches before sleeve separation, I will cast on a larger amount of underarm sts after separation to create larger bust, while keeping my stitch counts for the sleeves high to create that flouncy fit! This way the bust will not have too much negative ease, but instead will have a more comfortable fit, with more room to raise your arms without the garment riding up too high. This can be an easily forgotten design element that helps with fit and allows you to create a greater depth of range between sizes.

Grading can be a daunting task, but breaking down the process into these steps will help you on your way to mastering this ever important aspect of design. Offering a full range of sizes for your patterns will open your brand up to a wider audience and help people of all shapes and sizes find the perfect knitting and crochet patterns!

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