How to Resize a Knitting Pattern

Have you ever wanted to knit something and then sighed when you realised that it isn’t available in your size or you can’t meet their suggested gauge?

It can be very disappointing as many people don’t have the confidence or the know-how to adjust the pattern and so give up on the pattern entirely.

But all is not lost. With a bit of arithmetic, you can resize the pattern to suit your own requirements and no, it’s not as hard as you might think. All you need to do is to follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to adjusting your knitting patterns with ease...

How to Adjust a Knitting Pattern

Swatching

Are you getting sick of hearing me bang on about swatching yet? I am a self-proclaimed swatching evangelist - it’s true! But I talk about it so often because it is one of the most important steps in any knitting project, particularly if you are resizing a pattern.

Not only does it help you to understand how your yarn is going to behave once it is washed and blocked, but it is also the only way you can work out how many stitches or rows to knit (or not knit).

If your pattern is worked flat and then seamed, knit a flat swatch. However, if you are working in the round, you should work your swatch in the round too, as that will give you the most accurate gauge reading. I also recommend that you make your swatch relatively large, ie. bigger than 4” square, for the same reason.

Measuring Your Swatch

To figure out how many stitches/rows per inch/cm (depending on what you prefer to work with), you must first count how many stitches/rows you have in 4”/10cm.

E.g. My gauge swatch tells me I have 22 stitches and 28 rows per 4”/10cm.

I can now figure out how many stitches/rows per inch/cm that would give me by dividing those numbers by 4 or 10, depending on whether you are working in inches or cm.

E.g. 22 / 4 = 5.5 sts per inch. 28 / 4 = 7 rows per inch.

Adjusting the Knitting Pattern

What should you adjust?

If you’re adjusting the pattern because it won’t fit in a certain area, you will only need to adjust that area, however, you will need to adjust the whole pattern if you are, for example, turning a children’s pattern into an adults one or you are working with a different weight of yarn.

If you are only adjusting one area, measure yourself in that area and note it down. If you are adjusting the whole pattern, it is a good idea to take a full set of body measurements. If you’re not sure on how to take them, these measurement guidelines from the Craft Yarn Council are very helpful.

Ease

An important thing to consider is the ease of the sweater.

If the schematic’s chest measurement is 2 inches bigger than the size’s bust measurement, you know that the pattern has 2 inches of positive ease. Likewise, if the schematic’s chest measurement is 1 inch smaller than the size’s bust measurement, you will know that the pattern has 1 inch of negative ease.

Keep that in mind when adjusting the over body measurements because you will need to use the same amount of ease if you want the overall fit to come out the same.

Stitch Pattern

If you are using a stitch pattern, consider the requirements of the pattern repeat, e.g. if you’re working in 1x1 rib, you must work with stitch counts of an even number. If you’re working in 2x2 rib, you must work with multiples of 4 for stitch counts.

Shaping

If you’re increasing the number of stitches across the body, you will need to make sure that the neck shaping and armhole shaping is still okay. Normally, the armhole will be fine, but the neck will need to be re-centred, as you will have a different number of stitches that you are working with.

Pattern Adjustment Examples

Long Arms

If you have long arms, you probably find that most sleeves are too short on you. It’s very simple to make a pattern adjustment for long arms, as you are simply adding a few rows, but you need to make sure that the sleeve shaping is still evenly spaced.

The first thing you need to do is figure out how long you need the sleeves to be. If they’re currently 17” long and you need them to be 18”, you simply add the number of rows in an inch to the length of the sleeves. In my example, this would be 7 rows, however, I am going to round that up to 8 rows, so that it becomes an even number.

If you’re working flat, I suggest that you add two rows at a time between each set of shaping at the bottom of the sleeves. This means that your shaping will always occur on a RS, which is common practice.

If you’re working in the round, you can add one row at a time between each set of shaping at the bottom of the sleeves, because you are always working on a RS.

Short Torso

If you have a short torso and sweaters always end up too long for you, you will need to shorten the body.

First, work out how long you want your sweater to be. This is normally worked out using the underarm to hem measurement, as the armhole isn’t usually the problem for someone with a short torso.

For example, a cropped sweater might measure 11” from underarm to hem on the schematic, but on you, that isn’t going to look cropped at all. All you need to do is take an inch or so off the length, so in my example, that would be at least 7 rows. Because I want just a little more than an inch, I’m going to round that up to 10.

If the sweater is a straight fit with no shaping, it’s easy. All you need to do is knit 10 rows less than the pattern suggests before the armhole shaping.

However, if you are working with a pattern that has waist shaping, it’s a little more tricky as you need the waist to sit correctly on you. In this case, you might want to split the rows between the waist decreases, decreasing two rows at a time if you’re working flat and one row at a time if you’re working in the round. If that isn't possible, you might want to knit less rows before the start of the waist shaping and less rows after, too. It depends on the pattern which method works best.

Large Hips

Often, the bust will be approximately the same as the hips in a knitting pattern schematic, however, that isn’t the case for many bodies. If your hips are larger than your bust, it is a good idea to cast on extra at the bottom of your sweater and then decrease towards the bust to create a subtle A-line shape. Done correctly, this won't look too swingy and can include waist shaping too.

If your bust is 34” but your hips are closer to 38”, you could cast on 4 inches of extra stitches. In my example, that would be 22 extra stitches, which are eventually decreased to give you the correct bust measurement.

Every Body is Different

If my time working as a bespoke tailoring consultant taught me anything, it’s that every body is totally different. There is no such thing as a “normal” body.

I have kept this article as brief as I can so that I can give you a simple overview of this subject without you getting bored or lost, however, there is so much more detail to this topic than the simple adjustments I have mentioned in this blog post.

If you’re interested in learning more about this subject, tell me your fit dilemmas in the comments sections below and I shall do my best to address them in future blog posts. I really look forward to hearing from you!

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