Thursday, June 26, 2008

Too Small?

Does this look too small to you? Because it does to me. That's a 24" circular. And that's the beginning of the Gathered Pullover, for me.

I seem to have chronic problems choosing the right size to knit for myself. My thinking goes kind of like this: "I have a 34" bust, but I wish it were 35", and I know I'm going to wear a padded bra, so I'll say 36". This pattern has sizes for a 34" and a 38". 36" is bigger than 34", so that one will be too small. Better pick the 38". But what if my gauge is off? If I'm off by just 1/2 a stitch, it'll be too small. I'd better go with the 42", just to be safe." So I knit the 42", and my gauge is a little loose, and it ends up being 44", and then I wash the finished garment, which grows like mad (which I wasn't expecting, since I didn't wash my swatch), and somehow my new sweater turns out big enough to fit your average linebacker.

I think we all have misconceptions about our own body sizes. Did you know that a number of different studies have shown that most women believe their bodies to be significantly larger than they actually are? I am often surprised when I unexpectedly catch sight of myself that I look smaller than I feel. And I apparently have trouble accepting that the numbers on the tape measure reflect my actual size. (I've never found numbers to be all that convincing in the first place. We all know that math lies.)

Adding to the problem is my inability to believe in the concept of "negative ease". This just seems wrong. How can something smaller than my body possibly end up fitting? The fact that I have any number of items of spandex clothing that aren't big enough to fit a Barbie doll, and yet end up stretching over my ample butt just fine, does not seem to figure in my calculations. Nor does the fact that every single thing I have ever knit has ended up growing with time, wear, and washing, and not one has ever shrunk.

So after 20 years of knitting things that are too big, I'm trying an experiment. I am deliberately knitting this sweater "too small". Even though I "know" the 32" size will never fit, I am knitting it for myself. (Well, sort of. My gauge is intentionally slightly larger than the pattern calls for and should give me a finished bust of 33.7", if my calculations are correct and I knit to the same gauge as I did in the swatch, neither of which is a certainty.) I can't tell you how anxious and sweaty this is making me. I have talked myself out of ripping and starting over at least 12 times--and I'm only on the second round.

I think it may be time for an intervention of some sort.


Good Yarns said...

Just keep knitting, and put blinders on if you have to: Look to neither the left nor the right...just keep to the size you began with. I think it'll be great!

PS There are those of us who look in a mirror and say, "Who is that? I must be smaller than THAT!" Go figure!

Unknown said...

Ironically, I have been troubled with the size issue for the past two days. I thought I was a medium but after two tries of 10rows of 96 stitches and then four swatches I am now knitting the small. Even that looks big and it's cotton yarn so I am expecting it to grow. AARGh! How can anyone know what size they really are? I can be a x-small in Womans, X-large in Juniors and a medium in Ladies.

Tammy said...

I just have to say I can follow your train of thought perfectly. Except the part about math... it never lies. Ever. Gauge lies... patterns lie... measurements lie. But math? Never.

I just got some yarn intended for this as well. I can't wait to see how yours comes out. How about measuring a sweater or tee that fits you just right for comparison?

BTW - What yarn are you using?

Anonymous said...

I think it's a good thing that you're trying a different size. Negative ease takes into account the elasticity of the yarn and the knitted fabric. When you knit a swatch, you usually measure a swatch relaxed, not stretched out. Stretching it out and measuring it shows how much your garment will also stretch. BUT bear in mind that too much negative ease makes a garment too tight.

Take knitted socks, for instance. Knit a swatch, gauge, and calculate the exact number of stitches for your foot. The resulting sock will fit your foot, but it won't hug it. It might even be loose. That's why you always subtract 10-20% of the total number of stitches, so that the sock hugs your foot.

Because I usually knit my own designs, I always start off with measuring myself (bust, waist, hips, etc.) and measuring an existing top whose fit I like. Then I compare the measurements to see the amount of ease in each area. Then, I take into account the amount of stretch on the swatch and subtract a percentage of the total number of stitches. It's a bit of work just to start on a knit, yes, but in the long run, I get a finished knit that I'll actually like to wear.

As for Janet's comment on sizing, it's the company that does its own sizing. I read somewhere that Calvin Klein jeans were 2 sizes smaller than actual size; devious, but makes you think, doesn't it?

- MJ

Karen said...

I have that same debate with myself on sizing all the time. I pick wrong a lot.

The A.D.D. Knitter said...

Such a great post, go ahead and knit the smaller size and let the chips fall where they may.

I think I have the opposite problem--I always think that I am smaller than I actually am!:)

Kim said...

I used to think I was bigger than I really was. Now that I've put on a few mid life pounds I think I'm smaller than I really am (at least when it comes to store bought clothes). With knitting, I've been lucky and most things have fit. Oh the confusion.
My advice is to just knit and knit and don't even think about the size! You can always block the hell out of it.

Tracy Purtscher said...

Go for it Woman. I'm sure you will be thrilled with the end results. I always knit the sizes that is closet without going over my true measurements and I haven't been disappointed yet. (I too knit lose)

And if all this encouragement you're getting from the peanut gallery doesn't help look at it this way:
If it does end up being too small for you, you didn't waste as much time as you normally would have knitting one that was way too big! LOL

It will be fine, I promise, gauges, swatches, tape measures and pattern often lie but I don't. :o)

Anonymous said...

I would like to borrow your washer and dryer for the rest of my life, please. Mine, and every one I have ever had, seem to shrink my clothes as the years go by. I have never had a garment get bigger, yo. While we are at it, can I have your bathroom scale, too? Mine insists on giving higher and higher numbers. What's up with that?

sophanne said...

One small step for negative ease, one giant step for knitting-kind. Go with it. You will be an inspiration when it fits perfectly. We may all end up with better fitted knits as a result. I thank you for your efforts.

Khalila said...

I actually have knitted all of the sweaters I've made a size smaller than I actually am. Every one has fit nicely so far. It seems to be the thing to do for me. I'm sure it'll work out for you too.

Patty said...

Funny, I was just having this arguement with myself too. I'm following in your stead and knitting the smaller of the sizes I was looking at.

I'm interested too - what yarn are you using?

sheep#100 said...

Have you been hiding out in my bathroom lately??

Anonymous said...

I say - go for it!(Of course, I'm watching to see how it could work for me...being a big chicken, and only thinking about trying this!)

This is a fitted sweater, so it's a good test case - I'd just make sure that you have a fairly springy yarn/gauge, and double check the daily knitting galleries - have they done this one so you can see the negative ease? Seems it would be important, with the pattern in the front.