About two months ago, I was reading quite a bit about darts. Knitting Daily was doing a series on bust darts, and I must have googled “knitting darts” at least once a day for a week. But I’m not a busty lady. Why was I so interested in darts?
Darts aren’t just for those blessed by much chest. In this situation, I was designing a close-fitting worsted-weight cardigan (pattern’s currently in write-up mode). I wanted the cardigan to fit my curves, rather than occlude them, and since my curves are rather slight, it’s easy for them to hide under that kind of thick fabric. Then I remembered an old shirt I had, with bust darts. It fit me tightly through my torso, and the bust darts flared the bust out at exactly the right point, so that you could actually perceive that fundamental bust dimension– the difference in circumference between bust and underbust. My point is this: Even if you aren’t busty, bust darts are still useful because they position more fabric where you need it (bust, bum, other areas) and less fabric where you don’t (waist). See the diagram above for an example of what I mean.
As it happens, I may not be endowed in the bosom, but I definitely have junkage in the trunkage. My main problem with shirts, and especially with cardigans, is that they don’t button on the bottom, or if they do, they ride up over my hips. I don’t have wide hips, though– from the front I don’t look all that curvy. It’s definitely a baby-got-back situation, the bust issue in reverse. I need a lot of extra fabric in the back of my cardigans, and not so much in the front. Again, the solution is darts!
Despite the self-evident fact that we are shaped differently from front to back, most knitting patterns have identical shaping for both sides, barring variations in neckline. Even though women bulge low in the back and high in the front, shaping in knitted fabric places all the extra slack on the sides. Knitting stretches, so that slack ends up being distributed to where it should be. But the distribution isn’t perfect. Seamstresses know this. Dress designers know this. Basically anybody who works with woven fabric is aware that a person’s front has a three-dimensional topography that makes it unique from their back, and designs their clothing accordingly. But we knitters, we ride the Short Bus and take advantage of our fabric’s stretchiness to be a little sloppy with our shaping. We don’t have to, though!
Here’s an easy technique to take a pattern that already fits your dimensions (this isn’t about adjusting for dimensions that don’t fit a pattern, though it can easily be adapted to do that too) and making it fit your shape. The result will be a tailored, fitted look (so not ideal for baggy sweaters) that will make you feel very smart indeed. And it barely requires any changes to the pattern! The technique is based on three principles:
- People are not round. Your bust measurement may be 40″, but that doesn’t mean those inches are evenly distributed around your spine.
- Darts redistribute fabric from where it isn’t needed to where it is.
- Modern knitting patterns place additional fabric on the sides, away from the high points of topography.
In essence, what you do is replace the side-shaping on your knitted front and back, and instead increase (or decrease) that same number of stitches near the sides of bust or bum, creating a pocket of extra fabric in which to fit the extra flesh (also known as a dart). And because the end result is the same number of stitches as the pattern expects, the pattern’s dimensions will not change and you won’t need to so much as adjust the armscye measurements.
To decide where to reposition your shaping for maximum impact, consult this great photographic guide by Knitting Daily’s Sandy. The thing to know about darts is that they happen fast. A lot of shaping occurs in a small number of rows, which makes sense, since if you look down at your own bust and hips, you don’t see the gradual slopes we’ve come to expect from side-shaping in knitting patterns. Instead, it’s all flat-flat-flat-WHOOSH! Which is how your darts need to be. In order to get maximum shaping over minimum space to emulate the rate of growth of your curves, it may be necessary to use more than one dart (I’m a B-cup, and I used two darts on each side of my bust).
That’s the principle. Do the same shaping as the pattern asks, but near the area you want to highlight rather than at the seam, and pace your shaping so that the increases have a slope that is similar to the curves of your natural shape. There’s nothing to worry about and no extra stitches to decrease away. You’re just taking advantage of the fact that knitting is three-dimensional and can create fabric with 3-D proturberances (like we all have as part of our bodies) rather than two two-dimensional shapes sewn together.
Tomorrow I’ll go through a detailed example using one of the cardigan patterns from Knitty to really demonstrate the technique.