The Math….and Other Modification Plans

I can’t ever seem to leave a pattern alone.

It’s liberating, not being beholden to a particular fabric that you must produce to get the right size, and the process is usually not very difficult, except when the gauge is significantly off.

Like with my gauge, @ 4.25 stitches to the inch vs. the pattern’s 5 stitches to the inch for June’s Favorite Cardigan.

It was so different, that I actually swatched with US6 needles. And I got gauge. But the resulting fabric was so stiff, I did not like it. If I was really going to try to knit-to-pattern, I would probably drop down to a DK weight/light worsted weight yarn which is rounder, rather than try to force my 40% mohair yarn into this pattern. (To my Cormo friends —- the weight of your yarn is likely to be perfect for this cardigan!!)

But I’m knitting this sweater, so I should be able to create a garment I want. So…how do I do that, and what can I/should I do before I cast on?

I was lucky enough to take a class with Amy Herzog as her book Knit to Flatter was coming out. I highly recommend the book, and while I have not taken her Craftsy class, I bet Amy’s passion and enthusiasm comes through in that class so….that may be an option as well.

While we are not creating the tailored cardigan here, there are a couple of things that Amy talks about which is still applicable. What is your body type and what types of garments may flatter you most? This may influence how you may want to modify the front of the sweater and the slope of the V opening. It may also influence the length you make this sweater. Or maybe the sleeves. And, you may get some ideas on how you may want to introduce shaping darts, if any.

The good thing about this pattern though, is that I think it’s pretty forgiving on shape, since it’s a cardigan with no closures (you may want to change that), and I’m envisioning this as a throw over the shoulder kind of thing. More like a shawl with sleeves. So….for me, no major modifications.

That being said, there are decisions I need to make to create the sweater that I’m picturing in my mind.

First, the fit. I want this to be not even close to being form fitting. But, I also do not want to look like the Michelin Man when I wear it. How do I get that without losing the proverbial 10/20/50 lbs and growing 4”? I want to make this sweater be loose where it counts, but not be so enormous that it looks like it was knit for someone else in mind.

IMG_8982For me, the pain point in fit is how the garment fits across the mid-upper back (Many refer to this measurement point as the cross back) and tightness of the upper sleeves. With that in mind, I’m going to pick a sweater, out of similar weight yarn, that I think fits the way I would like for this sweater to fit, and take that measurement.

(I actually have my cross back measurement, and have in my head the concept of how much “positive ease” I would want, but sometimes those are just numbers on a piece of paper and I find the “measure the garment” a relatively fool proof way of approximating the garment measurements).

IIMG_8983’m going to use this measurement against the schematic in the pattern to pick the size which closely resembles the size that I want for the back and the upper arm measurement. If the sweater dimensions for a certain size include measurements that you want around the chest and the upper arm, then I will only have to make adjustments for the gauge.

Other than that, I’m going to make sure that the sleeve length and body lengths are flattering and/or comfortable for me.

The basic math first.

1. Calculate the “multiplier”: This is the gauge you get per inch divided by the gauge specified in the pattern.

– For me, I got a gauge of 4.25 stitches/inch and the pattern gauge is 5 stitches/inch. My “multiplier” is 4.25 divided by 5, or 0.85. This will be the number that I’ll be multiplying all stitch counts in the pattern.

– Mental check: I’m covering more ground by knitting less stitches, so all the stitch counts for my sweater should be less than the stitch counts specified in the pattern, i.e., if the pattern cast on was 100 stitches at the given gauge, then my cast on would be 100 x 0.85, or 85 stitches. (Which, for this cardi, will have to get adjusted to make sure that we have enough stitches to accommodate for the stitch pattern).

2. Then, look on the pattern to see if there is a size that approximate your measurements from above. If there is a size that is close (and by that I mean <1″ around the chest circumference and <1/2″ around the upper arm), then apply the “multiplier” to the initial cast on to see how many stitches to cast on.  If this new, calculated cast on number is the same or similar (within a few stitches — remember, there’s a stitch pattern here) to another size, knit that size! No more math necessary (for now. We have to assume that the designer has graded the pattern properly, and we should be good to go until we get to the raglan decreases.)

And for me, if I go down 2 sizes in the pattern, the stitch counts seem to work out. Now, I am going to go back to the pattern for the smaller size, and check stitch counts around the chest and around the upper arm to make sure the measurements work with my gauge (divide stitch count given in the pattern by gauge to see what the measurement is), and I will be set to go!!!


  1. Thank you so much for talking us through this process. I decided to ignore gauge and cast on a sleeve (another of your great tips, starting with a sleeve rather than the body), and it’s coming out huge! So now I’m going to start again adjusting the stitch count by 0.9 before it’s too late.

    Thank you!

    • Debby – we’ll definitely need to adjust when we start doing raglan decreases, so keep track of stitch count….

  2. Andrea said:

    Cast on!! About 1/3 up the sleeve and it seems to be a good size (nice thing is that you can try it on) so I will keep knitting. I am on US 7 (some weird aluminium ones that I founf in my ‘bin o’ needles inherited from a neighbour :0 ). Hardest challenge for me is to keep all the rows straight. What row diamond pattern? What row Cable pattern? what row increase? Not a pattern to pick up knit a bit and put down while doing laundry. One cable is already 1 row too many! Never mind. I do the best I can!! I’ll report back when I get 1 st sleeve done. Oh and how can we post pics???

    • Andrea — do you have locking stitch markers? I place those next to the row where I’ve crossed the cables to keep track. We won’t have issues when we are knitting flat, but that’s how I do it when we are knitting in the round.

      As for photos, you can email them to me or PM them to me through Ravelry (I am finnsmydog), or post them on your project page, and I will post them in the update post. I think I will be doing a “show and tell” sleeve post tomorrow or Tuesday so I will include them if you send them to me.

      I’m anxious to see how the stitch pattern looks in you and Debby’s yarn!!!

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