When I first started knitting sweaters a few years ago, I thought, Finally, here’s a way I can make clothes that fit me perfectly. Like pretty much every woman who has ever stood, frustrated, in a dressing room, I don’t always have an easy time buying things off the rack. I’m just barely 4’9”, with narrow shoulders and curves, and while I’ve found LOFT and Banana Republic to offer a decent range of petite styles that fit pretty well, there will often be things that are just… made for someone taller, or who doesn’t have hips.
But, as I started knitting garments, I realized that they also come in pre-determined sizes, and that altering them to fit me wasn’t quite as easy as a trip to the tailor. Then you throw gauge into the equation, and all bets are off.
Last summer, I started hearing about Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit software from some of my Ravelry friends who were testing out the beta version. Around the same time, I ended up deciding to re-knit my all-done-but-the-sleeves Pont Neuf because I had misjudged my gauge and should have used smaller needles, and also knit based on the pattern without making any mods. And it really needed some mods: the waist shaping was in the wrong place for my short torso and it was just a little too long. While it was a good learning experience, it wasn’t one that I wanted to repeat. A program that provided you a custom pattern based on your measurements seemed like a godsend.
Amy and her crew were at Rhinebeck last year, and they generously organized a session where they whipped out the tape measures and sized people up. While I was there, I also discovered the cool gradient boxes from Fiber Optic Yarns. I knew Custom Fit offered fairly standard sweater options, so knitting a gradient striped sleeveless top seemed like a good way to do a test drive with a basic design, while also spicing it up a little.
The way Custom Fit works is that you input an extensive list of measurements (which are best taken by someone else — check out whether your LYS has a partnership with Custom Fit and can help you with this, or try a local tailor if you don’t have a friend or loved one who you think can do it accurately) that go way beyond your bust size (have you checked out your inter-nipple distance lately?). Then you swatch. And maybe swatch again if you aren’t pleased with how the fabric feels. Of course, most knitters will groan, or say they never swatch, but a few hours of fairly mindless knitting is much better than spending weeks working on a sweater that you never wear.
Also, while Amy recommends knitting the sweater pieces separately and then seaming them together, the CF patterns do provide a mostly seamless option. I ended up taking that route for my gradient top, because I didn’t really want to match up the stripes, and my gauge is generally tighter when I’m knitting stockinette in the round. The knitting itself was fairly mindless, and I mainly had to pay attention to the stripes. When it was all done, it fit me perfectly, and the only real trauma came in weaving in all those ends…
Custom Fit is the perfect option for when you impulse buy that sweater quantity in a beautiful hand-dyed colorway, but you just don’t know what to make with it. When I snagged some Tesseract at the Astral Bath open house a few months ago, I knew that with the silk content and my fairly loose tension that I would want something that I wouldn’t have to keep second guessing.
I decided to copy molliebatmit’s Moon River, a crew neck cardi with a lace edging and twisted rib at the hem, button band and sleeves. While the sweater has a bit more drape to it than Mollie’s does, because my gauge is much looser, the fit at this point, without sleeves and a button band, seems pretty spot on. So, if you’re planning to go to the pre-Rhinebeck trunk show, you will likely see me in my Conjured Cardi with a #happysweaterface.