Options KAL, Part II: Sweater Modifications


Hello, lovely knitters!


This week, I’m sitting down at my desk with 5 straight days of non-traveling work ahead of me for the first time in ages. To say I’m in heaven would be an understatement. I’ve already spent some time looking at the gorgeous garments taking shape in the Options KAL, and I’m inspired to keep knitting my own.


(That’s a back and a bit of the front, along with a peek in the background of the reason I’ve been so slow completing my Options pullover!)

Today’s video installment for the Rowan Options KAL is due to go live any time now, and I hope you find it helpful! (You’ll be able to find it, along with all of the other videos as they come out, here on the Rowan Yarns YouTube Channel.)

In the first part of the video, I talk a little bit about how the KAL will progress (since it’s not a mystery, it may be a little different than some others you’ve done!). In the second portion of the video, I talk about the next step in getting a great-fitting sweater:

Making Modifications.

Video Installment 1, I covered how I recommend sweater knitters choose a traditional pattern size – to fit the shoulders. Choosing a “base size” that fits your shoulders well is the single most important thing you can do to improve the fit of your sweaters. But your fit-modification work isn’t quite done!

Ease and Target Garment Dimensions.

The next step in modifying any traditional sweater pattern is to compare the dimensions of the size you’re knitting against your own body’s measurements. Remember: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of your numbers. And your clothing will be more comfortable, and look better, if it fits you well.

When comparing your own numbers against the pattern, your goal is to come up with a the sweater’s finished dimensions. The dimensions shouldn’t be identical to your body – the goal is for the sweater to feel good and flattering when worn. Ease – the difference between your body and the sweater’s measurements – is what makes this magic happen.

For a sweater like the Options sweater, here are my ease guidelines for you:

  • Bust: Aim for a sweater that’s between 2” (5 cm) smaller, and 2” (5 cm) larger, than your full bust circumference.
  • Waist: Ideally, your sweater will be at least 2” (5 cm) larger than your waist circumference.
  • Hips: For a sweater this length, you should aim for a CO measurement that’s between 2” (5 cm) smaller, and 1” (2.5 cm) larger, than your own hips to help the sweater anchor to your body.

If the pattern’s dimensions in your size are in these ranges already, great! No modifications needed. If they’re not, cross off the garment’s dimension at that spot and write in what your own sweater piece should measure.

Here’s an example using my own numbers: I’m knitting the pullover, and my upper torso is 38”. So I’ve selected the 39 3/4” size for an average fit. That works for my hips and my waist, but my bust is 42” – and I’d like a fit that’s closer to my actual bust. Let’s work with a target sweater full bust of 41”, one inch smaller than my own bust.

The back bust should remain 19 3/4” as written – that’s not where I need extra room! So the front bust must equal 41” – 19 3/4” = 21.25”.

Making it Actionable.

To get instructions you can actually knit, you’ll need to turn the dimensions you’ve changed into stitch and row counts before you can move further. Use your stitch and row gauge, multiplied by the dimensions, to do this.

Again working my own example, my front bust should have 21.25” x 5.75 stitches per inch = 122.19 stitches which rounds nicely to 122 stitches. My front waist matches the pattern at 104 stitches. There are 62 rows between the waist and armhole shaping in my sweater.

Master Shaping Formula.

Once you know the stitch counts at the CO, waist, and bust of your sweater (and the rows between them), your knitting challenge turns into getting from one stitch count, to the next, over the correct number of rows. There’s one formula for this:

Rate of shaping = (total number of rows) / (number of shaping rows)

Round down to the nearest even number, and you’ve got your instructions. Congratulations! You’ve made a modification. It’s really that simple.

Carrying my example further, I have 62 total rows over which I can work my shaping. I need to go from 104 stitches to 122 stitches – adding 18 stitches to the front between waist and bust. This will take me 9 increase rows, because each increase row adds two stitches.

Using the master shaping formula, I divide 62/9 and get a rate of 6.889. Rounding down to the nearest even number, I know that once I reach the waist on the front of my sweater, I’ll work an increase row every 6 rows 9 times.

I’ll then need to adjust the neck shaping in my pullover to get to the correct number of shoulder stitches, but that’s a topic for another post!

Keeping Track of Your Changes.

Make sense so far? Honestly, even though I’ve used the word ‘formula’ in this post it’s pretty simple once you’ve got your numbers in front of you. Like many things in sweater knitting, our nervousness over whether we’re doing the right thing is the most challenging hurdle to overcome. And trust me – the numbers don’t lie! Comparing your own body to your base size will highlight exactly what you need to do.

I’ve made a worksheet to help you keep track of your changes as you knit:

Download the shaping worksheet here!
Want to know a little more detail? I give an overview in my Craftsy Knit to Flatter class, and a much more thorough go-through in my Craftsy class on Sweater Modifications for a Custom Fit. (Click the links to get the classes for 50% off, if you’re not enrolled yet.)

And that’s this installment of the Options KAL! I can’t wait to see how your sweaters are coming along. Until next time, happy knitting!

7 thoughts on “Options KAL, Part II: Sweater Modifications

  1. Obviously it’s just me, but I cannot find this pattern! I’ve looked on Ravelry and it only links to the announcement. Help!

    1. It’s here:


      It took me a while to find it! You need to be logged in to to the Rowan site to download.

      1. Thanks! I’ve registered and purchased the yarn so I’m almost ready to begin!

  2. I tried the links to the Craftsy classes but they don’t work – only take me to your website with an error message.

    1. Hi Sandy! I’ve just updated the link – give it a try again!

  3. Really helpful fitting advice, thanks! I’d love to take advantage of the 50%off craftsy class, but the link doesn’t seem to be working for me…help?!

    1. Hi Sarah – I’ve just updated the link – try it again!

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