Waist Shaping for the Options KAL (and all sweaters)

At this point in the Options KAL, many of us are in the long stretch of knitting the body pieces. I know I’m there! I’ve juuuust started the neck shaping on the front of my pullover:


And so I thought this would be a great point to touch on why I wrote the waist shaping the way I did – with vertical darts located away from the side seams of the sweater.

Why Waist Shaping?

Particularly if you’re straighter through the waist, like me, you might be tempted to skip waist shaping altogether. When done the traditional way, at the side seams:

Waist-Shaping-Picture-1 (Typical decrease row: Knit 1, ssk, knit to last 3 stitches, k2tog, knit 1.)

The garment can wind up looking a little odd. Slightly too snug at the sides of your body, too loose on your back and in the front. But the answer isn’t to skip shaping entirely!

Rather, waist shaping is one of the single most important things you can do to get a fabulous-looking sweater. Whatever your shape. Hand-knit fabric is strong and sturdy, and in most sweaters, if your fabric is rectangular, you’ll look rectangular too. So regardless of your shaping, your sweaters will benefit from a bit of shaping!

A Different Way to Shape

To get better shaping options, I recommend taking advantage of the fact that knitting is sculptural – create a 3-D piece of fabric by working your waist shaping in the center of the piece. It’s worked exactly the same as the traditional way, but in a different spot:

Waist-Shaping-Picture-2(Typical decrease row: Knit to 2 stitches before first marker, ssk, sm, knit to next marker, sm, k2tog, knit to end.)

The Options KAL pattern is written with this kind of waist shaping, and if you squint, you can see the lines in my own sweater:


Here are some close-ups of other sweaters with the waist shaped in this way:

harrogate-final-8 tucci-second-pass-10 courant-final-6 aislinn-second-pass-9

For very little work, you get a garment that’s shaped the way your body is shaped – any volume removed from the sweater is done where you actually get smaller. But there are other advantages!

Other Cool Things about Dart Shaping

In addition to a more flattering fit generally, shaping in this way gives you a lot more choice about how your garments look – because it opens up an important degree of freedom:

The front and back of your sweater can be shaped differently.

You read that right! Your sweater’s front and back shaping don’t need to match, because the shaping is located away from where you’ll have to seam. You get more power to fit your body well:

  • Need extra width for a bust? Work more increases from waist to bust on the front of your sweater than you did on the back.
  • Have a bodaciously awesome backside? More decreases from CO to waist on the back of your sweater than the front.
  • Carry more volume on your front in general? Shape the back, and work your front straight to the armholes.

And you get the power to play around with different shaping to achieve different looks, too. I’ve done several designs now where the waist shaping is located on the back only:

cushing-isle-5 pescadero-final-print-1 foyle-pullover-candidate-finals-1 coracle-pullover-final-1

This lets me work an allover pattern on the front, straight to the armholes. When worked with a fitted sweater (the first and the third, above) you can barely even tell there is no shaping! The bit of negative ease in the bust and the hips, combined with the back shaping, keeps me looking curvy. When worked on a relaxed sweater (the second and fourth, above), you get the wonderful sweatshirt-like fit, without looking like a box. Pretty cool!

I’ve also experimented a bit with working shaping on the front only – check out my tank Fia, worked in Rowan’s Truesilk yarn:

Fia-main Fia_5_medium2

I wanted a tank where the back was worked in an allover lace – with the heavy drape of the silk letting it move beautifully. I didn’t want to shape in lace pattern, though, so I added some vertical darts to the front. That kept this tank trim, while letting the back remain a loose, shimmery fall of lace.

See you next time!

I hope you’re giving this kind of waist shaping a try in the Options KAL sweater, and that you can see how to use it in other sweaters to improve your fit or achieve a certain look, too!

Until next time, happy knitting!

3 thoughts on “Waist Shaping for the Options KAL (and all sweaters)

  1. I had always had trouble with waist shaping as I have virtually no identifiable waist. Traditional shaping at the side seams resulted in garments that swung out oddly at the hips.
    Shaping this way with darts is wonderful. I get a snug fitting garment that looks amazing. I can’t recommend this method enough!

  2. That makes so much sense! I’ve done side shaping in the past, and it never seems to move with the wearer, not to mention it rides up when you raise your arms, if the sweater is closely fitted.

    Amy and crew, you are making sweater knitting fun again for me; after decades of ill-fitting patterns (what’s up with those huge armhole allowances?) I was ready to give it up. So very glad I happened upon CustomFit! Thanks with all my heart 🙂

  3. I am learning a lot about knitting a more flattering sweater…thank you. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts like this…it is making me think a lot about my next project…how I can adjust it to make it fit better…it’s not hard….just a bit of planning! Thank you!

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