Sweater Tech Talk: Hips and Fit

Thanks for your enthusiastic response to the Summer Sweater KAL, here and on Ravelry! I’m crazy excited to get started on my tank, but first I need to finish this:


Luckily, the schedule at Squam seems to build in a lot of down time, so I’ll have some nice quiet hours this weekend to work on the stripes when I’m not teaching.

But before I head off for the weekend, I wanted to talk a little bit about a question I get a lot, in classes and email. Many of you might know that I recommend a smidge of negative ease in the hips. When I say so, in class, I frequently get this in response:

I’m nervous about having any negative ease in my hips. Won’t that just look too tight, or be uncomfortable?

The answer is: No, at least not in the amount that I recommend. Let’s take a closer look.

What is negative ease?

Ease refers to the difference (if any) between what your body measures and what a garment measures, somewhere on your body. The overall ease of a sweater doesn’t exist, because well-fitting sweaters fit you one way in your shoulders, another in your bust, a different way in your waist, etc.

How much do you recommend?

For an average-length sweater (i.e., one that doesn’t go below the curve of your bum), I recommend an ease range of -3” to +2”. That means the sweater will measure somewhere in between 3” smaller than your hips, and 2” larger than your hips.

What does that look like?

Let’s start with the negative end of the range. Truly, a little bit of negative ease is a really attractive look. It doesn’t look too tight, it isn’t uncomfortable to wear, it just looks like it fits:

aislinn-second-pass-5 courant-final-6 acorn-trail-3 shore-ledges-fave-1

All of these garments have between 3” of negative ease, and zero ease, in the hips. This negative ease represents far less than 10% stretch for most people, which is literally nothing when you’re talking about a hand knit fabric. And yet, this amount of negative ease is functional: It helps keep the garment in place on your hips, letting you move your arms and torso without the sweater slipping all around on your body.

Some sweaters want to look more relaxed than this, of course. If you’d like a roomier look, I’d suggest between 0” ease in the hips and just 2” of positive ease in the hips. Here’s what that looks like:

cushing-isle-3 ff-triangled-5 amy-custom-fit-1-2 nantasket-final-9

Why shouldn’t I make a sweater even roomier than that?

If you go beyond 2” of positive ease in the hips of an average-length sweater, it will float, UFO-like, outside your body. This is a fairly strong visual cue that your sweater doesn’t fit, and most people react poorly to it when they see the sweater on them. (And note: All of this goes out the window for long sweaters that go down to or past the bottom of your bum. You need positive ease in those sweaters, to ensure the garment doesn’t cup underneath your bum!)

Whatever look you prefer, to ensure that the sweater looks like it fits you well, I definitely recommend a -2” to +2” range. I hope these pictures have helped make things a little more visually clear – and that your knitting is going well and you’re excited about summer. See you on the flip side of Squam!

10 thoughts on “Sweater Tech Talk: Hips and Fit

  1. I think negative ease works well for thin women. I don’t think it works at all on large, lumpy women like me. Ample women should wear baggy sweaters – that’s not an attractive look. But wearing tight sweaters is equally unattractive on many fat women (being descriptive here, not pejorative). In making my Custom Fit sweater, I popped the hood and added SIX inches of positive ease to my pattern because I knew anything else wouldn’t work. I love the result, but if I’d made the sweater without my own modifications, I would never, ever, ever wear it. The bottom line is that knitters need to know their own bodies and know what works best for them.

    1. I agree with this, and thank you so much for pointing it out! I myself am rather decidedly pear-shaped and making certain the sweater fits in the top AND bottom is going to be an interesting experience.

  2. I meant to say:

    Ample women should NOT wear baggy sweaters…

  3. Being a heavy set woman, I usually don’t like tight-fitting clothes. BUT having attended Amy’s Fit to Flatter class in Portland, OR, I tried on many sweaters that were too small and saw for myself that a sweater that has negative ease is very flattering. Much more so than wearing something rectangular. Sweaters that skim the curves rather than camoflaging them provide a more pleasing silhouette. Although for most plus-sized women this is counter-intuitive to what we have always been told.

  4. The difference when you’re fat comes more when you sit down or bend over. Things pull up or round much more because of spread (eww!) and the size of the curves they’re going round. So its good to add more ease unless you plan to spend all your time standing up. Also, any mistakes are magnified. A bit too much stretch across the hips is visually a small thing when you’re skinny, but on a larger person its that much harder to ignore. Finally, weight fluctuations are larger when you’re large. No use doing a lot of knitting (more than other people have to!) for something that you can only wear some weeks and not others.

  5. Very interesting. I have an apple type figure, which is exaggerated now since having my twins. They stretched out my belly quite a bit, so my waist is basically a size 10 while my hips are no bigger than an 8. I worry that negative ease at the hips will accentuate the roundness of my belly. Is this legit?

  6. this is a lesson i learned years ago from watching “what not to wear” on tv! although it *is* counterintuitive, a degree of shaping in any outfit just makes you look slimmer than a boxy shape. i also apply it to my knitting. an exception is a sweater i’m making for a friend who wants to wear it while doing massage therapy ~ a close fit would make the sweater uncomfortable and possibly ride up, also not good. so i’m going with minimal shaping for this one.

  7. I agree and love your examples. One other issue that this addresses by default, it that I believe sweaters SHOULD be long enough to hit at the hip! Unless the style is cropped or a shrug, obviously. I see so many Sweater FOs where the lower edge is at the waist. Most sweaters look better and are more flattering if they go to the hip. IMHO.

  8. Thanks Amy – this makes total sense. I am so glad that you have figured this all out, have the understanding and have shared it with us.

  9. Thanks for this interesting and informative post Amy.

    I have two related requests/questions.

    I don’t understand Amy’s philosophy for positive ease at the waist. For my first CF sweater I am trusting her, and trying it, but I would have thought you want to accentuate your natural waist as much as possible. I can understand that directly under your waist (where many of us, including me, have a tummy) you want positive ease, but not the waist itself.

    I would love to see the equivalent to this hips post with photos of various waist ease.

    And this leads me to a second, related question.

    I ended up choosing a ‘close’ fit for my first CF sweater rather than an average fit because with an average fit CF gave my sweater no waist shaping (though I still have bust shaping). That’s because, even though I have a visible, defined waist, the difference between my waist + some positive easy and my hips + negative ease equaled no waist shaping. And I just can’t quite see how that would work, visually, particularly given Amy’s comments in Fit to Flatter on less curvy women still needing some waist shaping.

    All this amounts to a request for an equally informative post on waist shaping as this post was on hip shaping. – Thanks!

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