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Waist Shaping: From Waist on Up!

Mar 20, 2008

We have now arrived at our theoretical waist in our theoretical bottom-up, knit in the round pullover. All the decreases are done, leaving us with 267 stitches at the waist. Here's what to do from there on up:

1. Work even for a bit.

Usually, patterns will tell you to work even at this point for about an inch. This matches the reality of some of our bodies: Unless we have other bodacious curvages going on, our torsos do not generally start getting bigger until just under our rib cages, which is a bit above the waist.

Extra customization tip: Take a tape measure, wrap it around your waist, and then, holding the ends together loosely, slide it upwards until the ends need to expand a bit. How far up from your waist are you? That's the length you ought to "work even" for yourself, because that is the vertical distance in which YOU are the same circumference.

Extra sanity note: Don't sweat this "work even" distance too much if you are just a beginner. Work even for an inch, and then see if you like the finished effect. If not, make notes for next time.

2. Measure fullest part of bust.

We're not going to talk about bust shaping just yet (not yet, notice I said NOT YET!), in order to keep this simple. Taking a tape measure to my Girls, I notice Mother Nature is doing her usual sometimes up, sometimes down thing with my bust size, so today's number is a 41".

3. Choose preferred ease at bust.

We'll keep this simple and use the same ease we've used for the rest of the garment: 1.5" positive ease.

4. Add bust measurement to ease to get finished bust measurement of sweater.

41" plus 1.5" equals 42.5" finished bust measurement.

5. Calculate how much you need to INCREASE (we're going up, remember?) from waist (narrowest bit) to bust (wider bit).

Finished bust measurement minus finished waist measurement: 42.5 minus 38 equals 4.5".

6. Determine the number of total stitches to increase, waist to bust.

Take the result from #5 above and multiply by the stitch gauge: 4.5" times 7 stitches per inch equals 31.5, which we will round up to a nice even 32 stitches to increase.

7. Measure the vertical distance over which the increases will be worked.

Measure from your waist to the fullest part of your bust and then subtract 1" (to compensate for the work even section in #1). Waist to bust length for me is 8", minus 1" equals 7" over which to work the increases, or 91 rounds (7" times 13 rounds per inch).

8. Work out the spacing of the increases.

We'll do four increases for each increase round, so 32 stitches to increase divided by 4 equals 8 increase rounds needed. 91 rounds divided by 8 equals one increase round about every 11 rounds.

Summary: From waist to bust, I will work even for one inch, then start increasing four stitches each increase round, with one increase round worked every 11 rounds. Again, I will continue to work one increase on either side of the "side seam," just for consistency.

And that, my friends, is Waist Shaping 101! We did kind of a beginning overview, because there's lots more tricks and tips about where to put the shaping, how to shape using needle size changes and no decreasing/increasing at all, and much more.

Other posts in the Waist Shaping Series:

Waist Shaping: An Overview

Waist Shaping: Not Just For Waist Anymore

Waist Shaping: The Math, Hem To Hip

Waist Shaping: Choose Your Curves

Waist Shaping: From Hip to Waist


Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What's on Sandi's Needles.


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on Jul 7, 2010 1:20 PM

So it's Friday. It's Spring. Don't you think we all deserve a little teensy goodie today

daffodilpat wrote
on Apr 4, 2008 4:04 PM
About increasing to accomodate the 'girls', shouldn't the increases be in front somehow. That is where we need the extra width, not at the sides.
EdnaR wrote
on Apr 1, 2008 1:01 PM
Hi Sandi I'm Edna
I signed on thinking was about crochet. Although I don't knit I find your articles interesting and something I might posibly use in my crochet. I would like to knit but in the past when I tried to learn i had problems with holes and knotting my yarn. I am in the process of making thing for my grand neice and for my demestic partners new grandson. I have the free mag. coming maybe it will help.
If you have a sight like this for crochet I would like to sign up for it. I get your mag for crochet. and love it. I directed my grandaughter in reno to this book as I can no longer sit with her, as it is a great book for beginners.
Thank You Edna
PatL wrote
on Mar 28, 2008 8:45 PM
Thank you for this wonderful series! You haven't really mentioned it, but this is valuable for knitting for the middle aged men in our lives who may have a small half-basketball attached to their front... :-)
EmilyG wrote
on Mar 24, 2008 6:31 PM
I am really thankful that you have made these posts. I keep saying that I would really like to customize my patterns to fit my size, not the "so small she'll blow over in the wind" models. I am ready to get to the waist...Can't wait to hear about the bust shaping so that I can complete the project. No worries, I'm not the worlds fastest knitter, so I'm sure when you post is around when I'll get there. :) Thanks again! -Emily G
JenniferH wrote
on Mar 24, 2008 5:55 PM
I really appreciate this series as I have yet to make my first sweater. I have the wool - from Schoolhouse Press - but, I'm a sock knitter & have little confidence when it comes to a large, EXPENSIVE, project.
This series is going to help, tremendously, as soon as I get my *sweater genes* back on track.
ShellieB wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 8:41 PM
so- once I've done my bust increases, how do I avoid the underarm wrinkle that happens when there's a wad of extra fabric b/c the girls are fairly large, and my shoulders are not? more decreases? Where would THEY start?
NancyL@2 wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 8:06 PM
Help - What about the posts in July having to do with the Tomato? A "Bust Dart PDF" was promised, but 'the girls' need help, and I can't find it on this site.
BarbaraC@2 wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 4:57 PM
A few months ago, there was a discussion of how to get the crimps out of yarn that was frogged from a UFO so that it would be smooth and optimally usable. Two weeks ago, I bought a single ball of superwash wool (on sale) and it somehow jumped out of my car and onto a very muddy driveway and stayed there all night. I found it the next morning and, after a few choice words, wrapped it in paper towels and brought it into the house. Today I brushed off the surface dirt, skeined it on my swift, tied it together in 4 places, and washed it in the kitchen sink. It is now hanging over a plastic coat hanger on the shower rod -- clean, soft, and drying. I'll wind it into a new ball tomorrow evening, if all goes well.
Without Knitting Daily, I would have screamed, cursed, and generally despaired over the loss of this lovely yarn, which will one day be a hat. But, because of this terrific site, I was able to proceed fearlessly and wash the yarn, confident that All Would Be Well. Thanks!
Barbara C
JanetM@4 wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 12:42 PM
Fantastic articles on shaping BUT please, please tell us how to increase with needle sizes rather than adding stitches. Sounds fascinating and much easier.
Debcelley wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 12:00 PM
Nothing to do with waist shaping: I just found a bit of knitting news you're going to love. Here's a group of church ladies in the North of England "knitting the Bible."
LisaW@4 wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 11:01 AM
Ok, here's my question. I am a BBW (Big Beautiful Woman). Which in my case means I'm short, large breasted, round tummy and hips. However I carry most of my weight in the front with the exception of my tush. How can I handle the increases/decreases needed for a shaped garment without ending up with all that extra fabric in back from the increases done for the front? I'm pretty straight up and down in back until my tush so it always seems I have too much sweater.
EllenS wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 10:47 AM
In the Summary, shouldn't "From waist to hip" be changed to "From waist to bust"? I followed it until this point. Great job, Sandi! We love you.
Sandyk wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 10:28 AM
Before any woman goes to all the trouble of this measuring process-she should go to a good 'foundation' department, get measured for a bra which will fit. Then splurge on this garment which will make 'the girls' look their best AND make all her clothes fir and look better. I am talking from experience-and still can't believe I wear that size and what a big difference it makes!
StephanieM@2 wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 10:24 AM
What type of increase is your favorite? M1, knit front and back into same stitch, etc. I tend to get stuck trying to decide which one to use. Thanks for all the helpful info. I am currently planning a sweater vest worked in the round using a generic pattern. All this talk of shaping has given me some new ideas. Thannks.
SusanC wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 9:03 AM
When are we going to start being able to buy t-shirts with the Knitting Daily tattoo logos on them? Summer is coming...
M.M wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 8:53 AM
Sandi, you rock, girlfriend!!
MelissaS@3 wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 8:37 AM
Just signed up for this site a few weeks ago and I love it, the information, the patterns (just got my yarn for the Central Park hoodie)and the comraderie. 2007 was my year of knitting fearlessly, though I didn't know it at the time. Working from books written by people who loved knitting, I guess I lucked out and bypassed the fear factor. Thank you for all you do. And ladies, if you don't have a waist, get one! Heart disease is the number one killer of women and that extra weight at the middle is one of the indicators for high risk. Now that is something to be afraid of!
ChristinaJ wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 8:26 AM
Not to make this more complicated...can you add bust and waist shaping to a sweater being knit sleeve to sleeve, to remove the boxy look?
LindaM@8 wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 8:16 AM
Thank you so much for creating this web site - I love getting the "mail" from you every week - You give such great information. I am knitting more now than ever before. Again, thank you for making me feel so good! Linda
Camilla WV wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 7:24 AM
Whatever happened to Sandi's gathered pullover??
MarthaL wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 6:02 AM
I don't think the point of "shaping" is to make tight, small, or shrunken sweaters- it's to make garments that actually fit correctly. Most people walking around in off-the-rack clothes are wearing things that do not actually fit them- they are made to fit a standard model for their size. Most of us have a few charming quirks that differ from this standard- log torso, big arms, etc.
THAT's what the shaping is supposed to accomodate....
I find it a bit weird that folks are so defensive about this idea. If you don't like it, then go ahead and keep making baggy sweaters- do whatever you like, for goodness sake.
Also, how come folks are so worried about losing and gaining weight and not being able to wear their sweaters?
The sweater stretches- that's the beauty-part of knit fabric. It is unlikely- unless you are really loosing hundreds of pounds, in which case skip the sweater making during this time and try shawls- that your weight loss would affect such issues as long or short waisted-ness.
I think it's quite helpful to know how to accomodate a large bust without creating a garment that swims on the wearer. I am quite short, and for me, clean lines and something that gentley narrows from my bust-to-waist are really important.
this does not in any way denote tight, shrunken or any other fad- it just means creating something that fits MY body.
Happygoo25 wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 1:58 AM
Sandi, how do we calculate decreases if we are not working in-the-round? You say to decrease every 11th row, so would that mean we should make wrong-side decreases or increases? Or do we alternate between 10 and 12?
Happygoo25 wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 1:54 AM
To Judith Z, I understand your concern but some of us are very shapely and a straight sweater is way too big and a complete waste of yarn. We are just trying to eliminate some of that unnecessary bulk. It is hardly the same as puffy sleeves, tunics lengths, and shoulder pads. If you have a big bust and a small waist straight sweaters pull at the bust and bag at the waist. Not very flattering especially when the "look" is straight. If we were looking just for tight sweaters we would just knit a smaller size. I don't think that is what it is all about. Get Creative Already.
JaneS@3 wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 10:16 PM
Please hurry with the baby sweater pattern--my daughter's going to have a baby in Oct. and I'm a s-l--o--w knitter! Thanks! Jane
BeverlyK wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 8:29 PM
Congratulations and thank you. This series has been terrific--very straight-forward and easy to understand. I know I will refer to it as I plan my summer tops.

LauraY wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 7:17 PM
Could you explain what to do with the pattern either stitch or color?
RosP wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 6:49 PM
Please can you give some advice on empire waist shaping? Because presumably you decrease much more rapidly below the bust, and then increase again slowly to hip measurement?
Deepblue1975 wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 5:42 PM
Waist-shaping usually isn't my problem, though I've appreciated the instructions on how to make garments more custom-fitted to my dimensions.

Here's my problem: My upper arms are always too big for the sleeves that come with most knitting patterns. I've learned my lesson on the length (or rather shortness) of my arms and adjust the length of the sleeve accordingly. Sometimes I just make the biggest sleeve size the pattern gives instructions for (while making a smaller sized body that would fit my torso), or even add a few increase rows to that, and hope for the best. But then I never know how the sleeve will fit into the arm-hole of the body, and some creative finishing has been necessary in the past to avoid puffy sleeves and similar issues.

Could you have set of instructions on how to custom-fit sleeves? I can't be the only person out there with disproportionately 'strong' arms. Thanks!
JudithZ wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 5:04 PM
OK, here comes the dissenting voice -- "of reason"? These FITTED beautiful sweaters that you are lovingly knitting right now are going to go the same way as the sweaters with the puffy shoulder caps that were knit some years back. Operative words: YEARS BACK. The time and money put into these works of art will become passe sooner than you want -- whatever the body type or girth. We currently have an obsession in this country with wearing clothing that looks like it belongs to our little sisters. It is another fad/phase/whatever that will pass sooner than you have amortized the cost of your project. Whatever happened to the classic look that flattered everyone? From the comments that are coming in . . . look at the anxiety people are feeling. Having to worry if it going to be too tight or not tight enough is sad . . . what ever happened to the comfort and the joy of wearing beautiful knitted sweaters.
Mary BE wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 5:02 PM
Many, many thanks for all your time and efforts on this series. Have just had time to scan them (with eyes not scanner) and have set up a file on shaping in my KD folder. Am just now beginning to get into customizing fitting things to my personal lumps and bumps (shape.) Your instructions will definitely reduce the quantity of my shaping mistakes. I hope you are getting psotive feedback from others!
Mary B
tatterbat wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 4:51 PM
Sandi, I've really loved this series. I do hope you will (Fearlessly!) continue on to neckline and shoulder/armscye shaping. Every pattern I see needs so much tweaking that I pretty much need to re-write it. The difference is now, I actually feel capable of attempting it.
SandyS wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 4:46 PM
Thank you so much. I could picture it clearly in my head. I'm not afraid to try shaping a bit. Thanks again.
KayA wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 4:27 PM
Jowester, I'm in the same situation--only I KNOW I'm losing weight. The question still remains, though, what size to knit when I start a project--do I knit one size down and hope I'll shrink that much more? How do I figure out waist/hips/bust if I'm guessing? Or do I just knit for the size I am now and hope the sweater looks good oversized?
PrisKnits wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 4:25 PM
I love that y'all love knit sweaters, but there are those of us who do not knit sweaters--would you entertain a welcome change in subject? such as knits for the home. I design pillows and would like to see more along those lines and rugs and towels and placemats and -- well, you get the picture. Thanks!
Jowester wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 4:20 PM
My Fearless Knitter status is still pending since I've got to finish the Graduation Afghan but I've picked out my project pattern. Here's my question. If, after I go to all this work of shaping and fitting to meet my very own personal curvaceous measurements, what happens when I lose weight and it sags and bags or HORRORS I balloon up and this lovely crafted bit of designer sweaterware has much too much negative ease. What's my plan? Pass on the item to some other deserving similarly shaped soul or is there a trick for re-altering. OR do I just say "screwit" and knit to fit. Am I worrying too much?
MaryD@8 wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 4:18 PM
Can Sandi share the pattern for the most adorable baby jacket ever?
LindaS@9 wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 4:17 PM
Wait, what do I do after the increases at the bust? The instructions made complete sense but I feel a little lost in my plan. Maybe I'll just make a tube top.
EllenR wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 4:04 PM
I haven't had problems getting stitch gauge while knitting but I am usually "long" on row gauge. This is especially a problem when fitting a torso. Any ideas on how to solve this? I used to knit quite loosely so I usually use needles about two sizes smaller than the pattern notes.