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Knitting for Plus Sizes: recommended designs

Nov 4, 2010

As we wrap up our discussions of the Fall issue here on Inside Knits, I thought it would be nice to highlight some of the projects that offer particularly strong options for the plus-size among us. You can make any design work for you, no matter your shape, size, or personal style. But sometimes a few pointers are welcome, right?

The Leitmotif Cardigan by Carol Feller

Finished Sizes: 32 (36, 41, 44, 48, 52)"
This design has an unusual construction, which will make it tougher to customize, but I recommend it for these reasons:
• set-in sleeve shapes mean a tailored crossback (good for women wide across the bust but average across the shoulders)
• A-line shaping: this doesn’t mean you'll look like a triangle. What it means is that the hip circumference is wider than the bust circumference, allowing for consistent ease and fit on women with pear shapes
• Adaptable closure. The sample uses hook-and-eye closures, meaning there are no set buttonhole placements to deal with. You can place the hook-and-eyes where you like, or leave off altogether and wear the cardigan open.

The Inversion Gansey by Angela Hahn

Finished Sizes: 33.5 (38.25, 43, 48, 52.75)"
• Underam gussets create extra fabric and ease right at the bustline, and also contribute to room in the upper sleeve.
•The sweater has waist shaping and a hip circumference that is wider than the bust, making this a great choice for hourglass figures who are heavier on bottom than on top.

The Cloisonne Jacket by Deborah Helmke

Finished Sizes: 38 (42, 46, 50, 54)"
• Set-in sleeve construction allows for tailored cross-back fit.
• A flared hem, combined with floating-open fronts, allows for movement and ease around the hips.
• Shoulder shaping and a V-neck create flattering lines.
• Again, a hook-and-eye closure can be placed as desired.
• If you choose to work more length even in main color before the armholes, the colorwork section could create a kind of Empire waist effect.


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on Jan 2, 2011 12:44 PM

I'm with all the other folks who really would like more realistically-sized models.  I do see that many of the comments reflect an analysis of construction of the garment relative to our larger body sizes.  I've learned the hard way (by knitting garments) that set-in sleeves are best for me, and non-bulky yarns are best for me, and one-button-closure garments are disastrous!

Some time ago, I came across an Internet group called Ample Knitters.  I'm going to check and see if they are still active.  They had tutorials online, re-written patterns for larger sizes, a very upbeat group!

Lpatrick_99 wrote
on Dec 4, 2010 10:46 AM

One of the things I would like to see on all knitting and crocheting patterns is the amount of ease the pattern is created with. I think that if I know that a pattern has 2" of ease, or -2" of ease and looks tight in certain areas on the model in the photo I can then at least have a guess at what size I should really knit or crochet.

I take a very long time to knit a sweater and it is so frustrating not to have it fit after all the work.

Re:The Cloisonne Jacket, if I wanted to write about it for a plus size figure I would have suggested that the colors blue bottom strip and possibly the cuffs be knitted in brown. I agree that having a light color at the bottom of a sweater just is not flattering on a plus size figure with a larger hip size that bust size.

That said I do enjoy these additional blogs with more info on knitting as I so get more info. I often go to to look up others who have knitted a pattern that I like and see if I can find someone who has a similar figure to mine. It's a great help to me.

LisaShroyer wrote
on Nov 29, 2010 4:06 PM

I appreciate everyone's concerns--it is hard to discuss plus-size issues when we only have photos of standard size 2-4 models. What we try to do with these Knitting for Plus Sizes posts is pull out designs and topics from regular issues of Interweave Knits and talk about how they work, don't work, or can be adapted for plus sizes. Unfortunately, we only have the regular photography and samples to work with. In the past, I have knitted up some of the patterns in my own size--16/18--and blogged about them (you can look back through my post history). I've been busy working on samples for a book, which is about knitting for plus sizes and does show the samples on women of plus-sized build. I'm hoping to get more time to blog about these issues in more depth. Please share links to your own blogs and gallery photos if you knit up designs in your own size and think we could all benefit from seeing them--whether they're from IK or not. Thanks for your feedback!

AriesKnitWit wrote
on Nov 28, 2010 10:12 PM

I agree with all the other comments.  It is insulting to use these models and claim they are wearing plus sizes.  Use real women to model the plus sizes, please.  I have so much trouble finding flattering plus sized knit patterns that I usually only knit socks and wraps for myself.  I would really love to knit several sweaters but past experiences with garments that are sized for large sizes but turn out totally unflattering have soured me on knitting them.  It is heartbreaking to spend so much time making a garment you wouldn't be caught dead in!

judith jones wrote
on Nov 23, 2010 4:20 PM

I have had a look at the "Big Girls Knits" , on line, and I am not keen on the patterns, and yes, you say that it has the suggestions on how to "alter" patterns to make them for larger sizes.  However, it would be magic if I did not have to go to this bother, if more larger, and I mean like sizes 16 up patterns were available ready to go!  This way I would be able to see these patterns on the body, to see how I would look in them!!

alt1977 wrote
on Nov 17, 2010 12:53 PM

I feel your pain!!!

I recommend "Big Girl Knits" by Jillian Moreno & Amy Singer.  Even if you don't like the patterns in their book, the information on what to look for in a pattern and how to alter a pattern to fit a bigger frame is excellent.

DianeF@3 wrote
on Nov 15, 2010 11:17 AM

I agree that this is the usual problem.  Show bigger sizes on tiny models.  I am absolutely stunned when I see that a size 14 is a "plus" size.  When I graduated from high school my dress was a size 14 and I was 5'7" and weighed 115 pounds.  My nicknames were "6 o'clocK" , "boney maroney" etc, etc.  

Can we PLEAZZZZZZZZZZE have some real size models for our larger sized sweaters?     Diane

Braizyn wrote
on Nov 15, 2010 11:09 AM

Let me add my agreement to all the previous posts.  Who ever thought that these three patterns are representative of what a plus size woman would not only knit, but wear, obviously isn't a plus size.

First cardigan is so skimpy in the front that when closing it, on a plus size woman, would be horrifically unflattering.  If anything shouldn't be closed at all.

The second sweater needs a plus size model to see if it works, but my guess is that for a woman with a large chest, this pattern would be awful.

And the Cloisonne jacket; the design aesthetic is horizontal, and therefore, unflattering for a plus size woman.

Guys, think before you publish!

larwos wrote
on Nov 14, 2010 6:49 PM

I couldn't agree more with all the other larger ladies who've already said how ridiculous both the designs and models in this 'plus sizes' knitting feature are.

Surely there are some knitting designers who are size 18 or over who can design garments that are flattering for the larger ladies?

Years ago a friend had a boxy jacket, double breasted with lapels in a box stitch, which would be wonderful.  It was in a heavy wool, but personally I would prefer it in 8 or 12 ply.  Unfortunately, the design, although very suitable for someone larger, only went up to size 16.  Anyone seen it, or know how to increase the size?

on Nov 14, 2010 11:51 AM

Reading all the comments re models...YES bring on the REAL Plus Size. While reading I was thinking of the new book I bought last week...."Big Girl Knits". It's like a workshop on customizing any pattern to fit YOU. All I need is to have DH help measure me up!

cassel63 wrote
on Nov 14, 2010 9:06 AM

Ladies! have a look at the book 'Big Girl Knits' by Jillian Moreno and Amy Singer - great patterns, and they use real big girls as their models, so you get a true look at the finished product on someone our size.

That said, I'm disappointed as well with the recommendations - you never put a large woman in an A-line cardigan with a top button - the gap definately emphasizes the ample body below. And a sweater with contrast color detail on the bottom hem? Worst place ever! Give us something with details at the yoke, collar, or upper body - so the attention is on our beautiful faces!

muffie@2 wrote
on Nov 14, 2010 8:52 AM

DITTO on the other comments........ Where are the chubbies that look like me ????

These women are at least 5'8", and have zero body fat. Plus size ????? I think not...

myralis wrote
on Nov 14, 2010 8:31 AM

Having a use for information on "Knitting for Plus Sizes," I immediately clicked on the article link.  How disappointing!!!  Seems to me that when you have a section titled "knitting for Plus Sizes" it would seem logical to illustrate using plus size models.  Planning ahead and knitting sweaters for "plus size" models would have made this article much more useful.

Woops,  just scrolled down the page and found others with the same opinion.

PattyJ wrote
on Nov 14, 2010 8:02 AM

What about a figure that's fat and flat (not much bust).  Kindof a different set of issues.  Most plus size manufactured clothes and plus size knitting patterns assume if you're large you have a large bust.  :(

olesewnsew wrote
on Nov 14, 2010 7:21 AM

Well, ladies do you really think they are going to hire plus sized models that are really plus sized? The ones I've seen still have great figures even though they are ample...they don't look like most of us...

I wish someone would write a book solely to teach us how to add where we need extra without it looking weird or distorted...someone will get very rich if they write this book...anybody interested?

on Nov 14, 2010 1:19 AM

I completely agree with the previous posts. Let's see some real plus sized models; those with extra tummies and larger arms actually modeling these "recommended" sweaters.

judith jones wrote
on Nov 13, 2010 11:03 PM

Yes Lynerhonda, I totally agree with everything you say, those fitting sleeves on us ample figures would look a 'treat'.  I also agree with the other ladies, it would be wonderful to see these or other garments be modeled with ladies that do have the 'plus' sizes.  It is so disheartening, when a pattern is purchased for a 'plus' size and when completed, it does absolutely nothing for your figure, and all the work you have put in to create it, well, you just sigh, and think, there goes another one.  So please gives us these larger patterns with larger models

lynerhonda wrote
on Nov 13, 2010 8:57 PM

I totally agree with the two previous comments from Caseyst and Jeanne.  I thought the The Leitmotif Cardigan by Carol Feller and the The Cloisonne Jacket by Deborah Helmke looked a little 'stretched' on the ultra thin models, with the front edges not actually meeting, so what would they look like on my 70 year old ample frame.   There would be a great gap down the front.  Those of us who may be heavier on the bottom than the top, and this applies to all those suffering from an under active thyroid, would find that the The Inversion Gansey by Angela Hahn

would tend to emphasise the tummy region, and perhaps give the impression that we were 'with child'.  Does anyone else agree with this Aussie old age pensioner, please?

Ann@179 wrote
on Nov 13, 2010 8:55 PM

I like the gusset idea, but I have large arms and have a friend who can never get patterns to fit, I, too would also like to see models for these garments in the 48in bust or over sizes with large arms!! Tight sleeves seem to make us look larger.

jeanne@29 wrote
on Nov 13, 2010 1:47 PM

I agree with Caseyst. Being 5'4" and about as round as I am tall, this info doesn't mean a lot when it is shown on beanpoles

Caseyst wrote
on Nov 13, 2010 1:37 PM

Somehow I think this would be more believable if your models weren't all 98 pounds soaking wet.