On The Third Day, I Ripped

The colors I chose for my Tomato

Let me be clear: It's not Amy-the-book-author's fault I ended up having to rip out two days' worth of knitting on the Tomato. It's also not Wendy-the-pattern-designer's fault. It's entirely my fault, because even though I followed Amy's brilliant No Sheep For You teaching and Did The Geeky Thing, I completely forgot that I was knitting for my real self and not for my imaginary self.

I am a big girl. That's a fact. However, and this is the interesting part: I am not as big as I think I am. I suspect this is true of many of us gals. We are so brainwashed by the media that, in our minds and in our mirrors, we see ourselves as—literally—larger than life. However, I am not larger than life-sized (and neither, I suspect, are you). I am simply "life-sized." But I forgot how powerful my imagination is. When I cast on for Tomato the first time, I cast on for
No Sheep For You by Amy R. Singer
that imaginary big girl and not for the actual big girl I am. No one said knitting for women was simple, just rewarding.

Somewhere around the middle of the second day of knitting, I began to get nervous. This Tomato was looking darn huge, as in, that's a LOT of salsa…which brings me to the "gorgeous-but-scary" color choice I referred to in the last post. See the photo? Those are the yarns I bought: Poppy, a rich orange, and Caribbean, a cool teal for the accent color. Pretty pretty, but, um…quite "vibrant." So when the nervousness first hit, I figured it was just the orange freaking me out—I have never knit with orange in my life, ever, and even though I loved the color, I was having second, third, and fourth thoughts about wearing something this bright. (Talk about attention-getting. Eeek!) However, my gauge was spot-on, thanks to Amy's lessons on getting my geeky thang on. I even re-measured my curvy self with a new (and thus not-stretched out) tape measure on Friday night
Measuring my Tomato using waste yarn
before casting on, just to be sure. The tape measure said I owned about 42.5" worth of curves, so I figured the 44.5" finished size would do nicely.

That, of course, was my fatal mistake. In order to make a truly hot Tomato, I needed to embrace my curves with two little words I had forgotten to take into account: Negative Ease. You want negative ease when you want something to gently and attractively hug your curves, and when you knit with a yarn that makes a stretchy fabric—such as the lovely Blue Sky Organic Cotton I was using. Somewhere around Row 47, I realized that if I continued merrily along the knitting path I had chosen, I would end up with a baggy, saggy tasteless Tomato instead of the hot tasty Tomatillo I wanted.

That was Saturday night, and I couldn't bear the thought of having to start over, so I went to bed vigorously convincing myself that everything would be oh-so-tasty
Zoe helps measure my little green top
and fine. Sunday morning, fortified with coffee, I faced reality and put all 242 stitches on waste yarn so that I could get accurate measurements. My gauge was still right on target…but something else was wrong and I knew it. I got out my two favorite tops, tops that fit well and make me look great, and I measured them, laid flat. They were each about 40" around at the underarm. The Tomato I was knitting was going to be 44.5" around at the underarm. That extra four and a half inches meant my Tomato would be too loose, despite my actual 42.5" measurements. I needed the fabric to skim my curves lovingly, not hang shapelessly over them so that my curves look bigger than they are.

And so now: I rip. I am starting over with the next size down, the 40" size. This Tomato is gonna make one spicy dish of big-girl salsa.

Next time: That stripe and what I did with it.

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79 thoughts on “On The Third Day, I Ripped

  1. I can so relate to having to rip things out and start over. Oh the agony! I have on several occasions realized that what I was making wasn’t going to fit the body I was making it for. LOL

    The colors are beautiful and I think sometimes it is good to go with bold colors!

  2. I feel your froggin’ pain! But in the end, you will be a happy, curvy lookin’ woman in a hot top!

    Love your kitty! My cat Furface helps me knit whenever he can ~

  3. Thanks for this! I mostly knit socks and lace – but this is partially because I’ve made several sweaters too big or too small, mostly out of being too lazy to rip it out when it looks like it’s going wrong. Maybe I’ll try again, with new inspiration!

  4. By the way, I do not remember what has been my comment on your survey but I will like to add that I am planning to do a vest. Would you have an interested pattern on this sujbect to share?


  5. You are so, so right about the self image thing. I am a medium person. Yes, a short person who is not fat and not thin. But I keep knitting items for my much larger mental image. There is a lovely pale blue angora vest just waiting for me to tink it, thanks to me believing, oh, it will just be a LITTLE loose. No, it is huge. I should not have knit the XL size. I am a MEDIUM. What is it with us women?

  6. Thank you for this wonderfully honest article. I am exactly your size and tend to make things too large in an effort to hide my curves. I love your positivity. Keep sharing. Can’t wait to see the finished product on.

  7. I am not a sweater knitter so this negative ease thing is something I should learn about. I just wanted to say YOU GO GIRL! Steppin out of the box is scary, but good for you. A new color and a top that is form fitting, bravo! We all need to be more confident in ourselves. You will show pictures of you in the finished sweater I hope!

  8. Thanks for the honesty update. I was worried that I would show off the wrong curves (the middle-aged I sit all day at a desk curves), but life is short, no? I’m heading off to my LYS this afternoon after work. Maybe by next week I’ll be typing away in a new sweater!

  9. I am glad to know that even professionals make mistakes. I always seem to get my eyes on the wrong size or line and have to rip out. I don’t feel I have accomplished anything unless I rip out. Lesley Peterson Huntington Beach, Ca

  10. I have been knitting for years, for others. Like the lady with theb huge tomato sweater everything I have made fornmyself is always huge. Would like a good source to find out how to propperly measure myself and figure ease.

  11. I love your writing style! You had me laughing out loud because I also tend to overestimate how large I need to make knitted garments. And I totally connect with the picture of Zoe helping out. My cat Harley’s idea of help is to bite the knitting needles while I’m trying to knit. It’s very difficult to stitch with nearly 20 lbs. of cat hanging on the needles! Keep up the wonderful job of inspiring all of us.

  12. Amen to the size thing. The first sweater I knitted myself, so I could wear it when I walked with my husband, was big enough for both of us, at the same time! I can’t wait to see those beautiful colors together.

  13. I love that you rip out! Once I made a gorgeous mohair sweater that would fit a family of 5 altogether. I ripped it out twice before I got a perfect fit. Ripping out mohair is probably the most frustrating thing I’ve done in knitting. If you want to be happy with your finished product you’ve got to do the unthinkable…rip out!

  14. At my house I have the “knitting police” my daughters who check to make sure I am not making my cool stuff way too big, then I secretly up it a size. What is with this? Now maybe we will feel empowered.

  15. Thank you, thank you. When I saw the picture of you picking out the color, I said to myself, she’s about my size/age. Maybe I could wear a Tomato, too. I would have done EXACTLY what you did. I would have measured myself and added a few inches. Thanks to your speedy start to a knitting project, I have the important info that I need! Thank you, thank you.

  16. I lost 70 lbs a year before I started knitting. Needless to say, the first 3 garments I made were far too big for my littler self. I still have one of them, and wear it over t shirts! Great colors you’ve selected!

  17. I just downloaded the tomato! you have totally inspired me to make tops for myself. With negative ease for the proper fit. Thanks for reminding me to measure tops that fit right on a quest for a good fit.

  18. This makes me feel better about taking apart an “afghan” I crocheted —a huge big granny square that distorted and had to much space between the stitches to be warm–now I am crocheting it in a ripple stitch–much warmer, plus I like the way it looks better. Sometimes it is hard to rip out when you have put alot of time into something–but a good fit is so much more stisfactory ( I have ripped back knitting projects, also;-) I think the orange you choose is a lovely color….

  19. Oh, you are so spot on about the image thing. I have several sweaters that are too big for me, because I wanted to make sure they weren’t too small. So my last effort was a skimpy little tank from Vogue Knitting (summer 2007) and it is SEXY! I’m just a short medium sized person, who thinks she’s big.

  20. Hi all! Sandi here. You BET I will post photos of me and my hot Tomato! :0) And sounds like I need to do a post on measuring for your Real Woman Self and figuring the proper ease. Check. It’s on the to-do list… Thanks for all the encouragement and great comments, everyone–so much fun to read! You’re inspiring ME and I just want to get home and knit up the rest of that Tomato Salsa now. More next week!

  21. I totally understand the oh no not the unknit thing. I just finished a cardigan for a Baltic Cruise this September and I thought it looked a bit snug but couldn’t face unpicking! My daughter now has a lovely cardy and I am starting over with new measurements.

  22. I find garment ease pretty challenging, too, even though I have a few knitting books that tackle this topic. Patterns don’t always address this head on, either. I like patterns that explicitly state things like “this garment should fit closely, so make it slightly smaller than your measurements.” You can’t always tell by the way a pattern is styled, either. For me what makes ease even more difficult to calculate is understanding ease AND the properties of the fiber. Cotton is stretchy, as is bamboo. So, while you may be able to get past the [mental?] hurdle of allowing for proper garment ease, figuring out how to achieve that ease with the fiber you’re working with is hard, too. That’s why so many knitters really love wool; it is so forgiving!

  23. I want to start out by saying that I love knitting daily! Both the actual knitting and the blog. I love it that I get a treat in my email! I also love the fact that you are human and make mistakes too. It makes me feel better. Thanks!

  24. Have I been there! I am almost finished with a summer cotton T – and for once in my life, I remembered negative ease. It fits! I jumped up and down! I am so happy to know that I am not the only experienced knitter who makes mistakes.

  25. My apologies folks my post got cut off somehow.

    The book is “Big Girl Knits” and I really learned how to knit for my figure. I’m not afraid to knit sweaters for me now.

  26. Don’t fret, we all have distorted images of ourselves. The big mistake is not going back to make the corrections so that you enjoy your finished sweater. You could have just said you’d find someone bigger to wear it but what a waste! And besides, I bet it will be great on you!

  27. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who virtually ALWAYS knits garments far too large for my real self! I’ve come to realize that I’m simply not capable of knitting anything that has negative ease. Thank you so much for sharing!

  28. That reflects my biggeest peeve with patterns. I generally am a size “medium”, measuring between 36 and 38 inches at the bust. But (I realize I’ll be screaming) WHAT SIZE SHOULD I KNIT??!! What if I do not own a garment of similar fit to measure against so I can knit the perfect size? If I don’t know it’s supposed to be negative ease or standard fit or oversized, how can I choose the proper pattern size, regardless of endless swatching? Peeve #2, how about photos that reflect the fit and design? I do not want to see posing. I’d like to see the design and fit.

  29. I am glad to hear you plan to address the often tricky subject of ease. “Big Girl Knits” is a good resource, even for not-so-big but still curvy girls. Some styles just won’t fit right no matter what size you make.

  30. Just LOVE coming home from my Nursing job and find this on the email to de-stress…been knitting all my life (58) and Elizabeth Zimmerman was the only person I ever saw for years that knit like I Learned from scnadinavian/German family…she made it fun…and now you have come along…WONDERFUL…..I’M GLAD, GLAD, GLAD!!!!!!!!!!!!! Joann Hamilton, NC

  31. Hear, hear! Glad to see another knitter casting inappropriately for their size. After losing 80 lbs, I still cast on for Omar the tent maker when I am merely the regular extra large. More larger models please and keep up the great work here.

  32. Ah yes ,you call it rippping back, I call it unpicking, I find that my command of bad language increases exponentially when this occurs for me,because I know that I have no choice but to unpick and start over. I tend to think that I’m slimmer than I am, which is just as bad only the other way. Keep up the good work and keep knitting with most brilliant colours, death to all sludge colours, brighten up yours and everybody else lives with cheerful colours!!!!Thank you thank you for this great cheer up.from
    Eirwen on a damp south wales hilltop.

  33. First of all, I LOVE reading your daily post! It is now my home page! Thank you for all the hard work you do for us yarn addicts! In regards to your post,Oh how I can sympathize! I have “frogged” many knits too! Keep up the beautiful work you do! I can’t wait to see the finished “spicy tomato”!

  34. I echo kudos for “Big Girl Knits”. Its a book that explains so much about making ATTRACTIVE knits for us larger sized life sized people. Embrace the curves and knit for them not to hide them. Good for you in accepting it and frogging (shudder) to make it happen. You go! I am going to knit my own first ever top for me..the Lotus Tank. I bought yarn last night that may be a reasonable substitute. My first top for me and my first lace! Thank you Knitting Daily.

  35. As another one of those big girls, I thank you for this fabulous post! I hope to make Tomato for myself (sans stripe, I *really* don’t need any emphasis there!) one of these days, and your experience and thoughts are most helpful.

  36. Having grown up sewing my clothes, I got used to always making them a little big, because you could always take more away, but never add more on. Knitting is a rather new pursuit, and my first sweater is gargantuan, and I can’t add darts. It’s a reminder to measure, and make smaller. Very good for my ego, I must say.

  37. Sandi,
    I consider it a triumph when I rip out and start again; for so many years I WOULDN’T! Now I have the confidence to do what needs to be done.
    I like to call our size women “voluptuous” (in another time in history, WE would have been the beauty standard!)and I often have trouble with sizing, so your comments were helpful to me.
    What I want to know is where you got the pattern for the magnificent sweater you’re wearing in your picture. It really does look great on you!

  38. I, too, have had a great deal of trouble accurately sizing myself. I have finally measured clothing that I like and made myself use those measurements, instead of my own guess to determine stitch count. Also, I’ve started adding shaping via darts,pattern stich, increases/decreases and find tha the finished garment is ever so much more flattering to my chubby, square shaped self.

  39. Sandi, I just want you to know that I love your flair in writing AND knitting! How many times have all of us faithfully made our swatches, started enthusiastically on a project, only to find days later that the garment isn’t panning out quite as expected. If you’re a perfectionist, as I tend to be, you do a lot of ripping out if something isn’t right!!

    However, attitude is nearly everything in this area. And the more creative we can be with our “mistakes” the less intimidating an error may seem. Thanks for your imput and the fabulous new website!!
    P.S. The kitty is darling… Kathleen L.

  40. I feel your pain. Fabulous colors for this sweater. And I just love this particular yarn. You will love the reknit sweater loads when it’s finished.

  41. I have had the exact same experience, and I am a bit-too-little girl. I’m sure you know, but I will repeat for emphasis–Big girls are not the only ones with fit problems!
    I ripped out my current WIP because it was too big, but now I’m worried it is too little. I think the biggest problem is not knowing what amout of ease, negative or otherwise, a pattern/yarn combo needs.

  42. Great post. One thing I’ve been meaning to ask Interweave for is to not just tell us the size shown on the model but tell us how much ease is shown! I have a hard time figuring out how much ease to plan for, too!

  43. Ease. That one little word has so much import. In order to know what size to knit I need to know what measurements the model is and what size sweater she or he is wearing. I was just the subject of a knitting intervention when I chose a size with the 2 inches of ease I thought would be right. The “thing” was 9 inches too %$#@$%# big. And here’s another rant while I’m at it. My front and my back ARE NOT THE SAME SIZE! I’ve got breats. Yep, I know it comes as a shock to many designers, but many women do have them. They have a BIG impact on fit, shaping and what looks good. Women of the double D’s unite!
    Sarah O.

  44. I must have the same mirror as you the last 5-6 jumpers I have made for myself are HUGE. Stuff I make for anyone else I measure and re-measure them and usually the finished garment fits really well, but for me HUGE. The stupid thing is I make them so big to hide my large figure and it only makes me look even bigger. This time I will learn from your mistake, probably.

  45. Thanks you, thank you for talking about negative ease, especially how it relates to us curvy girls! I have 3 WIP’s languishing because I think I have made the same fatal error. I at least I know I’m not the only one, and there is nothing for it but to rip it out and go again. At least I’ll enjoy the knitting part!

  46. I enjoyed this post quite a bit: it was funny, honest, and informative… all in one!

    I need to learn more about negative ease, and I would enjoy a post about how to measure for our Real Woman selves & then adjust properly for ease.

    Thank you for bringing us all along with you on your Tomato top knitting; I’m sure it will turn out well – can’t wait to see your photos!

  47. Great explanation of negative ease – by the way, your story is also the story of the very little girls – us elfin women who never got to resemble much more than a thimbleful of womanhood. I often see the smallest size of a pattern and think, seriously, 32 inches all around does not a attractive sweater make for me … i often have to adjust either gauge or re-write the pattern to remove ease or risk looking even smaller than i already am – because just as big girrls look bigger with excess ease, little girls look even littler when the knit stuff doesn’t cling.

  48. Ease, one way or another is always tricky. I recently made a sweater in black and white stranded color work for my son. Got the measurements right, but forgot that the stranding would make the fabric less elastic. It would have been so tight he couldn’t inhale. Oh well, I frogged from the armholes and started over.

  49. Thank you for taking the time to describe how to accurately measure for a good fit and for the input on no stretch yarn vs. stretchy yarn. That’s somethin I never think of when I’m starting a project.

  50. After reading the post and the comments, all I could think of is par boiling tomatos to peel them before canning them.

    I tell my students, if your going to knit something, you must first become the world’s best frogger, tinker, ripper outer, backwards unknitter! Or, just go finger it out!

  51. Reading your blog on the tomato experiment made me laugh out loud. I found it just hilarious. I always have problems with size as I am medium chested and don’t want to look too fat in a sweater. The best way however, is like you said, take a sweater that fits you well, meaning: smooths down the curbs and hope that the wool or whatever fiber you have chosen to use will not overstretch in the longrun.

  52. This is so late in the game, but I also have trouble with fit. I never feel comfortable in my own measurements, whether they are smaller or larger than usual. I am forging ahead with my own Tomato, happy thusfar. One thing that has helped me in knitting any project especially if I wish to make it again, is to take lots of notes along the way. I keep all mine in a notebook with a snip of the yarn, needle size,date started and hopefully (!) date completed.

  53. I wish I had taken the time to read this before I cast on for my Tomato. I just tried mine on, and it is much too large. Ah, well, live and learn,eh?
    V, in FLA

  54. For Barbra B. Negative Ease is the pattern is smaller than your actual measurments. Check out Threads web site or other sewing sites for better information. Also be aware that when profesinal photographers “shoot” sweaters, there is a very good chance that the back of the garment is full of clipps and duct tape. The sweater is pinned to fit the modle.
    For Sarah O I know exactaly what you are talking about, I have a size 8 back [bird bones] and a size 16 front. My best friend says I look like a barbie doll who had way to many tastycakes. Under her welcome, but caustic tutlage I learned a long time ago to make one size front-fudge the armsythe and another size back and then tink the sleeves until they fit properly. I have about 4.5 inches of sholder on each side. so sweaters go slowly after the armpits.

  55. dI need help I made my husband extra long sock because he wears a brace after a stroke but the sokc without the brace keeps falling down is the any thing I can do

  56. Yes, yes, yes!

    I am a new subscriber and catching up on my reading. As a short, curvy gal, I can really relate, especially to the notion of seeing myself as much bigger than I am. You have confirmed my notion that better a bit smaller than gargantuan (however it is spelled).

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.