Waist Shaping: From Hip To Waist

Alright, heeeere we go. Let's roll up our sleeves and go over how to figure out how much to decrease from hip to waist and where to put the decreases. Again, we will go slow, and there are no stupid questions.

Recap: We are doing the math for a theoretical, no-time-to-knit-a-real-one, sweater. The sweater is worked from the bottom up, in the round; we are using my measurements because I am easily talked into such things. We've already done the math up until the hip, which is where our first decrease will be worked. The gauge is 7 stitches per inch and 13 rounds per inch; at the hip, we have 319 stitches on our needles.

Here are the steps to work out the decreases from hip to waist.

1. Gather your measurements.

My hip circumference is 44"; my waist circumference is 36.5".

2. Determine your preferred ease for this garment.

At my hip, I chose 1.5" positive ease based on how I like to wear similar garments.

3. Add hip measurement to ease to get finished hip measurement of sweater.

44" plus 1.5" equals 45.5" finished hip circumference Note that this is the measurement that would show up on a schematic.

4. Determine how much ease you want at the waist.

Do I want the same amount of ease at my waist as at my hips? I think I'd like this sweater to follow the curves of my body a bit more closely than the gentle shaping we talked about last week, so I will leave the ease the same at the waist as at the hips: 1.5" positive ease.

5. Add waist measurement to ease to get finished waist measurement of sweater.

36.5" plus 1.5" equals 38" finished waist circumference.

6. Calculate how much you need to decrease from hip (widest bit) to waist (narrow bit).

This is the finished hip measurement minus finished waist measurement: 45.5" minus 38" equals 7.5".

7. Determine the number of total stitches to decrease, hip to waist.

This is the result from number 6 above, multiplied by the stitch gauge: 7.5" times 7 stitches per inch equals 52.5 stitches, which we will round down to make a nice even 52.

Now we know we have to decrease 52 stitches from hip to waist to get that curvy curve with 1.5" positive ease at both hip and waist. To work a gentler curve, use a larger amount of positive ease at the waist and do fewer decreases.

8. Measure the vertical distance over which the decreases will be worked.

We need to know the distance over which we are decreasing—in this case, what is the distance from hip to waist? Using my measuring tape, I find that this is 5" on me. So, I have 5" in which to decrease 52 stitches, or 65 rounds (5" times 13 rounds per inch).

9. Decide where to put the decreases in each decrease round.

Generally, decreases are worked on either side of the "side seams," which is in quotes here because my theoretical sweater is worked in the round. One on either side of the "side seam" each side works out to four decreases per decrease round. 52 divided by 4 equals 13, so I will need 13 decrease rounds. Length in which to decrease (65 rounds) divided by number of decrease rounds (13) equals distance between decrease rounds (5 rounds).

Summary: From hip to waist, I will work 52 decreases over 65 rounds, with one decrease round every 5th round. Each decrease round contains 4 decreases, one on each side of the "side seam."

And now we are at the waist! Halfway there! Whoo!

Did that help? Remember, there are no stupid questions, so if you have something to ask, or just something to say, about today's post, feel free to leave a comment. If your fellow posters don't answer you back, then I might put your question into a future Knitting Daily post!


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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33 thoughts on “Waist Shaping: From Hip To Waist

  1. Wow! I am reading all this and realize the algebra I took in high schoo may come in handy after all. 🙂

    Thanks for the information. I am so new to knitting that I haven’t actually finished anything I have started. I usually crochet and I am sure the same theory applies to that as well.

    This is a great site and I am looking forward to trying this out.

  2. This series is fabulous! It really helps me understand sweater construction better so I can go forth and fearlessly modify patterns for my own shape. But holy crap…all this math is making my head hurt. I’ll have to look at this again when I can sit down with an actual pattern that I want/need to modify.

  3. I have learned so much from this series. Thank you, Sandy.
    I had to re-read it several times to see how you figured the math, I do understand it and hope that I can do it on my sweater.

  4. Barbara Walker, in her book “Knitting from the Top” suggests that decreasing/increasing only on the side seams flattens a garment and adversely alters the way it hangs. She advises decreasing in four positions; two front and two back evenly spaced from the centers and sides. She indicates the importance of preserving the center front and back section stitch count by only increasing/decreasing on one side of the “line”. Any thoughts?

  5. This series is truly useful, practical, wonderful information. Thank you for doing all the work to put this together for us in such a straight-forward manner.

  6. Cheryl – that would be the same as a Princess line in sewing. As I’ve never done it with knitting I don’t know what would look best. I love how Sandy explained the maths. Now I’m ready to learn how to do short row shaping of shoulders and I’ve got my first fitted garment knitted by me.

  7. I have to add to Cheryl’s comments. I found the fitting series very helpful and especially the points about the ease and where the decreases/increases should be placed. But one thing that is left out in any of these fitting articles – is the technique of the decrease or increase in the garment. Which type of decrease works here?? There are a ton of decreases out there – but no one seems to say which ones should be used. Take this a how-to a step further and give us some pointers on how we should so this. For many of us our knowledge base has been handed down – but is it the best technique for the job. Thanks.

  8. I think Cheryl has a point, but I also think that where the decreases are placed best also depends on your body shape. If you are rounder, it may be better to decrease in four spots. But if you are flatter perhaps the side decreases are fine? I don’t know – just throwing it out there. This whole series serves the purpose of making us aware that alterations to a pattern are needed so garments fit our bodies!

  9. Thanks again Sandy! I feel like running out and designing my own sweater. In particular, not waiting for you all to come up with that adult size wrap sweater advertised on the side bar. 🙂

    I think if one is flat chested the 4 point ‘princess’ shaping is nice and gives the illusion of more shape than is actually there.

    I’m making one now and also wonder about the increases. The increase I used is rather more visible than I would like, but I’m not sure what would have been better.

  10. To CHERYL B. and CAROL Y., I think the princess seaming is a great idea if you are curvy in front and back because the seeming will act like bust darts. But, then again, that is a design detail that might not work on certain sweater styles and patterns.

    Which brings me to MT’s comment as to what increases and decreases to use. If there are as many as Sandi has in her imaginary-sweater-in-the-round then a double decrease (sl, k2tg, psso) would be pretty. That would create small triangles facing the waist. Double increases might need some serious thought. Maybe M1,K1,M1? The decreases and increases really create full-fashioning detail so carful thought on stitch direction is crucial.

    And if the gauge is bulkier, say 3 to 5 stitches per inch, then the grain of the knitting will be very obvious. I think dec/inc should fall more toward the side seams in order to avoid center front problems.

  11. This is great. I am a VERY ample shape and I always have big problems in this area. Now, I would like to know how to adjust from a much smaller shoulder/bust to hip ratio. Let’s start with mine: Back width 16″, full bust 58″ waist 58″ hips 72″. I do not wear a bra. How will the Book of Patterns help me with that? I want a real good book on this.

  12. I know some of you don’t like math, but what you’re suggesting here would not give you a curve, but a straight line… it’s not vertical, but it’s straight nonetheless. To really get a curve, you’d have to decrease less at the beginning and more at the top, or vice versa… In my (limited) experience, I haven’t found any patterns that do this. Is that because knitting is supple enough to look curvy anyway?

  13. This is what I’m talkin about! Very clear step by step directions for us that are “math challenged”! Bless you, bless you, bless you! You really listen to us whiners!

  14. I’d like to add a couple more bless you’s…my 1st sweater fits if I strap a barrel of monkeys on my back with a couple extra to poke out the arm holes…the 2nd, sadly is suffering from mattress stitch trauma, although it does appear somewhat closer in size. I too am in awe of your math abilities…thank you, thank you there may yet be a sweater in my near future.

  15. Hi Sandy:
    Thanks so much- this is all REALLY HELPFUL!
    I have save all of the shaping advice so far, and especially liked the “knitting tools that lurk in your closet” post-
    it was both fun and informative. As a short-waisted, short woman with (ahem) “ample” cleavage, I need things to fit very carefully. Otherwise I look like a midget linebacker, or the sweater wears me. I have found judicious shaping to be just the thing, and thanks to this series of posts, I now understand it all much better!
    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t find the math part scary, if explained clearly. I actually like it- being able to use something abstract to make something concrete- and wearable…
    I also love the photo galleries- really facsinating to see the same sweater on different bodies and colorings!

  16. Wonderful walk-through on this. Will you do the same (or did I miss it) for the bustline? I’m still not clear on where those darts go and how to get them there.

  17. Sandi – Not only is the timing PERFECT for this series, but it is a fantastic one at that! I really think you should compile this shaping series, throw in a pattern or two and bind it off – Interweave Press style 🙂 Thanks!

  18. Dear Sandi, I LOVE all the help you give us and this series is wonderful! I do have a couple Questions, first of all, how does this all go when you are knitting a complicated pattern, perhaps a lacey or bird’s eye where you have to have acertain # of stitches per row for the pattern? Esp of you are decreasing in the center, or is this just a impossbility for that kind of sweater?(i.e. just stick to the sides) Also, I am working on a sweater right now that has raglan sleeves, and I am to the assembling point. They say to sew the sleeves to the front and the the back, but they don’t tell what kind of stitch to use. The picture shows the pieces having the edges pressed flat so you can see the whole knit stitch, and then an intricate connecting stitch between the sleeve and the front. I have looked it up in My Knitting Reference and it is not clear about this or how to do it. MaryL

  19. Sandi,
    I’m convinced you’re a genius. Thank you once again for giving us the math formulae. That makes it easy for us to plug in our own numbers so we can create our own curvy sweaters (or not so curvy if that’s what you want).

  20. I think your recent posts on knitting to fit are phenomenal. I have only been knitting for a couple of years, and have never had the courage to tackle an adult sweater project. I think that will change.

    Thanks so much. The articles are clear, concise and easy to understand.

  21. Heeeeelp! I’m tryng to be a fearless knitter, really. My comment is a little “off post topic”?it’s about the Auburn Camp Shirt in the spring issue?but I din;t know where else to go! Has anyone else had problems getting the right gauge for this project? I’ve tried a fingering weight and a lace weight yarn and neither is right! The yarn called for is lace weight, but when I try that on size 3 needles the look is so loose that you can’t see the pattern. I tried a fingering weight on size 2s, but I’m at about 29 stitches to 4″ in pattern, not 31 and it seems stiff.

  22. This is for Trisha W. Are you on Ravelry? Go to http://www.ravelry.com and get on their wait list. I had my invite within days. Join the Interweave Knits group and you will find loads and loads of other knitters who are knitting the same projects you are. Ask away!

  23. This not technically a knitting question ( though I make heaps of children’s stuff) but about how to create a waist , without using a belt,in two shop bought wool sweaters which are looking just too baggy after losing weight