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Room for YOUR hips

…or belly, or butt…

Many, many, many of us have hips that are wider than our full busts. In fact, this is such a common shape that it’s baked into all the standard women’s size charts. Yet, almost every pattern I’ve ever bought has had a hip circumference that matches the bust circumference. The pattern tells you to “knit to desired length!”

Generally, when we want a garment to be “well-fitting” we want it to match the shape of the body. If we size up everywhere to accommodate the hips, we’ll end up with a sweater that’s too large everywhere else. If we make no accommodation, the garment will be tighter in the hip - distorting the figure and making the hips look larger than they are.

By creating a silhouette that has relatively even ease throughout the body, we create strong vertical lines and avoid draglines or wrinkles from tension. We look like our clothes fit.

So, let’s add width!

1. Measure your hips where the hem will land

Using the pattern’s schematic and your own measurements, identify where on your body the hem will be, and measure your circumference there. Not sure where the hem of your sweater will land? Read up on the website.

2. Add ease

As a loose rule, I like to have the same amount of ease in the hip as I do in the rest of the torso. This can be a little complicated, because our torsos tend to be much wider at the full bust than the underbust. If you have breasts, you’ll have less ease at the bust than you do the waist.

So how much ease do you really need? I think it makes sense to start with the recommended full bust ease in the pattern.

Side note: I recommend choosing a size based on upper chest instead of full bust.

Sometimes that means you may have more or less ease at the full bust than the designer intended. You can read more about using upper chest to pick your size here, and more about adding bust darts here.

So I suggest starting with the recommended bust ease, and then seeing how you like what you get from there.

Add your selected ease to your hip measurement to get your perfect hip circumference.

3. Determine desired stitch count at the hip

Use your gauge, and any stitch pattern info, to determine how many stitches YOU need at the hip. Go ahead and compare this to the number of stitches in the full bust to see what the difference is.

Ideally, round this to a number divisible by 4. We’ll almost always be working 4 increases in each shaping row.

Classic LBD (at right) includes gentle hip shaping - you can see it results in a silhouette that looks trim and fitted, not bell-shaped or sloppy.

4. Determine shaping

Your choices are a-line or hip shaping.


A-line shaping is usually a straight diagonal line from the underarm to the hem.

Hip Shaping

Hip shaping creates fullness between the underarm and the top of the hip, and then is worked straight through the hips to the hem.

I like to compare this to waist shaping. When we work waist shaping, we decrease towards the waist, and then increase out again.

This shaping is most appropriate if you have a full belly, too. I like to work all the increases after the underarm and then have at least 5” worked straight at the bottom with no shaping. You may choose different dimensions based on the style of sweater you’re making and your own body’s shape.

5. Determine location of increases

Now you’ve got to get into your pattern a little bit and see how many rows you have between the underarm and the hem.

Divide those extra stitches by 4, this will give you the number of shaping rows you need.

If you only need a little bit of an adjustment, and each shaping row can be at least 1” apart, you can make increases at each side like sleeves. I like to place markers at the sides, and put one or two stitches between the markers and the shaping stitches, so they don’t look weird.

If you need to add more stitches than that, you'll want to add columns in the front and back that are similar to waist shaping. To do that, you’ll place stitch markers ⅓ of the way in from each side on the front, and ¼ of the way in from each side on the back. Work till you get to the marker, shape, slip the marker, work to the next marker, slip the marker, shape, and so on.

Looking for a masterclass in what shaping can do? Check out Gone to Seed. This drop-shoulder tee includes a-line shaping and optional bust darts. Sizes 6-12 also include columns of shaping in the upper body to keep that shoulder from dropping down too far in the largest sizes.

6. Make it your own

So far, I’ve talked about adding hip width evenly around the body. But what if you’re bigger in the back? You can choose to add more stitches in the back only, or otherwise customize these instructions to fit YOUR body.

In addition to playing with shaping, you can also experiment with adding short rows. If you need additional length in the back, work short rows right before the ribbing to create a shape that matches your own.


Need extra help?

I book sessions with knitters to help you figure out exactly what you'd like to do with your knitting project. I can grade mods for you while we talk, so that you can see what I'm doing, or otherwise coach you through choosing a size.


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