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When "that'll block out!" doesn't block out

You’ve just finished your sweater, and there’s something that’s not quite right about it. What can you do, now that it’s done?

Some things don't turn out the way we expect

Once a sweater is done, you’re limited in what you can change. Or at least, you’re limited by your willingness to rip out and/or do sweater surgery. But there are some things you can do.

What are we looking at here? A supremely ill-fitting sweater I made with my first 'sweater quantity' of handspun yarn. It is totally unsuitable for garments.

Save a neckline with basic crochet

This is a sweater I knit shortly before I decided it was time to start designing. I knit it with the recommended ease, trusting the designer's recommendation to make sense for human bodies. It did not. The first day I wore it to work, I had a whole day of near-wardrobe malfunctions. To keep it in rotation, I was able to go in and apply a row of single chain crochet in the back neck. The other crimes this sweater commits I couldn't do anything about - namely that it's enormous everywhere, but also that I used a heavy, slick yarn (alpaca), and that I regretted not omitting the lace that shows the floats.

To save a stretchy neckline, put in a line of single crochet across the back. Pick up at a rate that gathers it just the tiniest bit, and then apply steam to get it to behave itself. Tip - this can be particularly helpful if your pattern for a bottom-up garment instructed you to work the collar without binding off and picking back up, or if your pattern for a top-down garment instructed you to cast on for the collar and then transitioned you to working the body. Bonus tip - if your top-down sweater has you cast on the collar and then begin working the body, skip the collar and cast on the number of stitches you’re supposed to have after any transition row. Knit the sweater, then come back and pick up and knit the collar. This will give you a more structured garment that keeps its shape and stays put. It will also allow you to hide crimes with your collar, if necessary, such as changing the pickup rate, adding shaping, or working a deeper collar.

Perform surgery

If your sweater has a flaw, you can in fact cut it. As we talked about a few weeks ago, I recently used this technique to open up a sweater that I'd forgotten the bust darts on. But this is also the technique you'll need if you want to lop off and replace the beginning of your project.

If you've knit top down and you don't love the bottom, no big deal, rip it out. But if you knit bottom up and don't love the bottom? That's tougher. If you change the direction of your knitting, your stitches will all be off by 1/2 of a stitch, and it will show. So if you want to replace part of your sweater, it needs to be knit in the same direction (top-down or bottom-up) as the rest of the garment. To do that, you'll need to knit the new piece, set it aside, cut the old piece, and graft it back together. Many of you read about neckline fit and identified inadequate neckline depth as the culprit for your fit issue, and I sometimes get questions asking me if there's a fix. The fix is to cut the sweater below the neck, reknit the top with a better neckline, and graft the whole thing back together. You can also use this technique to:

  1. Open up the front and add bust or belly darts

  2. Open up the lower back and add butt darts

  3. Open up the upper back and make a high-rounded-back adjustment

  4. Remove a sleeve, add length and graft back on

Tip – cut just ONE stitch, and unravel the rest. You’re going to remove a single row when you do surgery, and your graft will exactly replace it.

I don't have a picture of a sweater that's too large in the back and neck, so hey, here's one that fits me perfectly.

Steek it

This is a technique of last resort. Cutting out a vertical slice can make an unwearable sweater, well, wearable – but it might not make it amazing. I’d reserve this for when you only need to remove width from the body. If the bicep is great, the underarm and neck depth are great, but it’s just too wide in the neck and body? Cut it. You’ll probably get the most mileage from this by steeking the back to remove extra width (especially if you went up a size because you’re busty). Remove the neckline before you get started. I think I would start by picking up stitches on either side and doing a fun three-needle bind off to turn the steek into a design element. Add the neckline back, and voila!

What kinds of post-finishing mods have you made?

I know y'all are a creative bunch - what have you done to clean up the fit on a sweater after you've finished it? Leave a comment and let me know!


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