Short rows and bust darts

Greetings! By now, you should be well underway on your “After-Christmas-Just-For-Me” knitting project. What? You are still finishing up promised Christmas presents? Well, no worries. Everyone does their own thing in their own time. And you learn how to knit different things and different ways as you continue to produce more projects.

For example, take the size that you choose for your sweater or top. In the clothing store, you have the luxury of trying on different sizes, based on style, what you know about the manufacturer, and what kind of fit you like. One size is too small? Try another one on. Too much fabric around the bust? Again, go get another one to try. But when you knit, you have to do a whole lot of “educated guessing”.

Start with the size you need to make for yourself. Perhaps you take a size 14 in the store, if the garment is Canadian made. Hmmmm. No “size 14” in the pattern. Okay. How about “large”? Nope, doesn’t seem to give enough info. So, measure around yourself and go from there. WHOA! Measure WHAT exactly? Well, a chest measurement will give you an idea. BUT, if you are like me, I am very busty. If I went with that measurement, well, it would feel like I WAS KNITTING A HORSE BLANKET. And IT WOULD FIT LIKE ONE, TOO! Hanging from my shoulders, flapping around my hips. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? And truthfully, there has to be a better way.

If you measure UNDERNEATH your bust (your bra band location), and then measure around your chest, just under your arms (snug the measuring tape tightly up into your armpits), you will get a better measurement of what you need in a sweater. You take these two measurments and use them as a guide for choosing your size. You can take an average of the two if they are quite different. For me, that meant going DOWN two sizes!!!! And it makes sense. While I might have a large bust, I don’t have particularly large arms, or large shoulders. So to make the sweater fit you, it is important to learn about SHORT ROWS. And also, when you buy the yarn for your sweater, buy an extra ball, because while we are going to make the smaller sized sweater, we are going to modify (in this case, add to) the body of the sweater. If you have ever made a pair of socks, then you know there are times you need to shape your knitting by only working part of a row at a time. In the case of modifying for a large bust, imagine that you took a string, and laid it very close to your body from shoulder to hem, one in the front, and one in the back. The front string would be longer, right? So you have to sort out a way to make the fabric of the sweater longer in the front while maintaining a consistent length for side seams.

Keep those measurements of the string above. That would give you an idea of how many inches or centimeters, you will have to add. Traditional patterns plan for a B cup. If the difference in these two measurments is 2 inches or less, you’re fine. The ease of the sweater will be enough. Greater than 3 inches? Subtract the 2 inches (that’s the built in bust ease) and you get the required depth of your dart.

The short rows will usually start about one inch ( 5 stitches in worsted weight) in from the side seam , and about one inch ( 6 rows in worsted weight) down from where your armhole starts. If you need to add 3 inches to your sweater front (from your measurements), you will have to add somewhere around 6 rows per inch x 3 inches, or 18 rows. You need to gradually add these short rows into the front of your sweater. In our example, in worsted weight, l knit across the front to the last 6 stitches. Wrap that stitch, and turn your work. Purl back to the last 6, wrap that next stitch, and turn. Knit that next row until you are 3 stitches away from that wrap and turn, wrap the next stitch, turn your work. Purl to 3 stitches away from your wrap and turn on the purl side, wrap the next st, and turn. Keep doing that until you have 18 rows completed. Voila. A knitted dart. Make sure you pick up all of your wraps in order to hide them when you go back to knitting from one end to the other, no turning mid row. Your side seams remain consistent in length, but you have more fabric to deal with “the girls”.

“Knitting bust darts” by Connie Hester is a decent on line source. My current guru is Ysolda Teague. Her book, “Little Red in the City” explains it all in great depth. I am currently using her method in a sweater, and let me tell you, with great results.

Did you know that you can order books through Knit Traders? That’s how I got my copy of “Little Red in the City”. Just ask. And try some short row shaping. Your sweater will fit better, you will look great, and feel wonderful.


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