Ease over decades, again

Finally — and actually, it’s been sitting on the server for a while, now — here’s the table comparing the pattern measurement/drafting instructions from the hand knitting design books listed in this post. The table also includes Righetti and Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book from 1938, which I didn’t have at the time I started compiling this information. I have also since acquired Elalouf’s The Advanced Knitting Architect, but I haven’t checked whether it gives the same drafting instructions as his first book.

As I said in the first post, I compiled the information when I decided to write about ease. I can’t remember if that’s completely accurate; either I decided to write about ease, or I needed to figure out what kind of ease to use myself. Whichever. I also used this information to learn out how to draft the typical set-in sleeve of a knitted sweater, but in the end figured out that I preferred a more mathematical approach to the sketch-on-graph-paper (such as Thomas, Vogue, and Michelson & Davis) or the knit-until-it-fits-together (such as Duncan and Elalouf) — hand knit sweater sleeves generally being designed with front-back symmetry (even though our bodies aren’t), it’s easy to compute the numbers for pattern instructions in advance.

There’s an obvious trend in the amount of ease recommended overall — as we progress from the mid-20th century to the early nineties, sweaters get looser, reflecting the styles at the time. Righetti even mentions including sufficient space for shoulder pads; the styles depicted in the 80s-era books include gathered sleeves, which I always associate incorrectly with the “Princess Diana Black Sheep Sweater” (a stranded colourwork sweater in red, patterned with an array of sheep, all white, with the exception of one black sheep). Once Diana appeared in public with that sweater, it got knocked off right quick. I had one of those knock-offs (somebody bought it for me, I didn’t choose to get it); while I don’t think the original had puffed sleeves, for some reason the tween-sized version I had did.

The looseness of the fit determines the shape of the set-in sleeve cap. For example, Newton gives a final bind-off of 4 to 6 inches, which is frankly huge and appropriate only if the sweater is rather loose fitting; having such a wide final bind-off implies a relatively shallow sleeve cap. The fit of the sleeve around the bicep is loose, since she suggests the same amount applied to the body (4 to 6 inches). She also says the sleeve bicep measurement should be about twice the sleeve cap height plus 1 inch, which is a bit odd: Newton says the set-in sleeve armscye depth (the vertical measurement) should be 2 to 3 inches less than the drop-shoulder armscye depth of 8 to 10 inches; this gives a maximum value of 8 inches for the set-in sleeve armscye depth. She also says that the height of the “classic”-fitting sleeve cap fitting into this is about 2/3 the armscye depth; that’s 5 1/3 inches. But twice this height plus 1 inch is 11 2/3 inches. That’s nowhere near the same amount as a bicep measurement plus 4 to 6 inches, which suggests there’s either an error in my notes, or Newton was referring to the bicep measurement of a drop-shoulder sleeve, or she was referring to the bicep measurement of a set-in sleeve but really meant to say that the finished bicep measurement of the sleeve is supposed to be twice the armscye depth plus 1 inch.

If I had to recommend only one book for use in drafting knitting patterns, it would be Righetti; it actually deals with different body shapes and teaches fitting techniques (e.g., short rows) to accommodate larger bumps and curves. My second choice would probably be Michelson & Davis. Both Righetti and Michelson & Davis offer a “worksheet” method for computing pattern instructions (they work through examples, and present the process in a sort of fill-in-the-blank way), but for those who are really arithmetic-phobic, Michelson & Davis do demonstrate the graph-paper method of drafting. Righetti, of course, has the advantage that it is still in print.

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2 Responses to Ease over decades, again

  1. Karen B says:

    You’re such a resoureful and creative treasure! I wish I had half your patience. Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t mind my wee girl crush.

  2. Laura says:

    Thank you for such a treasure trove of information! This is getting permanently bookmarked for me. :)