Sunday, April 29, 2007

Knitted Bust Dart Details

I am a big proponent of using visual information to describe something visual. Like if you need to communicate to a director what the costumes for his/her show are going to look like, a sketch is much more helpful than a verbal description, and will cause fewer tears and arguments at dress rehearsal.

Having somehow forgotten that, my last post went on and on about the bust dart I add to close fitting sweaters without ever showing you what it actually looks like. The idea took me a while to get my head around, as a sewn bust dart is subtractive, but the knitted dart is additive. In the interest of full disclosure and clarity, here, finally, are some pictures.

The dart is added by using short rows. beginning at the side seam, I knit across the front to the opposite side seam, wrap, and turn (when knitting in the round there isn't a seam, just a friendly neighborhood stitch marker). I continue knitting back and forth across the front, making each wrap and turn before I reach the last wrap and turn on that side. It's a little like a "common heal flap" in that way. You keep turning before you've gotten to the end of the row. The last pass goes only from bust point to bust point, after which I knit back across the whole row, knitting each wrap together with the stitch it wraps around, and continue knitting around the sweater as I had been doing before the dart.

In the diagram, the short rows are represented by the shaded area. The red line show the bust point to bust point distance, which would be between 7 and 9 inches for many women.
For me, a 1 inch high dart is perfect. Of course, how many rows this works out to depends on your gauge. The cotton top was knit at a fine gauge, so I worked the dart over 12 rows.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I only need to add this dart in close fitting sweaters. It's also not necessitated by bust size as much as by posture. I discovered that I might need to figure out how to knit a sweater with more distance down the front than the back after knitting my first close fitting sweater "blouse" from a pattern in one of my late 1940's knitting books. I put the finished sweater on and it looked like this: Note the bloop. When the deep waist level ribbing sat level just below my waist, there was extra fabric left in the back that blooped out rather unattractively all across the back until it petered out below the bust. I had to block the everliving crap out of the sweater to force the extra length to shrink up in the back and not poke out. Not the most elegant solution.

So how do you know if you might benefit from modifying your sweater pattern to include a bust dart? And how deep do you make it? Well, if you have the problem pictured above, you can gently pin out the bloop across the back, and then measure the depth of what you pinned out. That's the depth you need to add in front. If you'd like to figure this out without first knitting an entire sweater that doesn't fit, you can measure yourself as pictured below.

Tie a bit of yarn (preferably acrylic that you've had since childhood or was given to you as a well meaning but misguided gift--this is not a job on which to waste cashmere) around your waist. This is represented by the red line. Your waist is the smallest part of your trunk, and is probably much higher than you are currently wearing your pants, especially if you are under 30. The yarn should go there on it's own when you tie it. If not, adjust it. This is usually an inch or so above your navel.

Now that you've discovered your waist, stand as you normally stand, and have someone measure from the top of your shoulder where the sweater's shoulder seam would be, down over your bust to the waist yarn. (Which is also waste yarn.) Then have them measure from the same point on your shoulder down your back to the waist yarn. The blue line shows these measurements; the notch at the top is your starting point for each. If these measurements are less than an inch different, you're probably fine and don't need to add a dart. If the front measurement is an inch or more longer than the back, you may want to add a dart that is as deep as the front is longer than the back. If you get a difference of more than two inches, and would not consider yourself buxom, you may want to remeasure and make sure that you are really at the top of your shoulder, and not shifted back slightly.

Luckily for all of us, knitting is stretchy and therefore a much less exact science than sewing. When all else fails, knitting can almost always be unravelled, refigured, and reknit. Feel free to experiment with this dart and let me know if you do and how it comes out--I'll use your findings when I write out the pattern some time in the next few months.