Waist Shaping

I received an e-mail from Ann who asked about waist shaping when designing a sweater. My answer ran to several paragraphs, so I thought I’d share it, since I seem to recall interest in the subject…


Here’s what I have learned about waist shaping:

1. What you’re going for is the feminine shape–in at the waist and out at the hips and bust. This means it can be the suggestion of a shape, rather than a sweater that hugs every curve. A very easy way to get a bit of waist shaping is to switch to needles that are 1-2 sizes smaller starting an inch below the waist. Work for two inches, then switch back to the regular size. This spreads the decreased circumference evenly around the body (rather than just at seams) which is what you want.

2. The above method can be combined with waistline decreases, or waistline decreases can be worked by themselves. You can decrease about an inch at each side of your sweater (an inch on each side of a sweater knit in two parts, so really two inches at each side, but decreasing more than one inch at the side starts to distort the fit. On a bottom-up sweater, starting about two inches below the waist, decrease one stitch on each side of the side seam every 4-6 rows until you reach the waist. Work an inch or so straight, then start increasing to achieve the bust measurement you need.

You’ll notice I say things like “every 4 to 6 rows”, and “for an inch or so”. Waist decreasing depends a lot on the type of sweater you’re making, the gauge and the size of the wearer. If you’re not sure, I encourage you to go with fewer decreases than more–too many decreases crammed into too small a space do not look good.

3. If you want a more pronounced waist than that, you need to start thinking about decreasing in more places (like vertical darts on the fronts). That is certainly doable, but it’s not a beginner’s design project.

4. Another consideration: not all women’s figures are gently curved–some of us bulge a bit. What that means is that the narrowest part between our hips and our bust might not be at our waistline. You’ll need to look at your figure and decide where the narrow part of your sweater needs to land. An inch above and below that spot is the straight two inches I mentioned earlier. If you’re not very tall you may want to work less than two inches. Also, starting decreases two inches below might be too much–the sweater may get narrow before you do.

5. There are other design techniques you can use to create shape in your sweater. I just posted on my blog about Andrea’s sweater, which I knit completely in ribbing. The main pattern stitch was a K6P2 rib, knit with zero body ease. You can also work ribbing just at the waist area, which will pull in and give you some waist shaping.

I hope that helps.


Hope that helps some of you as well.

p.s. If you saw the two posts on Andrea’s sweater you may have noticed she dropped a few pounds from the first fitting to the final photo. After I uploaded the photos I received a message from her demanding that her “before” pictures be removed! I’m leaving them up as payback for the time I babysat her (she was 4 yrs old) and she wouldn’t do anything I asked–I was completely outmatched. I seem to recall caving completely and feeding her dry cereal at 10 p.m.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply



Ravelry button

Pinterest button

Follow Me on Pinterest


Easy Knitting Design: The Basic Sweater
Create a sweater that really fits. Save time with easy-to-follow instruc-tions!
Easy Knitting Design - free knitting video tutorials and resources