Friday, 30 April 2010

#6 - Buttercup Revisited (a lesson about ease)

I'm skipping ahead to Day 6's topic today so you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see where I like to knit. Today I am going to revisit a past FO (or finished object). Since I have been knitting for less than 12 months it is more modern history than ancient, but I thought I could share an insight that I gained recently that would have come in very handy had I known it when I was knitting this last year. Read on if the terms positive ease and negative ease make you feel uneasy (hehe!) and if you don't have time to read it all please do yourself a favour and visit the 2 links at the bottom.

The project was Buttercup by Heidi Kirrmaier, started in September 2009, finished in November 2009, intended for me but given to my mum. The problem was that it turned out way to big for me. Although the pattern states that it is "designed to have some positive ease" I didn't really understand what that meant. I chose the size - medium - based on the "to fit bust" measurement and since my bust measures 36" and medium is to fit 36-39.5" I thought that was a safe bet. Big mistake. The pattern clearly states that the finished bust size is 40", had I simply held a tape measure at 40" around my bust I would have known it would be too big. Had I only taken into account the fact that all of the tops in my wardrobe fit closely around my bust (because this is what suits my figure)! Had I only tried it on a few times whilst I was knitting it (news flash Natalie: you can do this with a top-down knit!). Had I only realised that I could start knitting the smaller size to fit my modest bust and then do additional increases to fit my ample hips!

But I didn't. And after 2 months of grueling, repetitive knitting, and then after suffering the heartbreak of it not fitting, I gifted it to my mother and cast on the next project. I couldn't bear to revisit the pattern at the time to figure out where I went wrong.

So it was just a few weeks ago now as I was knitting a pair of mittens for the winner of my knitted gift giveaway (Sarah, if you are reading this they are on their way!) that I had a Eureka moment regarding ease. I had just knit 75% of the first mitten when I realised that it was too big. The pattern in question reads: Finished Measurements, approx 6 (7, 8) inches around hand (1 inch of negative ease for a snug fit). I had been making the 7" size to fit a 7" hand. WRONG! What I needed to do was minus the "1 inch of negative ease for a snug fit" from the hand measurement, i.e. knit the 6" size. This sounds so obvious to me now but at the time I felt like I was doing a cryptic crossword. I was tempted to push on anyway but I just couldn't. No one likes a sloppy mitten and I like to make things to the best of my ability, so I cast on again and what do you know, they turned out perfectly.

So that little breakthrough led me to realise that I needed to know more about ease and fit. I highly recommend reading these two articles on the TECHknitting blog:

Negative ease and positive ease

Gauge, ease and fashion--or "why doesn't my sweater fit?"

Maybe I will knit Buttercup for myself again one day, but for now I am avoiding large panels of stocking stitch worked in the round and am happy and proud whenever I see mum wearing hers.


  1. I love your dedication to becoming a better knitter!

  2. I just want to make something that fits me! And I hope that others will learn from my mistakes x

  3. buttercup is on my queue in Rav right now too. hehe I totally know what you mean about some patterns being like a cryptic crossword when you start. I'm coming up on about a year of serious knitting too and am totally have these Eureka moments! Are we long lost knitting cousins? :)


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