Madrona Thursday

It's about time I wrote up my Madrona 2008 experience in more detail, so here goes with Day 1: the Thursday. I took in Pat Brunner's "Make it Fit!" class, with the thought being to be able to adapt patterns not only for me, but also for other people I may knit for. The description read

Are you never quite sure what designs will flatter or fit properly? Wonder how to adjust patterns to fit or compensate for "non-standard" body parts? Do you want to learn various knitting techniques such as horizontal and vertical darts, and shaping methods to fit curves? Pat is the expert and you will come away with the know- how to make measurements and adjust patterns to achieve the fit that will be most flattering for you.

We spent the six hours enjoyably going over all sorts of issues; it mostly ended up being a brain dump of much of what Pat has learned over the years. Since she has a technical bent (worked as an engineer for years) to go with her creative talents, the explanations she gave made sense to me. Judging from the reactions of the class, they made sense to most of the other people as well.

Pat started with a description of the basic body types and then some guidelines for what tends to look good on which body types; some things like set-in sleeves she says look good on everyone (illustrated by a photo she found and edited to change the drop sleeves to set-ins; even on the model it looked much better). We spent some time measuring ourselves in pairs to get a full set of useful measurements, and then compared them to the schematics of patterns we'd brought. There was a certain amount of discussion about patterns that are developed for one size and then poorly changed for other sizes, resulting in things like armholes that are too big, or shoulders that are too wide. Pat was adamant that before spending time knitting anything we should match our measurements to those of the pattern, just to make sure the garment will fit after all that work knitting it. She gave quite a few tips on what sort of design looks good on various body types, what effect different types of yarn or stitch patterns have, and gave some ideas for modifying patterns to make them more flattering. We looked at a few photos and analyzed what didn't work about the pattern, also looking for the tricks that photographers use to make a garment look better (such as pinning it from behind, or having the model hold down the hem that's riding up).

Somewhere along the line we had a discussion on how yarns behave, which ones stretch and which are resilient, as well as a discussion on the best way to knit swatches (knit and measure, then wash/block and measure, maybe even hang weights on when the swatch is dry to mimic wear if you're using a yarn that stretches a lot). We had discussions on the best way to estimate how much yarn you need for a pattern, based on approximating squares.

Then it was time to discuss particular issues; I have a broad back so I was interested in that and her advice was to look at sewing patterns and how they fit the back sleeve cap to be a little bigger than the front one. Pat talked about darts and short rows and when to use each and how to place them so they aren't as obvious. I have pages in my notebook full of ideas for sleeve caps and diagrams of dart and short row placement waiting for me to use.

Pat finished appropriately with the last resorts: what to do if the garment just doesn't fit. her suggestions: try blocking it. If that doesn't work, try cutting it, picking up stitches along the cut line and reknitting borders or attaching sleeves (particularly if changing from a dropped sleeve to a modified dropped sleeve). Probably not something for the faint of heart, but worth keeping in mind as the last of the last resorts.

For me the class was well worth taking. Pat knows so much about different facets of knitting that I imagine there are few problems she hasn't encountered at one time or another, and this sort of class where she can respond to people's concerns is ideal.

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