Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to knit a set-in sleeve sweater that really fits well? The answer lies in our anatomy. Human beings are very forward-oriented, and almost everything we do brings our arms toward the front of our bodies. For this reason, most people have a shorter measurement across the front of their shoulders than they do across the back. For me, this is 2¼" (about 5.5 cm), which although it sounds like a lot, is really a pretty normal difference.
For set-in sleeve garment to fit well, it first has to fit the shoulders. But knitting patterns generally give a single cross-shoulder measurement on their schematic—the cross-back. If I choose a sweater size to knit based on my cross-back width, I’ll wind up in a sweater that has several inches of extra fabric across the front. Not only will it look sloppy, but it won’t stay on my shoulders very well, especially if it is an open-front design.
It’s easy to see that to make a sweater that really fits in the shoulders, the armholes need to be shaped so that you get the exact width of fabric you need across the front, and the width you need across the back of the garment. This asymmetric armhole shaping is the starting point for The Muslin Sweater, a brand-new class I’m teaching at A Verb for Keeping Warm this Spring.
I’m incredibly excited about this class: Over the course of six weeks, each participant will learn to adapt the basic Muslin Sweater pattern and knit a sweater that is perfectly tailored to fit themselves. The class will meet for three sessions—May 13, May 27, and June 17—and in between times we’ll share progress and continue the discussion online using a dedicated site.
The Muslin Sweater
In sewing, a test garment known as a muslin is used for perfecting the fit of a pattern. Our Muslin Sweater will be a completely wearable test garment, and the techniques you'll learn in the process are ones you'll be able to apply to future knits.
The first session will focus on customizing the Muslin Sweater pattern. Using body measurements taken in class and the info from your gauge swatch, you'll learn to modify a set-in sleeve pattern to fit the way you want it to—then we'll cast on and begin to work the upper shoulders.
Over the next two weeks, you'll complete the upper bodice of the sweater at home, checking in online with questions or to share photos of your work in progress.
In-depth sleeve cap shaping
Shoulder and upper arm shapes can vary a lot from person to person, and a knitter with very square shoulders will need a sleeve cap that is shaped a bit differently from someone with sloping shoulders. In this session, we'll begin working the top down set-in sleeve cap, and learn how to tweak its shape to fit your particular anatomy.
Over the next three weeks, you'll work the sweater body and sleeves, minus hem and cuffs.
In the final session we'll evaluate the fit of our sweaters and see if there are further adjustments that you might try in future knits. We'll also take a look at techniques and stitches for bands, cuffs and hems—the finishing details that can make your sweaters outstanding.
The Muslin Sweater workshop will give you the knowledge and confidence to adjust sweater patterns, and to make garments that fit you beautifully. It's going to be a grand adventure. Hope you can join us!
The Muslin Sweater Workshop will be held at
A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, California
May 13, May 27, and June 17