Briar Rose Vintage KAL: Resizing the knitting pattern, Part 1

Thanks everyone for the congrats on winning the Colette contest! ♥ I have been so busy this week writing up all the information for resizing our knit-along pattern I haven’t had any time to even contemplate blogging or replying to comments. And when I say writing up the information, I mean writing it up… and re-writing it up… and re-writing it up. lol I can’t tell you how many hours have gone into writing and how many hours of that writing I’ve thrown away, just for this topic alone. I finally just have to post because I could edit until next year and still not be fully pleased! 🙂

Suffice it to say, there is a lot to cover. We have hit probably our biggest topic we’re going to cover in the knit-along, and it’s before we even get to knitting! Resizing a knitting pattern isn’t all that difficult, but it can be a little time-consuming, and trying to write about it in a coherent fashion? Egads.

I did my best to cover this topic in as neat and tidy of a fashion as possible, though I admit that’s been really difficult. In the future, I’m hoping to put together a series of posts on more general information on how to resizing vintage knitting patterns, because I think this info would be really helpful to others, outside of the context of our knit-along. But for now, I’ve geared this specifically for Briar Rose.

Shall we begin? I’m going to break this topic up into two posts:

  • Today we’ll be talking about preparing to resize the pattern. Namely, taking all the measurements you’ll need to change the pattern to your size. So this is the information-gathering post.
  • Later in the week, we’ll be talking about how to do the math to resize the pattern. You’ll use the information you gathered to put all the pieces together and write up the pattern in YOUR size. Yay!

Here’s a breakdown on what I’ll cover.


  • Intro to resizing: Understanding what we’re doing 
  • STEP ONE: Measure a sweater that fits you well

Next post…

  • STEP TWO: Making sense of resizing a knitting pattern
  • STEP THREE: Pattern Mad Libs exercise
  • STEP FOUR: How to resize the back
  • STEP FIVE: How to resize the front
  • STEP SIX: How to resize the sleeves

(Note: we’re not going to cover resizing the sleeve cap yet, because I’m learning that topic could be almost as length as the post on resizing the entire rest of the pattern. lol But more on that in the next post!)

Last thought before we jump in… if you don’t need to resize the pattern, yay! Then save yourself the headache and ignore these two posts. 😉

Introduction to resizing: understanding what we’re doing

Knowing how to resize a knitting pattern is a great skill to have for vintage knitters, if not a necessity! Vintage patterns rarely come in more than two or three sizes, and that’s if you’re lucky. Many are only in one size, often somewhere in the range of fitting a 34-38” bust. Pattern companies must have assumed you had the skills to resize the pattern as needed, though most didn’t include instructions on how to do so (and as for sleeve caps, I’ve really never seen this covered in a pattern booklet, though I know I’m sure it was covered in books). Those that did mention resizing provided concise tips that were more like a general schematic to be used on any pattern, and it’s thanks in part to these types of instructions that I’ve been able to figure things out along the way. I’ll be sharing some of these tips with you as we work through the pattern. Though I’m certainly still learning, myself! (But it’s kind of fun to use a vintage technique to modify a vintage pattern, isn’t it?)

So what exactly are we doing here? I don’t want it to be a great mystery that you can only piece together at the last minute. Our vintage knitting pattern, Briar Rose, is knit to one particular size. To knit to a particular size, you essentially knit something with a certain amount of stitches in each location (across the waist, across the bust, around the sleeves… you get the idea). Those number of stitches, along with your gauge dictate how big the knitting will be. Change the number of stitches, change the size of the knitting. Simple enough, right?

Step One: Measure a sweater that fits you well

Unless you’re making pretty minor adjustments (say, only knitting the sweater a little bit bigger by an inch or two), you will need to be armed with several measurements. I alluded to this briefly in my post about fit and estimating yardage.

You can measure your actual body, but then trying to determine how exactly you want Briar Rose to fit will be a shot in the dark. Let’s not reinvent the wheel if we don’t have to: measure a sweater that fits you well and has a similar fit to what you’d desire for your Briar Rose. That will give you the most reliable results. If the sweater doesn’t fit you quite right in certain areas, you can always tweak the measurements.

For the measurements you will need below, these are your desired sweater’s measurements (i.e. not necessarily your own body’s measurements). If you want it a little tight (negative ease), the desired sweater’s measurements might be a little smaller than your body. If you want it a little loose (positive ease), then the desired sweater’s measurements will be a little bigger than your body.

I’ve come up with 11 measurements you will need to take. That sounds like a lot, but trust me, it’s not that bad. Some of them we can play with a bit (armhole depth, neckline depth), some of them we are going to want to stay pretty strict about (around your bust, waist).

I’m going to show two versions of the same drawing. This is a basic mock up of our Briar Rose below (note the missing collar, it would just get in the way of the picture and we’ll worry about it later).

Look familiar? Ribbing on the bottom, inverted trapezoid shape to the body (narrower at the bottom, wider at the bust), short sleeves with ribbed cuffs, small button band with three buttons. Drawing is not one of my skills, but you get the idea.

Now let’s look at the same sweater, but with our 11 measurements marked on it. And color-coded for the inner school teacher in me. 😉

Let’s go over each measurement, so you know what it is and how we will use it.

Measurement A: width at bottom edge of body 

Used to figure out how many stitches to cast on.

Measurement B: width at bust
Used to figure out what to increase up to, and how many increases to knit from the lower edge to bust.

Measurement C: length from bottom edge to armhole 

Used to figure out how long to knit the body, and how to place the increases for your bust.

Measurement D: desired armhole depth 

Used to figure out how many stitches to cast off and decrease at the armhole. (This measurement doesn’t include the shoulder shaping rows at the very end. They don’t affect the armhole depth that much but we’ll take those stitches into account when we work our sleeve caps.)

Measurement E: width across upper back just before you shape the shoulders 
Used to figure out how wide each shoulder should be, and how wide the neck should be.

Measurement F: width at shoulders

Used in conjunction with Measurement E. More informative than anything else, as usually the neckline and each shoulder is approx. 1/3 of the number of stitches.

Measurement G: length of front from armhole to neckline 

Used to figure out where to start neckline shaping.

Measurement H: depth of neckline

Used to figure out where to stop neckline shaping and start shoulder shaping.

Measurement I: width of sleeve at bottom edge
Used to figure out how many stitches to cast on for the sleeve.

Measurement J: length of sleeve from bottom edge to armhole

Used to figure out how long to knit the sleeve, and how to place your increases to accommodate your upper arm.

Measurement K: width at upper arm
Used to figure out how wide your sleeve should be before shaping the armhole/sleeve cap.

I thought for fun, I’d show you a vintage equivalent to all of that, though of course due to our particular knitting pattern, not all of the measurements are exactly the same. But it shows you how the concept of what we’re doing essentially is the same thing. This was taken from the Fall and Winter 1951 issue of Knit ‘n’ Purl magazine.

So, measure your sweater flat and then double the measurement where necessary. i.e. at the cast on edge of the body and sleeves, around the upper sleeve and at the bust. If your sweater measures 18” across at the bust, 18” x 2 = 36”. That means your sweater is 36” across the bust. Make sense?

When we start going over the pattern in the next post, I would highly recommend having a printed copy of the Briar Rose knitting pattern, all of your measurements and possibly the blank sweater above as a guideline.

The last thing I’ll say for today is just a little kind of warning: I’m not a knitwear designer. I don’t have software to help me calculate how to resize a pattern. We’re not using much more than basic arithmetic to resize the pattern (with the exception of the sleeve caps, which is why they’ll get their own post later in the knit-along). I hope you feel comfortable with me helping you along, but I admit I am still a little nervous. Just because I know how to do something a bit complicated doesn’t mean I’ll be able to successful convey it to you guys. So please bear with me if we encounter any bumps on the road. It will be a bit of a learning curve for us all! 🙂

That’s all for today. Go and get your measurements and get ready for later in the week when we start putting the pieces together!

Filed: Knit-alongs, Knitting

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Golly, 7 Comments!

  • No wonder you’ve spent so much time on this post! Impressive! 🙂 I can’t wait to see the information on the sleeve caps.


  • Are there any mods specific to men’s sweater ptns you would suggest? I’m preparing to do a MM ptn and you know they have huge sleeves. The person I’m knitting it for isn’t exactly Popeye 😉 This dear sweet person has also asked me to make the sweater with a crew collar and only a half inch of ribbing at cuffs and waist.
    Is this even possible? Thanks, Tasha.


  • I am impressed. I have knit for many years but never ventured forth into changing a pattern in the least. If it is not written in the pattern, I can’t do it. I am enjoying learning with you, although as I am a visual learner I wonder if I will be able to follow everything in words. You have done a great job with this post and I am just thankful I have a 32″ bust and am rather petite and won’t have to change much.


  • @Lauren Hairston Thanks! The sleeve caps are still a work in progress. I’m trying to find a good balance between the insanely technical ways to do it and the fly by the seat of your pants ways. 🙂

    @Blackberry I’m guessing you mean Mary Maxim patterns? They are definitely designed to have a boxy look. While I’ll be applying my concepts just to our KAL pattern, you can use it to alter any other patterns. You could decrease the armhole depth, knit a sleeve that’s not as wide, etc. So definitely possible.

    @Sassy Lassies Vintage Life I’m usually a visual learner too, so this is a hard area to cover that way. We’ll be changing the pattern line by line, so by the end you WILL have it written in the pattern so you won’t have to make any guesses, you’ll have it all written out for you. And yes you’re lucky, you won’t need much changing. 😀


  • Great instructions!


  • Hi there! I just got my yarn, made the swatch during the Oscars (perfect needles, btw) and have a very similar sweater to the Briar Rose, however, it’s 20% Nylon and 80% Wool. I really have no idea if this nylon combination has a stretch (I’m assuming so). This is where I very little experience with knitting and maybe you can help me? Based on the sweater’s measurements, the sweater bust is a 15.5 (31) and I have a natural bust measurement of 36, so I’m assuming there is a good 5-6 inches of negative ease. I have Knit Picks Comfy, which is cotton/acrylic, and I’m assuming there isn’t much stretch factor in the yarn. Should I factor in the negative ease by adding the difference to get the right measurement?


  • @Sarah Hi Sarah! Okay, so you have a sweater that you like the fit of, and it’s nylon/wool and 31″, and you’re 36″ at the bust. I don’t think the nylon content would really affect the stretch that much, but there probably would be somewhat of a difference in how the yarn reacts in that sweater vs. KP Comfy which is cotton/acrylic as you said (I’m knitting with it, too).

    I did notice when I manually stretched my Comfy swatch a lot that the stitches seemed to kind of look a little more distorted than normal 100% wool or wool blend, so I think I’ll personally feel safer with closer to 2-3″ negative ease. I’m 36″ at the bust too, so still debating if I want to knit the pattern as written exactly, or possibly add a few extra stitches.


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