Briar Rose Vintage KAL: Resizing the knitting pattern, Part 2

Today is part two of resizing in our knit-along. We’re now going to learn how to resize our vintage knitting pattern to our own size. This is the long post.

Don’t worry if you’re not ready to sit down and do this! I know some of you are still swatching or waiting to get yarn. 🙂

Actually this post is so big I admit a certain bit of trepidation posting it. lol I just know I’ve forgotten something, even though I’ve worked so long on each detail.

I’m going to upsize the pattern as an example for everyone, going up to a vintage size 20 according to the McCall’s sewing pattern that was sitting next to me when I typed this: 38″ bust, 32″ waist. We’re going to assume that the person wearing the sweater wants to keep the original shape, and would like 1″ of negative ease at the bust and 2″ positive ease as the waist. We’ll go with my working gauge, which is 6.5 stitches per inch, and 10 rows per inch.

This is a WWII-era pattern. Let’s say our gal was 30 at the time, so she was born around 1913 or 1914. The most popular name for baby girls both those years was Mary. So we’ll call our hypothetical gal Mary. I’ll write out Mary’s 11 measurements when we get started, so you can follow along with your own.

Let’s pick up where we left off on Wednesday….

Step Two: Making sense of resizing a knitting pattern

The below image is from one of my vintage knitting booklets. It’s a concise summary of how to resize a knitting pattern. There’s no hand-holding here, just general rules of thumb. Keep in mind that for these instructions, they were assuming (as is usually the case) that each next size up or down is a 2″ difference at waist/bust.

Let me just say here that if these instructions set off a light bulb in your head, by all means go with it and do your own thing! You certainly do NOT have to follow along the way I do it to figure out your correct size. But I wanted to provide the information for those who do need more help along each step of the way. Though I promise, it looks worse than it is because of the level of detail I’m going into… it’s really nowhere near as hard as it looks!

We are going to pretty much use the technique above to increase (or decrease) our pattern, with a few tweaks. It’s a straight-forward enough concept:

  • Add or subtract stitches as needed at key points in the pattern.
  • Knit more or less rows to increase or decrease the length of a particular part of the pattern.

You will use the following to figure out the right size to knit your Briar Rose:

  • Your gauge (swatch first because you will absolutely, 100%, no-getting-around-it need your stitch gauge and row gauge to resize the pattern)
  • Your measurements for size of your desired sweater (which I explained in Wednesday’s post)
  • The stitch counts given in the original pattern, which we’ll figure out as we examine the pattern closely

That’s it, in a nutshell.

Of course, in order to do all that, we have to get really friendly with our knitting pattern. At this point, I encourage you to read through the pattern thoroughly, so when I’m going over all of this, it’s not completely new to you. What we’ll be doing is going line by line through the pattern, comparing our own measurements to the pattern and making our resized pattern as we go along.

Now before I start, let me just say there are knitting calculators out there that will do the basic math for you to shape a sweater. It can get you through the tricky bits like armholes and sleeves and necklines and such. If you’re trying to use it to match a given sweater (say, like our vintage inverted trapezoid shape), you can ignore the part that talks about shaping the body and work that out yourself. I’ve done that before. A good place to start if you’d like to do that is Simple Set-in Sleeve Pullover Calculator. But for the sake of breaking down a sweater into the most basic parts, for those who want to really get a grasp of how to re-build something from the ground up, prepare now for the exhaustive detail that follows. I am not saying this method is the only way to resize a pattern, it’s just the way I’ve learned to do it. 🙂

And off we go! (Though I’d recommend reading through this post first before you try the math, then reading it again while you work the math.)

Step Three: Pattern Mad Libs Exercise

Do you remember the game Mad Libs? (Google tells me it still exists!) I call this part the Pattern Mad Libs Exercise.

In order to resize a pattern, we need to break it down into its parts. Take anything that’s a measurement (something in inches) and anything that’s a stitch count (where it tells us the number of stitches) and replace them with a blank space. Those blank spaces will signify where we need to fill in the blanks with our own numbers.

I went ahead and did this for Briar Rose, with a few minor tweaks for clarity. (Note: this is a more complicated—but still totally do-able—exercise when you have a pattern stitch, but fortunately our pattern is in stockinette so it’s easier to get your feet wet with this process.)

Pattern Mad Libs for Briar Rose:

BACK.
Using smaller needles, cast on _____ sts.
Work (k1,p1) ribbing for _____ inches.
Using larger needles, work in stockinette, increasing at each end of every ______th row until you’ve increased to _______ sts.
Working without further shaping until work measures ______ inches.
Begin armhole shaping by casting off _____ sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of the next _____ rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of every 2nd row _______ times.
Work without further shaping until work measures _______ inches from the armhole.
Begin shoulder shaping by casting off ________ sts at the beginning of the next 6 rows.
Cast off the remaining _________ sts.

FRONT LEFT.
Work the same as the back until armhole shaping is complete.
On the next RS (right side) row, knit _______ sts. Place remaining _______ stitches on waste yarn. Turn work to WS (wrong side) row.
Cast on _____ sts for button band. P to end of row.
Work in stockinette, keeping the button band stitches in garter stitch. When armhole measures ______ inches, cast off _______ sts at the neck edge of the next row.
K2tog at the neck edge only of the next ______ rows.
K2tog at neck edge only of every 2nd row until you have ______ sts left on the needle.
Continue working stockinette and when armhole measures _______ inches.
Shape shoulder by casting off _______ sts at armhole edge every 2nd row 3 times.

FRONT RIGHT.
Place the stitches you left on waste yarn onto your left needle. Joining your yarn at the center front, k to end of row.
Continue in stockinette, keeping the buttonhole band stitches in garter stitch. (**skipping buttonhole part for now**)
Shape neck and shoulder to correspond with Front Left side.

SLEEVES.
Using smaller needles, cast on _____ sts.
Work (k1,p1) ribbing for ______ inches.
Using larger needles, work in stockinette, increasing at each of every ____th row until you’ve increased to _____ sts.
When work measures ______ inches, shape sleeve cap as follows: k2tog each end of every 2nd row until decreased to ______ sts.
Cast off all sts.

(I’m not going to worry about details about the button band, the collar or the pocket for now. I think we have enough to work on!)

It doesn’t look all that bad, does it?

In the next few steps, using the basic concepts from our “Some Knitting Wisdom” instructions at the beginning of this post and our measurements, I’m going to show you how to fill in all those blanks so the result is Briar Rose, YOU sized.

But first let me give you Mary’s measurements that our hypothetical gal completed after the last post. These are the measurements she wants her finished sweater to have. Mary will be our guide today in our resizing exercise.

Mary’s Measurements and Gauge:

Measurement A (width at bottom edge of body): 34″
Measurement B (width at bust): 37″
Measurement C (length from bottom edge to armhole: 13″
Measurement D (desired armhole depth: 7.5″
Measurement E (width across upper back just before you shape the shoulders: 14″
Measurement F (width at shoulders: 4.75″
Measurement G (length of front from armhole to neckline: 6″
Measurement H (depth of neckline: 1.5″
Measurement I (width of sleeve at bottom edge): 12″
Measurement J (length of sleeve from bottom edge to armhole): 6″
Measurement K (width at upper arm): 13.5″
Stitch gauge: 6.5 stitches per inch
Row gauge: 10 rows per inch

Step Four: How to resize the back

Let’s recap the fill-in-the-blanks part of the back of our pattern for Mary and get down to work.

BACK.
Using smaller needles, cast on _____ sts.
Work (k1,p1) ribbing for _____ inches.
Using larger needles, work in stockinette, increasing at each end of every ______th row until you’ve increased to _______ sts.
Working without further shaping until work measures ______ inches.
Begin armhole shaping by casting off _____ sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of the next _____ rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of every 2nd row _______ times.
Work without further shaping until work measures _______ inches from the armhole.
Begin shoulder shaping by casting off ________ sts at the beginning of the next 6 rows.
Cast off the remaining _________ sts.

I’m going to go line by line (sometimes a few lines at a time, where it makes sense) and compare the instructions to our pattern, sizing it up for our hypothetical Mary.

Blue boxes will be while we’re working out the math, comparing our blank pattern and the original pattern. Yellow boxes will be final measurements we work out for Mary. I’ll show small pictures along the way, so you can visually get an idea of what part of the pattern we’re talking about.

Our blank pattern:
BACK.
Using smaller needles, cast on _____ sts.
Work (k1,p1) ribbing for _____ inches.
Pattern as written:
BACK.
Cast on 96 sts.
Work in rib of k1, p1 for 3.5″.

 What we’re looking at in this part of the pattern (highlighted in the yellow oval):

Mary wants her sweater to be 34″ around the bottom edge (Measurement A).  

34″ (Measurement A) x 6.5 (stitch gauge) = 221 sts

But we need to halve that right now since we’re working on the back only. So 221 ÷ 2 =110.5. Round to 110 to make a nice even number.

Now here is the point where we’ll start adding in a stitch on each side for the seam allowance, and we’re going to do this throughout our sweater. We need one stitch on each edge of each piece to sew it up, so that’s 2 for the front, 2 for the back. So 110 + 2 (just the back only now, remember) = 112 sts. Mary needs to cast on 112 sts for the back.

How long does Mary want the bottom ribbing? That’ll personal preference, but I think the 3.5″ as written in the pattern is just fine. So we’ll keep that.

So here’s the first few lines of the pattern, re-sized for Mary. We’ll do this for every single part of the pattern. (Told you this would be a long post!)

Mary’s pattern:
BACK.
Using smaller needles, cast on 112 sts.
Work (k1,p1) ribbing for 3.5″ inches.

Next part of the back, continuing where we left off…

Our blank pattern:
Using larger needles, work in stockinette, increasing at each end of every ______th row until you’ve increased to _______ sts.
Working without further shaping until work measures ______ inches.
Pattern as written:
Using larger needles, work in stockinette, increasing 1 st each end of every 8th row until increased to 110 sts.
When work measures 12.5″….

What we’re looking at in this part of the pattern (highlighted in the yellow trapezoid):

We move on here from the ribbing to the body of the sweater. We fill this in with measurements we have and calculate the other missing number. Measurement B, our bust width, is how we figure out what we increase up to (because we need to get from the bottom of our sweater on up to our bust). Mary’s Measurement B is 37″.

37″ x 6.5 (stitch gauge) = 240.5, so round to 241

Divide this by 2 to get just the back measurement (since we’re not working on the front part of the pattern yet). 241 ÷ 2 = 120.5, or 121. Add our 2 seam stitches, so 123.

That means Mary wants to increase from her 112 sts cast on up to 123. Well that’s not an even number, which is annoying since you have to work your increases in pairs, so let’s get an even number. Just round up or down one, doesn’t really matter which. I’ll go with 124. So Mary needs to get from 112 to 124 sts. That’s a difference of 12 sts. Mary has to increase 12 stitches total after she finishes her ribbing to get to her desired bust size.

So how do you figure out where to work those increases? You increase one stitch on either end of a row, so that means Mary has 6 increase rows to fit in (2 increases each row = 12 increases). Our pattern tells us to do that every 8th row. Considering the pattern’s row gauge is 8.5 rows per inch, basically it’s having us increase on either end of the row every inch.

Personally, when I knit, I like to have the full number of my bust stitches (in Mary’s case, this is 124) a few inches before I get to the armhole, so the actual fullest part of my bust is covered with enough stitches and doesn’t stretch the fabric more than anticipated, because I have big girls.

This is how to calculate where to place your increases.

Let’s say you want 3.5″ ribbing, and want to knit the sweater 13″ long to the armhole. That’s 13″ – 3.5″ = 9.5″ of rows to fit in your increases. (Because we don’t increase in the ribbing.)

But say you’re like me and want your increases completed before your full bust, so let’s take off another 2.5” (just a guess here, though you’re welcome to figure out what the actual depth is between your armpit and full bust… I’m happy to just guess that 2.5″ is close enough, personally!). That means you want to get your increases done 2.5″ before you hit the armpit. So 9.5″ – 2.5″ = 7″. That means after your ribbing ends, you have 7″ in which to complete your increases.

And say like Mary, your row gauge is 10 rows per inch.

7″ x 10 (rows per inch) = 70 rows

This means between the end of your ribbing and where you will cast off for your bust, you’ll complete 70 rows of knitting. Mary needs 6 rows of increases as calculated above (for a total of 12 increases). Simply divide the number of increase rows into the number of rows.

70 (number of rows she has to get to her full bust) ÷ 6 (number of increase rows) = 11.6

Well you can’t very well knit a part of a row, so round that down to 11 (don’t round up to 12 because that’s adding in more rows). That means Mary can work her increase rows every 11th row. (Incidentally, though the pattern doesn’t specify, I personally start those increases in the first row after the ribbing.)

Would it help to “see” this?

The last number we need for this part of the pattern is easy: How long we want our body, which is Measurement C. Mary’s is 13″.

So for this section, when we put it together, we have:

Mary’s pattern:
Using larger needles, work in stockinette, increasing at each end of each of every 11th row until you’ve increased to 124 sts.
Working without further shaping until work measures 13 inches.

Continuing on where we left off…

Our blank pattern:
Begin armhole shaping by casting off _____ sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of the next _____ rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of every 2nd row _______ times.
Work without further shaping until work measures _______ inches from the armhole.
Pattern as written:
Shape armholes by casting off 4 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
K2tog each end of the next 4 rows,
then every 2nd row 4 times.
When armhole measures 7″…

What we’re looking at in this part of the pattern (highlighted in yellow):

Here we’re talking about shaping armholes. (Remember we’re just looking at the back right now, so technically above I should have shown you the back of the sweater, not the front. Sorry!) For this, I like to turn to the information in the “Some Knitting Wisdom” image I posted earlier to figure out a good way to estimate how we should change the armhole decreases for different sizes.

When shaping armholes, bind off 1 st more each side for 1 size larger (1 st less each side for 1 size smaller).

Since Mary’s final bust is 37″, and the original pattern was written for 32/34″ bust, let’s say that Mary is 2 sizes larger than the pattern. So that would be 2 more stitches bound off (AKA cast off) on each side of the armhole.

We also need to take into consideration Mary’s Measurement E, which is width across the upper back. Mary’s is 14″. To figure out how many stitches that is, take it back to our trusty stitch gauge.

 14″ (desired upper back width) x 6.5 (stitches per inch) = 91

Add two for seam stitches =  93 stitches. Again, I’ll round to 94 for an even number. 94 stitches is how many sts she wants to have once she finishes her armhole decreases.

Now if we bind off 2 more stitches per side than the pattern, that won’t quite get us to 94 stitches after we’ve finished all the other armhole shaping. How do I know that?

We start with 124 stitches (for Mary’s 37″ desired bust), and need to get to 94, so a difference of 30 stitches.

Let’s look at the rest of the armhole decreases after the cast off sts. The pattern says to k2tog at each end of the next 4 rows, then each end of every 2nd row 4 times (like our pattern says), that’s 8 more rows of decreases total (adding up the “each end of the next 4 rows” and “each end of every 2nd row 4 times” bits), one stitch per side. So 16 more total decreases.  

We know we want to cast off 6 sts per side before we work those decreases, so that’s 12 sts decreases. Add in the 16 remaining, and that’s 12 + 16 = 28. But we said above we want to decrease a total of 30 sts, not 28 sts. So we need to stick another decrease row in there. This can easily be accomplished by k2tog each end of the next 5 rows after the initial cast off row for the armholes.

The last number we need in this section is Measurement D, armhole depth. Mary’s is 7.5″.

So now we have…

Mary’s pattern:
Begin armhole shaping by casting off 6 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of the next 5 rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of every 2nd row 4 times.
Work without further shaping until work measures 7.5 inches from the armhole.

Continuing on, we reach the last part of the back!

Our blank pattern:
Begin shoulder shaping by casting off ________ sts at the beginning of the next 6 rows.
Cast off the remaining _________ sts.
Pattern as written:
Shape shoulders by casting off 10 sts at the beginning of the next 6 rows.
Cast off.

What we’re looking at in this part of the pattern (highlighted in yellow):

We’re talking about shaping the shoulders here. From the previous part, we know Mary decreases from her bust of 124 stitches to 94 stitches across the back, once the armhole shaping is complete. Keep in mind that each shoulder and the neckline should take up approximately 1/3 (one third) of the total number of stitches. And truthfully, here we just kind of use Measurement F to see if we’re in the same ballpark but don’t actually really use this much.

Mary has 94 stitches. To break up into thirds, that would be 94 ÷ 3 = 31.

If we look at the pattern as written, it tells us to cast off 10 sts at the beginning of the next 6 rows. This is shaping both shoulders at the same time. That means you cast off a total of 60 sts, or 30 per side. It’s completed over 6 rows so it makes a nice slope on each shoulder. 3 of the 6 rows slopes the left shoulder (every right side row), and the other 3 rows slopes the right shoulder (every wrong side row). Does that make sense?

The original pattern has 86 sts across the upper back, so that leaves 26 sts for the neck, with 30 sts on each side for the shoulder. So our original pattern gives a little more to each shoulder and a little less to the neckline (so not exactly 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 but close). Mary will do this too, for the sake of being consistent with the pattern as much as she can so she won’t end up having to change the collar that much.

So how about this: Mary can cast off 32 sts total for each shoulder, leaving 30 sts to cast off for the back neck (32 + 30 + 32 = 94 sts). But we need to split the shoulder cast off stitches over 6 rows like our pattern. Only problem: 32 (the number of stitches to cast off total for each shoulder) doesn’t fit nicely into 3 (the number of rows we work cast off stitches per side). Even out the number as best you can.

Something like… shape shoulders by casting off 11 sts at the beginning of the next 4 rows, then 10 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows. (per side, that’s 11 + 11 + 10 = 32)

This gives us a nice slope and evens out the number of stitches and gets us to our desired number of sts for the shoulder on each side, which is 32. We’re still completing 6 shoulder shaping rows like the original pattern. That leaves us with 30 sts left on the needle at the end, which we’ll cast off and will be the back of our neck. Perfect.

That will look like this…

Mary’s pattern:
Begin shoulder shaping by casting off 11 sts at the beginning of the next 4 rows, then 10 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Cast off the remaining 30 sts.

And we’ve completed the back!  

Let’s put it ALL together up to this point

Mary’s pattern:
BACK.
Using smaller needles, cast on 112.
Work (k1,p1) ribbing for 3.5″ inches.
Using larger needles, work in stockinette, increasing at each end of each of every 11th row until you’ve increased to 124 sts.
Working without further shaping until work measures 13 inches.
Begin armhole shaping by casting off 6 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of the next 5 rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of every 2nd row 4 times.
Work without further shaping until work measures 7.5 inches from the armhole.
Begin shoulder shaping by casting off 11 sts at the beginning of the next 4 rows, then 10 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Cast off the remaining 30 sts.

Step Five: How to resize the front

Let’s recap the fill-in-the-blanks part of the front portion of the pattern for Mary.

FRONT LEFT.
Work the same as the back until armhole shaping is complete.
On the next RS (right side) row, knit _______ sts. Place remaining _______ stitches on waste yarn. Turn work to WS (wrong side) row.
Cast on _____ sts for button band. P to end of row.
Work in stockinette, keeping the button band stitches in garter stitch. When armhole measures ______ inches, cast off _______ sts at the neck edge of the next row.
K2tog at the neck edge only of the next ______ rows.
K2tog at neck edge only of every 2nd row until you have ______ sts left on the needle.
Continue working stockinette and when armhole measures _______ inches.
Shape shoulder by casting off _______ sts at armhole edge every 2nd row 3 times.FRONT RIGHT.
Place the stitches you left on waste yarn onto your left needle. Joining your yarn at the center front, k to end of row.
Continue in stockinette, keeping the buttonhole band stitches in garter stitch. (**skipping buttonhole part for now**)
Shape neck and shoulder to correspond with Front Left side.

Keeping in mind I separated out the left and right side. The left side is the left side of your body (so right side when you’re staring down at your knitting).

Let’s break it down bit by bit like we did for the back…

Our blank pattern:
FRONT LEFT.
Work the same as the back until armhole shaping is complete.
On the next RS (right side) row, knit _______ sts. Place remaining _______ stitches on waste yarn. Turn work to WS (wrong side) row.
Cast on _____ sts for button band. P to end of row.
Pattern as written:
FRONT.
Work the same as for back until armhole shaping is complete.
Next Row- K 40 (leave remaining 46 sts on spare needle).
Cast on 6 sts, k into back of cast on sts, p to end of row.

We know that everything for the front is the same from the cast on edge until after we’ve completed our armhole shaping rows, so that’s brilliant and a large piece already done. Where it gets a little tricky is where we start to separate the front left and front right so we can work our button band, neckline and shoulder shaping.

What we’re looking at in this part of the pattern (highlighted in yellow):

We work the front as one piece until we get to the point where we start the button band, and that’s where we will split off and work the left side (in yellow) first. Then once that is complete we will come back and work the right side (in blue).

So let’s go back to our numbers. After the armhole shaping, we know the original pattern has 86 sts. It tells you to knit 40 sts, and leave the remaining 46 sts on hold. You then cast on 6 sts for the button band. This flap will go behind 6 stitches on the other side. You knit the flap in garter stitch to prevent it from curling under. (Though the pattern doesn’t specify that you knit the edge with the button holes in anything other than stockinette, and that’s what sits on top of the garter stitch band. We can change that if we’d like when we get to that point.)

So basically we split the left and right front, leaving 6 more stitches on one side than the other, and adding 6 more stitches to the other, so those central 6 stitches on either side overlap as our little button band. Make sense? So we need to figure out how to split the two front halves for Mary in the same way.

After the armhole decreases, we know from our earlier math that Mary has 94 stitches. One side will get 6 stitches more for the band. So 94 – 6 = 88. Then we need to split that by two for right and left. 88 ÷ 2 = 44. Does this add up? Let’s see. 44 sts for the left side (remember: right side when you’re looking at the knitting, left side wearing it), then 44 sts + 6 button band sts = 50 sts for the left side. Yep, that adds up to 94 sts.

So we have….

Mary’s pattern:
FRONT LEFT.
Work the same as the back until armhole shaping is complete.
On the next RS (right side) row, knit 44 sts. Place remaining 50 stitches on waste yarn. Turn work to WS (wrong side) row.
Cast on 6 sts for button band. P to end of row.

Now we continue on to the next part of the front….

Our blank pattern:
Work in stockinette, keeping the button band stitches in garter stitch. When armhole measures ______ inches, cast off _______ sts at the neck edge of the next row.
K2tog at the neck edge only of the next ______ rows.
K2tog at neck edge only of every 2nd row until you have ______ sts left on the needle.
Pattern as written:
Continue in st. st. keeping the 6 cast on sts in garter st. and when armhole measures 5.5″ cast off 8 sts at neck edge of next row.
K2tog at neck edge of the next 6 rows, then every 2nd row until decreased to 30 sts.

What we’re looking at in this part of the pattern (highlighted in yellow):

This part of the pattern shapes the neckline, i.e. the part you put your head through. Remember, we’re still only working on half of the upper body.

The neckline shapes the front shoulders at the same time, so in the end you want to end up with the same number of shoulder stitches on the front to cast off as you had for the back. Remember in the original pattern that’s 30 sts per shoulder, but for Mary that’s 32 sts per shoulder.

When to start casting off for the neckline depends on your Measurement D, G and H. They all play in here. D is your desired armhole depth. G is how deep the front is between the armhole and where you want your neckline to start, and H is the depth of your neckline. H + G have to add up to D.

Mary’s desired armhole depth is 7.5“, and we’ve already used that number on the back. The original pattern depth of the neckline is 1.5″, so Mary will stick with about that since her size doesn’t vary dramatically from the original (though if yours does, you may need to give yourself more room to get your head in, though keep in mind the three buttons on the band will help). That means the length from the armhole to where her neckline shaping starts (Measurement G) is 6″ (since 6″ + 1.5″ = 7.5″). But, we might find we need to fuss with this a little bit, to fit in all our shaping.

Now, we know Mary is working the front left (again, right as you’re facing the knitting). She has 44 sts + 6 button band sts on the needle, so a total of 50 sts. She’s got to get down to her 32 sts shoulder measurement. That’s a difference of 50 – 32 = 18 sts.

The original pattern has you cast off 8 sts at the neck edge, then work a k2tog decrease at neck edge of the next 6 rows (decreasing 6 sts total, one per row), then every 2nd row until you get to 30 sts.

How would this work for us? Let’s follow our guideline of casting off 1 more stitch for each size up in the pattern, so that would be 2.

If we cast off 10 sts for the neckline, then k2tog at neck edge of the next 6 rows, that’s casting off 16 sts. We only need to cast off 2 more sts to get to 18 sts! So every 2nd row twice will get us to 32.

Need to see the math?

We have 50 sts10 sts (cast off at the neckline) – 6 sts (ktog over 6 rows at the neckline) – 2 sts (k2tog every 2nd row twice) = 32 sts. And that’s the number we were trying to hit: 32 sts for our shoulder.

There’s one important point to make here. If you have a lot more stitches that you’re working with than Mary, make sure that you have enough room to get in your decreases to your desired number of stitches for your shoulder. You may need to add a few more cast off stitches to the neckline, or lower your neckline a bit (effectively making Measurement H a slightly bigger number). This probably won’t matter as proportionally, if your sweater is larger your shoulders will be larger, but I wanted to point this out just in case.

If in doubt, check your row gauge.

Mary’s row gauge is 10 rows per inch. Her Measurement H is 1.5″. So 1.5″ x 10 = 15 rows. Including the cast off row for the neckline, she only needs 11 rows to complete her necessary decreases as we’ve worked them out, so Mary is safe. 11 rows is less than 15. If YOU need to wiggle this around a bit, that’s okay! Just keep in mind you want the front to be the same length as the back, with both reaching your Measurement D (armhole depth) right before you start your shoulder shaping (those 6 rows where we cast off to slope the shoulders), so don’t accidentally forget about this part and end up with your front too long. 🙂

So putting that all together now, we have…

Mary’s pattern:
Work in stockinette, keeping the button band stitches in garter stitch. When armhole measures 6 inches, cast off 10 sts at the neck edge of the next row.
K2tog at the neck edge only of the next 6 rows.
K2tog at neck edge only of every 2nd row twice, until you have 32 sts left on the needle.

And we continue on to the next part…

Our blank pattern:
Continue working stockinette and when armhole measures _______ inches,
shape shoulder by casting off _______ sts at armhole edge every 2nd row 3 times.
Pattern as written:
When armhole measures 7″ shape shoulder by casting off 10 sts at armhole edge every 2nd row 3 times.

What we’re looking at in this part of the pattern (highlighted in yellow):

This part won’t take much time. You work until the desired depth of your armhole, Measurement D, which as you’ll recall in Mary’s case is 7.5″. And the shoulder shaping is simply built on what you did for the back, except you’re only working on one shoulder at a time (since you’re only knitting on one half of the front at a time). So instead of casting off at the beginning of every row 6 times, here you’re casting off at the armhole edge every other row 3 times (so still over a total of 6 rows, thus giving the same shaping as the back).

(By the way, this would be a good time for me to mention that I love short-row shoulder shaping as an alternate method to working shoulders, so I hope to touch on that once we’re actually knitting. But don’t worry, that won’t change any math.)

So if you recall how we shaped the shoulders for the back for Mary…

Begin shoulder shaping by casting off 11 sts at the beginning of the next 4 rows, then 10 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Cast off the remaining 30 sts.

Since we’re only working one shoulder, you’ll translate that a bit. And I’ll write out the purl rows for you, since in Mary’s case she’s not casting off the same number each time so I can’t make it as neat and tidy.

She’ll cast off 11 sts at the armhole edge (which is at the beginning of the right-side row) and knit to the end of the row, purl back a row, cast off 11 more sts at the armhole edge and knit to the end of the row, purl back a row, then cast off 10 sts at the armhole edge and knit to the end of a row, purl back a row, then cast off the remaining 10 sts.

So we have…

Mary’s pattern:
Continue working stockinette and when armhole measures 7.5 inches.
Shape shoulder by casting off 11 sts at armhole edge of every right-side row twice.
On next right-side row, cast off remaining 10 sts.

In the next part, you pretty much mirror the front left, with a minor change for the buttonhole band (because you’re not casting those stitches on, you already have them with the other stitches on your waste yarn). Honestly, we’re covering so much already and this doesn’t involve calculating any different math, so I’m going to leave this untouched for now. We can fill in the pieces before we cast on for the front. (I’ll make a special post about writing out the pattern completely, don’t worry.)

Let’s put Mary’s full pattern together up to this point…

Mary’s pattern:
BACK.
Using smaller needles, cast on 112.
Work (k1,p1) ribbing for 3.5″ inches.
Using larger needles, work in stockinette, increasing at each end of each of every 11th row until you’ve increased to 124 sts.
Working without further shaping until work measures 13 inches.
Begin armhole shaping by casting off 6 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of the next 5 rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of every 2nd row 4 times.
Work without further shaping until work measures 7.5 inches from the armhole.
Begin shoulder shaping by casting off 11 sts at the beginning of the next 4 rows, then 10 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Cast off the remaining 30 sts.

FRONT LEFT.
Work the same as the back until armhole shaping is complete.
On the next RS (right side) row, knit 44 sts. Place remaining 50 stitches on waste yarn. Turn work to WS (wrong side) row.
Cast on 6 sts for button band. P to end of row.
Work in stockinette, keeping the button band stitches in garter stitch. When armhole measures 6 inches, cast off 10 sts at the neck edge of the next row.
K2tog at the neck edge only of the next 6 rows.
K2tog at neck edge only of every 2nd row until you have 32 sts left on the needle.
Continue working stockinette and when armhole measures 7.5 inches.
Shape shoulder by casting off 11 sts at armhole edge of every right-side row twice.
On next right-side row, cast off remaining 10 sts.

FRONT RIGHT.

Place the stitches you left on waste yarn onto your left needle. Joining your yarn at the center front, k to end of row.
Continue in stockinette, keeping the buttonhole band stitches in garter stitch. (**skipping buttonhole part for now**)
Shape neck and shoulder to correspond with Front Left side.

Step Six: How to resize the sleeves

The body is done. Can you believe it? Let’s recap the sleeve portion of our fill-in-the-blanks pattern…

SLEEVES.
Using smaller needles, cast on _____ sts.
Work (k1,p1) ribbing for ______ inches.
Using larger needles, work in stockinette,  increasing at each of every ____th row until you’ve increased to _____ sts.
When work measures ______ inches, shape sleeve cap as follows: k2tog each end of every 2nd row until decreased to ______ sts.
Cast off all sts.

And we’ll get started…

Our blank pattern:
SLEEVES.
Using smaller needles, cast on _____ sts.
Work (k1,p1) ribbing for ______ inches.
Pattern as written:
Using smaller needles, cast on 80 sts.
Work in rib of k1, p1 for 2.25″.

What we’re looking at in this part of the pattern (highlighted in yellow):

For the number of stitches to cast on for the sleeve, we need to know how wide we want our sleeve to be at the bottom edge, Measurement I. This number depends on Measurement J, the length we want our sleeve. If you have thin arms, you’ll need to use less stitches. If you have big arms, you’ll need to use more stitches. Mary’s Measurement I is 12″ and her Measurement J is 6″. So she wants her sleeve 6″ long and 12″ around the cast on edge. This is actually the same as the pattern.

12″ x 6.5 (stitches per inch) = 78 sts, plus add another 2 seam stitches, so 80 sts to cast on.

Then how long would you like your sleeve ribbing? This is personal preference, just like on the body. I think 2.25″ as written in the pattern is just fine.

So we have…

Mary’s pattern:
SLEEVES.
Using smaller needles, cast on 80 sts.
Work (k1,p1) ribbing for 2.25″ inches.

Then we continue with the next part…

Our blank pattern:
Using larger needles, work in stockinette, increasing at each of every ____th row until you’ve increased to _____ sts.
When work measures ______ inches, shape sleeve cap as follows….
Pattern as written:
Using larger needles, work in st. st, increasing 1 st each end of every 4th row until increased to 88 sts.
When work measures 6″…

What we’re looking at in this part of the pattern (highlighted in yellow):

Here we need to figure out our sleeve increases, much like we did for our bust increases. We know Mary wants her sleeve 6″ long, and she is going to knit 2.25″ of ribbing. That leaves a remaining 6″ – 2.25″ = 3.75″ in which to work any increases. You probably won’t have very many increases, since these are short sleeves and there likely isn’t a dramatic difference in width around the lower part of your upper arm and the uppermost part of your upper arm. In Mary’s case, there’s a 1.5″ difference, as her Measurement K is 13.5″.

That means Mary wants to increase her sleeve up to 13.5″. Using her gauge to figure out the number of stitches, that works out to:

13.5″ x 6.5 (stitches per inch) = 87.75, so round up to 88, then add 2 for seams sts = 90 sts

So from the end of the cuff ribbing to the upper part of the sleeve, Mary needs to increase from 80 to 90 sts. That’s a total of 10 increases. And since we work them on either side of a row (like we did for the body), that’s 5 increase rows over a total of 3.75″. But like for the bust, let’s end that shaping a little earlier, say by 1.5″, so that gives us 2.25″ to work with. Let’s figure out how many rows that is.

2.25″ (remaining length of sleeve after ribbing and ending 1.5″ before shaping sleeve cap) x 10 (rows per inch) = 22, round up to 23 rows.

Divide 5 into that, and we get 4.4. Let’s round that down to 4 since we can’t very well work over part of a row (and don’t round up here, since that adds on more rows). So Mary can increase 2 sts per side every 4 rows until she gets to her total of 90 sts for her sleeve.

So we have…

Mary’s pattern:
Using larger needles, work in stockinette, increasing at each end of every 4th row until you’ve increased to 90 sts.
When work measures 6 inches, shape sleeve cap as follows….

And now we’ve reached the stopping point on our journey today…

Our blank pattern:
Shape sleeve cap as follows: k2tog each end of every 2nd row until decreased to ______ sts.
Cast off all sts.
Pattern as written:
k2tog each end of every 2nd row until decreased to 28 sts.
Cast off.

It’s the sleeve cap.

And you know what? Sleeve caps can be pretty tricky. I’m not even going to worry you with them now. In fact, I admit I’m having some frustrations figuring out an easy way to explain it all. Fear not though, I have some tricks up my sleeves. We’re set to talk about sleeves mid-March, and sometime between now and then I’ll gather my final thoughts on sleeves and present a post just on that topic. So don’t worry about them now.

Let’s put together Mary’s final pattern.

Mary’s pattern:
BACK.
Using smaller needles, cast on 112.
Work (k1,p1) ribbing for 3.5″ inches.
Using larger needles, work in stockinette, increasing at each end of each of every 11th row until you’ve increased to 124 sts.
Working without further shaping until work measures 13 inches.
Begin armhole shaping by casting off 6 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of the next 5 rows.
Decrease 1 st at each end of every 2nd row 4 times.
Work without further shaping until work measures 7.5 inches from the armhole.
Begin shoulder shaping by casting off 11 sts at the beginning of the next 4 rows, then 10 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows.
Cast off the remaining 30 sts.

FRONT LEFT.
Work the same as the back until armhole shaping is complete.
On the next RS (right side) row, knit 44 sts. Place remaining 50 stitches on waste yarn. Turn work to WS (wrong side) row.
Cast on 6 sts for button band. P to end of row.
Work in stockinette, keeping the button band stitches in garter stitch. When armhole measures 6 inches, cast off 10 sts at the neck edge of the next row.
K2tog at the neck edge only of the next 6 rows.
K2tog at neck edge only of every 2nd row until you have 32 sts left on the needle.
Continue working stockinette and when armhole measures 7.5 inches.
Shape shoulder by casting off 11 sts at armhole edge of every right-side row twice.
On next right-side row, cast off remaining 10 sts.

FRONT RIGHT.
Place the stitches you left on waste yarn onto your left needle. Joining your yarn at the center front, k to end of row.
Continue in stockinette, keeping the buttonhole band stitches in garter stitch. (**skipping buttonhole part for now**)
Shape neck and shoulder to correspond with Front Left side.

SLEEVES.
Using smaller needles, cast on 80 sts.
Work (k1,p1) ribbing for 2.25″ inches.
Using larger needles, work in stockinette, increasing at each end of every 4th row until you’ve increased to 90 sts.
When work measures 6 inches, shape sleeve cap as follows (**skipping sleeve cap for now**

Yay!

Recap on the technique

I know this is a lot to digest. So here’s a basic recap. To resize the knitting pattern (either to upsize it or downsize it):

  • Look at the pattern and take anything that’s a measurement (something in inches) and anything that’s a stitch count (where it tells us the number of stitches) and replace them with a blank space.
  • The blank spaces will be filled in by the numbers you come up with, according to the measurements you want your sweater to have.
  • Use your gauge, your measurements and the calculations below to figure out how many stitches you will need to get the right size.

If you know the width/height you want to achieve, here is how to figure out how many stitches or rows you need to get you there:

  • To figure out how many stitches go into a certain width of knitting (say, to figure out a 12″ sleeve)multiply your STITCH GAUGE by the NUMBER OF INCHES.  
    i.e. 6.5 sts per inch x 12″ = 78 sts
  • To figure out how many rows go into a certain height of knitting(say, to figure out how many rows would be in a 12″ tall sweater body)multiply your ROW GAUGE by the NUMBER OF INCHES.
    i.e. 10 rows per inch x 12″ = 120 rows

If you know how many stitches or rows are given in a pattern and want to figure out how wide/tall that is:

  • To figure out how wide a piece of knitting is when you know the number of stitches (say, when a pattern says “knit until 110 sts on the needle”) divide the NUMBER OF STITCHES by the STITCH GAUGE.
    i.e. 110 stitches ÷ 6.5 stitches per inch = 16.92″
  • To figure out how tall a piece of knitting is when you know how many rows (say, when a pattern tels you “knit 20 more rows”) divide the NUMBER OF ROWS by the ROW GAUGE.
    i.e. 20 rows ÷ 10 rows per inch = 2″

Final thoughts on resizing

I know this was an almost interminably long post. Are you still with me?? You might want to print it all out, and work out the math at each step like I’ve done for our hypothetical gal, Mary. The actual steps aren’t that complicated once you get the hang of it, but I tried to write it out in as much detail as possible so I didn’t leave you wondering what in the heck was going on. I hope that it doesn’t feel too scary to attempt. By all means, please feel welcome to start a thread in the Flickr group if you need help with the math or need more clarity. Let’s help each other out! I’m also happy to revisit topics in future post if it seems necessary. Like I said before, this is a bit of a learning curve for me, too, explaining this all!

Are you asking yourself: do I REALLY need to do all this?!! Well, the answer is no. You could use a knitting calculator, or you could wing it. Add or subtract an extra couple of inches of knitting to the front and back and call it a day. Throw in a couple of extra decreases around the armhole. Or use a bigger gauge (LESS stitches per inch) to get a larger garment. But the problem with winging it is that you don’t know exactly what you’ll come up with. Don’t get me wrong, I totally wing it with my knitting sometimes! But I wanted to give you guys the basics to understand how to deconstruct and reconstruct a vintage knitting pattern, so that’s why you got this behemoth of a post.

Next steps?

We’re set to cast on next Tuesday, March 1st. Don’t worry if you’re not there yet! Remember we have until mid-May to knit our sweater, and I’ll push that deadline out if it seems like we need more time. 🙂

During cast on week, I’ll do a post on how to work the body of the sweater in the round (instead of knitting it flat, if you’d like to do that) which is an easy switch to make. I’ll also post about how to “read” the pattern for those of you who are more novice sweater knitters. When I did the exercise today, I re-wrote Mary’s pattern similar to the original pattern, but you might want things in a little more detail than steps like “every row 6 times, then every 2nd row twice” and “shape neck and shoulder to correspond with Front Left side”, especially if you’ve never knit a sweater before.

Phew… is it naptime yet?! 😉

Filed: Knit-alongs, Knitting

Tagged: ,

You may also like...

Golly, 6 Comments!

  • Forget the nap–I’d need a drink! Thanks so much for posting about changing the sleeves. I’m glad I didn’t have to figure out what to do on my own!

    Reply

  • Lauren is right about the drink! I haven’t gotten past the sleeves because I need way more decreases than the example. Yay for having a big rack and narrow shoulders, not really.

    Reply

  • Trust me, writing it up involved needing a drink, too. LOL

    @Lauren Hairston I can’t promise miracles on the sleeves, but I’m working on it. It may possibly involve a little more complicated math, or being willing to knit the body first and then do some measuring before you start the sleeve, but I’ll figure out some ways to get us there. 🙂

    @Andrea If you have narrow shoulders, then be sure to pay attention to the armhole decreases (and then when you do the front, the neckline). I’d say throw in a few extra bind offs in that initial row, as well as extra decreases in the subsequent two sections. Even if the extra BO for the armhole don’t exactly fit the “add 1 extra BO for each pattern size up” general rule of thumb. I have narrow shoulders too so I often have to tweak armholes and do more decreases and bind off stitches to get me to narrow enough shoulders. Just don’t ever decrease more than one stitch per side per row (i.e. don’t, say, knit three sts together).

    Reply

  • dclulu on ravelry February 26, 2011 at 11:11am

    Wow, this is tremendously helpful info even for someone not doing the KAL!

    Reply

  • I see the beginnings of a book here. Very, very well done. For once, I am just happy I am a 32″ bust. I think I will choose to knit in the round since I have oodles of circular needles. Thanks for all of your hard work. I am really learning something. 🙂

    Reply

  • Hi Tasha,
    I’ve been struggling with how to resize a vintage pattern and have just been reading through your KAL posts for guidance. You have put so much effort into these posts and they’re so helpful that I just wanted to say a huge thank you! You have made a bemusing task suddenly seem not only achievable but really rather fun!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *