What is a maker's secret superpower? It's the ability to ALTER patterns, of course. I call it "secret" because it's so underrated. Frequently, knitters write to me on Ravelry to complain that a finished design doesn't fit --it's too deep in the armholes, or the back neck is too wide, or ... Understandably, they are frustrated after putting in so many hours of work. How to avoid disappointment?
1. Always begin by checking out the FINISHED measurements. Hopefully, there's a schematic because it will usually have more information than the short list of measurements at the start of the instructions. Look over the finished measurements VERY CAREFULLY. Also check out the amount of "ease" that is recommended. An oversized design like Audrey will have a lot more ease than the Perth Cardi.
2. Be especially careful with length measurements. When a designer publishes a pattern with a magazine, they are required to design to an industry standard which is usually for someone who is around 5'6". For all you sewists, go here for a list of heights used by popular sewing pattern companies; notice the wide range, from 5'1-5'10". If you're in doubt about how long to make your garment body and sleeves, including armscye depth, use a piece of clothing from your closet as a template. Be aware that many knitting pattern stitches grow in length after blocking. A good example is the Modern Gansey. I always suggest wet blocking work in progress. You'll save time and be much happier in the end.
3. Don't be afraid to make changes. Start small, preferably with simple top-down knitting patterns. If you're changing sleeve length, you'll need to re-calculate the rate of increase or decrease. I usually just start decreasing a couple of inches from the underarm and stop when the sleeve is the right width for me. Over time you'll gain confidence and find yourself ready to tackle more dramatic changes. Need extra length in the back to prevent your cardigan from riding up? Add some short rows. Short rows can also solve bust fitting issues. Many a knitting designer got their start when they realized that they had, over time, acquired the tools to invent and execute their own creations.
4. If you're a sewist, use old bed sheets as "muslins" to check for fit and make alterations. Sometimes it takes me several tries to get a new pattern to fit just right. Just half an inch change in length or width can make all the difference.
Recently, I tackled a forward shoulder adjustment on Dress #2 from 100 Acts of Sewing, and removed darts from the bodice of Tessuti's Felicia dress. I used this excellent tutorial for guidance with the latter. After removing 1 1/4" from the lower bodice and 1/2" from the armscye, the pattern piece was quite a cut and paste job!
That French curve grading ruler has become my best friend. Prior to acquiring it I had to rely on the curved edges of plates and once my roasting pan!
The dartless result of this effort was so worthwhile.
Other mods included another 1 1/4" off the skirt, and the addition of large semi-patch pockets (the sides are sewn into the side seams). I wanted the look of Merchant & Mills' "Hattie"
without the over-engineering of multiple bodice darts and a bodice lining.
Worn here with the Perth Cardi. Note that these are "fake" buttons, merely sewn on with black snaps underneath. No buttonholes involved.