Updated: Apr 4
With just one week to go before the Sashiko Happy Coat MAL begins hosted in Scheepjes Facebook groups (whoo hoo!!) it’s a good time to refine which size you are going to whip-up, and what changes you might need to make to the pattern for it to work for your body. This is a looong explanatory post, so you might want to grab a cuppa and get comfy…. And a pen and your printed pattern maybe.... 🧐 By the end of it, I hope we are all custom-fit warriors together!
Here we go... (note: UK terms for any stitches mentioned).
We are all different shapes and sizes, yet crochet and knitwear patterns are written to standard sizing guidelines as though we have perfectly proportioned figures. Well…. Errr, we don’t. I have yet to measure someone and have all the body measurements to fall within the one size bracket!
We have to have something standardised for designing garments though, and the internationally observed full sizing guidelines for knitted and crochet garments can be found at the Craft Yarn Council’s website. There is a whole bunch of possible measures, but for my coat, we need to focus on chest/bust circumference, cross-back measure and upper arm circumference, because they relate to measurements provided on the schematic. It’s all about fitting the upper body, as the coat-skirt flares out over the hips anyway.
All these dimensions are provided on the schematic so you can compare your own body measurements to those of the schematic and see where you will need to customise to fit your body best. My coat schematic also has a shoulder to cuff measurement, so you can check if you need to lengthen or shorten the sleeves.
“Yeah that’s great Susan, its fine for you, but I wouldn’t know where to start, and there are so many diagrams I wouldn’t know which one to look at!” Something along these lines is probably going through your head, yes? Though it might seem a bit overwhelming at first, once we break it down into steps it’s not so bad, and it might even become, dare I say it – satisfying?
Let’s go through the process with a real-world example. Let’s meet Fiona....
“Hi Fiona!!” (Perhaps I have watched too much tv…)
Fiona is one of the group moderators for the MAL and has graciously agreed to serve as an example for this process. Please make sure you all send hearts 💖 and kissy faces 😘 to Fiona Kelly on Facebook for putting herself out there!!
For this process, I am only going to talk in centimetres.
DISCLAIMER – all advice that follows is based on having achieved correct gauge when swatching. (In case you missed how to do that – check out last week’s blog here!)
Step 1. Have someone else measure your full chest circumference, upper arm circumference, cross-back measure, and the top of your shoulder to your cuff (wrist) and note them down. Husbands have been known to assist in this process, or other family, friends, neighbours - even work mates! (Taking your own body measurements is problematic and not very accurate. Knowing you are normally a size Large (or whatever), or that you had a 92cm bust six months ago is also not accurate, knowing your bra size is not actually as helpful as you might think, and don’t take measurements wearing bulky clothes – a light t-shirt or camisole is ideal).
Chest circumference (around fullest part of bust, with your arms hanging at your sides and looking straight ahead with good posture – not bent looking down at what the measurer is doing) = 133cm
Upper arm circumference (around fullest part of upper arm) = 39cm
Cross-back measure (again, good posture standing straight: measure shoulder to shoulder, just on the outside of where your bra strap would sit) = 43cm
Shoulder to cuff (because this is a “set-in” sleeve, measure from top of shoulder approximately 1-2 cm outside of where bra strap sits, as this is where the joining seam at top of Sleeve-cap will finish up, down to the wrist) = 56cm
Step 2. Go to the Measurements chart on the first page of the pattern and find which Size range ”To Fit Chest” your bust circumference falls into, or is closest to.
For Fiona, her bust circumference of 133cm is outside the "To Fit" size range of the written pattern, but is pretty close to the upper limit of the XXL size. So the first decision is made. We will modify the XXL pattern instructions when we make our changes.
I designed the coat as relatively fitted – you can tell this because the “Actual Chest” measure is within the “To Fit Chest” range in most sizes. Fiona’s chest measure is 133cm and the XXL Coat has an “Actual Chest” of 116cm (which is smaller than the “To Fit Chest” range for an XXL, as the front pieces are wider than the half-back measure and therefore overlap a bit when the garment is laid flat - see the ** and the ^^ notes in the chart above - AND because the elasticity over a larger piece of fabric will be greater and this stitch pattern can be pretty stretchy. The jury may be out on this decision – maybe this was a rubbish assumption on my part, but moving on …we are going to change it anyway!)
The math: 133cm - 116cm = 17cm, so we want to add at least 17cm to the coat, maybe up to 22cm depending on Fiona’s desired fit (Standard/”Classic” fit has 5-10cm of ease, so we could add 5 cm on top of the 17cm = 22cm if Fiona would like a bit more room without it looking “baggy”).
Because of the overlap and the stretch, I would err on the smaller side.
Step 3. Go to the Pattern Notes and scan down to “Custom Fit”
The pattern notes describe the garment is constructed with vertically oriented rows – so the number of rows will contribute chest circumference, and the number of stitches will contribute length of garment. On to the Custom fit notes:
Fiona definitely qualifies for “need more chest room”:
Adding 2 rows at each of the 4 shoulder instructions (Left Front, Left Back, Right Back, Right Front) adds 5.7cm of total chest/bust circumference, so therefore:
Adding 4 rows at each shoulder adds 2 x 5.7cm = 11.4cm
Adding 6 rows at each shoulder adds 3 x 5.7cm = 17.1cm (yay!)
Adding 8 rows at each shoulder adds 4 x 5.7cm = 22.8cm (also yay!)
What we don’t want to do is add 7 rows (or any odd number of rows) at each shoulder as it will completely ruin the sequential instructions and you will be at the wrong end of the coat at any given moment – so don’t be tempted to do that!! It really must be an even number of rows.
Fiona chose to add 6 rows at each shoulder instruction to add 17.1 cm to the bust. (If her swatch’s row gauge had been a bit on the tight side, then she could have chosen to add 8 rows = 22.8cm to partly compensate.) Two decisions down.
Step 4. Go the Finished Garment Schematic and compare your other body measurements to those in the drawing for your chosen size. I have highlighted the relevant XXL coat measurements in blue.
First, the cross-back measure:
Fiona is 43cm, the XXL coat is 43.5cm, so we don’t really need to change it to match her body exactly (with NO ease). We have already decided to add 6 rows at each shoulder though, to add 17.1cm around the chest, (lets round that to 17cm: half = 8.5cm will be added to the front bodice and 8.5cm will be added to the back bodice within the cross-back section). Her adjusted coat cross-back should measure 43.5cm + 8.5cm = 52cm, giving her 52cm – 43cm = 9cm of ease. Is this too much? Given it is still within a “Classic/Standard” fit range of 5-10cm, I think this is fine.
The other factor to consider here is how the side pieces of a bra often crease into the body around the back of the chest near the armholes of a garment, so as much as I designed it to be “fitted” across this measure which might suit some people, it may not be ideal for everyone, and the extra 9cm of ease will help the garment drape down smoothly from the back of the armholes. So although Fiona’s cross-back measure matched that of the pattern, adjusting shoulder rows has provided an acceptable/desirable amount of ease to the fit around the back of the armholes.
Second, the upper-arm circumference:
Fiona’s upper arm circumference is 39cm, the XXL coat is 23.5cm across the upper sleeve when laid flat, so 2 x 23.5cm = 47cm upper arm circumference of the coat. Fiona has 47cm – 39cm = 8cm of ease here and should find that comfortable (nobody likes a bunched up arm-pit), so no need to adjust this. All good.
Third, the sleeve length:
Fiona shoulder to cuff is 56cm, the XXL coat sleeve is 66.25cm. Not good. We will need to trim some length from the sleeve. So to do this, head over to Schematic 5 - Coat Sleeve
I have highlighted the section of stitches where you can remove stitches to reduce the length in blue. Removing stitches anywhere else will affect shaping and joining curves.
There is a maximum of 13 (15: 12: 14: 13) sts that can be removed from this section of the S (M: L: XL: XXL) sleeve, and still make sense of the shaping rows. As described in the Pattern Notes, each stitch contributes approximately 0.67cm to the length.
Since we are basing Fiona’s coat on the XXL size,
13 sts x 0.67cm = 8.71cm can be removed from Fiona’s sleeve to reduce it from 66.25cm down to 66.25cm – 8.71cm = 57.54cm, and this is about as close we are going to get to Fiona’s body measure of 56cm without making the instructions very hard to follow. We could also position the embroidery 2-3 stitches higher on the sleeve, and edge the lower sleeve in spike stitches to thicken and shorten the lower edge (cuff) in the last finishing steps if need be.
Decision: we will remove 13 sts from the straight lower part of each sleeve to reduce sleeve length to 57.54cm.
(NOTE: It’s very important not to change how the sleeve will attach to the armhole willy-nilly, or you might go mad trying to make it work!!! Trust me on this for now - I talk about this again at the end of the post.)
Finally, the total length of the coat:
Have your measuring assistant person hang the tape measure with the relevant coat length marking at the top of your shoulder so the zero end is dangling down to where the hemline of the finished coat should fall. Decide if you want to make this shorter. If so, we need to remove stitches, and to see where in the coat we should do this without affecting the flow of pattern instructions, go to back to the Finished Coat Schematic.
I have highlighted the section of Bodice where you can remove stitches to reduce the coat length in blue, as removing stitches from this section does not disturb the skirt shaping short row instructions.
Note that this corresponds to the button hole region of the coat and the button hole strip works on a multiple of 6 stitches. Removing too much will mean the lowest button hole may clash with the Bodice embroidery, so it’s probably simplest to consider reducing length by removing a multiple of 6 stitches. For a sizes S, M & L, removing 6 stitches will leave you with 3 button holes and still fitting the embroidery on the front Bodice. For Sizes XL and XL, you could remove 6 stitches and retain 4 button holes on the Bodice and have room for the embroidery, or remove 12 stitches leaving you with 3 button holes and room for the embroidery.
As described in the Pattern Notes, each stitch contributes approximately 0.67cm to the length, so omitting 6 sts of each row around the indicated area of the upper Bodice will remove 6 x 0.67cm = 4.02cm of length (lets round it to 4); omitting 12 sts will remove 2 x 4cm = 8cm of length. Fiona is okay with the 94cm length though, so we aren’t going to change this for her coat.
Step 5. Print out the pattern instructions and mark it up. Go through the pattern instructions and write in all the affected stitch counts in a coloured marker or pen before starting your project, and highlight all the stitch counts (edited to your custom number where appropriate) that relate to your size (the size that you based your changes on).
For every written instruction relating to the shoulder rows in the pattern, Fiona will add 6 rows to the number indicated for an XXL size. Check out Fiona’s marked up pattern below where she added the 6 shoulder rows to the 8 for a XXL and wrote 14 underneath instead. (Isn’t modern technology great - hers’ is a screenshot):
Remember that all our custom changes so far have been made in such a way that do not affect any of the following:
-the shaping of how the Bodice-skirt flares, or
-the Sleeve-cap shaping, or
-the Armhole shaping, or
-the Neckline shaping, or
We have only shortened or lengthened straight parts of the design, and possibly removed a button hole; maybe two button holes if we are feeling wild and crazy....
And this is the simplest way to make adjustments.
Here is a sneak peak of Fiona's project at the all-important armhole step. You can see that her shoulder rows and armhole shape look comfortable, and keep in mind the length of the piece (and therefore the armhole too) will grow a bit when blocked before the embroidery is added. So far looking fabulous for Fiona's coat, and I hope to update you with Fiona's make in some of the future blog posts too.
The process we have just gone through from swatching for gauge last week to checking for custom adjustment today is something to do with any garment pattern to help improve the final fit. So even if you are not going to participate in this MAL, it might help your approach to other projects.
RECOMMENDED SIZE 3XL AND 4XL PATTERN ADJUSTMENTS:
Things get a bit trickier at this point. If your bust size suits a “To Fit” range of XXL or smaller, or if you are not keen to know why I did not size the pattern to include plus sizes from the get-go, then feel free to scroll on down to the super-fun last step: Step 6!
As published, I graded the pattern to fit 5 sizes, for someone with an 81cm/32in inch bust through to someone with a 127cm/50in bust, and included the schematics of each piece showing number of stitches and rows in various sections along with custom fit notes so you could better understand where best to “tweak” it to for your body (if needed). I designed this garment over 18 months ago in mid-late 2018 in preparation for CGOA Crochet Design Competition of 2019. It took me months to write the pattern and the charts, and it represents the best I could do at the time. As in, I didn’t know how to do any better, or offer more than I did.
I do strive to improve my designing skills. Another 16 or so garment patterns later (some are still secret), I did recently manage to include all 9 sizes (XS-5XL) in my pattern releases Arcade Lace Camisole and Arcadia Dress. I attempted the increased size range with these designs because frankly, they don’t have sleeves! And even then, my testers found my initial design plan for XS was too small and the 3XL was too large, so I had a lot of re-designing and re-writing to do for successful publication. (Phew, I did it!)
Fiona was a great person to act as an example of customisation for this Sashiko Happy Coat MAL as she was just out of the published pattern size range with her bust measure of 133cm – she was at the lower end of the 132-137cm range of a 3XL.
The adjustments below though describe how I would ideally modify the pattern for sizes 3XL and 4XL rather than Fiona’s individual needs via the simplest adjustments possible. It’s the best I can offer today to be more inclusive for this MAL, while still being limited by some of the design decisions I made in 2018 that brought this coat to life.
FOR SIZES 3XL & 4XL
Follow all instructions for the XXL size, and then make the following adjustments:
We will start with the upper arm circumference, because increasing the sleeve circumference has flow on effects to the bodice armhole and the bust. Full length straight rows are added at the centre of each sleeve in multiples of 2 in order to avoid disrupting the sequence of written instructions. Each additional 2 central sleeve rows adds 1.4cm to the total sleeve circumference (or 0.7cm to the half sleeve width).
3XL: add 2 centre sleeve rows (+1.4cm circ) - schematic half sleeve width is 23.5cm + 0.7cm = 24.2cm
4XL: add 4 centre sleeve rows (+2.8cm circ) - schematic half sleeve width is 23.5cm + 1.4cm = 24.9cm
Since XXL has 4 rows at this point on the schematic,
3XL will have 4 + 2 = 6 rows here instead, and
4XL will have 4 + 4 = 8 rows here instead
Note that each additional row adds 1 edging dc across the sleeve cap and to the future joining seam (during Assembly Step 8) as noted in blue on the marked up schematic below.
Larger sizes require slighty shorter sleeves – “Huh!??”, I hear you say.... Those ladies who are blessed with generous “assets” don’t necessarily also have generously long arms. As the bodice becomes larger, the remaining potential sleeve length from the garment bodice-edge to the wrist gets a little bit shorter.
Given we have already covered adjusting sleeve length in Fiona’s example, you can measure your body from top of the shoulder (just outside the bra strap) to the wrist, and customise accordingly.
For size XXL which is our reference point, there is a maximum of 13 sts that can be removed from the lower section of the sleeve, and still make sense of the shaping rows. Each stitch contributes approximately 0.67cm to the length.
To remove “X” sts of sleeve length, begin with (64 - “X”) fdc, work the short-row shaping as described in the pattern, and then the full-length row stitch counts will all be less by “X” stitches. See notes in green in the marked up schematic above.
Insert Under Arm Straight rows into Bodice-Skirt
We need to add the same number of rows under the arm that we did at the centre of the sleeve so that after edging, the future seam to join the sleeve to the bodice armhole has a matching stitch count. Inserting these rows also increases the bust.
3XL: +2 rows (+1.4cm to each side bodice = 2.8cm added to bust)
4XL: +4 rows (+2.8cm to each side bodice = 5.7cm added to bust) Note: 2.8 x 2 = 5.6, but the extra decimals I am using in my calculations round this up to 5.7cm rather than down to 5.6cm.
Referring to your written pattern, insert these rows after “Skirt Shaping Short Rows Left Front Row 15”, and before “Skirt Shaping Short Rows Left Back Row 1 (WS)”, and then repeat this insertion for the right underarm as well.
Now we can add more shoulder rows to further increase the bust. Relative to the XXL specification of Actual Bust 116cm in the pattern, the extra underarm rows have already added 2.8cm for 3XL and 5.7cm for 4XL.
3XL: 116cm + 2.8cm = 118.8cm, and we are aiming for a “to fit” range: 132-137cm
4XL: 116cm + 5.7cm = 121.7cm, and we are aiming for a “to fit” range: 142-147cm
Because the bodice front pieces are wider than half the back width and therefore overlap, and because the stitch pattern is inherently stretchy across rows, I will aim to get the bust to the low end of each range rather than the high end.
Remember, every additional 2 rows at each shoulder rows instruction of the pattern adds 5.7cm to the total bust circumference.
Choose which instructions suits your body best:
3XL: add 4 rows at each shoulder for a 118.8cm + 11.4cm = 130.2cm bust
3XL: add 6 rows at each shoulder for a 118.8cm + 17.1cm = 135.9cm bust
4XL: add 6 rows at each shoulder for a 121.7cm + 17.1cm = 138.8cm bust
4XL: add 8 rows at each shoulder for a 121.7cm + 22.8cm = 144.5cm bust
I would keep the length the same as the XXL, or shorten to customise as already discussed.
The question I am sure many are wondering is....
"Why haven’t I gone the whole way and included 5XL?"
Answer: It’s the sleeves.
Those with a larger upper arm circumference will require a sleeve that tapers more at the wrist comparative to the upper arm that my current pattern describes (and likely a shorter sleeve as we already discussed), so I need to increase the sleeve circumference mainly at the short row section as these do not also contribute to the cuff circumference. This means more short rows with each progressive short row being worked further down the sleeve to fit more rows in, despite the sleeve itself having fewer stitches of length available. Yep - that is supposed to sound non-sensical which is why its not happening!
So if we cant do that, every extra couple of rows we add to the centre of the sleeve means the garment cuff also gets bigger, which can only take you so far, and we have reached that end point. You might note the Sleeve adjustments I describe are small, and they represent diminishing ease around the upper arm that you could “get away with” because the stitch pattern is a bit stretchy across rows, but I have now run out of upper-arm ease.
Theoretically (according to the Craft Yarn Council Sizing Guidelines), a 5XL sleeve would need to fit a 49.5cm upper arm circumference, and allow (ideally) 7-8 cm of ease as it is an outer garment. Because it must be multiple of 2 rows, this correlates to adding 12-16 upper arm sleeve rows compared to the XXL which means complete sleeve re-calculation and re-write (which as we have seen, flows on to the bodice armhole and bust). Even with a small 3cm of ease (which is pretty much what we are down to for my 4XL adjustments), we would be adding 8 rows. In the absence of a full pattern re-write (which isn’t happening), that’s a big cuff!
What I have described here for 3XL and 4XL sizes is a way of “making do” within the structure of my design to accommodate a wider range of body shapes. I do design with size in mind, but I did not design with a full range of sizes in mind when I started this almost 2 years ago, and so today I am left with this compromised approach to be more inclusive.
And I have to be honest, it took me three solid weeks working on the current sleeve design (and I mean just the sleeve) to balance all it’s slopes, stitch counts and edging requirements in order to both describe suitable length, match the bodice armhole and be relatively easy to follow with written instructions.
In the future I might be able to design a fully graded set-in sleeve that becomes longer then progressively shorter and increasingly fanned with increasing bust size and upper arm circumference when working in vertically oriented rows of crochet, .... but I haven’t solved that puzzle yet sorry!!
And now we get back to some FUN STUFF. Yay.....!!!
Step 6. This step is optional, but a great idea: Buy a pretty notebook and make it your Sashiko Happy Coat Journal! It can be really useful to keep a notebook to summarise each row as you work to keep track of stitch counts, what row you are up to or customising changes along the way. “Write-it-down” is great advice and will make crocheting your second coat a lot easier. (Hey, I am not alone in making more than one coat)!
Make the notebook/journal as plain or as paper-crafty as you like. I am a sucker for soft stitch-bound or ring-bound notebook with nice crisp pages, and frankly don’t need much of an excuse to go stationary shopping. I like using a bunch of different coloured pens and am fond of a bit of colour-coding and doodling in the page corners - I don’t think I am alone in this…….(?) ….Is that the sound of crickets?
A project journal helps you to keep track of what you did differently on your second (third?) swatch to correct your gauge, scribble drawings of the embroidery path that make sense to you, write a few swear words if you are feeling it, how much weight of yarn of each colour you have used, progress photos of tricky bits you might want to refer to later, how long different sections took to make, what you liked & what you might do differently if you made it again! Don’t forget sticking the finished photos in to your journal at the end (as well as posting them on socials with hashtags #sahsikohappycoatMAL and #sashikohappycoat!)
Okay – finally NOW you are ready to start!! Whoop whoop! Party time….
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