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Custom Raglan Cardi Knit-Along, Week 3: Adjusting Body Length & Adding Waist Shaping

KAL BadgeHi, everyone! This week we're going to talk about adding length to your sweater and adding optional waist-shaping. But first we come to dividing for the body, which is one of the most exciting parts of a top-down raglan garment because within a few rows your piece will start to look like a wearable cardigan! I like to slip the sleeve stitches onto some waste yarn rather than regular stitch holders (which are just like big safety pins), as this will make your cardi much easier to try on. I also place a stitch marker between the two bind off sections -- the bind off stitches will become the underarm seam of your sweater. This marks what would be the side seam in a regular sweater and will come in handy when I'm adding waist shaping.

Make It Longer

If you'd like your sweater to be longer, you can just keep working in your pattern, trying on as you go, until it is as long as you'd like. I wanted my sweater to be at least hip-length, but I also wanted it to be a little more fitted. Since I'm not 35 inches all the way down, I decided to add some waist-shaping. This is not in the pattern, but can be nice for some of us making the garment longer. However, if you're new to sweaters and prefer to keep it simple, just follow the directions as written! Feel free to adjust the length straight; the classic shape of this cardigan means that it will look great even without extra shaping.

Shape the Waist

To do this, I first need to figure out how many inches I'll be decreasing. The smallest part of my waist is 26 inches, but I'll just be decreasing to 28 inches to leave some breathing room. That means I'll be decreasing 7 inches. To find out how many stitches you'll need to decrease, you can use this easy formula: inches to decrease x stitches per inch = stitches to decrease. My gauge is 17 stitches over 4 inches or 4.25 stitches per inch, so I multiplied the number of inches I need to decrease, 7, by my per inch stitch gauge, 4.25. That gives me a total of 29.75 decrease stitches, so let's round that up to 30.

Now I know I am going to decrease one stitch on each side of both of the side seam markers I placed, which means that I'll be decreasing 4 stitches on each decrease row. So to work out how many decrease rounds you need to do, divide the number of stitches you will decrease by 4. In my case, 30 divided by 4 comes to 7.5, I decided to round that up to 8.

Next I needed to work out the frequency of my decrease rounds. To do this I measured vertically from the point I would start decreasing, which is where my body starts getting smaller just under my bust, to the smallest part of my waist, which came to about 6 inches. My row gauge is 6 rows per inch, so 6 inches equals 36 rows. Next, divide the number of rows in the decrease section by the amount of decrease rounds you'll need to do. This will tell you how frequently you'll decrease. When I divide the 36 rows by the number of decrease rounds I needed to do, 8, I get 4.5 rows. Since I can't decrease every 4 and a half rows, the first 4 decrease rows I will do every 5 rows, and then the next 4 I will do every 4 rows.

After my decreases, I'll work even for about an inch, and then of course I'll need to increase again as my body gets wider. The good news is that I already did the math, so I can just start increasing at the same rate that I decreased, until my sweater is 35 inches again. Remember that if you're making your sweater longer (like a tunic), you may need to do more increases to accommodate your hip measurements.

Sweater Waist Shaping

Next Steps

When your sweater is as almost as long as you'd like it to be, you can choose what style of hem you'd like to do. The cardi in the pattern has a ribbed hem. Other good choices would be seed stitch, garter stitch and moss stitch, because these stitches all lie flat and don't curl. However, if you want a rolled edge, you can just knit a few rows in stockinette and bind off. One of my favorite hems, which I've used in many previous projects, is the folded picot hem. At the moment, for this particular cardigan, I'm leaning towards the ribbed hem, but the great thing about knitting a top-down sweater is that I don't have to decide until I get there!

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