Creating your own clothes is a dream come true for many crocheters, so we’ve put together this guide to help you, whether you’ve crocheted no garments or hundreds. Preparation is the key to making fab crochet garments that you’ll love to wear. Here, we’re going to have a look at a few different ways to ensure you get a great fit from the pattern that you’re following.
You can use your new skills to make Simone Francis' pretty treble crochet top – which is now available for you to download at www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/treble-tee.
The first step to a great-fitting garment is knowing your measurements so you can choose the right size to make. Then you need to work swatches to make sure your tension will create the right size.
One of the key techniques in making garments is working large and small increases and decreases. We’ll show you how to work these sorts of shaping and how to follow shaping instructions in patterns.
How to choose a size
Once you have a list of all your measurements, you’ll want to compare these against the sizes given in your chosen garment pattern. Most patterns will give you a ‘to fit’ size – this is the recommended size to make based on your bust circumference (01). There may also be a table of measurements and a schematic of the garment, featuring actual measurements for each size (02). All this information will help you to choose which size will work best for you.
Starting with your bust measurement, work through the measurements given for your size in either the table or the schematic. This will help you to establish whether the pattern in its original format will give you the correct fit or whether, for example, you might want to make adjustments to the length of the body (03) or sleeves (04). Note that any measurements for the width of the back or front of the garment on the schematic (02) will need to be doubled to get the actual bust (02), waist or hip measurement.
You can also use the sizing information given to check the ease or ‘looseness of fit’ of a pattern and consider making a different size to suit your taste. Ease is a personal preference and while the designer will have considered ease in the writing of their pattern, you might prefer your garment to be figure-hugging or slouchy. There may be specific information provided on ease, but if not you can easily work it out from the measurements given (compare (01) and (02)).
Negative ease is achieved by making a garment smaller than your actual bust measurement, to produce a garment that is figure-hugging. A close-fitting garment may have no ease at all (neither positive or negative) so the actual garment will measure the same across the bust as your actual bust size. Positive ease can range from slim fit (with a couple of centimetres of positive ease, as in the example below) to very loose fit (20cm/8in larger than your bust size). Taking into account your own measurements and the desired ease for your garment, choose the pattern size that best suits you.
Having chosen the size that best suits your measurements, you’re probably eager to get started and make that garment. Well, hang on a moment! There are still some essential points to consider before jumping right in. It’s really important to read through the pattern from start to finish to make sure there are no stitches or construction methods you don’t understand. It’s also useful to photocopy a pattern and circle all stitch counts and measurements that relate to your chosen size to remove the potential for error.
If you do come across any techniques or stitches that you’re unfamiliar with then get practising on some spare yarn until you’re confident you can do them. You don’t want your first attempt at a new stitch pattern to show up in your garment, because your stitches are certain to become neater with a bit of practice.
How to make adjustments
Crochet garments are designed in many different ways and knowing before you start how your pattern is designed will help you to keep on track and allow you to plan any personal adjustments before you start. If a schematic has been included with the pattern, this will be much easier. You may feel you want shorter sleeves, longer sleeves,
a cropped version or one that falls below your hips. Read through a pattern carefully before you start to find out how the designer has constructed the garment, then you can plan your changes now.
For example, if a jumper is worked up from the hemline without waist shaping, you can easily make it longer or shorter by working more or less rows into the body, without worrying about accommodating changes to the shape. If there is waist shaping, work any extra rows before you reach this point.
If the jumper has shaped sleeves then increasing or decreasing the length will take more thought because you will need to consider the shaping involved. Reading through the pattern should give you an idea of where you can sensibly add rows without affecting the overall pattern. For example, if the instructions involve repeating a row until the sleeve measures a certain length, this would be a logical place to add length. These minor changes will vary from garment to garment and having the confidence to make them will come as you crochet more clothes.
Why you should make swatches
You should always work up a swatch of fabric in the recommended stitch with the suggested hook and compare this to the tension stated by the designer. Many crochet projects (such as blankets, pot holders and toys) are not dependent on tension/gauge and many of us dive straight into making our first garment without making that all-important swatch. Most patterns state tension over 10x10cm (4x4in), but it is sensible to make a swatch a little larger than this to allow for accurate measurement. Place pins in the fabric 10cm apart and then count the number of stitches or pattern repeats and rows over the central 10x10cm area. Compare your resulting tension to that recommended in the pattern.
If your swatch has more stitches and rows, you are working too tightly and need to try a larger hook size. If your swatch has fewer stitches and rows, you are working too loosely and should try a smaller hook size. You may need to make a couple of swatches using different hooks before you achieve the tension required for your project, but this is much better than completing the project and then realising your tension is wrong. Whatever you do, don’t assume you will automatically achieve the tension stated by the designer.
As an example, below are three swatches, each worked in the same DK cotton yarn, with 10 treble stitches and 5 rows. The first swatch uses a 3.5mm hook and measures approx 5.5cm wide by 5.5cm tall (01). The second swatch uses a 4mm hook and measures approx 6cm wide by 6.25cm tall (02). The third swatch uses a 4.5mm hook and measures approx 6.5cm wide by 7cm tall (03). These are only small differences but they have a big effect over a big project.
How to work large increases
In some circumstances, a garment pattern may ask you to increase by 20 stitches at the beginning and end of the row. You can do this by adding a chain, like your starting chain. So complete the previous row and without fastening off, chain 20 (01). At the end of chain, turn, and work back along it in your stitch pattern (02).
At the other end of the row, you can use the Foundation Row method to add more stitches. Or secure the working loop with a stitch marker and use another ball of yarn to work the 20 chains (03), then work stitches into these chains (04) – this will allow you to continue the row without fastening off.